Ashen Anise

Quick recap: my theme is flash fiction with tree names used as prompts. I cheated a bit for this one, and used two names (ash and anise). And no, I’m not sorry.

 


 Ashen Anise

Anise knelt to the ground, sifting through the ashes with blackened, soot-stained hands. The fire had been sudden–a blazing torrent that had raged through the village, turning it to ash and embers in mere hours.

Despite what they said, it hadn’t been her fault.

They were always whispering about her—the wild woman that lived alone in the woods. Some said she stole children to feast upon their flesh; others said she performed dark magic in the light of the moon. Some of these whispers held a kernel of truth, but most were preposterous. As if she cared enough about their children to steal them. They were more trouble than they were worth, and would likely give her indigestion besides. The townspeople always thought overly much of themselves.

Her fingers brushed against something cold and hard in the ashes. She dug it out and held up a tarnished golden locket. She pried it open, but the portrait within was blackened beyond recognition. She put it in a pocket.

It had been a fortnight ago when they came to her—nearly the entire town, gripping their pitchforks and kitchen knives. She had almost laughed at the sight of them but had bitten her cheek and remained silent. No need to fan the flames.

The crops were dying, they had said. There would be famine that winter. Then, when Erran’s cow birthed a stillborn calf, they had all agreed that something must be done. And so they had come to her home deep in the woods and demanded that she leave forever.

Anise rose from the ashes, stretching her back until her muscles ceased to ache. She stared at the sky, clear and blue, no longer clogged with blackened smoke. She had lived in these woods all her life. She’d not be run off by them or anyone.

She returned to the center of the village and to the grave that lay open there. Bones and scorched bodies lay heaped at the bottom. Not everyone had died to the flames. But those who’d survived had said the town was cursed, and so they’d packed up what few belongings they had left and moved on.

Anise retrieved the golden locket and placed it in the grave. She lingered a moment, staring at the singed remains of those who had also once called this forest home. Then she filled the grave with earth.

Despite what they said, it hadn’t been her fault.


30 Comments

  1. Hi Sara – Ashen Anise … a cautionary tale with perhaps some hope – maybe Anise can help in due time … congratulations on your first entry – Hilary

  2. This story could be tinged with sadness for Anise, but she sounds content in herself, pragmatic and at home. I felt a bit sorry for the villagers, even if they were being ignorant.

    I liked Anise, she really attracted me as a character and I’d like to read more about her 🙂

    Sophie
    Sophie’s Thoughts & Fumbles
    FB3X
    Wittegen Press

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Sophie! And, yeah, the problem with short stories is you don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with the characters, which is really hard for me sometimes. What happens next? I always want to know what happens next. 😉

  3. A sad story, but a very strong woman. I hope she is happy now they can’t bother her any more.
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Tasha. I’m not sure “happy” is the right word. I’d say she’s perhaps content, along with mildly annoyed for having to deal with all the fuss. 😉

  4. Ooh I love it! Great story 🙂

  5. This was an amazing piece of flash. Loved it.

  6. Wow, what a great start. And Anise is a great name for a not-witch. Very well written! I liked the flame and ash imagery.

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    • Sara C. Snider

      I like that: “not-witch” hehe. Thank you, Csenge! 🙂

  7. Jennifer Tyron

    Beautifully written. For some reason I expected “flash fiction” to be rougher but this didn’t feel that way to me at all. Regret, resolve…I love the sweetness of her burying the locket.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thank you! Flash fiction can be kind of rough sometimes, I think. We’ll see if my later posts feel like that. 😉

  8. Whoa! Such stupendous epic-ness on the first day! It was so vivid that I watched it in my mind as I read.

    Love, love, love it!

  9. A strong character, evoked in strong images. Thank you for this lovely flash!

  10. Great piece of flash fiction! I wish it wasn’t flash fiction though. I want to know more!

    • Sara C. Snider

      Yeah, wanting to know more is the bane of short stories, hehe. Thanks, Leetah! 🙂

  11. C-raig

    Good stuff! I agree that the burying of the locket really colored the charecter; a forest dweller with no designs on the trinkets of village life-and an essentially good person.

  12. “She’d not be run off by them or anyone.”

    Did the townspeople force her to do it? She seemed guilt ridden, maybe even resentful for having been pushed to a certain limit. Maybe it wasn’t her fault for being driven to such an extreme. Everyone, even self-controlled child-eating witches have their limits…

    Very sad and spooky. Love it!

    • Sara C. Snider

      I don’t know, did they? 😉 I kind of left the story purposefully vague and open for interpretation.

      Thanks, Tanya!

  13. Fantastic characterization here, Sara! I feel like there are so many layers going on. Thanks for a great read. 🙂

  14. Hmmm… thought-provoking post. Anise is a fascinating character, mystical and mysterious. I’d like to know more about her.

    • Sara C. Snider

      I should perhaps think about writing a longer story with her. Quite a few seem to want to know more. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Lori.

  15. Wonderful sense of mystery and great imagery! 🙂

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