Monday, July 30, 2012

The Returning

Once while visiting the giant Sequoia’s in King’s Canyon in California, I was struck by the silent, but breathing beauty of the spirits in these majestic beings.  We asked the park ranger how it was kept so clean and free from yelling teens and loud music.  He answered…”The trees do it; they have a power over people that's mystical and beautiful.”  It’s true, I felt like I was in God’s Cathedral. I remember my dad talking of the huge virgin Pines that were cut for lumber when he was a young man in 1928, working in his papa’s sawmill.  I had to wonder what these beautiful beings must have felt being so violently thrown from their trees.   We all think of the animals losing their homes during the felling, but what about the tree itself.
                   What would happen if one got so damned mad, he became evil?

The Returning

                                 By F.J. Wilson 

       A spirit was released the day the huge virgin pine was felled.  Dislodged from its nesting place in the three hundred year old tree; the spirit emerged slowly and followed the great tree as it was floated down the Pascagoula River to the lumber mill twenty miles away.  Large muscular Men hauled the giant log out of the water and deposited it on the riverbank. The spirit; confused and angry hovered around the dead thing that was its home. It watched other souls coming out of the water, lingering and mingling around trees that were alive one moment and dead the next.  The big spirit gathered those souls into itself and grew.  It grew in strength and it grew in anger and it vowed to stop the men who destroyed its nesting place.  Some spirits felt the evil and escaped its power and went back into the big woods to find new trees and new lives.  But the great Pine spirit was not as easily assuaged as the young and began to take his revenge on the humans who were murdering the trees on a daily basis; ignorant and uncaring of the souls being displaced and abandoned.  These men, blind to the devastation of the land, and the little universes living among them, continued making a living off the misfortune of these unseen worlds. 

The Pine spirit’s first victim was an old man, carelessly working the great saw after so many years.  It was an easy job for the angry spirit; it took no energy at all really, just a quick breath of evil and the old man, lost in his own reverie, looked up too soon and became bloody human parts of a lady’s dresser. 

The funeral was sweet and conventional and only the little widow truly mourned.  No one suspected foul play.

“It was bound to happen sooner or later, and don’t we all have to go sometime?  He was too old; he should’ve retired years ago.  I warned him, but he wouldn’t listen.”  The old man’s boss told everyone at the funeral.

The young strong workers thought nothing of an old man’s tragic death.  It made morbid stories, telling of the blood and body parts strewn around the mill yard.  The story was told again and again over beers down at the local juke joint, until a wreck on the highway captured their sick attention and the old man became a bar tale forgotten.

So the little mill continued to kill the beautiful trees and the young men took over the saws from the old, and no one noticed the number of accidents produced by the big saws and the logs.  No one noticed that the young men were dying as well as the old, and their wives were dying in childbirth taking the babies with them. 

As the years passed, the Soul Eater Vigilante as the other trees named him, lost his soul to the essence of evil.  What once was revenge was now a way of life.  His evil continued to grow and continued to be joined by the souls of other trees, especially the old and confused big virgin Pine, who didn’t make a quick transition from death to eternity, but were caught unaware by the evil. Their goodness trapped by their own fear, within the large evil.  The young Pine souls made quick their leaving, in the presence of such powerful hate, and so any good strong spirits that could’ve helped to release the caught souls, were swept away into the Universe to come again as young innocent saplings.

Over the years, even the furniture and lumber made from the original Pine of the Soul Eater took on an ominous feel and began to rot and fall apart; floors began to sag and in the end, all became compost for a landfill.  But the huge evil kept growing until it spread passed the little mill, long since deserted due to the countless accidents and tragedies, and into the surrounding countryside.

Crops began to fail and farmers moved away, selling their small parcels of land to the modern developers to be used for large gaudy Mac’mansions.  Little communities and towns talked of the Soul Eater, and scared children into being good, but only a few believed it’s true powers.  The little communities became deserted and the young moved into the cities. The old community became known as “the country”. 

