Brushfire Lullaby

It is a warm Summer day, the shadows hanging far from the trees keeping the clearing cool during the long days. ‘Perfect time for a wedding.’ Alex thought to himself as he watched his friends get married, Cadence the Templar he was squired to and Milo, the dashing rogue that always had his back, even during stupid plays. Honestly surprised it was happening this market, they seemed to keep pushing it back, with everything getting in the way. It was honestly Cadence’s trademark, pushing off stuff that they wanted to do and focus on what needs to do.

Henri was officiating the wedding, looking so proud as he opened up his words. The forest behind decided to erupt in noise, trees falling all over. Not wanting their wedding disturbed, Alex would excuse himself to see what went wrong. He’d make it over to the old bridge, listening to it creak and moan with his weight, making sure to only step in spots where it was still sturdy. The beavers had made a mess of everything, eating all of the wood that was good. Stopping near the end of the bridge, he’d see some rustling in the bushes ahead and readying his gun to meet whatever shows up. Three beavers come out, looking straight at him. Sighing, he’d yell to make some noise towards them, scaring them off into the deeper forests. They dropped their sticks in a hurry, trying to lessen the load to get away from the gunman.

Alex would step off the bridge into the forest, his vision getting clouded for a moment and with a quick wipe, he’d see the forest on fire in front of him. Trees would be long ablaze and the ground shrubs long gone, with the bonfire reaching towards the heavens. The beavers would be replaced by the shadow people, looking back at Alex with their shiny eyes and having multiplied about. All of the eyes would be on him, with him unable to move from his spot and can almost taste the ash on his lips. His hands would feel sticky while grabbing his musket, with what looks like blood covering them. One of the figures pointed back towards the wedding, with Alex forcibly moving his head like it was being held in place by a giant’s hand.

The wedding party would be barely visible through the smoke, the guests all being more shadow people who turned their heads to look at him. The bride and groom would be still look the same, though with both their heads missing and Henri being replaced by a Lion headed man, with a mane of pure flames licking out. Slowly the head would turn to look at him, same as the shadow people.. Same as those in his dreams. A voice would ring out from behind him, making him catch his breath. The flames would blink out, the shadow people all gone and his hands as clean as they were when he first cleared the bridge.

“Is everything okay Alex, anything up ahead?” He’d hear Gerard say from behind him, the town captain showing up to back him up. Taking in a couple of breaths, he cough what felt liked ash from his lungs. “Yeah.. Yeah, its all good. Just some beavers that scampered back into the forest. All is good now.” He’d say, looking back at the wedding just wrapping up. All was well, it was a nice Summer Day for a wedding. His friends looked happy there, now together and able to start a new life together. He’d sigh slightly, ‘That’s something we don’t get to have anymore.’

One Foot Already In

“Hey mom… its been a while. Winter has finally thawed and snows no longer covering your grave… Its nice out today, light rain, flowers in bloom. You always liked this time of year, when the mornings still cling to your bones with a chill, but burns away midday to where a coat isn’t needed.” Alex would say, taking his hat off and holding it in front of him. Fidgeting and scrunching it up, he’d stammer out, “I.. I… I talked to Lenore recently… She’s doing well it seems. Jan has grown up like a weed, he seems set to be a big as dad…” He’d glance down to the ring on his thumb, sniffling then cough to try and compose himself.

“She told me part of what happened.. How you died shortly after I left. How the man you set her up with turned out to be an alcoholic that got violent with them… How she blamed me for leaving…..” He’d let the words hang out in the air, trying to keep his thoughts from crashing in. “She says she forgives me, I don’t fully believe her. In all honesty though, I don’t blame them if they do. They’ve been living out in the forests for the past couple of years it sounded like and the first time I get to talk to them, Jan is off running into the woods and Lenore has their leg busted open by a bee hive person. Benalus that was awkward… Especially since the reason that Jan left was trying to become a bandit out in the woods, just like their Uncle. I swear I am looking at a mirror set years in the past with how set on adventures he was, though his stubbornness definitely comes from his mother.”

“I do think some of the damage is getting repaired though, the trust I broke. Lenore showed up to church for my re-baptism, going by Alexandre now.. We talked a little about that last time, needing a fresh start. It went nice.” His hands would relax on his hat as he looked at the marker for her, trying to crack a small smile. “I set them up with House Dubois, Granny Jo offered to help us out for the time being, with the hope we’ll fix up a house for them. Honestly with how much I’ve been doing for the town, a house to put up my feet instead of out in the woods sounds real nice. They should be safe there for now, much better than how things were. Especially now since the woods are even more unsafe for those who can’t defend themselves.” He’d say, sighing as his thoughts began to wander.

“I.. I had the intention to promising you I’d take better care of them now.. Of being there for them. But I can’t lie to myself, nor to you mom.. I know you’d be proud of me getting re-baptized, trying to start a new life, but even after the ceremony I still feel this… this weight on my shoulders. When I shot Emile in the street, I thought this was it.. Everyone will know about who I am and they’ll condemn me. But then it didn’t. The town decided they wanted to keep me around and have my penance be working with Cadence to keep the town safe and explore the Mouth. And ever since then I’ve had this feeling that I’m the next tooo…” “Doesn’t matter..” Alex would shuffle in place, his eye drifting to the bare ground next to the plot.

“The town’s different from when we grew up. So many people died from the plague, those that are left are trying to keep the pieces together and yet.. Someone is going to get hurt. They make plans and plans on top of it and then last minute, they shift without telling everyone. And they ask me to keep everyone alive, everyone safe. So honestly.. its gonna be me there, taking hits for others when their plans blow up and living with the consequences afterwards… Well.. that’s if I even..” His face would slump slightly, trying to push out thoughts he was having. He’d run his hands through his hair, setting his hat back on and slipping the sling for his rifle over his shoulder, taking a final look at the marker. “Goodbye mom.. I love and miss you. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you then… I’ll see you later, maybe sooner than we both expected..”