Where no men crosses, strange things happen. Animals speak, trees sing and birds talk.
State of dream
Tick-tock, tick-tock—struck the pendulum clock.
"This constant ticking is driving me crazy!"
Gears spun and wires rolled inside the mechanism—while I listened to its ticking. The noise made it impossible to think or sleep.
"What time is it?"—peeked at the clock—"Damn it— I'm never going to get some rest!"
The more I looked the faster time went. Being exhausted drove me insane and made it difficult to behave.
"Calm down and relax— There's no need to be upset!"—took a deep breath—"In— And out—"
For some reason my technique worked faster than anticipated and cooled my nerves—that is until it struck midnight.
It pinned my eyes open and boiled my veins. Wanted to have a good night's rest as I had a long day ahead of me—but this stupid clock wanted otherwise.
Something happened while I was in agony. The more hours it struck, the more I had to wait for the next one. A rhyme popped into my head as I was busy listening to the clock.
One spoke true and never lied,
Two enjoyed life beyond their sight,
Three looked for clues up and down,
While four and five played a lot.
Six and seven shared a meal,
Eight and nine chose to climb,
Ten and eleven just laughed at them,
While twelve sought out the rest!
My room vanished and found myself in the middle of some woods. It felt old, chaotic and bore no signs of human touch. It was about midday—as best I could speculate—and could hear the gentle blow of the wind. The more I looked around, the more I saw of the forest. Animals of all sizes and shapes buzzed between the shades—they didn't notice my presence. Something wasn't right and felt strange—as if I wasn't even really there.
"What's this noise?"—heard some crunching and clashing nearby—"Is there a fight somewhere?"
Looked around for a bit and soon found out that my prediction wasn't off that much. Stumbled upon a huge battlefield where bugs fought out their bloody war—was a surreal thing to look at. They were ruthless against one another and struck down everyone they could. However, this didn't seem to bother anybody else.
The struggle seemed to come to a halt, when I heard a distinctive laughter—came from a somewhere near. Went to investigate as I thought it was a child's—how wrong I was.
Small, round and fluffy ears flung from left to right. A silver bunny was—apparently—laughing at someone's misery. Couldn't believe myself when it started to speak.
"Guilty laugh is what I seek— Guilty laugh makes it sweet!"—it hopped out from her hidey-hole and ran closer to a fallen tree—"Little fellow, hard to fight— No rock can test his might!"
She danced and giggled around a small sapling—who growled like an old man. "These rocks are so damn heavy! Why're they in my way?"
Was still baffled that they could speak and I understood them.
"This isn't real— I must be dreaming or something!"—fell over an old root—"Ouch— That really hurt!"
A woodpecker started to knock on an old tree while I was massaging my leg. Sounds of groans hit my ears. Looked around but didn't see a living soul—not a single person. Yet the grief drew close and—possibly—from underneath that old tree. The hits seemed to agitate it and made the wood rattle. It came alive right in front of me.
"Somebody please pinch me— This isn't happening right now!"
The old tree yawned and wiggled as it shrugged off the bird.
"I'm awake— Leave me be!"—a face took its final form on its bark—"Stop with the nagging little fellow! Go on and find Inpe— She's the one who's having constant problems with worms— Not me!"
Grasped my head. "What in the world is happening?"—shook my head—"Fighting bugs, talking animals and plants— What's up next?"
The rabbit was still laughing at the leafing when the oak tree looked around. "Something is strange and different— What's making this awful noise?"—scratched his roots with its branches—"Why's my head so numb and hard to feel?"
Felt the urge to help the tree out. "Hey big guy— Under your nose!"—pointed at the bunny and her friend—"Can't you see them?"
Nobody noticed me—which felt awkward. Meanwhile the little sapling started to become frustrated. "Move you stupid rock— Move I say!"—the small pebble fell back—"No— Get off me!"
The rabbit could not contain herself and had trouble breathing and laughing at the same time.
"What's the meaning of this?"—the old oak turned towards them—"What're you doing little ones?"
The sapling couldn't answer under the heavy weight of the rocks.
The bunny stopped her laughter—finally. "Rocks are heavy on his mind— Can't move them with his vines."—hopped closer to a rotting trunk—"Troubled he became and shy from the light— Can't decide what's right!"
