Xylography #atozchallenge

arts-crafts-group-wood-craft-together-162382

Xylography; the art of engraving on wood.

He liked to make things out of wood. People said he was talented, but it had never brought him money or fame. He lived a humble life on the edge of the woods in the countryside. He looked after an abandoned farm and was a handyman for the town which brought in extra money. His garden was covered by his wooden sculptures which was mostly hidden from the public. So, it wasn’t until his death that he actually became famous, like it seems with every creative person.

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The Bookworm

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I don’t know what was going through Kim’s mind that day. Only that she wanted to be left alone. My old gran would’ve said that girl was away with the clouds and why couldn’t I find someone normal to have as a girlfriend?

I didn’t want normal though. I wanted the unexpected and unusual. I wanted more excitement then a cheerleader – who were way out of my zone anyway and more beautiful then the geeks and nerd girls. Saying that though, Kim was a bit of a geek. Though she always denied it.

We were meant to have a date that evening. But as we left school, Kim told me it was off then left without another word. I pondered as I walked home if that meant we had broken up, but Kim would have said that. She was a girl of few words and when she spoke it was only to say what she meant.

The late afternoon was pleasant enough, for the end of March. There’d been a lot of rain recently, but it was a mostly dry and sunny day. I didn’t much feel like going home. But I was feeling stuffy in my uniform. So, I headed there to get changed.

There was plenty of things I could do, like homework or playing on my Xbox, maybe seeing if anyone else was up for hanging out. I wasn’t in the mood though. Kim had put me off and my thoughts were fixed on her.

What was her reason? She’d never cancelled on me before and we’d been dating for five months or so now. Yes, I wanted to sleep with her, but I was willing to wait. If she’d been ill or busy with something else, why didn’t she just say? It had been simply, ‘I can’t meet tonight. Sorry.’

I could text or call her, but Kim wasn’t one for phones. Instead, I decided to go and see if I could just find her by wondering about. A crazy, long shot of an idea, but it had worked before.

Grabbing a jacket, I left and walked around our small town. I checked Kim’s house, but there was no one home. I checked the school, but it was now locked for the night. I searched shops, the library, the little parks. Finally, I walked out to the woods.

There were a handful of dog walkers, a jogger and some school kids from the other high school dotted around. I was about to give up, maybe she’d gone out of town? Some emergency she couldn’t tell me about? Other ideas popped into my head and my feet came to a stop.

I was facing the river. The water was flowing gently, causing the grass and tree branches which dipped in to move also. It was a pretty spot. I looked further to my right watching the river moving past me. Something caught my eyes. There was a large branch stretching over the river and laying on it was Kim!

She still had her uniform on, but she had let down her long black hair. There was a book covering her face and her school bag was hanging up close by. She seemed to be asleep.

I walked over and lent around the tree. It was easy enough to climb up and walk over, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I said Kim’s name gently and tried to wake her. It took a few attempts.

‘Go away, Dustin,’ Kim said.

‘Why? What are you doing?’ I asked.

‘Communicating with this book,’ she replied.

I frowned, ‘why?’

‘Because it’s hard and I’m trying to understand it. Now go away!’

‘Is that why you cancelled our date?’ I asked.

‘No,’ Kim answered.

I waited, but she didn’t say any more. I rubbed my fingers over the bark of the tree and felt how rough and dry it was. Kim just lay there, book still over her face.

‘Then, why?’ I pressed.

‘Because I wasn’t in the mood,’

‘Oh.’

I put cheek to the tree trunk and stared at her. Kim had really nice legs. She wasn’t wearing tights or leggings today, a sure sign the weather was getting warmer. Her skirt was knee length though and give her the cover she needed. Her blouse was still tucked in and I could see it swelling around her chest when she breathed in. Even though I hadn’t seen them yet, Kim had small boobs.

I couldn’t decided what to do. From her demeanour it was clear I should go, but I didn’t want to. There was enough room on the branch for me if I wanted to sit close to her feet. Or, I could sit at the foot of the tree. What was the point in waiting for her when she’d made it clear she didn’t want me though?

‘I guess, I should go,’ I said, a little too loudly.

Kim finally took the book off her face and looked at me.

I lent off the tree and got ready to make a move.

‘You don’t have,’ Kim said, ‘I’m bored anyway.’

She sat up and shuffled along the branch. She put the book in her bag, tugged it down and put the strap over her head. The she clung on to the tree trunk and slowly climbed down. I helped her over the last bit then give her a hug.

‘What’s the book about?’ I asked.

‘Seventeen century witches’ plays,’ she added.

‘Witch plays?’

Kim held my hand and we began walking.

