Written by Brian Williams, former English teacher and University of Washington graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. Brian is a content writer, creative writer, and aspiring game writer and editor.
In my house, there’s one rule: don’t go into the forest by yourself. We live on the edge of a forest with a ravine, nothing too deep or steep, just dangerous if you fell into it alone. My husband Alex tried fencing it off when we first moved, before we had our second child. However, he was from the city and didn’t understand the need to have concrete bases for the beams. He thought that pounding it in deep would hold it steady. Though it stood proud and tall with whitewashed planks holding back the wilderness, the first rains came and it failed miserably. If you’ve ever seen the slo-mo collapse of a bridge, you’ll understand what it looked like. Planks flailing every which way as the soggy ground no longer supported it. I suppose he could have rebuilt it, putting in concrete posts, but, honestly, I liked seeing the trees and the way our lawn gave way to wilderness.
So it went that we made one rule about the forest, never go in alone. Our first child, Luke, didn’t mind. He wasn’t really the adventurous type, preferring to stay indoors to watch Barney or play with his legos. We usually had to coax him to go outside, and when he did he always stayed well away from the edge of the forest. Even if he lost a ball or a Frisbee through the trees and down the ravine, he would come and find us and have us go down and get it.
Our second child, Alana, was different. She hated being inside, often screaming when we tried to force her in. Even at the age of four, she was a handful, spirited, always wearing me out, making me feel as if I was chasing down a rabbit on foot, always bumbling behind her. Full of mischief and quick to anger, her eyes darted around the room like they were following hyperactive molecules bouncing off the walls. She was often clothed in brown, regardless of whatever I had set out for her in the morning, covered in enough mud or dust to make it seem like she was trying to bring the earth with her. However, to see her at the best was when she was in the forest, playing among the trees. She danced among the flowers, gathering energy from their swaying motion in the wind. I loved watching her play in the thin strip of land before the ravine, jumping through imaginary hoops and landing with a whumph before doing it again. When it was sunny she seemed to gain another energy source, playing almost nonstop in that stretch of forest. Her hands scrabbled in the dirt, feeling and absorbing the mess as if it gave her life. Despite all her chirps and squeals, the forest is what gave her spirit. Lanky trees with splayed limbs seem to reach out to her to dance, Alana pulling on their arms briefly before spinning away to another partner. The few great pines between our lawn and the ravine served as soldiers in her imaginary world, standing tall and proud as she addressed them with orders. Whenever she played, even on the drabbest of days, the trees seem to spread their branches to let more light in, illuminating her in her world.
Some days, when it was raining, she would spend the afternoon staring out back into the trees. The rain pounding on the leaves seems to reflect her frustration at not being able to play, each drop representing a personal affront to her. The darkened clouds were some sort of personal enemy to her, I think. Thunder was the worst, making her scream whenever a crash pealed down from the clouds, as if a giant beast was roaring and flashing teeth of lightning.
One night, after a particularly bad storm, a tree blew over into the ravine, crashing and tumbling the fifty feet to the bottom, waking everyone in the house. Luke went right back to bed and apparently didn’t think much of it. Alana, however, ran into our bedroom, crying.
“Mama, Euraka died! He fell over!” She was hugging me and crying. I assumed that she had a bad dream about some animal and the noise had woken her. I hugged her, telling her it was going to be alright.
“No, mama! He fell over! He’s fell over!” I managed to comfort her and she eventually fell asleep in our bed, whispering about how he fell. In the morning my husband went out to observe the damage.
(Story continues after the break...)
Click here to read the full story: http://theanimationempire.blogspot.com/2010/03/creative-writing-playmates-by-brian.html
“The tree managed to fall without hitting any of the others,” He said when he got back to the house. “Somehow. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded last night. Everything else looks fine. Even the trail down to the bottom isn’t washed out.” Luke was sitting in front of the TV, watching Saturday morning cartoons, while Alana was upstairs playing with her toys. She seemed much calmer once the storm blew over, though she occasionally whispered goodbye to Euraka.