The oak grimaced. "Now I see— Gealfin is my new neighbor!—cleared his throat—"Greetings new fellow!"
As the small plant didn't bother to listen, the oak flicked its head—this angered him beyond belief. "Who's bothering me— Can't you see I'm very busy!?"
The rabbit was pleased to watch. "Mocking the old Dorkbal himself is something to catch!
The oak shook its leaves. "This little one sure has the tongue— Neighbor just listen! You've grown far too close to me—"
The little sapling didn't know what to say—Dorkbal terrified him.
"Be good and look for somewhere else— There's plenty of space around here!"—frowned whilst looking down—"This reminds me— Where's my tall friend? It's all too windy on my left!"
"Gone he went, long ago. You've slept in through, just as Erba used to do!"
Dorkbal's face turned sad. "That can't be true Ritbab— Only doze off a little!"
The bunny giggled at him. "Blame the cider of yours! Drinking much made you lose."
We didn't hear the cries of the leafing—were all too busy. "Excuse me? I'm still here you know!—neglecting him fueled his anger—"This is my land and get off it right now!"
Ritbab was the first to notice and began to circle around the small plant. "Old man look over here, there's something you need to let free!"
The tree—at first—didn't know what was she on about. After some careful consideration Dorkbal grabbed Gealfin and tried to take him as far as his branches could.
The small plant wiggled and yelled. "Put me down you monstrosity!"—bit off a bud—"I'll bite you more, if I have to!"
The old tree let the sapling go at the last moment. "What a feisty one this is— It reminds me of someone I used to know."
The small plant cursed for a while before he realized what happened to him.
The bunny ran up to him to see if he was hurt. "Fine he is— Good to grow!"
Thought to step closer to them as I wanted to find out how this would continue. The old oak heaved a sigh. "What happened to this place— How long was I asleep?"
Ritbab scratched her left ear. "Time flew you past and shouldn't bother much."
Her answer didn't seem to calm Dorkbal. This made me thinking. This thing—the tree that is—reminded me of my upstairs neighbor. He had quite the strange personality. However, that didn't shy people away from him and thus could speak with everyone he met. Was friendly, well-seasoned, always wore a scarf and had a Chihuahua in his arms.
"My mind is too muddy— Need to clean it up!
The tree reached deep into the ground, and could see how he calmed down by the minute.
"What's he doing Ritbab?"—forgot that they couldn't see me—"Right— I'm invisible."
The bunny jumped down to the ground, and started to munch on some grass. Thought to sit down as nothing has happened—my mind drifted away as if a spell was cast on me. Was about to fall asleep—how weird it may sound—when the old tree came back to life.
"Ritbab my old friend— Come here and speak to me. What news can you tell me?"
She was happy to oblige. "Not much to tell, where there's not much to spare!"
"Surely something happened while I was away!"—looked around with an ominous intent—"The forest changed my friend. I can feel it in my roots! The soil is sour, and the water tastes heavy— Something has changed in the world for the worst I fear!"—leaned closer to the rabbit—"Tell me— Tell me that I'm wrong!"
Ritbab didn't know what to say at first—saw hesitancy in her. "Sun shines lower, and wind blows stronger. Whispers run day-by-night, where no ends meet. Speaking of the evil that might spread its seeds!"
The tree and I asked in unison. "What do you mean?"
She blew up her cheeks for a brief moment. Something was battling inside her, but wasn't sure what. "Rumors of wolves and thieves— Even worse that I hear!"
Dorkbal grasped his beard. "That can't be true— What about the"—mumbled something under his nose—"ones that walked on two limbs?"
The bunny looked puzzled. "Humans you mean? Haven't seen a single one in years. Like breeze of winter, cold and dark is what their kin has become!"—sneezed a big one—"They long passed the eyes of us."
Dorkbal was lost with his thoughts for a while. Meanwhile tried to figure out what was going on. "Never heard of a place where there were no people around!"
The tree chiseled his throat. "Where's your sister Erba— Have you seen her lately? She might give us some answers to my questions!"
"Her eyes are hidden, underneath her lids. Not sure to know whenever she sleeps!?"
"Please— Be so kind and look for her. I fear that there's much at stake!"
The bunny grimaced, and didn't like the idea at all.
