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Behold, The Sin Eater

Author since 2024 1Story 1 Follower
Behold, The Sin Eater

“A single glimpse and heed the sin eater’s curse, travelers. Now tell me. How may you comprehend your mortality after gazing upon this monumental tree? Behold! The living legend. As promised, I present to you, the Sin Eater!” Alan, their tour guide, shouted at the top of his lungs.

Grace cringed as the balding thirty-year-old burst through the bushes and shimmered jazz hands toward the massive tree. But as she gazed up from her footprints, a shiver ran down her spine. She became enamored, losing herself in its ancient, gnarled branches.

The sin eater was comparable to the likes of a ginkgo tree, but with bark of rich ebony. Instead of leaves, long black feathers, like that of a raven hung from its branches. It emitted a strong, unpleasant odor, like rancid butter or vomit, and beared strange fruits like crimson nutmegs.

“You may touch it,” Alan said, brushing his fingers against his mustache. “Be wary; however, before you lies your sudden and fleeting mortality. Without respect for the sin eater, it may see you cursed,”

“And there’s our hook,” Grace said.

She adjusted her baseball cap and turned back to her boyfriend, Demetrius, who fixed his glasses and lifted his video camera. Grace brushed her hand on the bark of the magnificent tree and turned around to smile at him. It was as if the tree were covered in small hairs, immediately itchy and uncomfortable. She recoiled from it and brushed her hand against her shirt.

“You never said anything about a curse,” Demetrius said, wincing.

“A warning that’s usually saved for whispers of curiosity and an eerie atmosphere. Besides, how do you two close out your webshow again? Embrace the Wild, Dance with Destiny? Don’t panic, friend.”

Grace gave Alan a jerky shrug, her fingers fidgeting into a fist.

“He is right though, that’s what started this webshow. All of nature will one day disappear.” She lifted her own camera and took a picture of the tree. “Is it true that its sap is red and thick like blood?”

Alan grinned, and his pocket knife gave a small metallic click as he opened it.

“Every legend you’ve heard of this monstrosity must be true, Miss Grace.”

Alan approached the sin eater, but before he put the knife to the bark, he glanced up at a susurrus of a nearby bush. Their party fell silent, listening and hearing the roar of a motorized vehicle.

“Oh shit,” Alan said and replaced his knife. “You need to hide, now. Locals are coming. They don’t like their sacred tree being encroached upon.”

“Wait, they don’t?” Grace said, raising her eyebrows.

“I thought you said you’ve done a bunch of these tours.”

“A guide I am and tours I do, but I never said we weren’t intruders,” Alan said matter-of-factly. “But who is to say all life isn’t intruding, juxtaposed against the enduring symbol of the sin eater’s timeless existence?”

“Come on,” Grace said and grabbed Demetrius by the arm. She dragged him to a nearby bush and punched his muscular arm.

“Keep the camera on this loser.”

“There’s totally a path of our footsteps leading back here. If they come over, should we say he tricked us?”

“That depends, ahem,” she changed her voice for deeper narration. “Realizing that our supposed guide withheld secrets of the cursed tree itself, planting the seed of doubt in our minds of the forest’s safety.”

“Eh,” Demetrius said, raising his camera. “Needs some work.”

The rumble of their approaching ATVs filled the air. As they drew nearer, the stench of motor oil and sweat wafted from them, mingling with the earthy aroma of freshly disturbed dirt from their tracks.

One was a towering, corn-fed man with a thick beard while the other was a younger version, clean-shaven but wearing a beat-down trucker hat.

“Can you hear what they are saying?” Demetrius asked at her side.

Grace pressed a shaky finger to her lips, then pointed to the camera. Demetrius straightened it out and aimed it towards the group. Grace’s shoulders grew tight and inward as she squinted her eyes in time to see the bearded man reach into his pocket. Alan raised his hands and was saying something as if to plead his case. The older man glanced at his companion and rolled his eyes. He lifted his hand from his pocket and Alan suddenly collapsed to the ground.

“Oh shit, what the fuck?” Demetrius said.

“Keep the camera on them,” Grace argued, lifting her own and snapping a set of pictures.

“Are you crazy? This might be dangerous. What if they killed him and I filmed it. That tree? What did he say? Life is a fleeting mortality? Is this the curse?”

“Shut up and film.”

Alan began seizuring wildly in the pile of fallen sin eater feathers, snapping twigs and breaking leaves as he loudly bounced up and down. The hillbillies grunted to each other and the younger one threw his hands up in the air before they got on either side of Alan and lifted him.

Grace started to chew her nails, but immediately recoiled. They’d been dyed red by the sin eater, and tasted like sharp pain, like she’d licked a needle. Demetrius glanced at Grace with bulging eyes.