‘Yeah, because people in the sixteen hundreds loved witches.’

I nodded, noticing the sarcasm in her voice. Kim swung our hands and we headed down a quiet little path.

‘Maybe, you can help me figure it out later?’ she said.

‘Sure. Does this mean we get to have our date after all?’ I asked.

‘I guess…You’re going to pay for dinner, right?’

I shook my head, unbelieving that and Kim laughed at me.

Igloo

Igloo, Ice, Snow, House, Home, Polar, Region, Shelter

 

It was a crazy idea, but still as Vince drew out the plan, the paycheck rang in his ears. He grabbed the metal ruler and began working out the height, length and width of the half sphere shape and attached long arched entrance. He shook his head, still feeling the eddies of madness. Of all the things he’d been asked to make over the years; doll houses, kids play dens, tree houses and rocking horses, this took the biscuit. Looking down at the blueprint, he admired his art work then wondered how he was going to build an igloo out of wood.

 

Wood

Mr. Baxter had no choice but to cut the young trees down on the hill at the back of his garden. It was an idea his wife had been suggesting for the last few weeks, but Baxter had been trying to find another solution instead. This morning time had run out though and as his wife had left to drop the children off at school then go to her part time job, she had reminded him about their lack of fire wood again.

Out of options and armed with a small axe plus a pair of gardening gloves, for that was all he had, Baxter stepped out of the back door and avoiding the chicken coop, which give shelter to the three remaining chickens, strolled across his ragged looking lawn. The grass was littered with children’s toys of no real age or gender and many of the toys were broken and weather battered.  His back garden ran straight for twenty paces, then ended under a big oak tree with a crudely made wooden plank and chicken wire fence just before it.

Mr. Baxter struggled to climb over the boundary marker he had made with his own hands and cut off pieces from the chicken coop years ago. As he came to stand on the other side, he surveyed the quickly sloping hill and the row of houses that lay at the bottom. He couldn’t see very much through the wild tangle of bare tree and bush branches. However, he did spot a large and mean looking German Shepherd dog wondering around the neatly trimmed lawn of the garden to the left of him.

Hoping that the dog didn’t spot him and thus draw any human attention upon himself, Baxter selected the nearest young spruce, which for all he knew about trees could have been an endangered native species, and started to swing his axe at the trunk. Luckily, his swing was good, his axe blade sharp and the trunk thin, so after a few moments the tree fell. Smiling to himself, he rested the axe against a fence plank and dragged the tree up alongside it.

Sweat popped on his brow and caused his hands to go slick in the gloves. The tree became snagged on the branches of its companions and Baxter had to put all his energy into shifting it. With a final heave, he threw the small tree over the fence and into his back garden. He paused to catch his breath, for he was very over weight and had a back problem. Wiping his face and forehead, he selected another young tree and attacked it with the axe.

For the rest of the morning he carried on in the same vein, until his wife came home at lunch time and she came out to him with a cup of tea and half a fish paste sandwich. Handing him the cup and plate, she glanced at his hard work and nodded her head.

‘I fear it won’t last us though,’ she said quietly.

‘My benefit payment comes in on Thursday. I’ll try and get some more logs and coal then,’ he answered through a mouthful of sandwich, ‘this’ll be good for kindling though, so I won’t buy any of that.’

‘I’ll go down to the job centre tomorrow and see what else we can claim or if there’s any more jobs I can apply for,’ Mrs Baxter responded with sadness in her voice.

Baxter nodded, feeling he couldn’t say any more about their unfortunate situation.

‘Shall I help?’ his wife asked instead.

‘If you want too. I think I left the saw on the kitchen table.’

‘I noticed you had,’ she replied and left.

He finished off his sandwich and drank his warm tea in a few gulps, before turning back to the tree he had been cutting down. Leaving his things to the side he begin again and had chopped through the trunk just as wife returned. She helped him heave it up into the garden then began to saw the branches and trunk up. Baxter left her to it and moved towards another tree. He left his eyes drifted down the hill and saw that the German Shepherd was now in the garden below him. The dog was right up against the fence and sniffing the air madly.

From where he was, Baxter could see that the fence looked a lot stronger than his as it was made from concrete pillars and had two layers of thick wire in-between. Still though, he hoped there were no gaps that the dog could get through. Getting his footing next to another young tree, he swung low at the truck. The sound of metal striking wood drew the dog’s attention and this time, aware that something was going on above him, the dog started barking.

Baxter paused and looked nervously down the hill. The dog was jumping up against the fence now and barking urgently. Baxter’s eyes flicked towards the house, but he couldn’t see much further into the garden, let alone a back door. He glanced up at his wife, but couldn’t see her, only his fence. Gritting his teeth, he took a few swift swings at the tree and cut it down.