"What if I give you something in return?"—looked over his roots and revealed a crude barrel—"I'm not the only one who enjoys my brew!"
Ritbab's eyes sparked like fireworks—she was about to jump.
"Not so fast little fur! Go on and call for Erba— Then you'll enjoy the brew of the forest—not sooner!"
The tree didn't have to repeat himself. The rabbit was on the move like lightning. Had to act quickly and chase after.
However, had to stop after a while. "Where did she go?"—squinted my eyes—"I lost her— Damn it!"
Shook my fist in the air. "Should've known that I can't keep up with a rabbit!"—started to walk, when something moved in the distance—"Who goes there?"
Saw a silver blob, and pushed my luck. It was indeed Ritbab, but wasn't herself. She acted weird—how stupid it may sound—like a feral animal. She wasn't humming, didn't dance at all. Instead she lurked around like a frightened being—jumped from rock to rock. Every noise, every movement seemed like a new challenge. Found her odd behavior disturbing.
"Is something wrong?"—tried to reach her—"Is something wrong?"
She turned around with sudden intent, and left me in the dust. This time however, it was clear where she went. Ritbab found a gully nearby. It was almost dry, but had a rill running through it. It was just enough for her to get some fresh water.
It seemed she took a small break from all that running and hiding. "Don't you have something better to do?"—became her caretaker—"I mean— You're supposed to find your sister!"
Tried to scare her, to snap her out from this delusion—apparently—she had. Nothing worked. My ghostly figure did nothing—then she sneezed.
"Shout from my mind, out it comes! Where was I— Why was I—"—seemed to wheeze—"Fear was around me, was all I could see. Nothing was more unpleasant than this, never to be."—looked around—"Better go and run, before I lost my mind!"
Had no idea what happened to her and what caused her sudden change—but there was no time to ponder. Soon she was on the move again, and we got to a cave—my lungs were about to explode at that point. The surroundings were kept clean and tidy. Rows of beautiful flowers and bushes decorated the front yard.
Ventured after the bunny just to discover a brown bear. Ritbab hopped around and tried to wake sleeping creature. Was quite terrified to see such a large animal in sight—my legs shook a bit.
"Is that your sister?"—a long snort of a sound bounced around the cave—"It seems she isn't getting up soon!"
The bunny stopped after a while. "Sis is sleeping all to well— Wonder how long it would take, if help was at hand."
She was about to storm out, when she stopped to munch on some wild cabbage—this time she giggled while she ate.
"Empty stomach I never had"—threw away the bits she didn't eat—"and good to know that food is everywhere!"
Ritbab sprinted out the cave as soon as she felt full. Was about to follow her when I changed my mind. "I think I'll just wait here— I can't run anymore— Need some rest!"
Looked around the cave, but didn't find anything special—except some odd markings on the wall. Couldn't read them no matter how hard I tried. My focus was so intense that the bear's sudden roar freaked me out—ran outside in that instant. Took a hot minute to recover.
The Sun sought shelter behind dark clouds, and the dense forest became even darker. Started to feel the weight of the woods on my shoulders—wasn't a pleasant feeling.
"I hope she comes back soon and didn't leave me here in the dust!"
Had nothing to do so tried to figure out my whereabouts and the reason why I was here. My head started to fill up with all sorts of questions.
"Am I dreaming— If so than how can I wake up?"
The situation confused me, and made my head hurt. Was about to sit down—to take a break—when I heard some galloping. The sounds were heavy and great in length. Could hear the broking sounds of leaves and branches. Thought it was best to venture inside as fast as I could.
Took shelter near the snorting bear, when a moose appeared at the entrance. It looked old and seasoned, and had a long dewlap under its chin. It's nostrils were wide open and clearly gasped for air. Ritbab jumped down from its back—to my great surprise.
"Osemo look— She's afar, yet close to my heart. Called her name times before, but my legs got soar. Hope to use your might to give her the luck she deserves!"—hopped back to the food reserves—"Go now and do it— There's no need to fear her!"
"All right— Just give me a moment to catch my breath. I'm not as young as I used to be."
Ritbab didn't hear a word and carried on with her obnoxious chewing—that was nothing compared to what happened next. Osemo's scream almost deafened me. It was so loud that the cave walls trembled under his voice—Erba literally flew out of her sleep.
