Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Hermit's Week

The Hermit's Week was a spur-of-the-moment project undertaken on the early morning of 9-20/09. I randomly generated a few story elements and this is what came of it. My goal was to write a short story based on the prompts that got as close as possible to 2500 words without going over. The final tally is 2206, not including the title, so I didn't quite make it. but I am happy with it. Enjoy!


The Hermit’s Week

At first, Sherman thought he’d lost track of the rabbit, which was a problem, because he was ridiculously hungry. But the tinkling sound of hollow sticks hitting together alerted him to the fact the even though he had lost the rabbit, his trap had found it. Sure enough, when he approached the trap, there was the animal, caught in the snare and suspended a few feet above the ground, struggling for freedom. As he released the poor doomed creature from the snare, he began to wonder exactly why it had wandered into the woods in the first place. The land was barren and scorched, infertile and unlivable-- for anything except him.

Prize in hand, he trudged back to his cave. It was far from an ideal dwelling by any standards, and Sherman knew it. He had vague memories from years ago, of trying to live in normal places, but this simply suited him better. A small pot of water was set to boil as soon as he was inside, and the rabbit went into it, fur and all. Sherman wasn’t picky.

Once the rabbit was cooked, on the table it went; he didn’t have much use for plates. A slice from his good stone knife split the beast clean in two. He saw the organs, the bones, and something strange in the animal’s stomach. It was a small, shining object, like something he’d seen before, long ago. It was a whitish-yellow and sparkled in the sun when he took it outside to get a good look at it (after he’d cleaned it off, of course). It was obviously metal, a small round circlet of it, and it fit easily on his middle finger. He decided he liked it.

Men entered the woods the next day, men in long coats with loud voices and long black metal tubes that made thundering crash-blast noises when they pointed them and sent up puffs of smoke. Sherman stayed in his cave and away from the men with their crash-blasts and their hey-yous and their hoy-theres. He wasn’t interested in them.

But he heard one of them approaching, and he certainly seemed interested in him. The man studied the boiled rabbit skin that he’d hung up outside. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it yet, but if that man tried to take it, there would be problems. He’d found that rabbit. It was his and no one else’s. If someone wanted to come into his forest and take his rabbit skin, there would be problems. Abut he wouldn’t move. These were Sherman’s woods, and Sherman’s cave, and had been since the forest died a long time ago. No one came. Why now? Why the rabbit, and now the men?

“Hoy there! I’ve found it!”

More men came, and all at once they came into the cave and saw Sherman, looking at him, staring with beady little eyes that all looked black and hollow in the dim light.

“He found it.”

“On his hand.

“So that really means…”

“Yep. That makes him the heir.”

Sherman pretended not to notice them or what they were saying, but he was really keeping an eye on all his things to make sure they didn’t try to take anything, especially his new rabbit skin. He wanted to rush out and grab it, to tell them to go away and get out and leave-- without the skin-- but they were in the way, and they had the crash-blast sticks. Instead he didn’t look at them and pretended he told them to go away, so when they did it would be because he had told them to. He picked at the dirt with a stick.

One of the men came forward, without his crash-blast or a hey-you or anything, and started talking directly to Sherman. He used the words “heir” and “king” and “kingdom” a lot, and it all seemed to have something to do with his rabbit and the shiny on his finger. Another of the men even knelt down in the dirt before him, and then all the men did it. Sherman kept poking at the dirt with his stick, then decided he could squeeze past them to go outside. They strangers actually moved out of his way to let him out and followed him, making quiet talking noises to each other as if he couldn’t hear them. He went and checked his snare, but like usual, there were no animals in it. That rabbit had been the first in a long, long time. So he went back to the cave. He took down the rabbit skin and carried it inside with him, lay down, and fell asleep on it.

The men were gone when he woke up. He hung the rabbit skin back outside again. He liked it there, so he could see it when he left and when he came back. The trap was empty when he went to check it, so he went back to the cave. Only now, there were more people, far more than just the men. All sorts of people were there: the men he noticed from yesterday, and women, and other men, and little people who looked like smaller men and women, some in plain colors like the first men, some in bright colors like the woods should have had, some with short hair and some with long like his, some with beards and some without. Sherman looked at them for a long time, and they looked at him. And they all began to shout. It startled him at first, but then he noticed that no one had touched his rabbit skin. It was still where he had left it. He took it down again and carried it inside the cave with him. All the people moved to let him through. The men from yesterday followed him in and began talking again, and then the other people came in a few at a time, but always with one of the other men, and talked to him. He poked at the dirt with his stick, and poked at the rock ceiling with his stick, and relieved himself (not with the stick-- that would have been silly, although he did keep the stick close), he ate and he stretched, and he decided to go to sleep again. He set the rabbit skin on the dirt floor and lay on top of it and went to sleep.