The evil liked the solitude he’d created.  Going into the cities for his mischief was too frustrating.  The evils that lived in the great cities were foreign and some more powerful, so he found his victims among the campers and hikers who dared enter his woods.  Some lived to tell the tales of his work, but most found death to be a sweet release from the torture he gave in large helpings.  The Soul Eater was good at his work. Getting into the minds of his victims, he’d discovered their fears.  He could produce death by fright in a heartbeat, or in most cases a stopped heartbeat.  Only the very ignorant could escape his mind play; they were too closed to the spirit world to fear it, but, they became easy victims of their own carelessness around snakes and old well’s hiding under thick carpets of pine straw and dead leaves. 

Morgan bought the little deserted farmhouse in the piney woods so she could have quiet days and nights for her painting.  She’d been six years in New York, and she loved it.  The energy, the excess, everything everyone goes there to have, she’d had, but she had to work every minute of every day, of every week of the year, just to keep herself in the lane she’d chosen.  The last year was hard, over bearing and senseless. Her creativity had stopped and nothing inspired it to start again.  She came home for her father’s funeral and to mend a broken heart by a man who’d taken advantage, and mistreated her.  For the first time in six years, she realized how badly she’d abused the beauty of her roots and what they could do to mend the spirit.

 Her soul had to recuperate and the little farmhouse was the perfect haven.  She bought it with the money left to her by her Father, the last man killed at the little saw mill.  She knew he’d have loved it here in the shadow of the tall Pines, they both loved.  His stories of the evil Pine spirit that roamed the area terrified her as a child, making the “boogieman” seem harmless in comparison.  She’d bury her head in his chest when hearing the last moments of a man’s life being filled with the odor of pinesap and fear.  But, with her face buried in his chest, all she could smell was ‘Ole Spice’; his last cigarette and safety.  She’d forgotten these stories of so long ago, but moving into the little house brought them all alive to her again, and she thought she might paint the woods with the horrible spirit in the trees. Morgan always knew there were souls wandering the earth, but she’d never taken the evil Pine spirit as truth. It was just a local legend to scare children, and make little girls feel safe in their Daddy’s lap.  Other people believed it though; enough to move away and start new lives elsewhere. She’d started a new life, but she came from elsewhere to start it here. 

Morgan used her painting as a catharsis for her pain and she depended on it to help her now.  She was left, bewildered and deeply hurt, not understanding how a man can say such wonderful things from his heart; make you believe you are loved, and then walk away.  Times like these a girl could use her Dad’s chest in which to bury her face.  Maybe if her Mom hadn’t died so young, Morgan would ‘ve known better how to go into a relationship, how to watch for the pitfalls, red flags of warning, how to tell when a man lies.  But her mom died young and her Dad was not the sort to give advice on romance, so she’d muddled along on her own, getting hurt more times than not. 

Maybe this little house was just the place for her.  It’d already begun to smell familiar. The smell of pine straw and a faint odor of old cigarettes from the last owners wafted around as she walked down the hall, or as she was going to sleep.  She knew she should have the walls cleaned to rid the old house of the nicotine, but she didn’t want to just yet; at this time in her life she needed the smell of her Dad’s chest.

The first night in the house, she dreamed of her mom’s funeral.  She was walking up to the coffin, so large and large from her four year old point of view, the thing so big and her mom so small, there must be room for her to get in and go along too.  Then the black lapel with the white carnation bends down  and picks her up and lifts her over to say good-bye to her mom.  Her mom is asleep and pretty in her beautiful white silk gown and robe that was for “special” times. She is lying in white satin on a little satin pillow, and someone has placed red roses around her dark hair. Her Grandma’s gold cross and chain are entwined in her hands, folded over her chest, like she’d sit up and put it on, as Morgan had seen her do so many times, sitting at her old pine dresser.

Then her Dad’s voice.

“Kiss Mama, Sugah.”

Morgan’s Dad can hardly speak for the tears, and love, and death, in his throat; all caught there, not knowing how to escape and release the pain that has settled and made a permanent home.

The little girl is lowered over the side into the open arms of her mom, who takes the little girl to her breast.  Morgan can feel the smooth silk of the robe and the loving arms of her Mother, and smell the elegant, fresh scent of her Dad’s carnation mixed with the fresh  smell of his clean suit, and her life is good and blessed.  Then the dream changes and she melds into something resembling a lost fog, seeping through damp matted old pine straw covering the ground in a woods and she knows it has something to do with her Dad.

