Story Origin: Mother’s Milk.
By Dan Rabarts
Long ago, in an old house on a hill, I remember a tree. It was vast, and full of shadows, and when the wind blew it moaned and creaked and spoke. When I tried to sleep, it was there outside the window, and when I dreamed, it knew. One Guy Fawkes night, there was a bonfire on the front drive, and the flames threw snarling lights among the branches and convinced me the tree really was alive. It loomed over the house, it whispered its hungers.
Below this tree, there was a hole, a former mine shaft, so deep the bottom was lost in shadow, even during the day. Here was a memory of a thing, a place, that scarred the sky and earth alike. A memory which three decades of living in other places and leading other lives had never erased.
Many years later, I wanted to capture this tree and its accompanying hellish sinkhole in a story, but the story was not coming to me. Then I had children, and that brought with it all sorts of new fears. I saw a call for submissions to an anthology, and all the pieces fell together; the tree, the hole, this new fear, and the idea of regeneration. The story that came out of that soup of deep-seated anxieties was Mother’s Milk.
That old tree blew over some years ago in a windstorm, and was cut up for firewood, no longer any more than sawdust and ash. The hole slowly filled with rubbish and detritus until no trace of it remains, overgrown now with vines and flowers. But they’ll always hold a special place in the darkest corners of my memory, and now they can hold a special place in yours, too. Every time you hear the wind creaking through the gnarled black branches of Old Man Pine, down where the creek runs high and cold and deep, you too might hear the laughter of lost children…
This story first appeared in the anthology Regeneration (Random Static, 2013). You can find more information about it, and my other stories and narrations, at http://dan.rabarts.com
Amazon Paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079QHH1F7
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