Yew the Keeper

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

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Take a trip to the mystcial gardens at the edge of the singularity. Walk its grounds and marvel at its beauty. But do not stay for too long, for where good grows, evil flourishes....


Yew lived on the edge of the Wood’s Great Garden. It was a nice home, for the Gardens themselves were pleasant and Yew enjoyed spending her time caring after it. Every so often she would entertain guests eager to bask in the splendor of the Garden. The days spent caring and touring the Garden were the good days, when the flowers bloomed and the emerald cardinals sang together in a harmonious choir. Light danced like fairies in the trees and the crystal ponds glistened dreamlike reflections.

Yes, the Great Garden was beautiful, yet few knew the thorns that lurked beneath the petals like Yew did. The Gardens could be a place of great danger for the unwise and careless, and woe betide those who crossed the more territorial and hungry denizens. Yew respected the natural order of the Garden and rarely interfered, for the way to survive the Garden was to take care and respect it.

Occasionally an evil weed would sprout and firmly take root. Such seeds start small and remain benign for little time, but then grow strong and with it, grow a will of its own. It was the nature of these aberrations to destroy, and unchecked would surely spread and consume all within the Singularity. That, Yew could not allow.

I had the privilege to visit the Great Gardens with my wife once. It was there I learned of the darkness that dwells deep within. I did not meet Yew personally, yet rather her handyman Edimon. He pointed her out from a distance, and though I did not see much, neither my wife nor I recognized her species. Yew kept her many arms hidden under a heavy cloak, and her tangled hair framed her pale green face and black bud-like lips. She had a visible youth to her, yet Edimon insisted she had always looked like that. When my wife and I tried to determine her origin, he shrugged and said “Tha’s way always been” as he would repeat many times that day.

Edimon’s appearance was considerably less curious; he was clearly aged for his species, with dark grey fur and wrinkled skin. His bones cracked so terribly as he walked, I feared he would snap and fall, laying on his back with his legs kicking like an ugly insect until a kind soul would overcome their revulsion and help him up. He was mostly fascinated with the weather, but took the time to share some of his experiences with me. 

We met him at the gate of the Gardens and walked in for a bit before resting at a pearl gazebo overlooking Kyneth Pond, the largest body of crystal water on exhibit. Legends once referred to it as the “Fountain of Youth” when such facts were not so easily proven. It was there Edimon told us what brought him to the Gardens. It was the first of many things; his first home away from the Hive, when he first met the Evil in the Garden, and more importantly, Yew.

When he arrived at the woods (I was jus’ a yung pip, cee?) he had just finished school and was looking for adventure. So he packed his bags and made his way to the Woods, where civilization barely touched and nature still ruled supreme. 

“We war goin to be a herm-men, cee? Me, myself an Amari, tha’s way always been.” Amari was his lover and best friend since childhood. Their story was another epic that I will no doubt one day recount to its fullest but for now shall limit it to that neither was particularly inclined to live life within the confines of their homeworld. 

The two lovebugs spent their first month in the Woods happily. They lived as freely as they pleased, hiking, fishing, and staying up late to look at the void and pretend the stars from the home they’ve heard so much about were there. They were thinking about starting a family of their own when Amari started sleepwalking. It was unusual, but Amari always returned unharmed. And so, Edimon did not feel the worry that he should have.

One day Amari came to him scared, saying she woke up in a terrible place that she did not recognize. There were dead things and whispers coming from a strange fog. She found her way back by following her own footsteps. From then on, Edimon began to notice that his young bride was becoming more distant and wandered like she didn’t know where she was going. At first it did not bother him, after all there was still plenty to explore in the Woods, and she was clever enough to avoid most dangers the Gardens had to offer. He didn’t know when it started but after following her, he found himself in the most curious of places.

“Ta.” Edimon said. “I knowent when it began, abut I walked an walked an walked. I war in te Garden, abut not te Garden I knewe. It’r plenty of trees, alive an dead an layd as if sleeping. All hada toucha glaer to them. The glae gre’w in therns ye see.”

I asked him what a thern and glaer were, and he patiently explained what he meant. What he told us still did not make sense, so he offered to take us to that strange “Glaerlande”. My wife was excited at the prospect of visiting a potentially haunted site. I was no spirit-chaser like my wife but reluctantly agreed. I was soon assuaged as the Gardens had nothing to offer but pleasant views and splendid landmarks. 

The small talk ceased when we reached the “Glaerlande”. It started with a few trees which from afar glistened and refracted light. Upon closer inspection we saw that they were still trees, but they were coated in a crystalline coat. Tiny barbs of glass stuck out from the trunks and branches, as if inviting us to prick ourselves upon them. The crystal trees became more and more abundant the further in we walked until we were in an entire forest of incandescent crystal. Then we reached the clearing.

