The Sacred Ritual: Breakthroughwriting Challenge for the week of 10/16/2017

Every day from roughly 10 until 1, Pullman sits at his desk in a monkish study at the top of the house and produces three pages, longhand. He has written three pages a day ever since he started writing. Habit, he is fond of saying, has written far more books than talent. The ritual is sacred. As is the space. “Nobody’s photographed this, and nobody will ever photograph this,” he told me, both fierce and faintly amused by the severity of his own rule. “I’m superstitious about that, very superstitious about that.” Philip Pullman Returns to His Fantasy World

Philip Pullman wrote the trilogy, His Dark Materials, one of the most powerful “children’s” books I’ve ever read (and I’ve been a a reading junkie since I was 5). I imagine him finding worlds in this photo. Consider the shadow of a person disappearing into the forest floor. What happens next? I look forward to your imaginings, your stories.

If any of you sent me writing and haven’t seen it in BTW yet, please let me know. The server went down. In the ensuing cyber chaos (Is that redundant?) a few things disappeared.

Here, from Cin Norris – the last line broke my screaming heart:

In the sacred heart of the last forest on earth Kellanin weeps. The rays of the rapidly flaring sun are mostly deflected by the thick branches and broad leaves, leaving him to mourn in cool shadows. He kneels among the dense undergrowth, arms wrapped tightly around his middle sobbing loudly, unashamedly. It is the end of the world and Kellanin has failed.

Perhaps it had been the red tides or the red skies, maybe the rising heat or the falling stars, but even the most stalwart denier of climate change had given in to the obvious: humanity had crossed the line and the damage was irreversible. In the race between technological salvation and wanton destruction, the winner was clear. Men, women and children who had never been believers groveled to any and all gods, looking for an answer that had been given centuries ago.

Only Kellanin received a message: save the Tree. He was given no assurances, no promise of redemption, yet he knew it was a Calling he could not refuse.

Time was against him, he had to find the Tree before he could save it, but mankind, in the name of ‘progress’, had razed the forests to the ground. More useful by far to have grazing lands for animals and farmlands for crops, all to feed the teeming masses of humanity that could never be sated. “There’s no point,” ‘they’ said, “in worrying about oxygen if we all die of hunger.” “It doesn’t matter,” ‘they’ said, “if there is no lumber to build with when we can use man-made materials.” “It’s a waste of space,” ‘they’ said, “to have wood for heat when nobody is cold anymore.”

Travel had become difficult and expensive, yet Kellanin knew where the last of the Deep Woods lay. He sold everything he owned for a quarter of what it was worth and bought a black market “international pass” patch to sew on his government-issued jumpsuit.  The very last of his credits went to an air shuttle ticket to the Bristol Air and Space Port in England. His final destination was the Forest of Dean.

He did not know why this relatively small grove had been spared the fate of its sister forests, but perhaps the answer was in the question. It was old, though; it had been one of the oldest on the isle even before all of the razing and burning to make room to make food.

Kellanin walked from the Port, periodically stopped by the Royal International Guard to show he had the proper patch to be out wandering around alone. None of them asked too many questions; they had more pressing matters than a lone man walking in the middle of nowhere.

The sun burned fiercely, the heat felt like a physical weight on his shoulders and he kept to a slow, steady pace. Even when night fell, there was no relief from the sweltering temperatures. It was so much more humid here, he thought. Maybe the sun was evaporating the sea.

He lost track of time and grew weaker as his journey continued. As the vulture flew, it was not far from the Port to the Forest, but the roads were in bad condition and he was forced to circumvent giant sinkholes and upthrust ridges of rock where there had once been highway. Traversing the Bristol Channel had almost been his undoing, but enough of the bridge remained that he was able to cross with great care.

Finally- blessed be!- finally, he reached the edges of the Forest. The giant oaks, beeches, ashes and birches welcomed him like a prodigal son. He staggered between them, aiming for the heart of the grove. Branches tore his jumpsuit and vines snared his hair. He was bleeding from a hundred tiny cuts and marked with a thousand bruises.

The near-darkness was a relief from the heat but it limited his vision and he was tripped up by brambles and roots. Pushing his way through the thickets was nearly as difficult as the journey here and he was very weak.

With a last effort, he pressed through a wall of overgrown holly and landed on his hands and knees in a clearing. A faint feel of divinity tightened his chest and made his fingers tingle, but even as he recognized it for what it was it faded away.

Blinking the haze of exhaustion and dehydration away, Kellanin could see why.

Late. Too late. Late like he’d been all his life and later than he’d even been before.

The raw stump of an enormous oak still bled sap onto the sacred soil and a rough trail on the far side of the grove showed where it had been dragged away with old gas-powered mechwork tractors.

Despite the heat, Kellanin cannot stop shaking. He doesn’t know why the Tree was taken and he does not yet know that his screaming will not bring it back.

 

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