A Mother’s Love

by Micah Castle

The small fires burning around our clearing blanketed everything in a warm glow. I stood outside and watched as mother carved the family symbol into one of the many trees surrounding our home.

With a crudely made knife she made a jagged circle into the oak’s body, then striking, made several lines crossing through. Her ragged white gown jerked with her movements and her haggard hair kept sticking to her face. Once she was done she came near and pulled me close. Her arms wrapped around my child body like the limbs of the trees, thin, strong, sturdy. I could smell the sweat on her this close.

“Are you ready to pray, dear?”

I nodded. In unison we spoke the Prayer and swayed with the words.

“O’ forest, trees, and Mother,

“Give us peace, protection from all others;

“O’ Mother who is everything pure around our home,

“Never let harm come to us, not flesh, nor bone;

“O’ Mother on this dawn of Halloween, we worship,

“For love, for safeguard, for a year of no hardship.”

We finished, then bowed our heads and silently thanked Mother. My mother turned me and pushed me towards to the rickety home. After she had put out the small fires with handfuls of dirt and sand, she came inside. She shut the door and tied the rope around a hook to keep it closed throughout the night.

Underneath a thin sheet she cradled me, held me close to her bosom, whispered sweet things into my ears into the lull of sleep enveloped me and I drifted off. I still felt her warmth in the nothingness and prayed to anyone who could hear my thoughts for it to never end.

At midnight on every Halloween we prayed to Her, gave thanks to Her and She, I believed, gave me mother, gave me her love and heat, gave me the food she brought from the forest, gave me the logs she cuts for fires — She gave me everything I knew and loved.

 

The treetops turned to autumnal colors: yellows, oranges, reds and browns. The leaves fell and drifted down from the branches and sat onto the slowly dying grass. The smell of the river and dying leaves were thick in the cold air. I sat on the small step up of our home, wrapped in a thin sheet, and watched as mother cut logs. The rusted axe we found underneath the dirt came down with a powerful thunk as it cut through another slab of wood.

Sweat covered my mother, her gown stuck to her body revealing her breasts and abdomen. I could smell what was in between her legs from where I sat, but she could smell mine too. It was Wednesday, and bathing day was not until Friday. We kept track of days by marking an X in the dirt, and we kept time by a wristwatch we found on the river’s shore. Once I asked mother how long had it been since I was born, and she did not remember; another time, I asked her how long had it been since she came to the forest, with father, she did not remember; and I asked her lastly where father went, she said she did not remember. I wanted to ask more, like where she learned the words she taught me or how she learned to build the traps that caught our food, but her mind was like the river, always flowing away.

The sudden sound of the axe slamming into the cutting log echoed throughout the still forest, filled it up for a brief moment like lightning in a stormy sky. Then, subtle, the sound of leaves crackling, twigs and branches snapping, shot through the air.

Before the man and boy came into our clearing, mother had stood before me, axe raised in one hand. From where I sat I could see her pale, hairy legs and dirt caked heels.

The man wore bright orange over green, brown and black clothes; an oily, grizzly, beard covered most of his face; his dirtied boots sunk into the leaves and grass as he walked. A firearm was slung over his shoulder. The boy behind him kept close but not near enough to bump into the man, and wore the same clothes, though they seemed cleaner.

“Looks like you might need a man’s help,” the man said, grinning, his words spoken with a drawl. I looked passed my mother and saw his eyes move over her body, focus on her breasts and the part in between her legs. He could smell it too.

“Leave our clearing!” My mother shouted, tightening her grip on the axe handle, the sinewy muscles on her forearms tightened underneath her pasty skin.

“Don’t be like that miss, I’m just offering some help. I help you,” he said, licking his lips, “then you can help me.”

“I need no help! Leave our home!”

The man laughed, then spat blackened saliva. “Fine be that way, bitch.” He said, then began walking back into the forest. “C’mon boy, let’s leave. They’re not worth our time, they’re worth no one’s time.”

The boy stood idly as the man neared the edge of the clearing. His big blue eyes were locked onto me. Before he could raise his hand, the man gripped his arm and pulled him away.

“Leave those whores alone.” He whispered, seething. “Their cunts aren’t worth it, no matter how good they smell.”

Then they were gone. The sound of breaking twigs and rustling leaves soon left, too. The silence returned, and mother resumed chopping wood.

***

I did not know how long five years was, but I was much taller and older now. It was many, many days after mother passed. I woke up one morning to find her grasp cold, her arms and muscles tough and hard; her chest unmoving; her wide, glossy eyes seemed to stare into my soul; her frail mouth open in a permanent gasp. The smell of shit filled the house and I found the back of her gown stained brown.

For the rest of the day I sat in the corner, my knees drawn to my chest and my hair over my face, and cried.

The next day I went out behind the house and dug a hole with my hands. I washed myself in the cold river that night, as if cleansing myself would prepare me for the task coming.

As the sun peeked over the horizon, the sky turned a warm yellow. I took my mother by her ankles and dragged her to the door, a streak of dried filth left behind. By lifting her and placing her onto my shoulder, I carried her out to the hole behind the house. Carefully I knelt and placed her inside. With handfuls of dirt softened by the tears that started days ago, I buried her. The earth took her into its womb and what was left of her, left of her soul, drifted into Mother.

The following and every day after, I did the duties mother showed me how to do. I emptied the traps of what food was caught, I chopped logs and made firewood, I placed bundles of twigs and sticks around our — my — clearing, and I sharpened the knife on the rocks near the river as the tied bucket filled with water.

