Vinegar TreePosted by Sara C. Snider on Apr 25, 2015 in A to Z Challenge, Short Stories | 36 comments
The sharp air stung my nose and throat as I breathed. The air tasted tangy, like salt and lemon on silver. I made my way through the marsh, the damp ground soft beneath my boots. With each step in the squelching mire, the sweet-sharp tang of vinegar thickened.
Pale vines that were almost translucent in the light ran along the ground in tangled brambles. I followed them, coming to a wood-penned pasture within which a single sheep grazed.
The ewe watched my approach with dark and dewy eyes as she chewed upon a strand of amber grass. I put out my hand, and she nudged her dampened snout to it. Then she turned, the bell around her neck clanging as she ambled to a tree in a corner of the field.
The tree was black at its base and grew paler the higher it went. Its leaves were white and clear, shivering in the wind like crystals on a chandelier. Beads of unblemished liquid gathered on the leaves, hanging in heavy, swollen drops before falling to the ground.
The ewe looked up at me, and I patted her wooly head. Then I reached out, and caught a falling drop of liquid with my fingers. My skin burned and I clenched my jaw as I rubbed my hand against the trunk of the tree. The grey bark faded and turned smooth, and in the vinegary sheen I could see my own reflection. My face looked shadowed and my eyes vacant, and the world behind me shimmered in streams of brilliant color. I turned around, but the marshy field looked drab by comparison.
The ewe bleated at me and I nodded. I stood underneath the crystalline branches and let the dripping drops fall upon my head. I gritted my teeth against the searing pain that tore along my limbs. My eyes filled with tears and the world blurred. The ewe watched me, and as I looked back at her, her fluffy body turned to light and dissipated like fire-borne sparks.
My skin melted from my bones, bleeding to the ground like a painting left in the rain. The pain stopped then, and the last thing I saw was a myriad of kaleidoscope colors, shifting in a brilliant light that pulsed and heaved, growing stronger and stronger until it was all I knew, and it was all I was.