It was serene. It was terrifying. The forest was watching us before but now we had nowhere to hide in that large, crystalized clearing. The clearing consisted of the many trees both standing tall and fallen over. Some of them even appeared to have been ripped up by the roots. A large pile of desecrated wood was piled up in the center of the clearing. I asked Edimon jokingly if it was a bonfire. 

“Na,” he said. “Issa throne.”

Edimon continued his story. The night he followed Amari took him here. He described it like a dream, perhaps the same dream his ill-fated wife had when she entered that fugue state. He followed her at a distance. There was a fog, he said, just like Amari described. In that fog he heard noises like the motors and machines of death. This scared him, even more so when he saw monstrous shapes looming in the fog. And then, like we had just reenacted, he entered the clearing. 

Edimon claimed that there was less crystal, but seemed more focused on what happened next. Amari was there waiting for him, as if she knew she was being followed. And there, seemingly rooted atop the pile of detritus that passed as a throne, was the Entity. 

It was tall, lean, and pale, and Edimon had trouble describing whether it was skin or another layer of that cursed crystal. It appeared to have a mouth that talked, but what came out was quieter than a whisper. Edimon struggled to understand. As if recognizing his quandary, Amari held her hand up. The Entity reached out with it’s branch-like fingers and gently took it. 

Amari’s head tilted back and she sighed. She looked as beautiful as the first time Edimon saw her. Her body twitched as if being prodded, and occasional grimaces of pain crossed her face. She could have been in bliss, or agony, or both. Edimon could not tell. Just as he thought of doing something about it, Amari began to sing. It was in a voice neither he nor she could have done naturally. It was as if the wind was given a voice. It entranced Edimon, and the Entity extended it’s other hand to him. 

“An jus like a pip, I wen and grabbed it like tis water in the sandlands. An then I war not in the Gardens no more. I war o a moon, an twen a few planets, and mayhaps a star. An the singing war everywhere. An o were the crystals and the thorns. An whole world o crystal. It was more beautiful than anythin I’d ever seen. And I knew then I woul die to go to that world.”

Edimon rushed back to the Garden as the Entity let go of him and Amari. In that moment, Edimon wanted to scream “Lee me back ther!” He wanted to vomit. Reality as he knew it now was a nightmare, and he wanted to wake up. He tried to grab the Entity’s hand again, but it withdrew, a signal that the audience was over. Amari gently led him back home where he slept and wept while Amari comforted him.

The following day was the first time Edimon met the Keeper. They already knew of each other’s existence, having seen each other walking around. Up until then, Yew avoided the couple. 

That  morning, Edimon felt like himself again, and last night’s worries were no more than a dream. He washed himself and ate, and set about his busy routine. Yew found him as he was preparing supper. There were no pleasantries. There never were when it came to the Keeper of the Garden.

“Stay away from the Garden tonight.” said Yew.

“I beg fer pardon?”

“You are to stay out of the Garden for now.”

“Is a big Garden.”

“It’s a dangerous Garden. You do not know how much danger you are in.”

“I kew there danger.”

Yew locked her many eyes on Edimon. “Not like this. That thing will kill you. It has already killed your friend. Stay out of the Garden until I have dealt with It.”

“Whatr you on about?”

“I wished there was another way. That creature you saw last night does not belong here. It does not belong anywhere. For the last time, I implore you, do not set foot in the Garden until I tell you it is okay to do so.”

“But what about Amari? She aisn’t dead. I saw her just aftfift.”

Yew turned to leave. “You’d better tell her goodbye then.”

She left Edimon alone and confused. He was already well aware of the feral fauna and ravenous flora that populated the Garden. He and Amari spent their last month adjusting to such perils. But Amari did not return that night, or the next. She was an independent soul, accustomed to coming and going and Edimon loved her for it, but could not shake the worry from his mind. He set out after her, and even though he wanted to ignore that feeling in his gut, he knew where she would be.

The fog was different now. It was thinner, dissipating slowly. The beastial noises that previously scared Edimon now invoked pity as they whimpered and howled in pain. Many trees had been knocked over, as if a great battle took place and Edimon found himself back in the clearing. 

To his great surprise it had snowed, leaving heaps of white atop the throne of glass. Upon closer inspection, Edimon saw that the flakes were of uneven sizes and shapes, as if they previously fit together like puzzle pieces. The picture became clearer as he saw more mounds of crystal dust around the clearing. His heart stopped when he saw Amari for the last time. 

She stood at the edge of the clearing. The only part that remained his beautiful bride was her face. The rest of her had changed, deformed to copy the Entity. Glass erupted from beneath her skin in ways that invoked unimaginable pain. Her face was frozen with a smile on it, but crystal tears were already protruding from her eyes. In front of her stood Yew. Edimon walked over to stand next to her. Together they looked at the corpse that was once Edimon’s wife.

“I’m sorry.” Yew’s voice trembled with sorrow and anger.

“She’r dead. You allred told me.”

“It doesn’t make it easier.”

“No. It dern’t.”

