Word of the Day: Totem

Word of the Day: Totem

In this series, I will take the Word of the Day from Dictionary.com and craft a short piece of creative writing around it.  My goal is to embrace the meaning of the word in some unique way, all the while trying out different styles, rhythms and characterizations.  It is as much an exercise in creativity as it is an exploration of grammar. Enjoy!

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By Alex Seise

He swallowed, “Knowing where to look, aw, that’s the easy part. The globe’s only so big,” waving his palms so they were just slightly further apart than his torso.

Nightfall shielded their quiet march into the tamaracks. There wasn’t anything the motley party could do about fallen leaves crunching underfoot, so they ignored the sound and hoped the targets would, too.

Minutes and hours and millennia ticked by. The deeper they marched, the darker the night blushed. The canopy overhead wringed out every last drop of moonlight before it could caress the forest floor. The only shred of light was the dying torch at the front of the group; even that would be enveloped by darkness soon.

And then, as an owl hollered overhead and a deer fluttered past, they stopped. A large totem blocked the path, carved intricately with the faces of men, women, wolves, bears and stags. The faces were irrelevant, all except one at the very top.

“Hoist me up for a better look,” the guide hissed. “We gotta know this is the prize we’re looking for.”

It took a few grunts and groans, but soon, he was face to face with the carving at the very top. It was gruesome; a woman with jagged teeth, slitted eyes and angular bat wings where her ears should have been. Her upper lip was cleft all the way to her nose. And organic pipe-like organ sprouted from each cheek, thick veins encircling each. As he waved the expiring torch, slivers of silver embedded in her carved wooden irises glimmered.

“This is it, boys.” The man climbed down, landing with a thud on the soft earth. “We’ve found her. Now let’s go bring her back where she belongs.”

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