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Oct 14

A gnarly tale

Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 in Poems and things, Strange and Unusual

The cloaked figures huddled together in a solemn circle and murmured in unison. Their tears fell slowly for the loss of the last great sorcerer as they watched his body being immersed slowly in the soil he had battled for and won, many times over. He was their last great leader and without him they were lost, without his power they were unsure of their strength as an army from this point forth… they mourned not only for their legendary friend and comrade, but for their future.

A tree was planted on the sorceror’s grave… a Hawthorn seedling which grew steadily and slowly for the next 3,000 years, untouched by human hand, despite the many battles that raged on that field over time. It stood strong and wise, the blood of the magician flowed through its roots, and it learned many things.


Crispin (Tayto) Doyle sat dangling his steel-toed work boots from the uppermost height of the scaffolding he’d just erected, and gazed at the muddy chaos below. The road was taking an eternity to build thanks to the Godawful weather, progress was painful and cold. His mobile phone rang, startling him into an almost death-inducing jump. He slid backwards into a more secure seating position and reached for the phone, hoping it was Claire. He could do with the warmth of her voice about now.

“Yeah, Tayto… work away on your lunch there… a bit early, yeah, but we’ve hit a serious batch of bedrock here, we’re on to the┬ábase about upgrading the digger but it’ll probably take a while.”

“Sound, man… I’m starved, give us a shout when ye’re ready to go!” Tayto flipped the phone shut and shimmied down the scaffolding with the ease of a baby monkey. He scanned the area for some shelter and spotted the tree. The mud squelched underfoot and mirrored his enthusiasm for his job – if only a way out was an option, but it wasn’t. Times were hard, jobs were scarce.

Claire had packed his lunch that day… bless her, he’d have preferred vinegary chips and a batter-burger, but his wholegrain rasher and mayo sandwich did the job nicely. He sat and ruminated afterwards, working the seeds out of his teeth with a piece of loose bark from the tree. The wood tasted surprisingly fresh and warm, as though he were chewing on a piece of tasty ham crackling, and he felt a peculiar warmth spread through him, like the early morning rays of sunshine on a prisoner’s face. He felt strange. Empowered, but strange.


He knew he hadn’t slept, but his mind kicked awake with a fitful jolt – his eyes took in an array of peculiar information and he could see the wind. He could track the flow of the breeze and learned its purpose instantly, understood its pattern and yearned to follow it to see where it went… he immersed himself in the new understanding and felt himself pushing against the airflow not with arms, but with wings. Startled, he watched as he flew further and further away from the pile of clothes and the opened lunchbox below. He had a new shape, but he understood and was not afraid.

Tayto alighted on the uppermost branch beside a ladybird and winked a greeting with his new beady blackbird eye. The ladybird nodded, and spoke in a voice unheard of by man. He warned Tayto, pleaded with this link to mankind, and pointed with urgency with a tiny quivering feeler – to the bulldozer below.

Such perfect timing! Was it Tayto’s purpose in life to protect this tree, right here in this instant? He didn’t know, but knew to act fast. His wings flapped furiously, faster and faster until they became a low-droning buzz. The world slowed to a snail’s pace to his waspish awareness as he darted towards Neelo, the bulldozer’s driver. He had to stop him, and could think of no other way. Once he was inside, he could sting the man, then change into something bigger again, something more persistent.

Neelo spotted the wasp instantly as it flew towards the cabin’s open window. He blew a puff of smoke from his John Player Special into the wasp’s path to stun it momentarily, and reached for his can of deodorant. The vapourised molecules hit Tayto before he knew what was happening and he fell, curled in agony onto the cabin floor of the bulldozer. He gasped his last breath and died.

Neelo plodded on, the bulldozer made contact with the bark of the tree near the root and he changed gear. With a gnarly groan, the bulldozer lifted the tree away from its bed, inducing a flurry of leaves and pollen, killing the tree instantly and cursing the road that was to lie there soon afterward. As Neelo pushed forwards, the tree collapsed with a gushing sigh and with what sounded like a chorus of keening souls. Neelo arched his neck and peered out the window to make sure he wasn’t hearing things, just as a gush of leaves blew into his face. He inhaled and gasped instantly, choking the fragments out of his windpipe.


Neelo snarled as he jumped from the cockpit and barked viciously as he ran towards the foreman… he savoured the sweet taste of blood as he sank his wolfish teeth into the commander’s calf.

He never liked that prick.

Bring on the comments

  1. Grandad says:

    JRR Tolkein meets Stephen King?

    Excellent stuff, K8.

  2. Granny says:

    I liked this story K8. You have a touch of Fay Weldon style about you. That is the bestest compliment I can give you!

  3. Deadly! Your Da’s publisher’s should be knocking on your door soon :)

  4. Baino says:

    Excellent there’s a few good yarns going round in preparation for Halloween at the moment this one’s the best so far!

  5. Jo says:

    Deadly! Nicely done. Poor Tayto!

  6. K8 says:

    Mom and Pop; Thanks for popping the comment cherry:)
    JRR Tolkien; I could never be even in the same league as that chap, but he’s a definite inspiration.
    Stephen King? Cooooooooooolll!!!
    Faye Weldon – shamefully I’ve never read her stuff as far as I know, but thanks :)

    John Braine; Commitments? Deadlines? *runs away screaming*

    Baino; Yay!! Thanks :)

    Jo; He had a massive gambling debt that he wasn’t telling Claire about so he may have been better off. Besides, he went out in style!

  7. Quickroute says:

    Great shtuff! – you knows how to spin a yarn

  8. Brilliant stuff !! I hope I get a breath of that dust here in New York City !

  9. K8 says:

    Thanksh Quickroute :)

    Welcome to the King!!! Delighted you visited :) Thanks matey. Took your advice on the smart-arsed reply idea… works on nosey neighbours too! Class advice.

  10. K8 says:

    Cheers PCB! Sly comment placing there… I like it.

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