It was not hard for Honeysuckle Sycamore to find Peat Moss. The valley itself exposed the monster’s agitated rassling in the shallow water of the river as the sound of it echoed and bounced off the hills. The vengeful spirits had once again descended upon Peat Moss after having scattered in fear of Grit’s howl. They pecked and hammered mercilessly at him. Now there was no crossing back over to sanity for the giant, and this made his ferocity an even more dangerous thing.
He rolled about in the river, struggling with an unseen adversary. He did not at first see Honeysuckle standing on the river bank with a determined rage in his eyes. The glaze of spirits had hampered his sight. Without waiting for the monster to pounce first, the Passion leaped into the stirred waters, bounding onto Peat Moss in a lightning flash. He had not moved as fast since the night Dogwood had been killed. This moment held the same intensity, but now he was not retreating.
The action caught the monster off-guard, for he had never been confronted so. Honeysuckle knocked Peat Moss beneath the still churning current. It took all of the smaller sprite’s strength to do so. Yet, Peat Moss rose almost immediately with a deranged roar, the water pouring from him as if he were a mountain rising from the sea. Honeysuckle could now see the spirits which soared over and around Peat Moss like a towering cyclone. Peat Moss charged at him, throwing Honeysuckle across the river like a feather being tossed about by the wind. He landed on the banks, dazed, but would not give up until Peat Moss was gone from the valley for good. He rose just in time to see the monster’s red fire eyes glaring at him in lust and hate. But Honeysuckle was past fear. Something else took hold of him; that of the memory and hope of everything he had ever loved. Dogwood, Jess, Grit, the Valley, the River.
Near him, he found a shard of rock; an arrowhead used by the valley folk for hunting, left behind years ago. He challenged the monster again, and the monster accepted.
The immensity of Peat Moss would have decimated Honeysuckle on impact, and the smaller sprite knew this. So, just as they were about to collide, Honeysuckle leaped into the air, grabbing one of the long lichen tendrils of Peat Moss’ mane, and swung himself over and up until he was squat on the monster’s backside. He slashed at Peat Moss, cutting him deep, drawing thick, black streams of blood. Peat Moss howled in discomfort and anger, struggling to reach for Honeysuckle. But Honeysuckle dodged and gashed at the massive hands.
The sprite reached around for Peat Moss’ throat, trying to find its vulnerability. He grabbed the monster’s mane, pulling out strands of lichen. Peat Moss’ head tilted back in a hateful growl, leaving his throat an easy target. Honeysuckle drew the arrowhead across it, and though blood was drawn, the skin was too thick, too rough. And it was too late.
Peat Moss’ large hand found the sprite’s leg at last and pulled Honeysuckle over his head and into the river. There he held him, Honeysuckle struggling for air beneath the giant’s hands. An enormous sense of gratification and arousal overcame Peat Moss. He no longer noticed the banshees and spirits that still tried to thwart him. He drove into Honeysuckle with his thick penis even as he continued to drown him, holding the sprite’s head below water but his bottom up and open.
Honeysuckle flailed beneath the monster’s hold, but it was of no use. His strength could never hope to match that of Peat Moss. He could no longer bare it, the pressure, the torturous need for air, the relentless pounding, and so let go. Let the euphoria come in. The lovely, terrifying euphoria. And as he did so he saw Dogwood in the water beside him. Lying on the river bed shaking his head, as if saying not to give up. But how could he win?
Then something happened. The monster released Honeysuckle, and Dogwood faded like a wisp with a twinkle in his eye. Honeysuckle rose with a gasp, choking up water and struggling to stand aright. He was prepared to be knocked about again by the monster, to be played with. Perhaps, tortured for hours before being eventually killed. But Peat Moss was no longer interested in Honeysuckle. He stood silent and still in the water, staring to the shore as if mesmerized. Even the spirits had quieted around him.
Honeysuckle had drifted a ways down stream. He spotted Grit on the shore. She walked unsteadily toward the river’s edge, falling and thrashing as she came deeper into the current.
“Grit, no!” Honeysuckle cried. “Go home, Grit!”
