Christmas Hiatus: Mind the Seeds

The blog is on hiatus for the Christmas season. New stories will return in January. Here’s one from the archives:

Siran stepped carefully onto a long plait of roots that floated on the surface of the water. The bark was wet and slippery, so he walked barefoot, holding his sandals between his fingers. The roots snaked out across the middle of the lake, dividing the water surface into halves. On Siran’s left the water was a dark green, turning red when ripples from the movement of the root disturbed the calm. On his right, the colour was a murky tyrian.

All around the edges of the lake, tall black reeds curled upwards, twisting around each other, reaching over Siran’s head and hiding the horizon from view. Above this dark band shone a pink sky, blemished by occasional rose-coloured clouds. Siran paused every few steps to gaze upwards, before returning his attention to the placement of his feet upon the slippery root.

When he had taken thirty-or-so steps along the root a fluttering, fizzing sound echoed from the reeds to Siran’s right. He turned to see where the noise had come from. A point of bright white light zig-zagged between the reeds and then shot out over the surface of the lake, curling and spiralling through the air towards him. As it drew nearer he saw that it was a pair of seeds, linked by a fibrous strand, spinning around each other, drawn towards the far side of the lake by some unknown attractant. He watched their course through the air, drawing ever closer to where he balanced upon the root.

With unrelenting speed the shining seeds cannoned into him, bounced lightly off his cloak and left a small mark of glowing dust. Siran gasped in surprise, then the seeds curved around him in the air with a hissing sound and hastened onwards to the far side of the lake, paying no further heed to either the interruption or gravity. They plunged into the darkness between the reeds and disappeared.

Quiet returned to the lake. Once again, all Siran could hear was the gentle lapping of water against the root and the echo of his own breath in his throat. He stood very still for a moment, taking in the peaceful oddities of his surroundings.

Then another sparkling pair of seeds shot out from the reeds, heading for where he stood, followed by a second, third and fourth. This time he side-stepped them, edging further along the root. With each further step he took, more and more seeds flew out from the reeds towards him, then across the lake to the other side. As their numbers increased, he failed to move away in time, and flying seeds again began to bounce off his cloak, more and more, covering him in small points of glowing dust. Siran pulled the side of his hood around to cover his face from the ever-more ferocious volleys, and paced faster along the root. From the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a dark green shape in the centre of the lake.

Floating on the surface of the water in the centre of the lake sat a large, round leaf. It was wider than Siran’s arm span, and thicker than his finger. The stem of the leaf was intertwined with the strands of the root upon which Siran trod. This kept the leaf in place.

As Siran neared the leaf, the patter of seeds hitting his cloak accelerated to become a storm. He was unable to even peek around his hood in the direction of the blizzard pouring at him from one side of the lake. He felt the tension in his limbs and his heartbeat seemed to carry his rising anger up through his chest and out through his eyes. With gritted teeth he leant into each forward step, pushing back against the pummelling stream that seemed intent on preventing him reaching his goal.

Siran reached the leaf stem. The rage of the flying seeds seemed to intensify even further. Keeping his back to the source of the affliction, he leapt from his precarious foothold on the root onto the middle of the leaf, which wobbled unsteadily as it took his weight. His motion through the air draw yet more of the flying seeds to hammer ferociously against his cloak. Siran reached out his arms to steady himself, fighting against the leaf’s movement and the barrage thrashing his back. Then he sat down carefully, shaking, placing his hands on the soft membrane between the leaf’s veins.

The flow of seeds thundering towards Siran seemed to increase still further, their collective hissing amplified to a deafening bellow. Thousands upon thousands swarmed and spiralled across the surface of the lake, colliding with each other, splashing into the water and leaping up again to continue their flight to the far side.

Siran took a deep breath, adjusting his body against the torrent of seeds battering against the back of his cloak. He blew gently between pursed lips, letting the tension of the unusual situation release from his muscles. Despite the roar of the seeds against the hood that covered his ears, he focused on the flow of air through his nostrils. The breath came in, the breath went out. The breath came in, the breath went out.

As his mind cooled, the flow of seeds shifted. They seemed to become aware of him. While their number increased further, their paths through the air altered. They began to curve away from where Siran sat, ducking and wheeling around him, repelled or drawn by some force beyond his ability to detect.

After many more breaths, he sat in a clear pocket of air, carved by the seeds themselves as the pelted the water, the root, and the reeds on the far side. The percussion against his hood had eased, the noise withdrawn from the centre of attention, softened.

Welcome, said a voice in his mind, clear against the whistling of the seeds through the air around him. You are now present.


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