I, then, waited as the heat swelled inside the house and filled the air around my clearing with moisture. I waited as rain fell hard, leaking through the roof and walls, filling the soil until everything was one large puddle. I waited until the breeze had cooled and the leaves began to change colors.

It was the eve of Halloween. I prepared the kindling and started the fires around the clearing, found a trunk of a tree to carve to give thanks to Mother, then waited on the step of home until it was nearing the dawn of Halloween.

I must have fallen asleep, because when I awoke I was no longer outside but on the floor of the house. The back of my head throbbed. My gown was up and there was a sudden, sharp pain shooting up from between my legs. It was night and I couldn’t see but I heard grunts and moans and smelt the stench of sweat and piss. I felt breath, hot and heavy against my chest. In between my legs something thrusted into me.

I opened my eyes to see bright blue ones looking at me. The boy was now the man. He leaned forward, placed his rancid mouth to my ear and spoke softly,

“You like that? Like your cunt filled? I bet your mom wished she could’ve had my dad, but no, she had to be a bitch.”

Then he gritted his teeth and thrusted harder into me. My pelvis burned and felt like it was going to break. Blood seeped in between him and me, puddling underneath my backside. I was beyond moving, beyond thinking or escaping. Idly I laid like a sack of meat as he used me.

The wristwatch was on the floor, its face to me. The warm glow of the fires faintly came in through the open door. I saw it was two minutes to midnight, to the dawn of Halloween.

“I must go,” I said as tears streamed over my face. “I must pray to Mother.”

“You’re not goin anywhere bitch. Once I’m done with you, I’mma bring my buddies around.”

“No! I must go! Pl—”

“Shut up!” He shouted and punched me in the face. The back of my head hit against the floorboards and I felt blood trickle out of me. Then his hand was inside my mouth, gagging me.

I screamed, though all that came out was muffled noises. I watched the hand of the clock tick, tick, tick until it was the dawn of Halloween.

He groaned loudly, closing his eyes and his chapped, oily lips curled into a smile. His body trembled. A warm liquid filled me, intertwining with blood.

“You like that? I bet you do. All women do, they love a good fuckin’ — love to get filled up, ain’t that right?”

He released me and stood, zipped up his pants. I laid there staring at the watch. In-between my legs throbbed and pulsated with a sharp pain I had never felt before, never wanted to feel, and my legs were like the broken branches I use for kindling.

“That it? All you gonna do, bitch, lay there?” He said, kicking my feet. “Get up.”

I could not move, even if I wanted to.

“Get up!” He kicked my legs.

“Fine!” He shouted after a moment. “If you won’t get up, I’ll make you.”

The man grabbed my waist and picked me over his shoulder. He carried me out into the clearing and put me on the ground. He whistled, and I heard rustling in the trees. More men came out from the shadows of the forest. More men with their greasy faces that glistened above the glow of the fires.

“Here she is boys! Have at her!” He said, grinning.

As I made the sign in the grass, I spoke the prayer under my breath.

“O’ forest, trees, and Mother,

“Give us peace, protection from all others;”

The men neared me, undoing their pants and taking off their clothes.

“O’ Mother who is everything pure around our home,

“Never let harm come to us, not flesh, nor bone;”

Some had knives, others had rusty poles that were caked with dirt and dried blood.

“O’ Mother on this dawn of Halloween, we worship,

“For love, for safeguard, for a year of no hardship.”

 

Darkness engulfed the clearing. I stared at the sign in the grass and muttered the prayers over and over again. The fires went out and a cold wind whipped through the area, chilling my flesh and raising goose bumps. I heard the man walk around, heard him ask, “What the hell is going on? Why’d the fires go out?”

Then one by one, there were screams. Men were pulled back into the forest, thrown against the trees, broken against the rocky shore of the river. They were flung into the air and dragged down into the soil. They were ripped and stretched against the tree-tops like spider webs. Although I could not see this in the dark, I saw it in my mind.

Each one destroyed by Mother, each one punished for interrupting Her prayer. The boy that was now a man grabbed me and lifted me up. Like a doll I never had, I dangled in his grip.

“What’d you do? What the fuck is going on!”

He could not see it, but I smiled.

Then he released me. I heard his cries and screams as his body vanished into the depths of Mother’s gloom.

Silence swelled and filled everything. Not an owl hooted, not a cricket chirped; even the river seemed frozen. The breeze ceased. The darkness swelled and sucked into itself, forming a ball of black above me. Flames blossomed from the fires as I sat in the center of the clearing, looking up.

The ball billowed, and tendrils slithered out, twisting, turning, weaving in the air like a tapestry being made. It formed arms and legs, a body and a head — then a face.

It was my mother and Mother, standing a foot away. Their features were intertwined and overlapping. They were young and beautiful, and they smiled and stretched their arms out.

I ran to them, crying and smiling. They embraced me with their misty, warm arms, and I felt my mother’s love once more.


About the Author
Micah Castle is a person who writes short horror/weird fiction. His stories have been published via Shoggoth.netCrimson Streets, and Horror Bites Magazine. He has two books currently out, The Stone Man and Other Weird Tales and Who Spoke on the Other Side.
While away from the keyboard, he enjoys aimlessly hiking through the woods, playing with his animals, and can typically be found reading a book somewhere in his home.
You can follow Micah on Twitter and Facebook and find all the latest news about him on his website.
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