A yelling voice cut through the dog’s barking and the fading sounds of the tree crashing down. Baxter stopped and ducked down to hide as best he could. He heard the sound of the saw stopping and guessed his wife too had paused. The voice was yelling the dog’s name, though he couldn’t be hundred percent sure what it was, maybe Dante? Danta? Danti?

The dog stopped barking and the owner’s voice – a young man- questioned what had started it. Of course the dog didn’t answer and the man made his own conclusion that it was properly just a large bird or cat.

Holding his breath, Baxter slowly peered out of the branches and down into the garden once more. The dog and man had gone. Standing up, he grabbed the tree and hauled it up to his fence where his wife stood waiting. Together, they pulled the tree into their garden and left it beside the others.

‘That was close,’ Baxter muttered.

His wife glared at him, ‘what does it matter?’ she shot back.

Startled, he stared at her, his hand lose on the axe.

‘Do you think he would have even cared or asked? And if he had done, you could have said you were doing some winter pruning and to mind his own bloody business!’ She half shouted.

‘Calm down, it’s alright,’ he said gently.

He let the axe fall to the floor and held his wife tightly. He kissed her head and rubbed her shoulders. Slowly, she uncoiled and let her body lean against his. He heard her sigh and wondered if she was going to cry.

‘We’ll get through this,’ he said softly, ‘It’s only another month or so. It’ll be fine.’

‘I know,’ she sniffed.

‘Hey, there’s still time to sell the children,’ he joked and laughed.

She smiled, laughing lightly and patting his shoulder, ‘I don’t think we’d get much for them,’ she joined in with the joke.

Baxter hugged her tightly, ‘then we’ll just carry on. Now let’s get this wood sorted and inside before it starts to get dark and the children come home.’

His wife nodded and together they want back to work.

Church (Chapter 1, Part 4)

Continued from Church Part 3, which can be read below as well as Parts 1 and 2.

The bare trees and star speckled sky seemed to frame the clearing. I caught my breath and clutched my sword tighter, knowing they were re-grouping behind me and fearing their number. I let no plan form in my mind as just the urge to defeat evil was enough for me. Their laughter grew from the shadows and there was a rustling of leather wings. I prepared myself.

‘Scared, Angel? You should be, you see true power now,’ the daemon called out.

‘True power? All I see is a coward hiding behind his friends,’ I shouted back, still without turning, ‘why don’t you face me yourself?’

The daemon chuckled and it was echoed by the others, ‘I shall. That’s why we’ve come here. You wanted Death and I brought you to him.’

‘What?’ I whispered, turning with confusion tumbling through my mind and face. I could see them all there now, lingering at the treeline. There must have been twenty of them or so. They ranged in size, with the first daemon being the largest. Most of the others looked like him, though others were more dragon or bat like. Their eyes were hungry, but they seemed unusually edgy.

‘You have soul?’ the daemon hissed, his tongue flicking around.

I frowned.

‘Everything has one.’

‘What is this?’ I cut in, ‘just come and fight me. Stop with your games!’

The daemon chuckled and seemed to nod towards the space behind me. Around him the smaller ones were becoming more agitated and moving away. The others weren’t trying to stop them and seemed themselves fearful. I had never seen them behave this way and worry crept into my thoughts. Quietness filled the clearing then the trees began to sway as if a giant’s hand was pushing them aside. I glanced over my shoulder, trying to keep one eye on the daemon, whilst seeking for the sudden presence I had felt behind me.

‘I lied,’ the daemon giggled.

‘What?’ I spun back, my sword raised, but he and his companions had taken to the air and were out of reach. Something large hit me from behind and threw me into the undergrowth. Branches and thorns scrapped across my skin and robe, whilst my sword sank into a tree. A monstrous roar shook everything and I saw against the night sky the faint clear outline of a large beast.

I paused and stared up, trying to figure what it was. However, it was invisible to my eyes expect for when the sky gave it lines. Above me the daemons chortled and took a chant of ‘kill, kill, kill.’ They understood what it was, so did that make it a daemon? I pulled my sword out and tried to estimate where it was, but I couldn’t put dimensions to it. I was no fool to flay my weapon around, so I took cover and watched the lines I could see.

‘Ha, ha, pitiful Divine can’t see!’

I looked up and the daemon was sat in a branch above me. His eyes glowed, his tail whipped about and he bared fangs. With a claw, he pointed in the direction of the demonic beast and in a sickly sweet voice said, ‘would you like to see?’ He flapped off, without waiting my reply and I saw him land on the outline of the creature. He seemed to be absorbed inside and was then gone.