“You might be right,” she said, gazing at the sin eater. The longer she stared, the worse her paranoia became. “We need to run.”

Demetrius took point and Grace followed behind, keeping her eyes on his pack until they were far enough away to break into a run.

“Grace, this is real. We’re dealing with some fucking murder rednecks.”

“Shut up and keep running. You got it on film right?”

They kept sprinting until Grace stopped them. She closed her eyes and breathed, focusing only on the brushing wind.

“Fuck, we gotta keep that film,” she said. “This is huge.”

“Let’s just get away, okay? We’ll talk after we’re safe,” Demetrius said and continued on their path.

After an hour of wandering, she glanced at her fingers. The redness they’d developed had become deeper from where she touched the sin eater and still stank pungently. She took a swig from her water bottle and it only made her throat burn.

“So, what are we doing, Grace?”

“Oh uh, Embracing the Wild and Dancing with Destiny? What do you mean? I’m following you. You found the guide and you’re leading us to the middle of nowhere. We shoulda went back to the truck.”

“I was trying to get us back, okay? But that’s not what I meant, I meant,” Demetrius let out a sigh and dropped his pack to the ground. Grace stopped and met his eyes directly.

“Us, like I get it, you’re using me. I really haven’t had a problem with it. You know, but like, you’ve already gone through a couple of guys just like me. But I love you and-”

“No,” she said, waggling her finger at him. “Not that, not here. Not now.”

“What do you mean, not now? We can die out here.”

“So what?” she asked and kicked into the dirt. “You want to fear-fuck in the middle of the woods? We are going to die out here. You’re thinking too much about your fleeting mortality, nerd. We have to keep moving.”

“Yeah, whatever, you’re right. Maybe we shouldn’t be together.” He reached down for his pack, but they both looked up as the roar of an ATV closed in on their location.

“Hide,” they said together and darted to the nearest bush.

As they hid, Grace whiffed a familiar stench. In the bush beside her was a sin eater feather. A drip of thick red sap leaked from its tip. They had to have been closer than she thought.

The skinnier redneck appeared on his quad. He stopped on the trail for just a moment and a tremor crossed Grace’s body. The man glanced down at their footsteps in the soil.

“Hey!” he shouted, somehow not seeing them. “Come out! Woods’s dangerous at night. You can die out here.”

He waited for a moment before turning around and heading back the way he came.

“Okay,” Grace said, and stood from the bush. “I’m really trying to keep my cool, but you and your stupid tree might be right. Is that good enough, Mr. Mortality?”

“Shut up,” he said, shaking his head. “We’re getting out of here. That’s why I brought it up.”

“Well, then lead the way, Rambo,” she said and flicked the feather out of the bush.

The moldy stink of damp soil and decaying leaves grew more intense by the fading light of the day. They were entirely lost despite heading west all afternoon. Finally, they dropped their packs.

“The sin eater’s right over there,” Demetrius said. “Those are our footsteps from earlier, and those are Alan’s. We’re close, but…” he reached into his pack and pulled out a bundle of sin eater feathers. “I really do think the curse is real.”

“You’re serious?” Grace said, throwing her hands in the air.

“I collected them before he said anything about a curse.”

“Of course you did.”

“Well, shouldn’t I bring them back? That’s like the whole thing right, symbolically, that mortality shit. I made the choice, but it isn’t permanent. Not if I bring them back.”

“We have to,” she slapped her palm against her forehead. “At this point, even if we leave we’re going to think we’re cursed forever. I already feel like this stupid tree is stuck on my fingers forever.”

Demetrius nodded his head, and they hugged each other tightly. “I was serious about what I said before. I love you. No matter what happens, I’m not letting anything happen to you.”

Grace’s heart dropped into her stomach as she glimpsed movement in the bushes behind him. A small mountain lion emerged, its eyes glinting hungrily as it stalked towards them.

“There’s a fucking big cat, Demetrius, right there, r-right behind you.”

Grace watched Demetrius slowly back away. Her chest tightening as if under a tremendous weight.

“These woods,” he said. “I promise we’re getting out. We’re not staying here forever. We’re breaking this damn curse. Embrace the Wild.”

A will possessed Grace to lift her camera.

Demetrius raised his arms high above his head—turned around and sprinted full boar at the cat.

“Dance with Destiny!” His scream echoed through the woods and Grace captured Demetrius chasing the cat out of sight.

“FUCK YOUR CURSE SIN EATER!” he roared, and she snapped one more picture of his triumphant scream.

“Dude, that was awesome,” Grace said, lowering her shaking hands.

“C’mon,” Demetrius said and picked up his pack. “Let’s break this curse.”