But she did not listen. She didn’t even move her head as if she had heard him. Her attention was on Peat Moss alone. She waded to him and he waited for her. Honeysuckle tried to get to them, but hadn’t the strength now to cross the distance. The current was too strong.
Soon Grit stood face to face with Peat Moss. He grunted in strange recognition of her, raising his hand for her face.
“Grit!” Honeysuckle screamed, struggling through the water toward them.
As Peat Moss touched Grit’s face, her expression changed from one of aching sorrow to harrowing contempt. A moan, plaintive at first, then cresting to a high-pitched rage, filled the air. Honeysuckle covered his ears and stared in awe. The spirits fled, scattering like leaves. Peat Moss also tried to hide from her deafening cry, but she caught his arm and he could not wrest it. Grit’s slit of a mouth suddenly curled and grew until it was a large hollow hole in her face. And then, to both the horror of Peat Moss and Honeysuckle, it stretched further until its size was surreal, mismatched with her form. Her face disappeared until only a gaping chasm of mouth could be seen, inside of which was nothing but blackness.
Peat Moss struggled against her, but his strength was nothing now. He raged and hit at her, but it did no harm. Then, with one sudden movement, like a wave overtaking a village, Grit came down upon the mighty monster, swallowing him whole. The waters stirred in the spot where he had stood.
“Grit?” Honeysuckle whispered.
She stood silent for a moment, her arms out from her sides as if she were a scarecrow hung. Suddenly, she began to heave and convulse. With a sickening gag she vomited forth the remains of Peat Moss into the river. Black liquid mess. Down the hiding spirits descended around her, picking at what remained of the monster. Feasting on him as he had done on them. They crowded around Grit, shrouding her to the point that Honeysuckle could no longer see her. He knew she was there, though, for he could still here the sickening continuous regurgitation.
And then it all stopped.
The spirits scattered once more, content with their vengeance. Grit stood alone and wore out in the water. But as Honeysuckle came for her, something else happened. Everything about the Passion Grit began to soften and color. Parts of her seemed to melt away revealing a newer, fresher being. To Honeysuckle’s astonishment, before him in the river now stood Grit, though devoid of sorrow. She had eyes, real eyes, and a beautiful, bright smile.
“Father,” she said loud and sure to Honeysuckle Sycamore. Her first word began the change in the valley. Better things to come.
Honeysuckle Sycamore and Grit nursed Jess Bethel back to health. Jess was dazzled and delighted by Grit’s new self, and she delighted in doting on him the way he had on her. Jess giggled too at the tiny arguments Grit and Honeysuckle would get caught up in, like a father and child at times, other times like two adversarial playmates (“The sunflower is the prettiest flower!” “No! It’s the honeysuckle!”). When Jess was able, the three of them took walks through the lonely forest, admiring it in a way they hadn’t been able to before. With new eyes and free of fear.
Soon after, the mood in the valley changed once more. The days became the stuff of yesteryear; sweetness and happiness and warm days. Forest creatures returned or came out of hiding and played openly on the banks of the river. Bumble-birds twitter-bussed through the air and deer paraded through the shallow streams. Word soon reached the ears of the outside world that the valley had returned to its true form. The monster Peat Moss had been destroyed. And so, little by little, the valley folk began to return. They reclaimed their places by the River, renewed their love and appreciation for the valley. When they discovered how Peat Moss had been defeated, they brought gifts and food to the Passions in the chapel, and even rebuilt the chapel itself, strengthening the walls and fixing the roof.
Though nearly extinct, new Passions were being born every day once the valley folk returned. Born from nothing but love and frivolity. Once again, Passions were being chased from pumpkin patches by broom-wielding matriarchs. Once again, a poor scarecrow went naked through the summer and into autumn. Honeysuckle had never been happier. He knew Grit would be leaving soon, that she would want to go out and adventure as any sprite would. But he chose not to think on that. He chose instead to think on what was right in front of him in the valley by the river. Jess Bethel, Grit, and, when the moon was just right and he peered just so into the river’s current, his Dogwood.