Edimon stared until he could stare no more. Then he left Yew to finish her work. Edimon became silent, signalling that he was done telling his story. My wife and I were left with questions that we immediately doused Edimon with as if he were an inferno.

“What was it? Did she kill it?”

“Is not ded. She only banshed tha Thing away.”

“Where did it go? Where does it live?”

“Probly back a ground wer it acame. Is a thing of evil, it is. Thing a-that sorts grows from the soil, Yew says.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ther isa darkness in this Garden. A’evil fruit in Eden, like-a sickness. It grows an grows an every so often it grows enough to come alife. And when it too big, Yew comes an chops it. Tha’s all I know. Tha’s all I want to know.

“Sometimes I dream. It the Garden tha gives us many-legs sleeps an dreams. An I see her, all glaer. All perfect. An I wanna hold her tha way I usta. But then I see her shad’ow, and it’s growing toward me, as if it wants-ta eat me. Tha’s how I know it’s still there. Waiting and growing.”

The rest of our time at the Gardens was a lot more pleasant and did not end in a similar catastrophe. Edimon took us back and pointed out the highlights of the Gardens that we should tour that were still safe. After two full days of exploring as much as we could, it was time to finally go. After our long journey back, where I sat with my wife’s hand in mine, after I had returned to my duties at the University, I thought about the darkness that lurked in the Great Garden of the Woods.

I was not worried if it was a true story or not. Every story is true, albeit altered to serve the storyteller. I had already done my research; Yew indeed was a groundskeeper of the Garden, and she did perform her duties admirably. People had been lost to the Garden before, but they were all due to carelessness and accidents. Edimon’s monster was simply another denizen of the Woods who feasted on the flesh of its victim’s after luring them in with some siren’s song.

I adapted this story and published it for the rest of the Singularity to read. I made sure to honor Edimon too, and returned to the Gardens to give him a copy. It was as beautiful as I first saw it, and once again I did not have the pleasure of meeting Yew. While we sat in the warm sun and drank the sweet tea he was so fond of, I asked him a question that shocked me that I had not bothered to ask before. I asked him why he never left, and his answer chilled me to the core.

Up until now I had assumed that he stayed to honor his dearly departed. They had left their colony to build a life of their own, and damned if Amari’s death sent Edimon running. But that wasn’t the reason. Edimon looked me square in the eye and told me:

“Tha thing, tha Entity, it marked me. First it marked me wit her, then it marked me Itself. It is a-part o me now, even as an idea. I cannot let go. I cen let it escape to worlds beyond, les it eat alla you and damn the Singularity.”

This answer scared me because the Garden has marked me too. Shortly after my first visit I began to dream of woods, silent except for the song of the Entity. I do not know how I know, but ever since I returned to the Gardens it has become louder, and closer in my dreams. It does not scare me anymore. I will find the source, I have to. I will not leave the Garden until I do. What scares me most of all however, is the same name echoed in fear between the trees of the monster hunting me.

The Garden sings her name, warning: “Yew, Yew, Yew….

 



Submitted: September 18, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Jon Nathaniel. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Ann Sepino

So I read the blurb and thought it was intriguing. Turns out the story is even more so. :) I love the descriptive paragraphs about the Gardens. And I also love how Edimon's background and personality were framed not only by the main character's POV but also his story about Amari. Those last few sentences hinting at Yew's true nature make for a great finish. Thanks for writing and sharing this story on the site!

Sun, September 19th, 2021 2:12am

Author
Reply

Thank you very much for your feedback! This story was commissioned to me by my brother, who wanted to create a literary universe. This is the first in a series of stories I will be working on along with similar themes. I look forward to reading some of your stories and hearing more from you!

Sun, September 19th, 2021 7:55am

llywrch

I am very impressed with this story. Although I am left with a number of questions about the world you have described, answering them might destroy the mood you have created here, a mixture of the exotic & of mystery.

I don't know if I would say this story is "Lovecraftian". Lovecraft far too often delivered his terror as if it were wrapped around a brick. The horror here is much more low-key & delicate--but just as effective.

I have only one criticism: although the story is named for her, she is not at the center of this story. The center of this story is Edimon. I think what you wanted to do was to present Yew indirectly -- Edimon & Amari are simply mice caught in a ferocious battle between giants -- but you do not provide enough information to make her the center of this story. (The preamble doesn't really meld with the rest of the story; the information there could be added elsewhere in the narrative.) Perhaps you should simply rename the story?

Looking forward to reading more about the universe of the Singularity.

Tue, November 2nd, 2021 6:46am

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for reading! Your feedback is very important and helpful. While I was aiming for "Lovecraftian", you may be right about how it may not necessarily define the story. I'm also interested in what you said about changing the title; I will look into that. I am looking forward to writing more about the Singularity, and exploring it with the readers.

Thanks again for your feedback and reading the story, it means a lot to me.

Tue, November 2nd, 2021 12:21pm

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