For the next few weeks I will be running a series, my novella Honeysuckle Sycamore, from my Dreamspinner Press anthology Slight Details & Random Events. This is the original version. I have been thinking lately of expanding on this, working out the kinks and turning it into a novel.
In certain places of the world Passions manifest themselves into physical form. These are the whispering places, the in-betweens. They are neither here nor there, neither truly seen nor unseen. The River Valley, as it was simply known, was one of these places. The folk who lived there knew of the valley's power and, for the most part, lived in harmony with it. For the Passions when given form were in the least playful diversions and at most mischievous jokers, using a pumpkin patch for a night’s sleep or stealing the clothes from a scarecrow.
Once every so often, however, there came a Passion into existence that was so dire, so hateful and belligerent, that it would cause much pain and upheaval. To this point, many of the river folk would leave the valley to its battle. This is the story of one such battle. This is how a fairytale grows up.
There was a young Passion of immeasurable beauty named Honeysuckle Sycamore. He was named this because he had been manifested under a honeysuckle-adorned sycamore tree while two young lovers consummated their adoration for one another beneath it. Born of their love, he was christened by the dew of the early morning. He stretched, yawned, and hopped to his feet as naked as a newborn. From his head hung a garland of honeysuckles and from his glittering skin came the scent of the sweet flower.
Honeysuckle was a joyous sprite, finding awe in everything he came upon. Hummingbird or grain of sand, it was all magnificent to him. The river folk gazed upon him with delight and reciprocated his laughter with giggles of their own.
Of all the sprites in the valley, Honeysuckle’s most favorite - his absolute favoritest in all the wide world (which to him was a long flowing river and the hills above it) - was Dogwood. Dogwood liked nothing more than to sit beneath his trees and let the pretty white buds fall on him. He loved how they tickled his skin like kisses. His hair was a mussed bushel of white flame. Yet his skin was sun kissed and dark.
Dogwood and Honeysuckle would play all day and all night by the river and among the thick trees of the forest. They would wrestle and kiss and romance the day away. Such was the free and gleeful existence of a Passion and river sprite. Many a human was envious of their frivolity.
One perfectly pleasant evening Honeysuckle and Dogwood skipped along the shore of the river, keeping awake the denizens of the valley with their laughter and guffaws. When they were shooed away by a rather gruff and particularly surly woman (“Git on witcha!” she squawked), giddily they ducked into a narrow hollow neither night fly nor hoot owl frequented. Their glee was quickly replaced by trepidation, however, as the journeyed farther inward. Their bare feet toppled the small pebbles and wet rocks of the hollow floor.
“Let’s leave,” Honeysuckle implored, pulling Dogwood’s arm. “I do not like it here! Not one bit.”
“Hush,” Dogwood said, paying no heed to his friend’s advice. “Do you hear that? Something is crying.”
And sure enough, Honeysuckle heard the rasping, muffled cry. It was as if something were struggling to hold on to its last breath. It was a whinnying, shrill sound.
“Let’s not go any farther,” Honeysuckle said again, as quietly as he could.
“Quiet, Honeysuckle!” Dogwood commanded, adamantly. “It’s just up a bit. Why not see what it is? Maybe we might help it if it be a deer or a lost stallion. We might ride it out of the hollow if it’s not too distressed.”
The narrow walls of the hollow lead them to a dead end, a high cliff that shot into the night sky like a giant of the kind they had envisioned in one of their varied imaginary adventures.
“Look there!” Dogwood exclaimed.
At the base of the cliff, now silent and still, lay the form of a woman. Her white gown was fanned about her like wings about to take flight. Sitting beside her weeping was a young man with a bloodied knife in his hand. The blood dripped from it like molasses to the mossy rocks. He looked at the two sprites, imploring sympathy. “She had found another,” he wailed. “She was going to leave me.”
He looked despondent. Lost of all life, and completely aware of the hopelessness of his situation.
“Brother, what should we do?” Honeysuckle gasped. His sweet breath tickled Dogwood’s elfin ears.
Dogwood hadn’t the time to answer, however. In a flash of confusion, they saw the young man plunge the dagger deep into his own chest. He gasped with a gurgle and a squeak, then fell back on the stony ground.
Honeysuckle and Dogwood clutched one another tightly. “Let us be gone!” Honeysuckle once more exclaimed. His voice sounded frail throughout the hollow.
As he said this, a deep, moaning pitch issued forth from the ground surrounding the dead couple. The two Passions stared around in fear. From the earth, from the moist ground rose at first a shadow. But as moonlight flooded the hollow, it became a great quivering hulk of naked flesh bathed in the blue glow of twilight. A Passion had been birthed. And it was one born of such jealousy and vile contempt that the sense of it began to permeate the valley almost immediately. An air of hate woke even those river folk who could sleep comfortably through the strongest summer storm. They sat straight up in their beds as if poked in the ribs with a fork and began to think of ways to leave, places to go.
The newborn Passion focused its coal-black eyes upon the two much smaller sprites. He was an awesome sight, and his name was Peat Moss. On his head was an emerald crown of lichen. With massive steps, he walked over the dead couple. The hollow groaned as he came for Honeysuckle Sycamore and Dogwood.