“That’s strange. Last time we had something as strong as that we had to wait till the entire ravine to dry out.” It was that or slide all the way to the bottom. The trails were treacherous when wet, often turning into mud at the merest suggestion of rain. I looked over the trees standing tall and absorbing the morning sun. “Just as well, I suppose. I hate having to go down there to pick up balls and such. If it was a mudbath…ugh.” While I loved nature, sometimes walking down to the bottom of the ravine three times a day to get a ball got tiresome.
We puttered the morning away, doing small chores and watching the children. Alana wanted to be back outside, probably to play in the wet trees. I made her finish her letters before pulling on my coat and heading out back with her. She could scarcely contain her excitement, dancing among the trees after a fresh rain. Thankfully, the sun was warming everything up, lifting the smell of fresh life into our noses.
“Alana, make sure you don’t go too far now.” I called out, pulling out a romance novel. I didn’t really like reading them, but I never had the time for more serious books. I sat in the dewy grass, listening to my daughter play.
“I’m sorry Mr. Euraka is gone. Why did he fall over?” A moment of empty silence. “Why did he want to die?” her voice echoed quietly around the trees, a dead echo. “My mommy could have fixed him!” The voice was like a quiet gunshot, forceful and powerful even though it lacked in volume. Birds flew off, frightened by the shout.
I looked at my daughter. Alana appeared to be conversing with a bush and a flower, standing in front of them with her hands on her hips. Her lips were pouting but the effect was spoiled by the slight smudge on her cheek.
“Alana, honey, who are you talking to?”
“Domi and Dar-Dar, mommy. They told me that Mr. Euraka was too old to stay up in the storm last night.” I looked at my daughter. She seemed to believe what she was saying.
“Don’t worry. I told them that you can fix them next time.” She looked at me with pride. I sighed, knowing that bursting a four-year-olds’ bubble is next to impossible, especially when it was Alana. She smiled and went back to talking to Domi and Dar-Dar, enjoying the fresh air as I looked at her over the top of my book. Eventually evening came and I carried her back inside. I often lost track time keeping up with her, coming in when it started to get dark. Thankfully it was spring, just warm enough to spend all day outside playing but short enough so you didn’t wear yourself out doing it. After we had put the children to bed, we sat in ours talking about our lazy Saturday.
“How was Luke?” They had gone to the hardware store to buy something. Or to walk around. I could never understand why.
“Well behaved. He seemed to like looking at the different power tools.”
“Typical male.” I said with a smile. Alex made the noise of the deeply offended. “Alana spent the entire day playing in the forest again. I found out why she was crying last night. Apparently she knew the tree that fell over.”
Alex snorted. “Honey, she’s just a kid with an overactive imagination. She probably had a nightmare and decided to name the tree after it.” I shrugged, unwilling to tell him more about the conversation she had with the others in the forest.
The next morning I had both children go out together, mostly because I had to do some last minute chores and didn’t feel like going outside. Even though Luke would much rather play inside, occasionally he would go outside with his sister. They didn’t get along often, which I put down to the four year age gap, but he understood that he was supposed to watch her. I glanced out the back window occasionally to make sure they hadn’t strayed too far into the forest.
“Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom…” I heard my son call from the doorway. “Alana went down deeper into the ravine even though I told her not to.” I quickly ran out and looked over the forest. I couldn’t see my daughter anywhere.
“Luke, come inside. I’m going to get her.” I quickly shoved on some unused running shoes and grabbed a coat before hurrying out back. I couldn’t hear my daughter, which was somewhat reassuring since she was loud when she was hurt. I hurried past the remnants of the fence that separated the best path down from our yard, quickly descending the dirt covered trial. Alana always wandered down to the bottom to play in the stream, pretending it was a river waiting to be crossed.
“Alana! Alana, answer mommy!” I called as I hurried down. Not that there was much that could happen down here. The real danger came from slipping off the trail and falling to the bottom. But if she had made it to the bottom…
“Alaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaana…” My voice seemed to be swallowed up by the quiet trees. I was worried for her, feeling my fear well up as I reached the bottom and looked up and down the stream, gurgling like an empty stomach after a hard day, not at all helping my mood. I couldn’t see or hear her. She usually responded right away. “Where are you?” I whispered.
