The Cherryman: Inasmuch as the Road Forks Here

4 November 2020

He lives in a small, round, earthen cottage deep in the quiet parts of the world.
Each day mint is picked for tea at sunrise and he waits for his bread to leaven for a late breakfast. At noon he hikes to the top of Pullberry Hill and takes in the ridges and the autumn leaves and the carving, swaggering streams shaping the forest. At night, he sings an old song from deep within his heart’s memory as his hearth fills with the smell of cabbage and fennel stew.
In free moments he sits in the long grass of his home glade, cliffs of white chalk thrumming with the temperaments of the Salt Sea below.
This hermitage is timeless.

Timeless and not waiting for change.
The heartache of his actions, the brine of the sea, the wind sounding of whispers in deep nights.
These happenings are haunting, and his sleep is long and full only because it is an escape from the tidal wave, the piercing driftwood.
Inhale the blooms, exhale on the falling tide.
In this transience, he knows that there is no point in deserving, desiring.
The destruction he has wrought, the lives taken by his hand.
He must exist in harmony not for fulfillment, but because he must understand torment, the loss of a great city, the parting of trust.

All he will do now is sing to his rosemary, growing not quicker but stronger.
Scratch the back of his dairy cow not to entice its milk, but to help it know calmness.
Throw himself into the shorebreak not to be refreshed but to tumble and be consumed.
He knows his power is quiet.
He has not been waiting for a change.
Because the wind now passes through him.
He has been the change.

This day is different.
The wind sweeps my glade with thrushes
and the coals of my hearth did not survive the night.
My lavender is frostbitten, my cow shows its breath.
I cannot hear the ocean,
shadow pushed onto cragged shores from the chalk cliff.
Something has entered the glade.
A tree is in the middle now, rosewood, feather green and mauve leaves.
A warm shade.
And at its base is a man, standing tall as a child, but wearing the roughspin of a person of toil, with the swimming eyes and peppered hair of one who has travelled.
I should be frightened, but this is no human.
“How long you have drifted here, my son. Deep and shining boy.” Sonorous timbre and careful manner. “To have passed out of time and into this hallowed glade. You are not the first, and most certainly not the last. But these distinctions do not matter here, do they? It has just been you; the salt beads on your temple: the grime and grit ’neath your nails.”
It is him, I know it is him.
Pipheous, my father. The god who appeared to my mother once she ate from the cherry tree.
The god who would wander the nights of Zatlo and soothe sick children.
The god who would gift the virtues of wizardry to some, and draw others from the temptation of the Blackteeth, the Corded Rope.
The Blessed Son.
“I have not been waiting.” He does not move, his expression still, tranquil. The cherry tree moves with the breeze. “Once you were born, the world moved to treasure instead its own selfish heart. The pantheon’s graces, the gatherings and festivals of Juniper and Harvest were forgotten, and you became a dangerous relic, your mother driven insane by your imprisonment.
I come to you this time not from negligence, but because you have found the Moment of Goodwill—your quiet parts and early nights. Your being wild as a horse, watchful as owls, slothful as the blind mole.”
Pipheous reaches for my hand, and holds it between both of his. “Beget the history of the Blackrock. Balm your sores, my son. Build the people a city new, tall, proud, and hungry for life. Leave this glade now, for your stride is as great as their potential. Their sights have been brought low, but your regret is a new beginning.
Your life, their hope.
Your wisdom, their flourishing.
The Whiterock Hall stands in our minds.
Have them eat from this tree, as you do now, those who wander, leaderless.
So that the only stains, on those white walls,
may be the bleeding of their passions.
Their tears at birth;
your rebirth in bliss.”

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