Chapter XIII: Veins of Death

Tree of Good and Evil
by Phatpuppy

“Tell me about the Red,” My brother insists.

We’re sitting now, on a knoll of untamed grass laced through with wild flowers.  In the distance, a sparsely spotted village, where peasants toil the land and till the seeds that will grow their crops come autumn.  It’s a shared past life.  One that I hadn’t realized I remembered, until my brother began talking about it.

Farmers swing their sickles, reaping hay and alfalfa for their livestock, while others bind it to be tossed into the back of waiting wagons.  They’re oblivious to our presence, to their hard labor being witnessed by ghostly spectators.  I look over at my brother and rejoice in his full profile.  In the fact that the sorrow is no longer within me.

“Why are you so curious about such dark things?” I ask him, a bit unsettled discussing something still connected to me.  Afraid that doing so will bring it forth, the gluttonous darkness ready to devour the warm spring sky overhead.

“There’s a sentiment to it that resonates here,” He answers.  “It’s a matter underlining and interwoven, linked to the eternal and to us.  You knew that, somehow, when you created it.”

“It was blood magic, nothing more,” I hear my words, but they’re hollow reflexes, causing me to shake my head.  Exhaling audibly, I pick at the sticky grass clinging to the leg of my jeans.  “It started as a simple swatch of wool.  Then, something truly sadistic happened.  A violent rape by someone purely evil that ended in murder.  Both the victim and the villain’s blood spilled on the wool, saturating it, forever staining it.  It became the Red, then, growing with a life and purpose all its own.”

My brother was quiet for hours, or minutes.  It was too difficult to tell.

“Despite what you claim, dear sister, you’ve always contemplated the unexplainable occurrences attached to the afterlife, to the human condition in particular, how it’s all related,” He says at last.  “You’ve always sought those answers, devising your best educated guess from observations, reading history and knowing what made the most sense to you at the time.  The thing is how close to the truth you’ve always managed to get.”

“Please, don’t say that,” I protest in a whisper.

“What is the Red, if not the beginning of a new life?  Are we not both good and bad?  The balance of both light and dark?  We all have the ability to be saints and devils.  The majority of us strive to remain on that line right down the middle, occasionally stumbling one way or the other along the way, righting ourselves, moving on,” He explains, at once putting it into a perspective I’d always been too close to the story to see.

I saw it now.  The Red, this supernatural material that could grow on it’s own, that was both a shield and a weapon, a villain and a hero.  It desired vengeance, to protect those who belonged to it, while actively seeking to corrupt others.  To taint their existence and change their lives forever, keeping them connected to it, increasing it’s power.  Yes, it very well could be a representation of the human condition, couldn’t it?  Was it not human nature to be all of these things and then some under the right conditions?  How we justify it is up to the individual, but the Red is conveniently supernatural, having to answer to no one.  What kind of choices would we make, if there were no immediate consequences?

“Even your initial belief for the Red’s purpose is connected to your desire for understanding.  The reason why blood magic has always been seen as such a dark, frightening subject – or adversely, as such a powerful temptation –  is not because of the ritual surrounding it,” He continues.  “It’s because the act of the sacrifice, of murder, snuffing out a life so abruptly, leaves a hyper-concentrated energy trace.  Just as any sudden tragedy does.  How or even why, I’m not entirely sure.  Even I don’t have all of the answers yet.  But, we are energy and energy never ceases to exist.  It doesn’t need a body.”

His smile is meant to lighten the mood, make me feel better, but it doesn’t work completely.  My mind races through all of the things I’d ever written, through all of the art I’d ever drawn or painted, sculpted or sketched.  So many obsessive questions about life.  So many veins of death.  Where was the heart?  Where did all of the blood carried through these arteries end up?

“In the answers,” My brother states, easily reading my mind as he had all along.  “The blood of your questions, is the very life of the answers, don’t you see?”

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