EVIL ETERNAL – Ante
Hot sand blew into the stranger’s face as he crested the dusty hill. He refused to blink, refused to admit even the slightest defeat to the power of nature and the one who birthed it. He spat on the lone tuft of grass that clung to the hilltop, laughed as it turned a bilious brown, wilting back into the dry earth.
He was surprised to find a small orchard of fig trees lay nestled in the valley below, a lush land fed by the runoff from the surrounding hummocks. At the outer edge of the orchard sat a clay home, baked hard in the sun, big enough to house three, maybe four people. The leaves of the fig trees chittered in the breeze, mocking him. He’d see to that.
Using his gnarled, wooden staff, he descended the hill in a matter of minutes, his bare feet finding a solid grip with each step. The sun was strong and burned the back of his neck. He pulled his woolen hood over his head, pausing a moment to take in the orchard from eye level.
Five rows of a dozen trees each were spaced out evenly across the valley. Thousands of ripe green figs hung from the branches. They looked, to him at least, like swollen scrotums. He reached up to pluck one, grimaced as it discolored in the palm of his hand, turning a mushy black and melting between his fingers.
The tree followed suit, the figs dying and falling in a rain dance of heavy plops, bursting as they hit the ground. Leaves shriveled up, became brittle, while the branches sagged as if saddled with the weight of the moon.
The trunk split in half, the bisected tree collapsing in opposite directions.
The verdant soil around the tree transformed to a cancerous black, spider veins stretching to its neighbors, the scene of rapid decay and death replayed again and again until the orchard was a killing field, the soul of the land corrupted beyond measure.
This made the stranger smile.
Two men erupted from the house, hands on their heads, wailing in shock, anger, fear. Their life’s work had been destroyed in a matter of minutes, struck down by an unseen plague. A woman holding a child to her breast emerged. She looked across the demolished field and cried. The baby fidgeted in her arms as if it too could sense that something had gone terribly wrong.
One of the men met the stranger’s gaze, pointed.
“You did this?” he cried. It was more a question than an accusation, for the moment. The strange man in his former orchard was the one thing that did not belong. If he was not the cause, and how could one man do this, then perhaps he was witness to the death of his beloved fig trees.
To the man’s amazement, the stranger bowed and said, “Yes, I did.”
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