Unholy Trinity: Firs by Emma K. Leadley
I love playing with words, and homonyms—words that sounds the same but have different meanings —seemed ideal for a linked trio of stories. The first challenge was to find a set of three that fired my imagination but when I came across firs/furs/furze (another word for gorse), three ideas immediately sprung to mind.
The tall trees, forbidding in their dense, dark foliage, form a close-knit forest. It’s the perfect place for small animals to nest, breed and burrow, safe from larger predators. But there are no living creatures here. Instead, death stalks by way of noiseless shadow, a dank presence drifting and creeping between the trunks, extinguishing the life of everything it touches. Everything except the firs; they protect each other. A graveyard of axes lines the forest perimeter, a warning to those who dare venture. They don’t last long and peace is restored whilst death creeps, the forest swaying in the breeze.
The forest guardian had lived in the woods for many years and knew and respected the land. And the land loved him back. He understood tree growth, rainfall, when the berries ripen and mushrooms sprout. He wore a coat of wolf-fur, skinned from an animal that died a natural death, while the pack watched. But, other humans weren’t as forgiving and kind as the guardian. They wanted to cut down the trees, build, ravage the land. When the wolves found the guardian, axe sticking out the fur on his back, neck severed, they sought revenge. It was bloody and merciless.
“Beware of the furze,” people said. Or, “watch out for the gorse. It’ll prick you.” But no-one talked of the missing and the lost. Those who the furze stripped of muscle and sinew, eyeballs and skin. Teeth and bones broken down to provide every last morsel of nourishment. Human or animal, it mattered not. The homeless woman who crawled into a safe space in the bushes. No-one missed her. The sheep who wandered too far in the moors and the nearby hiker who misread the map. The holiday-making child presumed swept out to sea. Oh yes, beware the furze alright.
Emma K. Leadley
Emma K. Leadley is a UK-based writer, creative geek, and devourer of words, images and ideas. She began writing both fiction and creative non-fiction as an outlet for her busy brain, and quickly realised scrawling words on a page is wired into her DNA. Visit her online at autoerraticism.com / emmaleadley.co.uk or twitter @autoerraticism.
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She is an active member of the HWA and can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.