Synaesthesia Magazine Green - Page 18

One spring evening, a demon came to Hohodemi's valley. This demon was especially cunning, and particularly nasty. Amanojaku was a squat little thing, with sickly moss-green skin and tufts of grey wispy hair on his pointed ears, able to read hidden truths within the hearts of others as mortal men might read a face. He skulked through the village, spying upon the dreams of the sleeping humans, trying to discover which might offer some amusement or distraction. His efforts were in vain, however. Every one of them held the same innocent devotion to Hohodemi. Determined to put an end to such horrible unity, the demon climbed the thousand stone steps to Aomiya and the tree-god. Amanojaku, despicable and despised, hateful and hated, unloved and unable to love, read the hidden selfishness within Hohodemi’s heart, and knew a fury that no other creature had ever felt before.

His incredulity at Hohodemi's malcontent was such that it pained him. This tree, this overgrown shrub, this unworthy god had the love of all those around him, yet dwelt upon his mortality like a spoilt adolescent! How dare he! Did these ridiculous humans not see that their deity wasn't worth the firewood he was made of? Wasn't he, Amanojaku, a thousand times more worthy of their devotion? He could not abide it. He would not stand for it. Amanojaku retreated back to the village to find an appropriate instrument for the task at hand.

The night was still. The moon hid behind thick grey clouds and darkness enveloped the valley like a pall of fearful anticipation. The villagers turned in their beds, haunted by dark dreams. Amanojaku's hatred was palpable as he returned up the mountain path towards Hohodemi. With every step, a dull thunk of an axehead rang out across the silent valley. Amanojaku imagined each scrape counting down the number of seconds Hohodemi had left to live.

As he reached the top of the great steps, the heavens opened. Rain begun to beat down upon the twisted, monstrous face, trying to hold the demon back, begging him not to kill Lord Hohodemi, but Amanojaku march towards the tree's base was relentless. Flashes of lightning threw Amanojaku's shadow far across the shrine; a grotesque form that reflected the enormity of his pending crime.

The demon placed a small, gnarled hand upon Hohodemi's root.

"Do you know why I do this, tree-god?" the demon spoke. "I am simply presenting you with your heart's desire. Your death will leave this valley bereft of life, yet you cannot deny that this is what you want."

Though his malediction was little more than a whisper, lost amongst the gale, Hohodemi answered him.

"You speak naught but the truth, demon. You have seen my shame, and I accept that my reward shall forever be my punishment."

The words fuelled Amanojaku's fury far more than if it had been plea for forgiveness, or a denial of guilt. Screaming, he struck the axe deep into the trunk, and every living thing in the valley knew the same agony as their dear, dying god. But it was far from over.

THUD - the wind howled. THUD - the forest groaned. THUD - the earth shuddered. Amanojaku, with his inhuman strength and tenacity, struck again and again. Bark that had been armour for a thousand years flew off in shreds. The supple flesh within poured with a green speckled sap that flew off the blade of the axe and splashed upon the ground. For seven hours Amanojaku kept at his horrendous act. He hacked and he hacked until, as the storm subsided and the morning sun broke over the mountains, Hohodemi finally crashed into the mountainside with the force of an earthquake.

Elated, but stunned at the magnitude of his crimes, Amanojaku approached the remains of Hohodemi. The woods were silent once again. He laid a hand on the torn shreds of Hohodemi's trunk. The demon sneered. "You deserved this, pathetic sapling.” He expected no answer, but one came to him, as strong and implacable as when Hohodemi stood one hundred feet tall,