The Carpenter by E.M. Cooper

The Carpenter

E.M. Cooper

The carpenter walked through the forest on the first day of fall. Life stirred at the sound of footsteps traveling the path of crimson and gold. Birds were the first to greet him that morning, welcoming their kindly neighbor while they tended to their nests. The squirrels paused as he passed them by, their heads turning and ears twitching at the crunch of boot over dirt and dew-laden leaves. He paused and closed his eyes for a moment, letting hisears fill with the gentle trickle and tumble of the creek lapping against rocks. With a satisfied nod, he resumed his morning walk. Over the forest, a light breeze rustled through the trees, carrying with it a faint whisper.

It called to the carpenter; a plea to stray from the path. He continued on his way, for he only heard the wind. Another voice joined the murmur, begging him to listen. He could not hear them, for their voices were too soft. The winds returned once more, carrying the fallen leaves of the forest as they brushed past the carpenter. Vivid splashes of red, brown, and yellow overwhelmed his vision as the quiet duet quickly grew in number. More cries joined the choir until their words echoed through the woods, urging the carpenter to answer them. He heard them at last and listened to their words. The winds died as the din calmed itself and told him where they waited -- deep within the woods through paths unknown to the carpenter. They wished to meet him.

With their guidance, he stepped off the path and went deep into the forest. The whispers faded when he emerged from the brush and entered a grassy clearing. In the center stood a great tree, its limbs naked, withered, and worn by the passage of time. Having never seen such a sight before, the carpenter approached the tree in awe. When he placed his hand on the ancient bark, the voices returned in a frenzy of sound, surging into his mindanddrowning his senses in unknown tongues. He ripped his hand from the tree and fled the clearing, sprinting as fast as he couldtowards his cabin and locked himself away for the night.

The carpenter returned to the tree with his tools on the second day of fall. He set them on the ground and closed his eyes before reaching out to the gnarled wood a second time. He heard nothing. The tree’s rough bark scratched his wrinkled hands, etching its storied history onto his skin. The carpenter pulled his hands away and picked up his axe. He bowed his head and apologized to the tree before hacking into its flesh. The voices responded with wailing shrieks as his axe tore into the tree, their pained howls threatened to engulf him once more. Their cries were silenced when the tree came crashing to the ground. He bundled as much wood as he could carry and returned to his home.

The carpenter stayed in his cabin on the third day of fall. He sliced into each piece of wood, dissecting the remains as he searching for what spoke to him on the first day of fall. By nightfall, he had heard no whispers. He heard no murmurs. Only silence -- nothing. The carpenter retired for the night, weary and defeated.

The voices returned to him that night. Many whispered in the tongue he heard on the first day, only a scant few spoke his. Their tone was measured, devoid of any joy or bitterness as they spoke of the tree and what the carpenter had done on the second day. Hearing their tale, the carpenter learned that these voices were the ancient spirits that once dwelled in the forest and inhabited the tree he had cut down. Upon finishing their account, the spirits then gave the carpenter a task. Before he could ask their intent they faded from his mind, leaving him alone with their lingering words and his own troubled thoughts. He awoke from his fitful slumber early the next morning and approached the pieces of wood resting on his workbench.

For three days and nights, his hands carved and sliced through the wood with care, making skillful incisions and precise cuts, whittling and chipping pieces away as the spirits instructed. Slivers of wood fell from the formless lump he cradled in his nicked and splintered fingers. As time wore on, the shapeless piece of wood began to change into something more.

Tools fell from weary hands on the seventh day of fall. His tired gaze fell upon his creation: a small wooden figure created in the likeness of a young man. It lay on his workbench, pointing at him with a stubby finger. The dim lighting inside the cabin fell behind the carpenter as he rose, his shadow hiding the knowing smile on the doll’s face. The voices fell silent while he admired his work. Satisfied, the carpenter set the figure on the table behind him. It watched him as he began to work on the next piece.

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The Carpenter was featured in the second Vagabonds release. To read the full issue, take a look at our Archives!

Bio: - My name is E.M. Cooper and I am from the Puget Sound region in Washington State. Writing is a personal hobby of mine and I like sharing my works with others. I hope to improve myself so that I can become a better writer and that my works can be an enjoyable experience to those that read them.

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