Sapling opened his branches and stretched up towards the light. On the forest floor everything was dark and needle still. He could hear water babbling non-stop.
“What is that noise, Mother?” he asked the tall spruce who guarded him.
“It’s Brook, Sapling, dear.”
“What does it say?”
“It tells of what it has seen and asks where it is going.”
“Who is it asking, Mother?”
“It asks the converging waters and the stony river bed.”
“And they tell it?”
“They tell it what they know.”
“What do they know, Mother?”
Sapling’s mother sighed in the wind. She wished she had all the answers. “Don’t ask me. I speak only to the earth, rain and wind.”
When springtime came, birds perched in Sapling’s arms and made nests all around the forest; and they sang.
“What are they singing, Mother,” he asked.
“They are singing love songs and lullabies, dearest,” answered Spruce, “and songs about lands far away.”
“Do you know the words, Mother?”
“Alas no, for I only speak to the wind that carries them.”
Sapling grew taller daily. He could see way into the forest now, to where shafts of light streaked through the canopy and onto the floor and wild flowers rampaged in colourful clouds of blossom. He could smell their perfume and hear the bees, busy with excitement, ruffling petal skirts.
“What do bees sing about, Mother?”
“They sing about pollen and honey and love. All the sweetest things in life.”
“And the flowers?”
“Flowers don’t sing, Son.”
Sapling looked at the bright blooms of the forest, and he could see why — flowers were indeed loud enough, in silence.
Down in the deciduous wood, the first leaves turned to yellow and red. The flowers, birds and bees were mostly gone. Sapling longed to be as tall as his mother, as tall as Fir and Pine, as tall as Douglas and Conifer.
Snowflakes crinkled as they settled all around him and he held his branches out stiffly to catch a few and admire their lace. Even the darkness became light. The moon played an ever-changing chorus of shadows over the snowflakes and they reflected harmonies of deep blue and purple until the rosy pink of dawn.
But Sapling did not like the song the morning brought. He heard men with harsh voices and a zinging sound cut through the air. It made him quail. “What song is that, Mother,” he asked.
Spruce heard the buzz-saw too and the crack of wood. She caught the sweet, sad scent of freshly cut bark. “That is the song of death, Sapling. Sooner or later all fall or are cut down.”
“None can tell.”
They watched as the handsomest tree in the forest crashed to the ground and was hauled away.
“What happens when we fall, Mother?”
“Some say we burn. Others say we go to a beautiful place where all is joy and light, feasting and songs.”
“Do you believe that, Mother?”
“I wish it might be so.”
The men with harsh voices came closer.
“Too small ‘d’you think?”
“Nah, we can take the little’uns root and all. They fetch a good price.”
They smeared an X and an R roughly on the barks.
“I wish we could fly away, like birds,” said Sapling.
“It wouldn’t help. Even birds know that song,” said Spruce.
Oonah V Joslin is Managing Editor at Every Day Poets. Credits include 3 Micro Horror prizes, an honorable mention in The binnacles Shorts Poetry comp 2009, Inclusion in several anthologies, A Man of Few Words, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 and Toe Tags. She can be found at Bewildering Stories, Static Movement, The Shine Journal, A View From Here, The Ranfurly Review and many other places. The list gets updated on this site and on Facebook. Oonah’s ambition is to have a book published.
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