When she woke the next morning, she expected to feel better.  Such a beautiful dream about her mom should soothe any pain, but she felt worse, somehow empty for the remembering. Morgan began to write in her journal about her lost affair, and at first the pain was heightened by the attention it was getting, but then a soothing release, as the memories began to turn and become a new beginning for her.  She looked forward each morning to having her coffee on the little porch, writing in her journal and letting the truth unfold from her heart.  She knew she had made a wise choice in coming here, close to her roots, close to the pines.

She’d been in the little house a week when the dream came again, but this time she was in the coffin and a little girl was crying over her, tears falling onto her face and ruining the make-up so meticulously applied by the undertaker’s assistant.  She was irritated that the make-up was itching and running onto her pretty satin pillow.  Then her Dad was looking down into her face with so much worry and pain and fear that she woke immediately and turned on the light.  She hardly had nightmares, but the look on his face had really knocked the breath out of her and she needed reality in huge doses.  Morgan turned on each light as she made her way to the kitchen.  Her heart still pounding, her hands shaking, she reached up into the liquor cabinet and pulled down the brandy.  She picked a juice glass out of the strainer by the sink and poured it half full.  She had all intentions of downing it in one swallow, but the fire that came with the first taste held her in check for a single sip.  The second sip was easier, and the third was beginning to do the trick.  Not enough Xanax in the world to calm what she just felt from her father’s face, only the liquid power in the brandy bottle. The soothing smell of the carnation on her Dad’s suit came up from the bottom of the juice glass as she downed the last bit of brandy.

Sitting on the front porch of the little house feeling the effects of the drink, losing the effects of the dream, she began to form a painting of this place and wondered if spirits still lingered and why.  The breeze moved the old swing on the porch and it took on a slight and ominous sway that was not of the breeze. Morgan was too lost in her ideas and brandy.  She noticed neither the breeze nor the evil that sat so close to her, there, on the swing, next to her rocking chair.  The moon frowned as the slow moving cloud cleared it’s vision of the little house, and the wan young woman sitting in an old rocker, in the midst of the bile colored being, playing with her very soul.  How many would have to die before the moon could look down and not see pain on this land?  But, the moon and the smell of the woods and the brandy had done their jobs, and Morgan could return to sleep and dream again.

So, the weeks passed and the dreams came more frequently and the ghostly paintings found a good market, and were sold. More dreams came and became so terrifyingly real that the public went crazy over them and couldn’t get enough.  She began to write instead of paint and the books were made into movies and they all had the same ending; evil won.  People said it was a new expression, a new art form.  Morgan didn’t know anymore what it was; because it’d been so long since she’d had a thought of her own, she wasn’t sure what she was writing. She thought she was just the fingers on the keyboard.  The computer took on a life of it’s own.  She didn’t know when or why, but she was as much a slave to the little gray box as she’d been to the lover who misused her and made her so unhappy. 

But, Morgan wasn’t unhappy, she was ecstatically happy.  She lived in a state of euphoria, in love with a feeling that came so naturally and so lovingly to her bed each night; she trusted it with her soul.  It made love to her in her sleep like a handsome succubus, and kept her drugged with pretty words of poetry and good feelings, with promises of more.  She had no reason to eat, and no reason to take time for anything but writing the books on the wonders and beauty of evil. 

There were bad things happening in the world relating to her stories and books.  Young people unhappy in their own lives from body and mind-changing hormones began to act out from the written evil in the books and on the screen.  The evil was lovingly portrayed and promised a better world to the loved starved teens. They were killing their parents, because one of her characters commanded it. They were killing their classmates, because the books said, “Yes, do it.”  The parents became outraged at the irresponsibility of the writer; the schools banned her books; and the churches banned her movies, and her sales doubled.

Morgan was very rich and very ill and no one could contact her.  She stopped answering the phone and wouldn't answer the door. She hadn’t bathed nor combed her hair in weeks and she was down to ninety-eight pounds.  Her teeth were rotting and her fingernails were misshapen and broken.  The house smelled of rotting food, urine and un-flushed feces.  The cat died from starvatoin and was lying halfway out of the bathroom window, decaying and awful. 

