A girl on her own in a beautiful clearing,,,
|The stone was warm and smooth in her hand. It was just the right shape and size to fit in her palm perfectly. She liked the way it felt; the weight and warmth of it felt like the comforting hand of a father protecting his child. The girl moved her fingers slowly, releasing the pebble. She turned it over carefully and studied its surface. It was pure white, marred only by specks of dirt, which the girl scraped away lovingly with her nail.
When it was spotless the girl drew back her arm and tossed it into the clear water. Small waves rippled across the surface, disturbing the glassy stillness. The pool was as clear as air on a crisp winter evening, a window into the world of water creatures far below. Tiny fish flickered a dazzling silver as they darted in and out of the dancing pond weed. Their dance was a slow dance, but somehow joyful. They waved their arms to the peaceful pulse of the current, as if praising some unknown leader.
The villains of this underwater settlement scuttled in the shadows, snapping their claws shiftily and following the flashing scales with darting eyes. They seemed to be trying to sink into the muddy walls so they wouldn’t be noticed.
On the clear, now calm skin of the pond the reflection of the tree tops formed a semi-transparent curtain over the scene. The girl stroked the water, sending distorting waves hurrying across the surface. The result was an abstract, somehow beautiful image; the reds of the leaves mixed with the brown of the trunks. The colours flowed around each other, always moving and changing.
Sighing, the girl leaned against the trunk of a tree. It was rough and the bumps in it pressed into her back – she shifted her position until she was comfortable. Sleepily, she leaned her head back against the bark and looked upwards. The trees watched over her from their lofty position, their trunks forming a wall to protect her. From what? She didn’t know, nor did it matter. She just knew she was safe.
But curiosity got the better of her and she squinted into the darkness beyond those protective barriers. At first the inky blackness seemed impenetrable, but then objects slowly began to reveal themselves to her. First the solid trunks – the guards of that area – came into focus. They stood tall and proud in a strangely menacing way, all wearing the same brown and green uniform. Even their branches remained still, ignoring the occasional breezes. To begin with the girl thought that was all there was, but then other things became visible. Her attention was first drawn to them by a slight movement on one of the branches. A dark brown snake slithered along it, and then coiled around the helpless twig as if squeezing the life out of it. For some reason it glanced quickly in the girl’s direction and for that split second she could see the cold anger in its eyes. Terrified, the girl quickly broke the connection, only for her gaze to meet that of another; a squirrel – coat the colour of dried blood – mauling a small, defenceless object. Startled, the girl withdrew her gaze and forced herself to look up at the roof of her sanctuary, determined not to think about the eerie creatures she had seen.
Beams of light peeped through the leaves of the canopy and tip-toed through the dusty air. Some of them came across obstructions in their path, and had to content themselves with lighting a branch or a leaf, but most managed to get to the floor or pond, and those who succeeded in the latter danced joyfully among the fishes.
Closing her eyes, the girl listened to the sounds around her. Insects buzzed, drowsy from an afternoon of constant flying. Birds sang perched in the branches high above the ground. They didn’t appear to be singing to anyone in particular; they just sang so they could sing.
Beneath the bird song in this natural symphony, the rusty leaves whispered secrets untold or long forgotten. The wind caressed the delicate branches, flowing through them like water through fingers. It gently pushed and playfully teased them. It seemed to urge everything to run with it freely through the trees. Underneath this energetic breeze ran a sleepy undercurrent that buzzed with magical energy. It was a beautiful, silent song that was lulling the girl to sleep. She closed her eyes.