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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

A brief tale depicting the final crusade of a tribe enslaved to the rules of their obnoxious leader.

Submitted: November 24, 2017

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Submitted: November 24, 2017



Pitch darkness had befallen the village not soon past the final hour of the eve of the equinox. The earth by which the pack of huts, shacks, and shanties lay upon remained as still as the Earth by which its inhabitants called home. A harrowing glow baked the horizon as sunset ended. At dawn, work had begun on a day commenced by the leader to be the last hunt before the cult, populated by the “acceptors”, disbanded. Wood from the forest that circumvents the enclosure was currently being brought to form an eventual campfire under the strict orders of the leader, which were obeyed by the acceptors as an obligation. Water that tinged blue, with green subsuming, streamed along a river in proximity to the compound, as some acceptors scurried to the riverbank to fill their palms with as much of it, as if it were red wine, before returning to attend to the unconditional escapade at hand to bring wood back to camp. This was of utmost importance and was relayed to the acceptors to be just that, and not a word could be argued against, not even in jest. And with that broke near verbal silence around the camp where conversations were limited to the task and were spoken away from the leader as a precaution. The group worked tirelessly to extract as much firewood as deemed possible, by which they felt they had stripped the forest for all it had as the final stragglers made their penultimate and ultimate treks into the forest and back.

The desperate wait for the eventual end of the final hunt, and with that the cult they belonged, transpired to be beyond belief for some with the cult being all they had ever identified with. There seemed to be an unidentifiably efferent omen streaking around the camp, particularly around the mass load of wood which centred the enclosure. Dozens had gradually knelt to encompass it and marvelled at its supreme stature; it towered as high as its closely perched tree cousins. The population of the cult that remained close to the camp sensed an increasingly palpable change in the air as the present hour winded down, and transcended itself into mere minutes, as if time itself were receding away further into seconds and, perhaps, extinction. What was not beyond belief was the assurance that regardless of the mystique, at the end of the hour, the hunt would cease to be in session. The leader made it unlawful to challenge what had been ordered. Conformity throughout the day had dared to be unanimous but for one transgressor in the camp. The offence occurred before day reached night, during the transition. Bereft of ideas and clearly flustered and fatigued by the unorthodox nature of the day, the acceptor in question had fervently, yet foolishly, questioned the ideology of the leader and the purpose of the task at hand. Silence deafened momentarily as if time and all its commodities had frozen in the cold of near nocturne. The leader inaudibly instructed for the culprit to enter the largest and most well-kept hut. Having regained structure, the leader followed solemnly. All present in the camp to witness the episode commenced count rhythmically. The count ended at eight minutes and twenty-four seconds of conversation in head hut as the leader re-entered the camp, however the worker did not. The outcome was not discussed; however, it was sensed that the acceptor had been lavishly lambasted. Indeed, that much seemed apparent when the acceptor emerged not long before the present hour, with an “X” inscribed on his rags, to take his place amongst his equals in circling the monument that they on this the present day had curated.

At the death of day, the leader had relayed a final demand to the acceptors; all must be present and attentive when the firewood is lit at the end of the twenty-fourth hour. The tentatively pedantic instructions were eerily esoteric as acceptors were instructed separately to ensure the mound of wood reached beyond the height of the leafless trees. This necessitated a wholly group effort which understandably began preceding sunrise on this the present day. The lack of noise seemed ominous to the group at large throughout the day, even before the error of acceptor “X”. Sounds that had once reverberated during lighter times had now dissolved into a somewhat chilly but tranquil state, which left most with a keen sense of anticipation and shrewd trepidation for what comes next, and not without longing for what came before. The reasoning for this change in state would attribute to the sanctions of the leader, who persistently stressed key information separately to each in the camp, insinuating that there would be a key role to play for all on this the present day. Demands were not questioned as others did not want a similar fate to the punishment that “X” had surely to endure. As reminded by the leader, this symbolised a key element of the hunt. Hence, interpersonal discussion on this the present day indeed limited itself to the collective push for the wood to be attained and brought back to the village.

Absent were warning of these strenuous tasks and requirements beforehand, as only on this the present day could work begin, as the leader professed. The leader refrained from providing any further intel until time had advanced. Each acceptor was assigned a unique role and instruction which were to culminate in the common goal of extracting enough firewood. A simple plan in base form, however acceptors needed to commit to these specificities at the affirmation of the leader. The extraordinary level of combined effort throughout this the present day escaped doubt, as the leader prophesised. The acceptors had been taught that reward comes from not of the knowledge of the end result but of the effort in itself. Of course, they knew not anything else. Being no strangers to the taxing elements of hard graft, having partaken in dozens of past hunts, the acceptors lent their skills to the task of fulfilling their collective requirements. Of course, the matter of choice never came to fruition. Thus, there came a steady but efficient climb to the proverbial finish line at the close of the twenty-fourth hour.