The bedroom, however, was pristine white with an un-worldly quality of freshness.  Her beautiful Italian linens were perpetually clean and fresh with the sweet smell of pine, as was she when she entered the room.  She became a goddess for the evil spirit, just by walking over the threshold. She was cleansed and made beautiful again each time she entered the room, the sweet vestal virgin going to her rape, surrounded by the sweet intoxicating smell of fresh pine and the safe smell of carnations.  Each time she left the room, she became, again, the scum of her own undoing.

 Her publisher was frantic to hear from her.  Other than the manuscripts and movie treatments that kept flooding into his e-mail, he’d had no contact with her in months.  Her friends gave up months before, assuming in her newfound fame and fortune; she’d snobbishly  “outgrown” their friendships.

The great evil Pine soul was happy living in the little gray box on the filthy desk in the little house by the big Pinewoods.  He’d found a home to replace the great Pine he was forced to desert.  He could reach more people through this system, and all he had to do was keep this human happy and satisfied in her own unhealthy need for romance and abusive love.  He could enjoy this vessel, but she’d been getting weak and her fingers were not as strong as before.  He doubled his attempts at seducing her, he’d even added her father’s carnations to keep her off her guard, but she was getting weaker in the beautiful bedroom he preserved for her.  He had to get her to eat more food, but the rats and birds he killed and brought to her made her sicker.  If he could only get her to eat something, he could continue his work.  He’d have to think on this and decide what to do, and he knew he’d have to do it fast.

The Baker family lived in these woods since deserting the militia in the Revolutionary war.  Two brothers, John and Arnold ran through Virginia and across the mountains of Tennessee in their desire to get away from their responsibility and the fear of being shot by the British.  They hadn’t stopped, except to sleep and eat, nor looked back until they were safely hidden in the great Pine forest of South Mississippi.  They found wives among the Choctaw, propagated, and became known over the generations as respected fore fathers and veterans of the Revolutionary war.  As their fore fathers before them, the sons came down in the bloodline, thieves, deserters, cowards and drunkards until the last generation had I.Q.s lower than the catfish they tried to raise and couldn’t.

Jake and Zeke Baker were double first cousins and brothers.  No one asked what that meant.  No one ever asked that of a Baker for fear of the real answer.  Suffice it to say, they were the two stupidest men in the world.  They’d taken Zeke’s car on this particular venture driving up to see what mischief they could find at the little deserted house on the edge of the woods.  Jake wanted to take his pick-up since there could be things to sell from the little house, but Zeke was cutting his toenails with his big hunting knife, the one he used on people who crossed him, and would hear no more on the subject, so Zeke drove.  Zeke’s trunk was full of junk and stolen contraband.  The mess had been cluttered in together for so long, some of the sellable items had rusted, ruined and become part of the  garbage of old food cartons tossed in with his fishing gear and clothes, picked up on the sides of highways.  Zeke was always defending the things in the trunk, as valuable antiques and worth a lot of money.

“Things back thar is valuble, and I don’t want’um stole out the house while I’m gone.  Now shutup bout my things.”

Which usually brought about the end of the argument, as Zeke outweighed Jake by a hundred pounds.

“You aint got no clue what’s in ‘arre.”  Jake whispered to himself as he spat out the window at a stray dog on the side of the road.

Zeke drove half way up to the little house and turned off the engine to coast the rest of the way into the sloping front lane.  Jake got out quietly.

“Jesus God, Zeke, whatchu been a eatin?  You rotten.”

Zeke laughed, thinking Jake was trying to blame him for one of his own horrible just ate possum yesterday, farts.

“First hen that cackles, Jake.”  As he stepped out of the driver’s side door, the smell nearly knocked him down.

“Damn, Jake, what’s that smell?”

There is no danger more frightening to a stupid man than the smell of death and rot.

Morgan crawled to the bedroom door before she died, just two feet from the beauty and love waiting for her in the wonderfully sweet smelling room. One hand reaching for the illusive safety she’d sought all her life.  She died looking up, seeing her mother lower the lid of the beautiful white satin coffin over her, wrapped in love.  The evil one was busy thinking of his next book and hadn’t noticed that she hadn’t been near the desk in awhile.  He knew how to summon her when he needed her though.  He wasn’t worried; he just needed that next plot, the next great American novel, the Pulitzer Prize that had eluded him until now.  He knew this next one would bring followers and the prize.  He just needed the right venue.

