Vinegar Tree

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.


36 Comments

  1. Surreal, strange, and I don’t quite know how this story makes me feel – a very hard journey to another existence.
    Sophie
    Sophie’s Thoughts & Fumbles
    FB3X
    Wittegen Press

    • Sara C. Snider

      Haha, you and me both. My thoughts when writing this: “I don’t even know.” 😉

  2. You have painted a very poetic picture! It makes me want to know more.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Jennifer! This one’s kind of mysterious, that’s for sure. 😛

  3. Vision-quest-by-tree.Reminds me of Odin hanging from the tree to see the runes. The colors could be a new language for humanity…or maybe this hero never returns.

    • Sara C. Snider

      I hadn’t thought of Odin, but I’m pleased with the similarity. 😀 I think this story has lots of possible endings/explanations. So, yes!

  4. This is beautiful Sara – sometimes we don’t know where the story is going. Your last paragraph reminds me of myths that tell of this pain and suffering until all is stripped and then the x-ray is all that it is, transparent, whole, healed. Thank you.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Wow, Susan, that’s a great interpretation! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  5. Wow – that’s a weird one, or should I say surreal. A quest for enlightenment? A sacrifice? An evolution? So many possibilities.
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    • Sara C. Snider

      Yes to all of those things! 😉 Definitely lots of possibilities, like you say.

  6. I am without words. At one point I was all, “alien planet?” But the ewe nixed that. Then afterlife? I am not sure what to think.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Yeah, this story is definitely a head-scratcher. Whatever you can make of it is the right answer! 😉

  7. Wow, very haunting. Some great description in this one.

  8. “…bleeding to the ground like a painting left in the rain.”

    This is beautiful 🙂

    Fee | Wee White Hoose
    Scottish Mythology and Folklore A-Z

  9. I love your imagination, Sara, and that you don’t know where the story is going. What fun in writing to not know the ending until your characters get you there!

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Samantha. It is a lot of fun finding out where a story takes me. It’s one of the best parts of it all. 🙂

  10. Interesting choice she made. I think I’d back away. I wonder what she ultimately gained.

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Liz. I think it’s kind of fun to wonder about these sorts of things, but your mileage may vary. 😉

  11. I like how surreal this is, and it’s beautifully described!

  12. Beautiful and mysterious, and the nature of this tree is left up to the reader to interpret. Great job.

  13. Whoo Sara – that was interesting and as Sophie said at the beginning – very surreal … I just thought there might be a vinegar tree .. there’s a sausage tree (it’s not – the fruits look like sausages), there’s a spaghetti tree – an April 1st spoof in the 1950s .. amused everyone to this day …

    .. but this throws a whole new light on things as trees … I wonder if I’ll have nightmares tonight … cheers or perhaps not! Hilary

    • Sara C. Snider

      I actually came across the sausage tree when researching names for these posts. I thought quite a bit about writing a story for that one (I mean, who wouldn’t?), but it just didn’t grab me quite like the scalybark hickory. I hadn’t heard of the spaghetti tree though. Madness!

      Thanks, Hilary. Hopefully there weren’t any nightmares.

  14. What a fantastic ending line! I don’t know how you come up with these ideas, but I so love how creative they are. 🙂

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Sue. I’m not sure about the ideas. I sometimes like to think that stories exist in their own world, and every now and then I get a glimpse of it. 😉

  15. Wow. Just… wow. Beautiful.

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

  16. Thist story is so weird. And still I like it. Especially the ending.
    Surreal, really.

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter – Roaring Twenties

  17. Surreal is exactly the word I would use to describe this. Yet I found that the words and imagery you evoked in it carried it, like a dream. “amber grass” and a “painting left in the rain.” So pretty!!!!

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Jeri. This one seems rather dream-like to me as well.

  18. Very impressive! I am still discovering new blogs as I go down the list in the #AtoZChallenge! Now I have to go and read all the other articles you posted!

    Congratulations on completing the Challenge!

    –Mee (The Chinese Quest

    • Sara C. Snider

      Thanks, Mee! I’m glad you could stop by. 😀

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