By the time they made it back to the sin eater, the sun had completely set. If it wasn’t for the full moon, they’d be entirely lost. Still, as Grace gazed back at her footsteps and back to where the truck would be, she couldn’t help but feel like the shadows were following her.

A smoke signal led Grace and Demetrius right to the sin eater. The locals had set up a camp with their families; crowded with men, women and children.

“They’re everywhere,” Grace whispered. “There’s no chance in hell we’re getting near that stupid tree. ”

“This isn’t it. This isn’t the end, not here. I got the leaves out from right over there. I just drop them off and we turn that way,” Demetrius nodded to the west. “We’re parked over there, I remember.”

Grace turned in that direction and her empty stomach knotted up as she saw nothing but woods and darkness.

“Here’s the plan,” Demetrius said, and glanced to where the quads were parked. “I’m gonna drop the feathers off. Then I’m gonna make a be-line for that big quad there. Then we shoot straight for the truck.”

“We can just go. If we get out of here alive, it’s better than dying. Mortality isn’t a curse, Demetrius. Let’s just go.”

“If I came this far and gave up, I’d never forgive myself.”

He dropped his pack, and their equipment cluttered against the ground. She snapped a quick picture of him giving her a thumbs up, then he handed her the video camera and nodded.

She clicked it on and nodded back.

“Embrace the wild,” she said.

“Dance with destiny,” he replied.

Demetrius hurriedly made it to the bushes and dropped the feathers off. Grace watched him wrap around the far side of the sin eater. She went to chew her fingernails and regretted it when she discerned the sharp rot of the sin eater still on her skin.

“Hey!” one local shouted and Demetrius broke into a sprint towards the quad.

The big man stopped him halfway. He struggled with Demetrius, but then backed away.

A cold sweat broke on Grace’s brow.

“Fucker stabbed me,” the redneck grunted.

“Aye,” the skinny redneck said and raised a rifle. “Back up. You make any more moves, you damn nutcase, and I’m blowing your foot off.”

“Damn, and in front of the kids, too. Beth, take Lily,” the older one said to a woman by the fire. “She doesn’t need to see this.”

Grace’s eyes felt like they’d burst from her sockets. She unleashed the breath she’d been holding in.

“No, this is it,” she said, her heart slamming in her chest. “This has been it the entire time. The mortality curse. They’re going to kill him.”

Her feet moved of their own accord. She threw her equipment down and kept her gaze low, watching her boots dig into the soil as she made her way to the quad. She didn’t look up until checking if the key was in the ignition. While the others were distracted, she hopped on the quad.

She gazed up at the sin eater and the tree seemed to rustle as if taunting her, saying their mortality was indeed ending.

“I won’t let you kill him,” Grace said, and the motor rumbled to life. She pulled on the throttle and drove straight at the man with the gun. A disturbingly loud crunch resounded, and then the wheels spun in place for a moment before the quad regained traction.

“Hop on,” she yelled to Demetrius.

The old man stared at her in horror, his head shaking. “No,” he mouthed.

A little girl screamed, and Grace flipped them all off. “Fuck you, you murderous rednecks.”

Demetrius ran at her as the rest of the camp flocked them.

“Yo,” a familiar voice called before Demetrius could hope on.

Grace turned and saw Alan approaching. He had a cup of steaming coffee and his naked feet dug into the dark soil.

“Oh shit,” he said, and they all looked down at the man Grace had murdered. His face was entirely unrecognizable. His skull and brains were splattered at his sides and a trail of blood led up to her quads wheel. There was a burnt copper stink, mixing with the earth from where the tire had spun-out on the man’s chest.

“What did you do?”

“What do you mean, what did I do? You said there was a curse. You died Alan.”

“There ain’t no curse. I was selling you this shit,” he said. “God damn, you were supposed to come out when they were looking for you. You-”

Alan leaned over and let loose a stream of vomit.

Grace’s perceptions were shattered in an instant, her entire mind shut down. It all seemed so immediately ridiculous now. The consequences of her actions culminated in a single morose laugh that escaped her lips.

Bang!

A gunshot exploded behind them. A wild looking blonde woman had pulled the trigger, and the report was deafening. Time slowed as Demetrius dropped dead. His blood splashed the bark of the sin eater, precisely where Grace had placed her hand hours ago.

4.8 out of 5 with 4 ratings

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BlackBEAST
7 days ago

I loved it. TBH I’m a bit addicted to these stories, and this one hit the spot. 10/10

B
BlackBEAST
7 days ago
Reply to  ProjectAHorror

u workin on more stories? 😛

B
BlackBEAST
7 days ago
Reply to  BlackBEAST

*realises that he himself writes the most comments in this website*

B
BlackBEAST
6 days ago
Reply to  ProjectAHorror

Awesome ill check it out ^_^