"I'm up— For goodness sake! What is wrong with you?"
The moose just smiled at her while she calmed down a little. "Your younger sister asked me for help. She says it urgent!"
She sighed. "That changes things I guess."—she looked around with annoyed intent—"What's this awful noise, and where's it coming from?"
Osemo slowly pointed his antlers towards Ritbab—her cheeks were about to burst.
"Don't eat that— That's for later!"—tried to sway her away before it was too late—"I said stop eating my food!"
The little fur slipped through her palms like a hagfish.
"Chewing on the food made me happy. Isn't that the thing you always wanted?"
The bear growled. "Why do you have to do this every time you come here?"
"Can't nor will help myself— The food draws me whenever it's close!"
The moose stomped the ground hard. "Stop it you two— There isn't the time to squabble!"
They didn't stop and continued to fight —no matter how many times Osemo asked. "That's it— Had enough of this!"—he grabbed Ritbab by the tail and pulled her out—"Hope this will cool your head down!"
The bear ran after them—had to follow.
"My fault— Your fault!"—started to massage her tail—"Doesn't matter when it's not here!"
Erba was about to counter her words when Osemo warned us. "Do you hear it or is it just me?"
We heard nothing. "Maybe his ears are ringing?"—then figured it out—"The forest!"
"Nothing we hear is similar to what you seek!"
"Hate to agree with my sister, but she's right. We can't hear a thing!"
Osemo scraped the soil under his hoofs. "That's my point— It's way too quiet! Not a single word is spoken anymore."
"Maybe Dorkbal was right, and his fears struck might!"—hopped further away—"We ought to go and seek out the ancient tree!"
She left without question—for once she was determined. Both of them followed her lead.
"Well— I guess we're running again!"
Was easy to catch up this time—Osemo held Erba back. The more ground we covered the more depressing we've became. The emptiness of the forest started to daunt our minds.
Erba started to be concerned about her friend's well-being. "How're holding up old man?"
"I'm fine— Don't worry about me!"—his lungs whistled like a marmots call—"I just need a little break that's all."
He chose to lean against a nearby tree, Erba looked for some water and thought to ease my legs by walking around. By doing so I've discovered something strange—a deep and unfamiliar noise caught my attention. That was something I had to investigate. However, at one point forgot to look where I was going, and fell into a small pit.
The bottom was filled with hundreds of small bugs—they looked like pebbles—that all hummed the same tune.
"Good god— This is disgusting!"—jumped up in panic and tried to dust them off—"What the hell are these things?"
Took me a moment to realize that they didn't hurt me at all—forgot that I was a ghost. Climbed out regardless as quickly as I could.
Heard Erba closeby. "Are these Black crickets?"—discovered the hole I was in a moment ago—"Hey Osemo— I've something to tell you!"
We walked back to the exhausted moose. "Why're you yelling child?"
"Saw a bunch of Black crickets not far away from here."—scratched her ear—"I suppose you can't hear them."
"Black crickets you say?"—tried to hold back his laughter—"Don't be ridiculous!"
Erba crossed her arms. "Why would I lie to you old man?"
Osemo went silent for a moment—kept his thoughts to himself. Eventually he turned to us with a straight face.
"Let's move on Erba— We mustn't waste our precious time!"
She skipped the fact that he didn't answer her question, and nodded in agreement. Again we were back on the move.
Was pleased to see that Ritbab didn't waste her time. Her mouth was full of blueberries by the time we got there. She told us to wait, as Dorkbal was busy talking to a little bird. Erba had to help Osemo—who almost collapsed from being exhausted—and aided him for the time being.
The wind started to pick up, and small drops of water fell on our heads. We all waited for the old tree, who spoke a language I didn't understand. He whistled and hummed with the small bird—which seemed very important. Was about to call it quits when he turned to us.
"Right— Thank you Chinf, and thank you for helping me out!"
Erba then called for her sister—who was still busy eating. "Sis— Move your fluff over here!"—the bunny dropped her berries—"Move it quickly!"
Dorkbal looked troubled, and failed hiding it. "You've all made it— Good!"
Erba was keen to no more—as much as I. "I was told that you summoned me— What's this all about?"
