Here's a 'Free Gift' short story

Here’s a free gift for you to read, with my compliments.  -  Bob Hambleton

I wrote this story over twenty years ago and it has lain in a folder all that time.  I have rescued it from its obscurity, dusted it off, changed the title and offer it here.  Your comments and feedback would be very welcome, please e-mail me on:-


They called him “He    by  Bob Hambleton


If they thought of him at all, they thought that he slept.  But they would have been wrong, he did not sleep and he was not a 'he'.  The concept of sleep had no meaning for him, he was always aware .but his perception of time was slower than theirs.  They thought of him as 'he' for their benefit, to slot him into a category that they could comprehend.

He was complete in himself, a combination of myriad facets perhaps, but he knew himself to be whole.  There were others, different ones, of which he was aware: those he could only think of as 'The Fast Ones', and he knew there were some whose cycle was even faster.  They shared his space and he, and they, gave and took in equal measure.  He happily let them draw from him some of the traces that they needed and they in return gripped and held his soft outer layer, protecting it.  He knew about rain for it and became, was part of him; it moved through his upper portions and seeped through to his innermost heart.

The Fast Ones told him of the wind that could even destroy them.  His awareness of death was only as an observer, it was a phenomenon that would not affect him, as far as he knew.  The Fast Ones died after a while.  He would hold them where they had grown and stayed for as long as he could but all too soon their bodies would fall, presumably blown down by the wind of which they had told him.

Then he would reabsorb the traces that he had so willingly given them, a final act of respect for those he would have called friends, had he had that concept.  By the same token he would have felt sadness at their passing; perhaps he did.  But then there were other 'Fast Ones' to take their place and he instinctively knew that they were the same as those that had gone. 

There were smaller ones that shared his world but it was difficult for him to relate to them; they existed for such a short time.  Just a few of the cycles of which the Fast Ones spoke.  But like the

Fast Ones, they drew strength from him and in return covered his soft surface and held it.

Then the Fast Ones told him of yet 'Others'.  Others that he had difficulty in even comprehending let alone sensing.  Ones that moved.  Ones that did not need to stand and draw strength from him directly.

They would take their needs from the small Fast Ones.  Much of what they took would be recycled back into his top surface to be reused.  The Fast Ones tried to explain the concept to him but it was difficult, especially as the small ones did not mind that in taking what they needed these Others took so much.

To lose such a large part of one self seemed wrong to him but the Fast Ones explained that it cleaned them, it 'thinned out' old and dying sections and gave them room to regenerate fresh growth.

When death came to them he did get 'to see' these ‘Others.’  He would absorb the essence of what they had been and perhaps the harder parts would sink into his softer top layers and he would examine these strange, different, life forms. 

He felt a little uncomfortable with what he found but the Fast Ones said that 'The Others' were fine.  They were just that much 'faster' than them in the same way that they, the Fast Ones, were faster than him.  In time he came to feel at ease with the concept of these Others that moved on four 'roots'.

But then came different 'Others'.  He sensed a growing unease among the Fast Ones, a concern that the balance of their world was changing and that they could have very little influence upon it.

These new Others moved on just two 'roots'.  They moved much more than the Four Roots, faster and further. 

He too became aware of changes.  Changes to his top layers.  Disturbance and rearrangements, a sort of 'regulation' that was unnatural.  Water flowed where it previously had not.  Hard structures were created and bedded into his top layers; some so deep that they actually touched 'him'. Then the Fast Ones seemed to become slightly less worried.  These were different, they said but they seemed to have brought some changes that were good.  They had brought new small Fast Ones.  These grew in areas all together and they seemed happy in that convivial arrangement.

Where they, the original small Fast Ones, would spread out to be sure that there was enough of what they needed to go round, these new small Fast Ones seemed to be assured of all they needed.  Provided, presumably, by these two rooted Others.

He became aware of some of this process himself as the rain that washed down through these new growing areas 'tasted' different.  There were the traces of what he himself contained but these were much stronger and somehow, sort of, false. 

There was a wrongness about it.

As this 'wrongness' became more of a certainty than just a flavour, he realised that the Fast Ones were suffering some severe shocks.   With a speed that he could not possibly comprehend, their numbers had been decimated.  He became aware that the roots that he held to give strength and support now held and supported nothing.  In wide areas the Fast Ones were gone; cut off just above his own top surface covering.

He did not understand why so many had to go all at once and he grieved, mourning over the stumps that remained and that quickly rotted into oblivion.  He paid his respects, absorbing the traces that he had so freely given, only too aware that what he had received back was only a small proportion of what he had given.  How could he provide for the new ones to come if he did not receive back all that he needed to give? For the first time he felt anger. 

And then he felt pain.

Deep inside him, he felt pain.  A deep burning, gnawing pain that became an emptiness.  And it hurt.  He was used to being whole, complete, in balance and without stresses and unnecessary pressures.  Now there were great shafts of emptiness within him.  Parts of him were missing.  The shafts followed the lines of some of the traces within him; those were thin traces that veined his innermost cores.

Something was extracting the very essence of him.  He had little proof but he felt that it must be these new two rooted Others.

He focussed all his attention on what was happening.  It was happening so fast by his way or measuring that he could not hope to witness the actual events, just observe and study the effects afterwards. 

And suffer.

The shafts and holes were definitely following his inner veins.  He concentrated and put pressure on those at yet untouched and it did seem to slow the rate of extraction.  But it did not stop and the pains grew worse.  He pressed and the shafts and holes would close up but the damage was still there even if the gaps were not.

The pain kept growing and he could not allow it to continue.  To squeeze so hard that nothing could penetrate to his core would change his whole being but his being was changing any way.

And so he squeezed.  He pressed and exerted and felt the potential change coming upon him.  It was going to change him but he did not let up, he squeezed all the harder and suddenly it was over.

The results of his efforts came so fast that he could not possibly have been aware of what happened as it occurred.  All he knew was that the pain had gone.  He had changed and there were differences now.

And in his innermost core there were new things for him to absorb and take into himself: concentrated traces, remnants of some of the Fast Ones, (mutilated and formed into unnatural straight lines) and some of the strange Other Ones, the two rooted Others.  Now they did not move and he pressed them and absorbed them until they became part of himself. If revenge were a concept that had any relevance to him he would have recognised that he felt satisfaction.



It has been announced that the mine at Straightly Hill will not be reopened following the mining disaster there last year.

A spokesman for the company said that while deposits of ore remain underground, the increasing difficulty in extraction in the past few years made the reopening uneconomic.

The site will be returned to agriculture and woodland.


Bob Hambleton      -  1992



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Jen Best 04.06.2015 19:23

Love this story. X

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Latest comments

07.10 | 16:19

Sorry, I stopped publishing my "Friday Offerings" in 2019 do to ill health at the time, I may resurrect them at some point in the future but no plans yet. Bob

04.11 | 15:54

Hi Maureen, thanks for the message, nice to hear from you.

04.11 | 11:20

Sorry no message lately. I seemed to have lost items on my laptop. Aileen keept me posted on your activities and have now picked up your Friday offering

16.02 | 19:30

Thanks for that, wecerytainly hope to be ther. Bob x