Joseph and Tam Short Story

From the outside the forest looked inviting, beautiful rays shined through the cotton-candy-like clouds onto the flourishing treetops. A beautiful spring afternoon, green pierced through the other colours and dominated the scene. The forest gave a slightly different impression upon closer approach. The beautiful rays ceased to pierce through the thick veil which the evergreen tops provided and the dark and entrancing nature enthralled the two boys standing in front of the wood. They looked into the forest, seemingly infinite trees, the perfect place to get lost in your imagination. The thick, wide girths of the tree trunks spanned 6 feet across and the roots seemed to twist and weave across the ground like snakes, or tentacles. The two boys stood at the edge of the forest, wide-eyed and jaw-dropped, in a stupor of wonder. What would happen if we entered? Would it be fun? Or would we get hurt?

“I don’t wanna play in the forest Joseph.” Said Tam, almost stuttering in uncertainty. He looked down at the ground, swaying back and forth in his typical gloomy skepticism.

“Oh C’mon Tam! We could have so much fun! Look, there’s nothing to be afraid of, Ma knows we are playing outside, she won’t care if we go in.” Joseph always had to convince Tam to buck up some courage to play in the forest. Tam was often unsure of things but Joseph knew Tam would follow along because he saw no real threat. There were no obvious dangers for Tam, so of course, he could be convinced of anything. Tam had nothing but a feeling, an aversion, a little voice inside his head that whispered ‘don’t go in there’. Joseph knew he could override this little voice, as an older brother he simply outranked it. “Oh Tam, don’t be such a worrier. We can play Pirates! Just look at the trees! Those are the types of trees Pirates make their ships out of!” Joseph slowly edged his way towards the forest, teasing Tam with every step. “C’mon Tam!”

“Joseph! Wait!”

“C’mon Tam! Don’t be a chicken! There’s lots of long sticks to play Pirates with. They make great swords!”

“Alright fine! Hopefully Ma won’t mind if we are gone a little longer.”

Slash! Slash! Jab! Slash! Joseph and Tam played like brave warriors of the sea! They carefully balanced their steps and transferred their weight into each stroke, almost as if they were battling on the plank of a great pirate ship. The sun was just starting to set on their glorious battle. Slash! Slash! Parry! Slash! Tam was on the defence. Parry! Parry! Jab! Tam fended off Joseph’s attack and tried to counter but he was too focused on his sword and he lost his footing. Tam flailed backward and his foot caught one of the roots. He lost his balance and started to fall, everything seemed to slow right down for Tam. This moment became a lifetime. His leg then caught itself between two roots and Tam watched as the strength of the roots snapped his shin bone in two as he crashed to the ground. A cold gust of wind came over the forest, and the sun was almost set. Tam gaze was fixed itself, unwavering, on his wound.

Tam was riving in sheer agony. He had never experienced anything like this before. He had fallen but never broken a bone. He was surprised that his brother was nowhere in sight.

“Joseph! Joseph! HELP ME! I can’t move! I CAN’T MOVE!” Tam’s foot was lodged and wrapped around the roots. He tried to lift up his torso to relieve some pressure. He could feel something drip down his leg, and the cool air felt somehow inside him. He managed to get his head high enough to see the wound. The bone jutted out of his shin, jagged like a rock. The blood oozed out of his leg and soaked his shoes and socks. A stream began to trickle down his shoe to form a puddle under his back. Tam hated the feeling of lying in his own warm sticky blood.

“Joseph!! Please!! This isn’t funny! Mom! Dad! Joseeeph!!!”

Joseph was, in fact, just around the other side of the tree. At the moment of the fall, something had caught his eye in the distance. It was a red rock lying on the ground. The rock had somehow grabbed hold of Joseph in such a way that he had abandoned his brother’s agony and fixated his entire being on it. Joseph had no choice in his fixation, he had suddenly became entranced by this red rock. As he approached it he noticed two figures on top of the rock. It was a pair of preying mantes, they were mating. Joseph knew about sex but he had not had the pleasure of observing such an act. He was enthralled, ‘just look at these bugs going at it!’ He thought. When they were finished, the mantes withdrew to either side of the rock, as if it were some sort of arena. The one who had been on the bottom approached the other who was almost quivering. In quick, sharp movements the approaching mantis lunged at the other, stabbing it’s front raptor-like legs into the other’s head and pulling it close. Then with abrupt, stiff, terrifying movements, the mantis proceeded to devour the other.