Straight away I saw it, a gigantic Demigod bear with icy white and blue swirling fur. Large black eyes fixed on me as the even larger snout sniffed and the jaws opened to rows of pointed teeth. Massive paws armed with razor claws began to stomp over. Fear froze me and all I could see were those eyes coming for me.

The daemons’ chittering broke the spell and I dodged the first paw with a roll. Shooting back to my feet, I took a swing, meaning to slice right across that paw, but the other one came down behind me, knocking me and tossing me away, much like a cat with a mouse. Undergrowth rushed to me and I landed in a tangle of brambles, my robe ensnared. Struggling against them, I heard deep rumbling laughter and looked up to see the bear paused above me and him speaking, ‘what a weakling, but his soul is holy. Very tasty and powerful.’

‘I’m not weak!’ I screamed and tore myself free.

The colossal maw came together in a black lined smiled, ‘but you are.’

Wheeling my sword, I brought it down in the bear’s face and it easily cut through the smile. The Demigod roared as the blessed blade left a red streak in its wake. The bear raised a paw and rubbed its burning flesh. I darted further into the trees, only intending to create room between us whilst I planned my next attack. However, the bear had other ideas and sprinted after me. Trees were thrown aside and the plants flattened. The other daemons took higher to the air, their chatter silenced.

‘God protect me!’ I bellowed and dodged a flying tree.

‘Your God shall not!’ the daemonic voice rumbled close behind me, ‘He’s forsaken you!’

‘He would never! I am His knight!’ I threw over my shoulder.

The bear chuckled, ‘then why doesn’t He come?’

My feet skidded to a halt and I spun. The bear padded up in front of me, head down and eyes fixed on my own. I felt the evil power radiating from him and his question hanging in the air. I gripped my sword in both hands, steadied my feet and controlled my breathing. Silently, I prayed and called on God and the other Angels. There was no way I could face this alone and I didn’t want to die! My soul would be consumed by this evil and I’d never get back home.

The bear growled, still waiting my response.

‘He will come,’ I answered calmly, ‘at my darkest hour as my last hope, a guiding light.’

Sniggering filled my ears as the jaws opened and the teeth chopped together, ‘such spirit,’ the Demigod sighed, ‘but no one is coming to save you,’ and he swept out his head, capturing me in his mouth. I screamed and plunged my sword down, slicing through lip and fur. The bear shook in pain, causing me to struggle for balance. I tugged out my sword and aimed it at the roof of his mouth. His body suddenly trembled, the teeth knocked together and I felt an electric charge fill the air.

I paused, torn between digging my blade in or jumping free. The mouth was shaking around me like an earthquake and the bear seemed to be moaning in pain. The teeth fall together, the tongue tip poked my boot as if pushing me forward and then I fell out. Air rushed around me before my back hit the ground. Pain rocked through me and my head spun. I felt my sword still in my grasp and my mind screaming at me to move.

I pushed up and shuffled backwards, dragging my sword with my sight fixed on the fallen Demigod. The large eyes were closed and he appeared to be fading away. No sound or movement came from him. I stopped moving and looked up. A shadow was standing in-between the bear’s ears. I squeezed my eyes shut then opened them again. The shadow figure was still there and a crackling laughing ripped the air.

A wave of terror like nothing I had ever known curled around me. Whatever that was seemed worse than the Demigod bear. Everything screamed to run, but my body was achy and sore. In a flash the shadow moved and came before me. I tried to shuffle away, but my body was numb, my breathing quickened. I clutched my sword and raised it before me.

The figure gave the impression of a head tilt as if unsure about me or the movement. Then as if allowing me too, the figure made itself clearer and I saw what appeared to be a black masked and caped ninja in front of me, with a curved tip katana pointed at the floor. However, some reasoning inside of me knew this could be so and that this figure was something more.

‘What are you?’ I asked in a shaky voice.

The figure pulled the mask and hood down, revealing the soft face and bouncing brown hair of a woman, ‘I’m Rain.’

***************************

Author’s Note:

Hi, I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading Church as much as I’ve been enjoying writing it. I had been thinking of a number of different ends, but I couldn’t settle on one and since I’ve been liking it so much I’ve decided to carry on with it and see what happens. At the minute, I’m not sure if I’ll be posting any more of it up, since I thought that these four parts might form the first chapter of a novel. However, if people are interested and let me know through likes/comments, then I will look at posting some more. I’m really interesting to find out more about Rain, what she and Blaze are now going to do and if he’ll ever get back into Heaven. Hope you feel the same!

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Thanks for reading and supporting my short stories, Hayley.