This time, the people were there when he woke up. The men had fallen asleep at the entrance of the cave, and no one else had come in. He stepped over them to leave and check his trap. Some of the people who were not asleep followed him. It was empty. He went back to the cave, and the men brought other people into the cave again. A woman reached out and touched his hand, trembling and weeping as she did. A child exclaimed and pointed. A man stuttered and left without making any real words. Sherman held onto his rabbit skin. Once he took off the shiny and cleaned it again; there was some dirt on it. He relieved himself, and decided to sleep.

He heard people outside talking when he woke up. The lots of people that were by his cave had gotten bigger, always bigger. They kept saying “king” and “grace” and “highness” and “majesty” but Sherman pretended not to hear. He carried the rabbit skin and went to look at the trap.

The hollow sticks were tinkling. There in the snare was a pheasant, hanging by the neck, not moving. He took it down and set the snare again. Some of the people shouted happy noises and some clapped their hands together. Sherman took his prize and went back to the cave.

The pheasant was boiled, feathers and all, in the pot with lots of water. There was no shiny in the stomach of this animal, but Sherman decided it didn’t make him sad. He liked his shiny and decided he didn’t need another. The men brought in people while he ate the bird, and they talked, and they went away, and Sherman finished eating. He poked at the dirt with his stick for awhile, and then drew in the dirt a little. The woman in the cave gasped as he drew, and they waited when he was done and stared at what he drew, and then he stamped it out and the woman left. He took the rabbit skin and poked some of the pheasant’s feathers through it and decided he liked it. He fell asleep with it next to him.

The rabbit skin was still there in the morning. Sherman looked at it again, with the pheasant’s feathers sticking out of it and decided again that he liked it. He picked it up and carried it with him. He took his stick too, and let it drag in the dirt by him as he walked to check the trap. It began to rain when he got there, and soon the dirt was mud, and his stick was getting stuck. He stopped letting it drag, and it didn’t get stuck anymore.

There was the tinkling sound of the sticks again the went along with the rain. The sounds made Sherman smile. He smiled more when he saw a small pig in the trap. It wasn’t moving. He carefully took it out of the trap, listening close to make sure no one was going to take it from him. The mud and the rain were making it hard to walk up the hill to his cave, and once he slipped and fell. All the people that followed him gasped. Some of the men came and tried to lay hands on him and lift him, but he wasn’t going to let them steal his pig and his rabbit skin with the pheasant feathers and steal him, too, so he held out the stick and rapped one on the knee, and they let go and backed away. He got into the cave and put the pot on. The pig went to boil and smelled a way that he liked. He took off his shiny and cleaned the mud off of it so it sparkled again, and then the pig was done. People came in while he ate, and they talked again while Sherman poked at the stone ceiling with his stick.

Then there was a lot of talking outside, and someone came in that was different. This person had a bigger shiny with him, all gleaming and glittery and white-yellow, with little sparkly green and red and blue dots in it. It was much bigger than the other shiny Sherman had on his finger.

The man with the big shiny knelt in the dirt and held his shiny up. He said a lot of words and mentioned “king” a lot, just like the others. He was obviously offering Sherman the shiny, but he had decided he didn’t want any more shinies. He liked the one he had.

The man lifted up his big shiny again and said a lot of words. The other men, from the day after the rabbit, gestured with their hands towards the big shiny and said “king” a lot, too. Now they were all offering the shiny. Sherman shook his head. He didn’t want any more shinies. He liked the one he had.

The men tried a third time to give him the shiny. Sherman opened his mouth. “Look, I’m really just not interested, okay?” He poked one of the pheasant’s feathers through the pig’s ear so it would be attached to the rabbit skin and decided he liked it, so he poked another feather through the other ear, then one through the pig’s tail at the bottom of the rabbit skin. Sherman liked it.

The men were talking a lot now, some in shouts, some quiet. One kept talking to Sherman, trying to get him to talk again but Sherman didn’t say anything else. The man with the big shiny left, and one by one, the people outside left too. The men were the last to go. Sherman drew in the dirt with his stick and then relieved himself, then decided it was time to go to sleep. But first, he hung up his rabbit skin, with the pheasant’s feathers and the pig’s ears and tail, outside where he would see it when he went out to check the trap and then when he came back. He went to sleep.

Everything was quiet when he woke up. There was no one outside, no men sleeping at the entrance of the cave. The rabbit skin with the feathers and ears and tail was still hanging up. Sherman liked it, and he smiled. He went to check the trap.

There was no tinkling sticks, no rabbit or pheasant or pig in the snare. The mud from yesterday’s rain was dry dirt again, and the mud that had gotten on the front of him when he fell yesterday was dry and cracking. He went to the stream that ran near the cave and let the water clean the dirt off his clothes.

Sherman always remembered the rabbit.

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