The tree was a tall, straight, and had a large wind up crank sticking directly out of the trunk.
As Wendriel turned it, he could feel thumping pulses in the ground and all of the tree boughs vibrated. The leaves shimmered and danced. It continued, in a radius, spreading to the other trees of the forest and along the earth. Each turn became more and more difficult and the old man strained to keep winding it up. By the time he finished, he’d worked up a sweat.
He took a seat on a rock and caught his breath while the forest settled down. He wondered how many more times he’d be able to do this. A dozen? Maybe two? There was no way he’d manage another year of it, that was for sure. He needed help.
The need was not new and the question that came with it had plagued him for years; who?
He got to his feet, and after a quick drink from his wine-bag, headed up the trail, leaving the strange tree with the crank behind him.
The trail took him up above the treeline, into the steep rocky foothills of mountain range. Carved from the rock, his path became a staircase, curving and doubling back up the stone face. He reached a flat landing with railing affording a view on one side and a pair of doors leading into the mountain wall on the other. The entire valley was visible. Roughly circular, filled with trees, and entirely ringed in by jagged peaks that looked more like shards of stone icicles than mountains. It was small, isolated, and his were the only eyes that had seen it in centuries. But his eyes were growing old. The view remained spectacular, but it was dim and clouded to his vision. There would come a day, not far off, where he would never see it, or the strange tree it hid, again. He was tired. His body ached with the burden of age. It was long past time he’d allowed himself rest.
He needed to make a choice.
A strange bit of wind up world is in trouble when the man who keeps it cranked starts to run out of time. Will the world wind down with him? Sign up and find out in Winding Down Wendriel, a weird fantasy short.