The whole process jogged Joseph’s memory. He remembered that female preying mantes were known to eat their partner after mating. Surprisingly enough, Joseph felt himself mourning, not for the male, but for the female. He did not have the words to describe it, but he felt deep remorse that it was in her nature to viciously devour him whom she had just partnered with. ‘Why!?’ He thought. ‘Why satisfy that desire if you would have to live with such pain and agony, with permanent repercussions? Why satisfy a desire if it meant that you would devour your friend?’ Joseph stood, still entranced by the preying mantis looking up at him. Her friend was gone now. He could not understand. The ferocious green preying mantis stood upon that red rock and turned its head just off to the side, looking intently at Joseph, and it disgusted him.

“JOSEeeEEePH! WHeRE ARE YOooUU!” The shriek sounded like a desperate last attempt from his brother. Joseph finally snapped out of his trance and found himself in a daze. It was night time, pitch black, an eerie chill shivered up Joseph’s spine. ‘Oh god! What is happening!’ Joseph suddenly remembered his brother’s fall, it somehow felt like a lifetime ago.

Joseph ran over to his brother. It was dark but Joseph could see his brother’s pale complexion. Tam could barely move or talk. He lied there, twitching and squirming in his own blood as if still trying hopelessly to dislodge his leg. Joseph wrapped his hands around Tam’s knee and started to pull. His hands were instantly soaked in cold blood which made it difficult to grip. The cold had contracted the roots and tightened the hold on Tam’s leg just enough that it made it impossible for Joseph to dislodge with his hands.

Tam gave out another blood-curdling scream! Joseph’s efforts were of no use. The cold had strangled the roots around Tam’s leg. Joseph’s hands frantically trembled as he stood looking down at his brother. Joseph held his hands out in front of him as if showing them to Tam in hopeless failure. Tam could barely even open his eyes but he managed to nudge his head to the side, trying to signal something to Joseph.

“What! What is it! What is it Tam! Just tell me! PLEASE!” Tam gave one last gesture before losing consciousness. Joseph followed his gaze. The Pirate Sword. Oh no… ‘Oh please no..’ Joseph picked up the sword and held it out in front of himself. He looked at Tam, lying there in his blood. Joseph’s mouth quivered and then widened into a desperate cry. His head tilted back and his knees dropped to the ground. He was in the middle of the blackest forest and unable to do what was necessary. He sat back on his heels and looked up as he let out one last desperate agonizing squeal. He sobbed.

Joseph sat there looking at the wretched stick in his hands. The tears streamed down his face and dripped off his chin onto the stick. The reflection of the tears in the faint night made the stick shimmer in the moonlight. Joseph remembered for a moment, the disgust he had felt at the preying mantis which looked up at him from that red rock. That immense disgust which he had felt for the bug who had devoured her friend. Joseph looked down at the stick. Anger and disgust and rage overcame him and he raised himself up and gripped his sword with two hands and hacked!

Wack! Wack! Wack! He hacked away at his brother’s wound. The cold had made the flesh brittle. Wack! Wack! Wack! The vibration of the sword hitting the root resonated and stung his hands. Wack! Wack! Wack! The lower half of the shin was dangling by just a few nerves and tendons. Joseph leaned to the side and swung at the taut cords. The stick made contact and tensed the remaining thread but to no avail. Again Joseph swung his sword at the tendons, and again the tool bounced back. The third swing he leaned back and transferred his weight into his stroke with all his might. This last stroke felt like the triumphant cutting of a noose-rope of a man dangling in danger of death. The tendons snapped and the leg fell free.

Joseph, with all his might, picked up his one-legged brother and started to trudge through the forest, back to their home. Each step felt like a tearing away of his foot out of mud, only to place it back again in the sunken ground. The weight of his dear brother in his arms made his shoulders and arms tremble from exhaustion, but he did not care. This is what he had to do. As Joseph struggled, Tam’s head bobbed up and down in his arms. Again he tore one foot from behind and put it in front. Questions and thoughts raced across Joseph’s mind, fleeting flashes in his consciousness – “Why did I need to look at that stupid red rock and those stupid bugs? Why did I have to play in this stupid forest? Why do I always push and push and push and push? People don’t deserve what I demand of them. Why can’t I just think about things and make the right choices as Ma tells me?” . . . Up and down bobbed Tam’s frail and unresponsive body with every step, up and down.

Tam came to, lying on his back, on the deck of a giant Pirate ship in the middle of the sea. For some reason, it felt like it was bobbing up and down in a strange pattern quite unlike a sea vessel. Tam’s eyes were singed by the high noon sun. He squinted and shielded himself from the light. He sat up. The deck was warm on his hands and had been heated well by the sun. The wood was soft and worn, it had clearly been worked by the ocean’s wet salt and the sky’s rain. For some reason, the warmth of the deck made a strong impression on him and gave him a sense of relief. He slowly got up onto his feet, of which he had two, this was also for some unfamiliar reason to Tam at that moment, a relief.