When the final acceptors presented their load to the heap that was indeed the temporary centrepiece of the enclosure, they joined the rest in kneeling before it. Without a further
second to pass, the leader spoke plainly by beckoning all to wait. Even at the last hour, the silence was awakening. Sleep had not befallen any members of the cult since the last allowed rest. Fatigue also had not been succumbed to by any individual, but for the foolish acceptor “X”. Indeed, this was to be a moment that all had to be conscious for, and the eyes had to be catered for at the supreme insistence of the leader. And at this the present day the wait that had commenced had been suffocated by a succinctly sustained silence that lengthened the level of anticipation and trepidation over what likely succeeds the wait. Indeed, many predicted something that might only ever be understood and accounted for by the one who called for work on this the present day to commence; the leader.

At almost the precise moment the leader had spoken it seemed like something had happened. The air they could once observe from their breathing had merged with the darkness. Visibility diminished somewhat suddenly, despite the camp being lit by the lanterns they had used as a guide during the hunt. Alike the realms of an out-of-body experience, it transpired to be an arduous “through-the-keyhole” moment, that left even the most concentrated individual otherwise diluted to the subconscious. Without knowledge of the time, camp members had only the leader to guide them as it passed on this the present day. For the acceptors, clarity stretched as far as the sole expectancy at midnight being the lighting of the firewood. The leader would attend to the task without aid from others, but for the present time there would be uninterrupted, unanimous hush as the wait extended.

The acceptors continued to wait and persisted to ensure that the vicinity by which they called their temporary home would be prepared for the beginning of the change, as silver pebbles and stones were placed to encircle at the foot of the mound by two permitted acceptors. All were aware of the near finality of the project they had worked upon in under twenty-four of the most recent hours and all were acutely aware that at the end of the last hunt there would be no more in that they would move on from the procession. The moon soon reached its uppermost above the camp as the stack of wood was, at long last, lit as the leader, in a regal manner, proceeded ceremoniously to tend to the final duty as midnight struck. The fire burned weak crimson and curiously tinged turquoise as it spread, God-like, to coat the burgundy oak mound with an uncontested, unbreakable shield of heat that would soon disperse into the atmosphere that it had birthed itself into.

After a passage of time, embers emerged swiftly as the wood, like the fire itself, dispersed into the atmosphere. Soon, the leader and the acceptors were left to witness a dying mound of darkened, wooden soot. The soot was dark enough to merge with the night sky, though visible under the moonlit glare. The leader left the kneeling position he had returned to upon lighting the fire and walked directly to the acceptor who had been banished mere hours before on the prior day. The leader bestowed something minute enough to be unidentifiable into the acceptor’s palms and subsequently beckoned him to proceed to the ruins of the firewood, carefully placing down within the ashes the item by which he was bestowed. Intriguingly, the embers that had seemingly died out appeared to illuminate greater than before and fluctuated between a glistening green glow and a duller olive satin. This new phenomenon continued as the acceptor returned to take position amongst the others who, in stillness, absorbed the moment. Without knowing the time, it deemed somewhat less taxing to count the present seconds to take bearing from. Regardless, waiting from that moment became excruciating. What more must need to be done to end the hunt? After almost three hundred further seconds of nothingness many acceptors had bowed their heads in blind defeat, whilst others were conscientious of their body language in the presence of their superior and remained upright out of respect for the moment all would come to end. Abruptly after more than two hundred further seconds came the eventual end of the wait, and alas, the close.

Shooting out from the mound of ruin, by which the deathly embers of wood had since burned out, came a single grassy green stalk. It was immediately apparent that as the leader rose again to observe this anomaly, and with finality announce the end of the hunt, that this was what each acceptor had patiently waited for. The appearance of fresh surges of wildlife were, of course, to be prevalent from the birth of the present day which symbolised a quiddity of the present season. With the birth of Spring came a divergence of all who had habituated in the village as they dispersed, like the campfire, into the woods and in separate directions with no individual following another. All exited separately. The leader remained and knelt once more before the blackened mass of ash that was once a tower of wood. The stalk continued to grow stronger with each passing moment. It soon sprouted petioles, which was curious as time had all but passed. A vile smirk had cracked across the face of the leader as if it never truly belonged but for these moments of maligned magnificence. The sight of the first leaf was to be enough. Lastly, not long after the acceptors, the leader exited, and at satiety, through the leafless trees and into the dark labyrinth of the woods.

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