All That’s Left

This story was written for the August 2012 prompt on Alex Laybourne‘s site and Alex chose it as the best entry for that month.

All That’s Left

Twisted roots tripped him and tangled branches whipped at his arms, drawing specks of blood with their sharp thorns. The musty leaf-smell of the forest tickled his nose and a damp fog brought with it a prickling chill. He paid no attention to where he was going; he had left the car on a verge by the roadside and just started walking into the heart of the wood. He smiled to himself as he went and shifted the backpack on his shoulder.

Stumbling over a fallen tree, he scraped the skin of his hand against its rough bark, landing face down amongst the leaf mould. He clambered to his feet and sucked at his injured hand. As the metallic taste of blood touched his tongue, he took in his surroundings. He was in a small clearing, or, at least, the trees were more widely spaced here. The light of the setting sun seemed like a distant camp fire obscured by the clinging fog, shining between two tall trees, which raised bare branches to each other like embracing lovers. It looked like something out of a horror movie. This was the place.

He sat on the fallen trunk and took his rucksack from his back, unzipped it and took out the urn. Once again he was surprised by how heavy it was. Crafted silver dragons swept across its surface, turning and breathing mercurial fire. He unscrewed the lid gently and placed it down on the leaves between his feet. Getting up, he walked slowly to the two trees and looked down into the black hole of the open urn.

“You’d love it here, Jess,” he said in a whisper, “This would be the scene of one of your stories. It’s like that forest in France; the one we were in all day. I kept saying we were lost and you kept shaking your head and saying ‘I’m never lost when I’m with you’.”

He paused, waiting for the pain in his throat to pass so that he could speak again.

“I love you and I’m lost without you, but I know you’ll be happy here.”

Tears ran down his cheeks as he tipped the urn, shaking it back and forth. The dragons’ breath turned to fire in the sunset and ashes danced with the wind.