Sunday, June 24, 2012

Wither The Vain: Wicker Man Part 2

Wooden Head

Christoph stank like a Judas Tree three days overripe.

His left fist came in over my head and I bent back, doing the limbo. As his arm flew over me, I finished flipping backwards, wrapped my legs around his arm. He lifted his arm, sneering at me through a forest of cherrywood teeth. His right was grasping for me, fingers lashing out as rose whips. I was already swinging forward, lunging for his throat. My hands caught hold even as thorns sprouted and buried themselves deep into my hands.

And nothing happened. My hands were cold and thick, weeping as the thorns bit deeper. I looked past Christoph's grin and saw Miss Geri standing in her gibbet, smiling. She was holding a glove.

One of my gloves.

"So soon..? I know you don't much like it here, but you don't have to run so quickly every time."

"Yeah, this soon. You're as bad as you've ever been, you realize that?"

"I know, I know. You keep telling me. Now c'mon back to bed."

"I have to get going. Work to do."

"You and those hands. They ever going to give you a reprieve?"

"Not until the end."

"That sucks and not the fun way either. If you're going to go so quickly, the least you could do is give me a souveneir."

"Right. You want a lock of my hair? Oh wait... nevermind..."

"That's not very fair."

"Who ever said I'm fair?"

"C'mon... something?"

"Alright... here... have a glove. I've got a few pairs. Happy?"


She giggled tucked my glove back into her pocket, keeping her hand on it.

Long branches were wrapping around my chest. Christoph peeled my off of him and squeezed. Three ribs cracked and forgot to mend.

"She's mine. All the more mine once you're gone."

"You're not the first one to think that. Won't be the last."

I strained, air scare. Ribs were driving themselves against my lungs.

"Trying to escape?"

"No. Succeeding."

I roared, even as my ribs scraped across my lungs, bursting from Christoph's hand. His fingers cracked and twisted, branches snapped in half. He screamed like whistling with a blade of grass. I dropped to the floor, and rolled forward.

Winding both hands together, I swung doubled fists into the side of Christoph's knee. It jerked sideways and the giant tilted, howling in agony. I was still moving, wrapped my arms around his other leg. I planted my feet and lifted, every muscle taut.

Christoph toppled over, flailing his legs wildly. He caught me in the back with a sharp kick and I flew through the air, driving my left shoulder into the bar. It dislocated and broke in three places before I finished sliding to the floor.

I pulled myself up with my right hand.

"What does the big guy drink?"


"Then get him a drink."

The bartender stared. Stared at the vaguely human tree thrashing about the floor trying to stand. At the old man with broken bones demanding a drink.

"I said, get him a drink. And I need a smoke."

The bartender turned to his wares. I looked in the mirror. Blood dripped my forehead and down my neck. All from my hands no doubt. I grabbed the person next to me and wiped my face against their shirt. They didn't argue. I was disappointed. But it was alright. I still had landscaping to deal with.

Christoph was up again as the bartender set the fifth of whiskey on the bar. He was standing behind me as the bartender lit my cigar. It was a beautiful blend. I slipped off the barstool as he brought down his fist. With my good arm, I lobbed the bottle at his cedar chip teeth. It shattered, covering him with liquor.

"Hey Christoph."

He swung again but this time I drove a leg from the broken barstool through his hand, through the bar, and bent it over.

"Only you can prevent forest fires."

I flicked my cigar in his mouth. The whiskey lit and so did he. Screaming as it poured down his throat, all wooden.


I turned to Miss Geri and smiled.

"Hi hon."

"I'm not speaking to you."

"You should."


"C'mon, I beat him fair and square. He's mine now. Either give me back my glove and drop the act or he dies."

"You wouldn't. He's part of your assignment."

We both turned and looked at the howling tree blanketed with flames.

"Sure about that? He looks pretty good that way to me. Been years since I've seen a Wicker Man, but he makes a substitute."

"Oh fine."

She through my glove down to me. As I caught it, my hands began to burn again, itching, peeling. Whole again.

I sauntered casually to Christoph's side and grabbed his free arm by the wrist. The wind came and stole the flames, drinking them down. Embers and ashes covered him, peeling to revealing pink softwood beneath.

Christoph thrashed as black turned to brown turned to green, embers smoothing into bark.

He collapsed, face down, gasping for air. I knelt beside his head, skin hanging off of me in folds, shaking and twitching with nerves misfiring.

"You are mine now Christoph. I am strongest. When you get up, take this card. Through the sewers under the city, you will travel. Another is already waiting down below. Show him this card and await me. I have two others to find and then we can begin in earnest."

I struggled to me feet, brushing the hair out of my eyes.

Miss Geri swung out of her gibbet and dropped to the floor. She smiled and step-saunter-swayed her way to my side, touching my cheek tenderly.

"You look terrible hon."

"I f-f-feel terrible. If someone hadn't toyed with the p-p-plan..."

"You needed a challenge."

"A challenge? That a challenge?"

She kissed me and left a grin behind.

"C'mon old man, let's get you recharged. Some disposable bodyguards still hiding the backrooms."

"Isn't help hard to find?"

"Yeah, but its worth seeing you with black hair again." Shiver.

As we slipped through the back doors, I grabbed my coat off the floor. The kid had run off. Typical.

All eyes were on us until the doors closed. All but Christoph's.

He had seen enough already.

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