“Yar me Tam! How are Ya!?” An old peg-legged pirate approached from the upper deck. He had a peculiar sense of familiarity to Tam, as if they had been longtime friends. The pirate was aged and wrinkled, he had few teeth left and long braided hair lined with silver and gold pieces. His eyes were dark and burnt red from the sun, they pierced into Tam’s heart and made him very hesitant. And yet, there was this familiarity, a sense of love only begotten from mere long-term exposure.

Tam quickly glanced around the ship as the sea-worn pirate approached. The main mast had broken and the sails had crashed against one another. The splinters from the base of the mast jutted out like jagged rocks. The wind would do this ship no good, it was simply doomed to drift. The life of a ship loses all it’s potential when the main mast is snapped. It was more like a giant raft than a pirate ship now, and this made Tam sad. He mourned for the mast, yet he did not know why.

“Yar me Tam! How arr ye this fine aft’rnoon? How goes the sailin in this me bob?” ‘In this me bob’? Tam thought over questioningly. What was going on?

The pirate was only a few feet away now, he loomed over Tam. Tam scurried backward like a crab avoiding waves creeping up the sand. He looked the pirate over. The pirate was just how he imagined himself while playing with Joseph, it was all too similar, although the sight of the wood jammed up into the stub of this old man’s shin made Tam feel disgusted, angry, hopeless, depressed, and regretful all at the same time. The leg was dripping blood, as if the wound hadn’t fully healed. The dripping blood and the emotional distress, this was not part of Tam’s imaginary pirate.

“How did you lose your leg?” Tam almost didn’t want to know the answer, but he felt compelled to inquire.

“Me leg!? You ask about me leg!?. . . The most sorrow me ever felt, and ye asks me. . . the worst loss of me life. . . worse still than the fact that I’m stranded out ‘ere in the middle of me ocean! . . . The fiercest beast known to man. . . ye not know fear Tammy, until you fret this massive beast. Davy Jones’ foul mistress, the Kraken, with er thousand tentacles and massive, slimey, blubbery devouring head. She’ll suck ye down to the depths with er ten t’housand teeth. Not’hin like te beast, she’ll devour a ship’s crew in a single swipe! I seen it with me own eyes. The whole crew, gone! And the mast along with em. . . I made it out but I paid me toll t’hats forsure Tammy. Me leg caught between two teeth of the foul beast’s mouth. I stuck me sword in the side of er giant head and I pried me out of er jaw. I’m still not sure why she left me to rot here on the deck, was almost like she found somethin better to do. . . I jammed this here splinter into me leg to stop the bleedin, and I’ve been livin off rain water and uh. . . left overs . . . since te beast got distracted and left me ‘ere to die.”

“Why did the beast just leave you?”

“Legends tells Tammy, that the Kraken made a deal with te legendary Davy Jones himself, the scallywag… In exchange for all the pirates and sailors the beast could eat, the beast would bow to Davy and concede his every whim. You see Tammy, the beast sacrificed its freedom, it sacrificed its future so that it could enjoy the everlasting feast. It’s a sad and sick trade… although very tempting. I reckon Davy simply had somethin else for the beast to feast on, so she left me to rot…”

The pirate ship gave a sudden jolt and Tam felt himself jerked forward and down towards the deck. He shut his eyes and shielded his face from the impact.

Joseph collapsed in exhaustion and dropped his brother on the grass. Tam came to, feeling the cold and frosty grass on his hands, it made him uneasy. He could feel his heart pounding against his chest, each beat feeling like a desperate last attempt from his heart to keep him alive.

Joseph and Tam had reached their backyard after a long and frightening journey. The light from the back window of their house illuminated Joseph and his brother, lifeless on the grass, dark stains spread about their clothes. The blood still dripped from Tam’s leg. Joseph lifted his head, yearning in desperation, needing to see his mother…

She turned from the kitchen window. Their mother was on the phone, probably trying to figure out where her boys had gone. She looked out her window and squinted as if she couldn’t believe her eyes. In horror and shock, she dropped the phone and ran toward the back door. She flung the door open and stood with her hands covering her mouth, quivering. She rushed to the boys and quickly helped Joseph to his feet, then picked up Tam. Joseph grabbed onto her coat to stay balanced. They made it into the house and she laid Tam down on the couch and immediately picked up the phone to dial 911.

“Help there’s been an emergency!” Her tone was that of a mother fearful of losing her son.

Joseph, sitting in a chair across the living room, cold, frozen in fear for his brother’s life. Tam lied on the couch unconscious. Joseph stared, entranced by his brother’s condition. ‘It’s all my fault’, thought Joseph ‘I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know why it happened, but it’s all my fault.’

The End.

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