A breath of wind turned my head. Something…something brought my attention to a clump of trees on the other side of the stream, down near the recently felled tree. I walked toward it, not knowing why I felt so frightened. As I neared the trees, I noticed that these were mere offshoots of some tree, though I had no idea what they were. It was strange to see them all clumped together, like a little crowd. It was eerie the way the fallen tree was resting right at the edge of this crowd…
“And that’s why he fell down. He wasn’t feeling well.” I heard my daughter’s voice. Somehow it was coming from inside the little crowd of trees. I walked closer to see exactly where she was.
But he was so big…
I looked around for the voice that echoed in the wind. It didn’t feel right, somehow. It wasn’t just the wind, there was just…
“My mommy can help you. She always makes me feel better.” I still couldn’t see my daughter even though I was just outside the little crowd, hardly higher than my waist. Her voice was coming from inside the thicket.
Can she help us?
“Alana?” I said.
“Mommy?” I watched as the shoots were pushed aside and her face poked out. “Did you come to help my friends?” I looked around.
“Alana, who were you talking to? There’s no one else down here.” I held off on yelling at her about coming down here alone. I wanted to know where the voices were coming from.
“I’m talking to my new friends. They’re scared of falling over like Mr. Euraka.” I looked for the telltale smile that any adult would have at this point, proving her words to be a joke. However, innocent blue eyes stared back at me, as if I could make things better.
“Come in here and see, mommy. Maybe you can tell them to not be afraid.” I sighed, wishing my daughter wasn’t so taken with this. She disappeared back amongst the trees, almost as if there was another world in there. I squatted down and leaned my head in.
I don’t know if I saw what Alana saw. Inside was not what I expected. The shoots seemed to be alive, their tiny branches like thin arms, wrapped around each other for support. Alana looked completely at ease, sitting criss-cross applesauce in the middle of the crowd of small children, stronger than any of them by far. Somehow I knew that those children were connected to the trees around us. Each of these children had a face, though it was the kind of face that faded into the woodwork.
I was speechless.
“Mommy, these are my new friends. Everyone, this is my mommy.” Alana said, gesturing towards me.
“Alana, what…what is this?” I whispered. Around me, the children swayed.
“They came here last night in the storm. They knew Mr. Euraka.” That seemed to be all that she was going to say.
“Who said that?”
Please let us grow…
The whispering died, or perhaps it never began. I looked at the swaying faces, the trees that were…weren’t…were real.
“Alana, can you hear them?” I asked, looking at my daughter.
“Yes, of course. Can’t everyone?” Once again, that too innocent face looked at me, my head and shoulders barely fitting into this little group.
“I think it’s time to go inside.”
“But moooooom, you have to help them!” Alana frowned at me.
Please…we don’t want to fall…
I stared. “Okay, starting tomorrow, we’ll replant these trees up by the house, on the edge of the lawn. That way you can take care of them.” Alana nodded and smiled.
“Thank you mommy!” She said. I managed to coax her up and out of the trees, where she blinked sleepily. The trees seem to be content, letting my daughter say goodbye and waving with their little limbs, fingers splayed.
“Nap time honey. Let’s go up to the house.” I began to walk back up the trails.
“Don’t forget you said you’ll move them. Don’t forget.”
“I won’t.” After climbing out of the ravine, I put her to bed. Luke and his father were no where to be seen, so I grabbed a shovel and some gardening gloves and walked back down the ravine. Yet, despite how hard I looked, I never found those dancing children again.
About the author:
Brian Williams lives in Washington state, outside of Seattle. He is a former English instructor and a graduate from University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing. He is a creative writer, content writer, and aspiring video game writer and editor.
For another amazing (and shorter) story from Brian Williams, please read Musings of Royalty, a wonderful story of a dragon.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
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