rating: +20+x

Ah. You are awake.

" "

It is me.

" "

But of course, this is quite the change is it not?

" "

Try to think. Do you remember when we first met?

You were but a child, practically a sapling. You had come to me, bruised and bloodied, a victim seeking shelter. You found refuge in this quiet place I call home. The other boys had seen fit to harass and attack you. First they hurled insults, then stones. I thought this strange. Could they not see you as I did? Could they not experience how pure, how gentle you truly were? Did they think you deserved their cruelty?

You soon returned, and many times after that, a creature of habit. I became your sole friend, your confidant. You would tell me of the world beyond my purview. You would tell me about how you were shunned and neglected by your family, teased time and again by the other children, made to feel like you did not belong. Through it all, you persevered, without an ounce of malice in your heart. Incorruptible.

Oh, how swiftly you sprouted! And in your twelfth year we would be joined by another, a girl. She saw you in much in the same way that I did. She saw beyond your faults. She saw into your soul. She found it to be full of hope and wonder and optimism. I marveled at her patience and understanding. You were perfect for each other.

The two of you would steal away from the world, to your special spot. The one place you could be free. You would meet after your chores and her schooling. You would clamber up my side, onto my sturdiest bough and watch the sun set together. I watched as love blossomed between you across the years. I was certain you were destined to be together. You deserved that much.

You grew into a fine young man, and found employ with your beloved's father. You worked so hard, and without respite. Such conviction! You endeavored to prove your worth. You would show him that you were right for her, that you were dependable. When the time finally came, you asked her father for her hand in marriage. He scoffed and called you a half-wit. He banished you from his house and forbade you from seeing her. You did nothing to deserve his vitriol.

But you would not bend so easily. Not even when her brothers invaded this place, slinging their insults, beating and beating and beating you mercilessly. I had never witnessed such a depraved act of violence from your kind.

At least, not until that fateful day.

They came in the dead of night. A crowd of men, dragging you through the dirt, kicking and screaming. One man stood before the mob, shouting above their braying and hollering. He explained what their purpose was here, what they intended to do, why they needed to do it. You begged and begged forgiveness. You did not mean for it to happen! They attacked you!

Your call for mercy fell on deaf ears. Pleas could not satiate their thirst. The air was thick with with their hate and their bloodlust and their cries for retribution.

One among their number produced a rope.

Never in my life had I felt so helpless. I could only watch on in horror as they used me to carry out their filthy act. I am so, so sorry! Those men - those vile, despicable men - laughed and cheered as you swung, desperately clinging on, trying to gain a foothold.

They left as one, congratulating themselves on what they had done. They did not cut you down.

Days passed before someone came for you. Her. She came, blade and shovel in hand, shame and regret on her shoulders. She apologized again and again and again. There was so much she had wanted to say. So many missed opportunities. If only she could have acted. If only you could have run. She blamed and cursed herself as she buried you. Her task completed, she knelt down, and with her blade carved a simple legacy into my side. I was proud to bear it.

So do you remember now? Do you remember why you're here?

" "

We will not suffer their presence. I will stretch and reach as far as I am able. I will hold my limbs low.

The rest is on you: Wrest them from the ground. Hold them aloft. Let them kick and squirm. Let them cry and pray.

This land, this special place, belongs to you, Danny.

To you and to Annie.

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