The Lightning and the Tree

If at first you don’t succeed, -well you know the rest! I had this post ready to go well before midnight on day nine, however, when it came time to share I realised I just wasn’t happy with it. Sometimes good things do need to take time, especially a good topic like the lightning tree, thank you Helen! (Yes, a different Helen!)

(If you are joining our tale today, welcome! Feel free to start the journey here.)

The Lightning and the Tree. J R Manawa.

There was a storm brewing in the sky above London. The clouds boiled and turned within their dark blue cauldron until the night became so thick and black that the stars ran for cover. Finally, a teaser of the performance to come, the sky released the first droplets in a microscopic assault that pepper the streets of London with a glistening veil of wet.

While the clouds above prepared their deluge, Emmeline was still locked in a police interrogation room with a psychopath and a policewoman with no face.

“You are a monster,” Emmeline said, her voice trembling as she looked at the empty skin where the woman’s face should be.

“Yeah, sure.” He took her by the arm and hauled her toward the door. With his other hand he reached out and snatched the mirror from the policewoman’s hand. As he removed the mirror, her face began to reform. Emmeline watched it happen in horror as she was dragged away.

Outside the police station, she pushed back against her kidnapper and tried to escape, but his grip was like stone. “Please let me go,” she didn’t realise until she spoke that she was so scared she was crying. “You are a monster,” she repeated.

He stopped abruptly and turned to her, leaning forward until his eyes were level with hers. She couldn’t help but look directly into the storm within them. “What does that make you then?” he asked coldly, before he straightened up and continued dragging her down the road.

“What do you mean? You just stole a woman’s face!”

“She was interrogating you, why do you care?” he yelled back, above the noise of the late night traffic.

She was a policewoman!

“Well, unfortunately there is an appointment you have to make tonight and you were going to be late if I didn’t extract you,”

Emmeline was flabbergasted. “So you had to remove her face?!”

“I gave it back.”

“That is not the point!” she tried again to wriggle free of his grip, but it was no use. “Where are you taking me?”

“I’m just doing the job somebody else failed to finish,” he said with determination.

Emmeline’s blood ran cold, “The man with the top hat?” she asked suddenly, stopping in middle of the foot path.

Her kidnapper stopped and laughed once, “He was trying really hard, but he certainly wasn’t a man,”

“Well what was he?” Emmeline asked, disturbed by his laughter.

He shrugged and pulled her on down the road as the rain began to fall. “He could have been anything, faye, weir, vampire, pixie? He certainly wasn’t a minotaur, they don’t hide so well,” he laughed at his own joke as he stopped under the shelter of a massive old oak tree that was jutting out across the path.

Emmeline’s face went pale, “A what?” Over head, the dark clouds in the night sky rumbled after a distant flash of lightning.

“A minotaur, you know, horns? Head of a bull?”

“From Roman mythology?” Emmeline asked, disbelieving of the fact she was actually having this conversation.

“I believe it was the Greeks who found them first,” he corrected, taking a moment to think before he added, “but I only ever let a few through the gate,”

In the steady stream of traffic a black cab with its light on suddenly appeared, and her kidnapper put his arm out to flag it down. Above them, forks of lightning had begun to cut the sky, and the drum roll of thunder grew nearer.

“I’m not getting in a cab,” Emmeline said, as it pulled up and the driver wound down his window.

Her kidnapper spoke a few words with him about their intended destination that Emmeline couldn’t hear above the sound of the rain, and then he opened the door.

“Get in the cab,” he said cooly, standing in the rain like it was nothing.

“No,”

“Get in.” He squeezed her arm and pushed her toward the door, and she began to struggle.

“Hey!” the cab driver called out.

“Tell me who you are! Tell me what is really going on, and what happened to my grandfather!” Emmeline demanded as she struggled.

“Oi!” The cab driver undid his seat belt and opened his door.

Her kidnapper turned and looked at the cab driver.

“Don’t!” Emmeline shrieked.

He looked to Emmeline and back to the driver, “Stay in the car,” he said simply.

The driver closed his door, and put his seat belt back on. At that same moment, a flash of light surrounded them, and there was a deafening crack from above as a bolt of lightning split the old oak tree and sent it tumbling down toward them.

When Emmeline opened her eyes again, the tree was on the ground, several yards up the road. She wasn’t sure exactly how it had gotten there when its stump was only a few feet away from them. Her kidnapper had pulled her in toward him and away from the destruction as it was happening. “Please, tell me what is going on,” she asked him now in a quieter voice.

He pushed her back from him, and the storm in his eyes pierced straight through her, darker and deeper than the storm in the sky above as he said, “You really have no clue, do you?”

“Whatever you may have thought I knew, you can be sure that I don’t,” Emmeline told him angrily, “Who are you?” she asked again.

“If I tell you my name, you’ll never be able to forget,”

“I have no idea what you mean by that, but I am not getting in that cab unless you tell me,” Emmeline pursed her lips and glanced up the road at the displaced tree. In her mind there was a curious and reckless side of her that had already relented to going, she wasn’t going to let go of the only opportunity she’d ever found to learn more about the disappearance of her mother, father and grandfather.

He shrugged, “My name is Charon.”

Finally, he pushed her in.

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