The sap runs slick and red; it wets their axeheads, cutting the air with notes of salted copper. The lumberjacks are brothers, as is required. One is named Jack, as is coincidence.
Scab-crack petals open to the night—full moon lights a full bloom. Clouds of black-chalk pollen make Jack sneeze, and whisper to his brother the story of the seed.
Sinking deeper, their axes meet a new wood: hard and pale, it cracks and chips but will not cut. The brothers deploy their shared inheritance, and tear the trunk with a twin-handled bone saw.
Serrated teeth chew the spinal center, so soft and loamy the brothers suspect a deep rot, forgetting marrow’s close-kept secret, that blood and bone are one and the same.
Soon the tree’s bulk betrays it— something compounds, something fractures. Symmetry splinters as a hundred limbs that only know breath separate from a hundred roots that only know earth.
The stump is an open diary, dearth and plenty inked in bone resin ripples. Where Jack sees history, his brother reads prophecy. Either way, the work remains; the two loose their axes upon the copse’s corpse.
Some seeds wake at the pain of a forest flame. Others wait longer, keeping time with a two-beat tempo. As night sweat mingles with sap that’s yet to clot, the seed Jack carries prepares to be planted.
Locked inside his sternum, something murmurs “sit.” His heartbeat hums the harvest rites, ritual instructions that one brother feels and the other understands— the seedling and the surgeon.
Memory, like wood, can warp, splinter, rot. But Jack rubs his palm on the sap-stained altar, and he feels the grain. He feels the grain, and remembers.
A pair of cradles, rocking side-by-side in a bonfire glow. A pair of beds, pushed close enough to trade midnight secrets. A pair of desks, chests, walking sticks, brothers.
Staring at the moon, Jack asks his brother if he remembers why they’ve come here. The answer he receives is an axe, buried in his back.
The seed pumps for as long as it can; slick red soaks the soil, cutting the air with notes of salted copper. The roots drink every drop—while blood and bone are one and the same, wood is what remembers.
An only child loads his lumber cart. Somewhere in the village below, his wife has given birth. Twin boys wail against the cold and dark— they will need wood. Wood for warmth and light, wood for cradles and for comfort and for axes.