The Sign

High on the hill, time creeps by almost unnoticed, but for the cadence of the seasons. For the main part the idyllic isolation is undisturbed if not by the occasional strident call of a lamenting fox or the violent passage of an electric storm.

But last month changed all that.
The tall figure of an elderly man, balding head uncovered, dressed in a long black robe which flapped angrily around his legs, took to stomping back and forth across the hilltop several evenings a week. Cloaked by the mantle of darkness he closely inspected the few trees scattered along his way. Mumbling and grumbling to himself he fiddled restlessly with a rosary chattering in his right hand, stopping every now and again to launch a mild imprecation and gesticulating towards the heavens cry -‘Why don’t You do something? Give me a sign! This Mafia business has gone too far – it’s too much,’ but getting no response, he returned to his mumbling and nervous shuffling. Swish, swish, swish, chatter, swish, chatter.

As the days went by, the man concentrated his attention on one tree in particular – a gnarled and majestic oak with several low hanging branches. He circled it time and time again, kicking up clouds of dust as he went, his mumblings and imprecations alternating with greater frequency until one evening the pattern was interrupted.

He arrived carrying a length of rope and a folding stool tucked under his ample vestment. No longer mumbling, his rosary abandoned, he threw the rope over one of the lower branches of his chosen tree and tying one end securely to another branch nearby he then arranged the stool underneath. With quiet concentration he clambered up onto the stool, taking care to lift his long robe out of the way. His hands tested the strength of the noose at the loose end of the rope before slipping it over his head and tightening it snugly around his neck. Balancing himself, arms stretched out to his sides, he raised his eyes to the sky and shouted to the wind, ‘Per l’amor’ del cielo – give me a sign!’

Behind him, swaggering stealthily towards the lone tree was another figure of a man. A younger looking man wearing a dark flannel cap which almost hid his gleaming eyes and black curly hair. His teeth shone white in the darkness, his mouth set in a wide beam of indecipherable amusement. He rounded the tree and came close to look up directly into the face of the man teetering on top of the stool. Thumbs tucked into the welt pockets of his rough waistcoat he looked up to take in the scene. He began to laugh and with a single, deft movement, kicked the stool from under the robed man’s feet.


From the distance brilliant flashes were rolling in silently, tinting the night sky purple and orange, illuminating the surrounding hills and the silhouettes of the two men,. A single blinding flash followed immediately by a deafening crack, seared the oak and travelled at the speed of light down the gnarled trunk and into its immense underground network of embedded roots. They glowed eerily in the dark as the mighty force exploded into the surrounding earth.

Word count — 537
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