Rope Trick Part II

bu091h6another story along the same lines as but shorter.

The tree-dwellers noticed him arrive, and observed the newcomer with suspicious eyes from their leafy abodes, high in the temperate, ochre canopy of the old forest. They saw him before he had arrived, also, treading a determined, if not somewhat stumbling path away from the cities to the west. He wore synthetic fibres to keep out the north-easterly winds that were kicking about the forest floor, throwing leaves and deciduous debris up against the knotted yews that creaked and kissed each other’s fingertips above. The stranger carried a bag with him. He had the ability to make fire; he heated water above a tiny contained furnace, and drank not from his hands, but from delicate, white cups he hooked around a belt on his waist. The tree-dwellers saw him construct a rudimentary shelter on the forest floor, hacking away at the young yews to bend and tie a frame on which he rested the saplings, and leaves, and a shiny blue skein of another man-made material which whipped and curled around his flustered face as he tried to hammer it into the soft, peaty soil. The stranger spoke into a box he held in his right hand.
“Day one,” he said. “Today, I have escaped the trappings of material life to live in the forests, alone, where no other man lives or walks. I shall become one with the soil, and learn to listen to the whispering voice of the roots that tangle beneath my feet. I shall escape my life, here, beneath the dancing of a million, sun-soaked leaves. I am of the same blood of the great European woodsmen, my ancestors, who needed not automobile or telephone, who knew nothing of social networking websites, wrap-around sunglasses or revolving doors.”

The people of the boughs far above his head gathered closely to watch, with mournful eyes, what they had seen in silence many times before. Within forty-eight hours, the stranger had laid a path of cut flint through the trees towards the river bank that lay frothing with soaps and detergents. He had made eighteen different tools with which to kill, and the tools lay bloodied around the entrance to the hut that had sunk into the soil, tilted and stilted from several attempts to maintain some straight lines. Carcasses of four different animals crawled with blowfly, as only the flank meat had been removed while the rest was left for the air to weep on. The remains of many fires spluttered and spread around the forest floor, catching onto the ravaged young trees that had been trampled and thrashed around the site. The tree-dwellers watched the stranger sit, place his head in his bloodied hands, and then stand up to walk back the way he had came, a north-easterly breeze spinning ashes around his freezing legs.

About Benjamin Norris

Published writer of short stories, long stories, poems. Well received art critic and cultural commentator for Berlin magazines. Collaborator with operatic societies. Co-writer of fictional historic psycholinguistic journals. Lecturer of architecture and art history at a Budapest University. View all posts by Benjamin Norris

5 responses to “Rope Trick Part II

  • William Lawson

    Not sure why, but the first thing that popped into my mind when I finished reading this was:

    “You will find me any morning in the park, reading the comics and the sporting pages. Particularly I remark an English countess goes upon the stage, a Greek was murdered at a polish dance, another bank defaulter has confessed. I keep my countenance; I remain self-possessed…”

    It must have been sparked by the image of tree-dwellers looking down…then looking at each other…then considering suicide.

    Anyway, you’re right…from the outside (or from anywhere else for that matter–including the trees), we’re not a pretty sight. Speaking of which, I’m reminded of a little piece I wrote a couple of years ago entitled “On Appearances” (listed under “Bagatelles” on my blog). I’d be curious to see how your rendition of that (or similar) observation would read. At the very least, I’m sure it would be far more wonderfully textured and colored.

  • benchic

    “You will find me any morning in the park, reading the comics and the sporting pages. Particularly I remark an English countess goes upon the stage, a Greek was murdered at a polish dance, another bank defaulter has confessed. I keep my countenance; I remain self-possessed…” Gorgeous! Your automative writing has me enraptured.
    If you liked this piece, please check out the original ‘Rope Trick’ sometime. I shall read your ‘On Appearances’ now.


  • William Lawson

    I’ll take credit for reciting it from memory, but not for writing it. That “scene” is from T.S. Eliot’s poem, “Portrait Of A Lady.” And you’re right, it is gorgeous. You should read it some time, if you haven’t already. For example (another segment from the same poem):

    “We have been, let us say, to see the latest Pole transmit the preludes through his hair and fingertips. So intimate this Chopin, that I think his soul should be resurrected only among friends, some two or three, who will not touch the bloom that is rubbed and questioned in the concert room.”

  • benchic

    I have read a lot of Eliot, but no yet that one. I’ve been so distracted by Verlaine and Maeterlinck for the past two years, I had forgotten about those who write in English!

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