Zeke went around back to see what was dead.  Jake went up on the front porch, both men frightened of finding something that’d make them vomit.  Dead bodies couldn’t scare them, they both knew ghosts didn’t exist; they had robbed enough fresh graves to know that.  But a rotting corpse, now that was different, that could make you lose a nice lunch and a few beers to boot.  Jake walked in the front door and called to Zeke.  The smell was the house itself, the fresh body stunk from being unwashed and the death stink hadn’t settled in as yet.  Zeke came around to the front door pulling his shirt tale over his face and stepped inside.

“Jesus, some people sure live like pigs, look at ‘is mess.  Anything  worth takin?”

Jake didn’t want to take anything.  This smell would linger on anything in the house for a long time and he was already beginning to gag.

“Naw, man, let’s get the hell outa here ‘fore they blame us for that.”  Jake pointed to Morgan lying almost in the bedroom. 

“What’s a matter wit at?”  Zeke was looking into the fresh clean bedroom and comparing it to the rest of the house.

“I donno man, but I’m gonna puke if ‘n I stay here.” Jake was out and taking deep breaths before Zeke even crossed to the desk.

The computer was sitting open and idle with the moving stars saving the screen, keeping life going in the machine.  He reached down and typed with two fingers, searching for the right keys.

“M,Y,  D,O,G, H,A, S, F,L,E,A,S, hey this could be fun.  C’mere Jake, look at this computer.  I myte just tek me a lesson or two one day.”  Zeke closed the little lap top computer and reached for the plug; pulled it out of the serge protector and wrapped it around the little gray box.  

The great evil, fearless and strong felt someone other than Morgan handling the computer.  He released the toxic odors so familiar for driving off unwanted visitors.  But they came back on himself; there was no escape for the smell.  It’d been trapped with him in the box.  Just as in the great virgin Pine, he was encased again, but with no escape and no power over this man who was so impertinent as to handle him and entrap him and defy his great evil.  The great soul, was dazed, how had this happened?  Where was Morgan?  But his powers were fading, becoming soft and wispy; he couldn’t remember who Morgan was or why he needed her.  He was drifting off to sleep.  He’d come back, as soon as he got out of this box, he’d be back.  Someone would open it and he'd be…

Zeke stepped over Jake vomiting over the side of the porch and opened the trunk.

“I got myself a ‘puter, Jake. I’m gonna take some lessons.”  He tossed the gray box into the back of the trunk where it landed next to an old typewriter, with no keys; that he was going to fix and sell one day. 

“Get in Jake, and try not to hurl.”  The two drove down the lane and Jake wondered if a beer would make him feel better.  He picked up an old flannel shirt from under the seat and blew his nose, trying to get rid of the smell in his nostrils.

The state of Mississippi took the estate, which was considerable.  The National Fan Club bought the little house from the state and made a museum: The Morgan Wallace Museum, but there was always the question of Morgan’s computer.  It’d been reported missing from the house the day they found her body.  The board of directors of the little museum knew there must be other stories and even a novel left in the computer, so they offered a large reward for its return and advertised it for a solid week on the local TV and Radio stations.

Zeke was drunk again, watching the news on the Friday of the last “reward’s announcement”, and had just raised himself on one elbow to see what the reward was about when his wife came in from the bedroom (the resemblance between the two was uncanny, they looked like twins, though no one ever mentioned it) and stood in front of the TV. 

“Hey,” she screamed loud before his head could adjust to her volume.

“Don’t you ever wanna screw me nomore?  You just gonna set round an drank the rest of yore life?”  And with that, she turned off the TV and went back into the junk filled, filthy bedroom and shut the door.  Zeke, farted and went back to sleep.

The first blast of thunder didn’t wake Zeke or his wife.  The rain came down like water poured out of a bucket and dripped through the holes in the old car trunk.  The little gray laptop began to fill with water puddling in the floor of the trunk.  Zeke eventually took it to the museum for the reward, but the rain had destroyed it.  Once again in his life, he was the object of ridicule and laughter for trying to pass off this mildewed mess as Morgan’s valuable computer holding stories not yet published.

                                                The End

No comments:

Post a Comment