Marlbury Mysteries Winter Unveils: Part ThreeLiz Nelms / Fantasy
By Liz Nelms
Copyright 2017 Liz Nelms
This novel is entirely a work of fiction.
The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
Holly could feel the warmth of the tree-man’s body through her soaked t-shirt, a reminder that the graceful Cedar tree of yesterday had done the unthinkable, become a human. And, despite his initial inertia, he was on his feet, walking, and without doubt, very much alive. Overhead, the storm shrieked through the trees as they crossed the bridge over the brook.
Holly pushed the wider implications of what had occurred that morning out of her head, they were simply too much to deal with. Instead, she concentrated on the pragmatics. Firstly, he needed some clothes.
Once inside, with the front door firmly closed on the storm, Holly guided him into the lounge.
She heard him gasp – he had seen himself in the mirror above the fire, he glanced from the mirror to Holly and back again.
‘Is that me?’
‘Yes. That’s a mirror, it shows us what we look like.’
He reached a hand out towards the glass and then withdrew it. He held his hand up to his face, ‘what is this?’
‘It’s your hand, you have two.’ She nodded towards his other hand. Holly pulled a blanket off the back of one of the sofas and draped it around him, and then helped him to sit on the sofa nearest the fire.
The tree-man looked around him. The lounge was decorated for Christmas, with red and gold candles on every available surface. A Christmas tree twinkled in the corner.
He had one hand placed on his abdomen with a puzzled look on his face.
‘What is it?’
‘It feels strange. Here.’
She thought for a few seconds, and then asked, ‘are you hungry? Do you need food?’
‘I feel weak.’ He answered simply.
‘You need to eat food.’ Clothes would have to wait; she didn’t want him collapsing on her again.
Assuming the tree-man had never eaten before she wondered what to give him as she began to rifle through cupboards in the kitchen. What did trees eat? He’d only been human for an hour, so did that mean he was like a baby on the inside? Should she give him milk? Even with Holly’s limited scope of meal preparation, she knew he wasn’t going to get enough energy from a pint of semi-skimmed. Then she saw Carole’s Christmas Cake under a large glass dome, waiting patiently for Boxing Day; the family rule was that it was not to be cut until Boxing Day tea. However, this was an emergency and cooking would take time, not to mention she couldn’t actually cook. Messily hacking a large chunk out of the pristine white cake, she prayed that Carole would understand once she explained everything, she tipped the slab on a plate and put it on a tray along with a bottle of mineral water.
She made it back into the lounge just in time to see him pick up a banana from the fruit bowl on the low coffee table.
She placed the tray down and sat next to him. He was turning the fruit over in his hands, he sniffed at it, and then looked at Holly in confusion.
‘You have to peel it before you can eat,’ she explained.
Ah. He didn’t know how to peel it.
She took the banana from his hand and removed all the skin before passing him the pale fruit.
He held the unsheathed banana by his fingertips and frowned.
OK. He didn’t know how to eat either.
She peeled another banana and looking at him said, ‘this is how we eat,’ she took a bite and chewed slowly.
‘Then it goes to the back of your mouth, and you swallow.’ She pointed at her throat. He copied, at first he chewed carefully and watching Holly’s throat, he too swallowed. Then his eyes brightened, and he bit off a larger chunk, chewing more quickly. In no time the banana had gone.
‘This tastes… wonderful.’ He grinned.
‘It’s just a banana, but then… I guess you’ve never tasted food before.’
‘Never.’ He agreed, reaching for another.
Next she passed him the water, he looked at her uncertainly, so she held the glass, tipped, to his mouth. After the first taste, he grabbed the glass from her hands and drank deeply.
His eyes fell on the cake, which she passed to him and he demolished the substantial chunk with several bites. Holly went through to the kitchen to see what else she could offer her unexpected guest, she dug out some huge baking potatoes, leaving them on the kitchen island whilst she figured out how to turn the oven on. From behind her she heard a loud crunch. He had followed her into the kitchen and had taken a bite out of a raw potato.
‘I like this best,’ he managed between mouthfuls.
She stared at him for a few seconds. Jeez, he really was enjoying the raw potato, skin and all.
‘I’m sure the rest will taste better cooked,’ Holly assured him, opening the microwave door after giving up on the complexities of the oven.
For the next hour, there was zero opportunity to ask questions, as she watched in fascination as his tremendous appetite took him through several baked potatoes, endless rounds of toast and two enormous bowls of porridge, where he mastered the use of a spoon amazingly fast. However, when she opened a pack of bacon his expression suddenly clouded.
‘Not that,’ he pointed at the pink, glistening strips. ‘It smells wrong.’
‘OK,’ she pushed the bacon back into the fridge, ‘looks like you’re a vegetarian then.’
‘Something feels odd.’ His eyes, panicked, found hers. He was holding his lower abdomen this time. Surely he wasn’t going to chuck all of it back up? If there was one thing she didn’t do, it was vomit.
A favourite phrase of Jack’s popped unwelcomingly into her head, what goes in must come out.
If she’d had to teach him the basics of being human, like eating, then of course if followed that she needed to go over everything else. She was so glad none of her friends were around right now. She would never, ever, live it down.
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