The tree stroke its beard. "Times are changing— To where I'm afraid I don't know."—the more he spoke the more weight his words carried—"Hoped you had news for me about the forest and"—paused for a second—"the wolves."
"Seen a couple but scared them away."—looked at Ritbab—"Did my little sister do something bad again?"
She was about to counter the—obviously sound—accusation, when Dorkbal interrupted her. "No— Not this time my friend."—gave a smidge of a smile—"The change is in the air— You just need to look for it!"—frowned at us—"Wouldn't be the case if you weren't busy doing other things!"
His sudden remark shocked us—also took it as an offense.
Osemo couldn't let that pass. "Now wait a minute right there! You shouldn't be saying that?"—no answer came—"Hey— I'm talking to you!"
The tree lowered one of its branches where the little bird was. "I hear you clear and fine— But this little fellow is more important!"
Nobody was pleased with the fact that he neglected to answer. "Chinf brought me news that will hinder your wrong doings— News from the great borders!"
Ritbab hopped towards me. "Chances are high that he caught a raven up in the sky!"
The mood was stiff and cold—that didn't bother Dorkbal. "Listen up— All of you!"—opened up its branches—"Shades are headed this way— The Twelf rules gone missing!"
His words seemed to change their attitudes—had no idea what they meant. Erba almost dropped to her knees. "That's impossible— How could that happen? I'm sure I would've noticed it, if this was the case!"
The old tree rocked back and forth. "It's not your fault— It has already begun."—he growled—"We're losing our sight faster than we know it!"—he pulled back Ritbab before she wandered to far—"We're fading without them, and our touch of life is fading. We must act right away— Before it's too late!"
The moose sneezed a big one. "This wasn't the thing I had in mind when I woke up!"
Erba started to worry. "What're we going to do? We can't just go out and find the Twelf— Just like that!"
"What's lost is lost— That rarely means that there's no end to meet!"
"Maybe Ritbab has a point. There must be a way to find them!"
Osemo's support fueled the rabbit. "Good and bad his answer will be. He's old and wise—"
Erba grabbed her sister before she could finish her sentence.
"Let her go my friend— No need for that."—looked beyond us—"I might be ageless but none the less frightened. Never seen such a thing happen in my life! We need to figure this out on our own."
Osemo huffed. "When was that ever a good thing?"
Ritbab managed to escape her sister's grasp—and stuck her tongue out. "You've seen more than me, but the gift is there to be seen!"
At this point had to sit down—my legs started to hurt. Gazed up while they tried to come up with a solution. The sky was covered in black and gave an unwelcome sensation. "Bet it's going to be a hailstorm— Might rain in any minute.
Didn't take much and a generous piece of ice landed near me. The tree cleared its throat—thought they also noticed the weather. "It's settled then— Go west and seek out the rest of the puzzle. Chinf will go ahead and will aid your journey!"
Grasped my chest. "What 'journey' are they talking about?"—my heart started to race—"Did I miss something?"
Meanwhile Erba walked up to Osemo and raised his chin. "Thank you for bringing me here old man. Don't be upset for not coming with us."
Pulled his head away—seemed like shame. "Don't rub it in my face—"
"Just wanted to be nice to you— That's all!"
"Just go ahead and don't worry about me!"—imagined his heart stiffen up—"I'll be useful around here."
Ritbab—on the other hand—was happier than ever. "Off we go and see you soon!"
Dorkbal stopped her from getting away. "You're going with them little friend!"
"She's fine alone— Why would I care to join?"
Erba seemed to agree with her. "She's right Dorkbal. I can do this on my own—there's no need for a companion!"
The tree started to laugh. "It's all too simple— You're big and she's small—and nimble."—pulled up his younger roots—"And I don't want her near me for a while, if possible—"
Didn't take a moment to think about this—was in this fulltime. It didn't matter where we headed or what our mission was. My excitement clouded my head and drew me closer to them—that is until it started to rain.
"We must leave now sister!"
The ice started to cover the small field. "I can feel it on my leaves! It's harsh, cold and doesn't break apart."—leaned closer to them—"Run as fast as you go!"
They left with great steps, and I followed them. Started to feel a little chill on my back as we ran—didn't bother me that much. Was worried more that I'd lose their sight and never see them again.