Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Shifting Trees

It was a long time ago, but they are still moving about the countryside. Some say it was governmental genetic engineers, some say we had it coming and others just speculate. The truth, as it usually is, was very mundane in it's own way. Even if it led to the extraordinary events we live through now.

As far as I know it began with a walk in the woods that I took some years ago. I was with a friend who I was on the verge of declaring my love to. That never happened. I don't know where she is now. All I can do is sit here among the rocks and try my best to survive another day.

We were walking through a meadow into the woods when a small group of men caught our attention. They wore smart business suits but with wellington boots and were carrying papers and gesturing at the trees and the meadow. It was a lovely meadow, mostly enclosed by the trees and the grass was tall. Between the grasses all kinds of interesting flowers grew, not just the usual field poppies and worts, but all kinds of things. Beyond it was the edge of the woods where the warm sheltered light meadow gave way to the tall dark columns of the trees with filtered light drifting through between the branches. Columns of trees with the occasional column of light.

"Of course all this will have to go," one of the men said aloud and suddenly gripped the arm of one man when he saw us.

"Good grief man, if the tree-huggers get hear you say that..." the other man replied.

Both of us recognised Darcy Carshalton-Snodgrass the very well-off property developer. I don't know how well he knew the woods, but in the summer they had been carpeted with bluebells and now they held a quiet, waiting atmosphere - a stillness that was both peaceful and dangerous in what it could promise if roused. My friend and I understood it, we had long loved the woods.

"What does he want to develop this place for," my friend muttered, "Isn't he rich enough?"

The men suddenly advanced upon us and I stood slightly defensively between them and my friend. I am generally peaceful, but I do not care to be bullied and I felt the sense of their numbers and their innate sense of right to bully.

"This is private land, you'll have to go," one of the men told us.

"This is not private land, it was bought by Mrs Sylvia Oakley in the 1950s for the benefit of all and it is still in her name," I answered.

The man looked somewhat deflated and Carshalton-Snodgrass smiled as he said,

"There are six of us and two of you," he said quietly.

I felt my hackles rise at that and my friend said furiously, "Try it and I'll have the law on you so hard you'll make a pancake look plump."

He chuckled and turning to one man said something softly that we did not catch. I had picked up a blackthorn branch as a walking staff and now I stepped into a defensive position and held it before me. Nobody had ever told me that it could be used for magic. I doubt whether I would have believed it if they had, but at that moment it was if the whole land held it's breath and went even quieter than usual. The birdsong stopped and even the noise of insects seemed to stop. Even as I held up the staff before me, words, strange words in a language I did not know rose up in my throat and seemed to push their way out of me. They burst from me into the air and like a swarm of angry wasps spiralled up before heating the air with their fury.

Carshalton-Snodgrass laughed openly at me and I stepped forward to beat him, my own rage mixing with the words in the air. My friend took my arm and whispered my name and I stepped back.

"Come on," she said softly, "We came for a walk and we're having a walk."

I let her lead me away, my anger now simmering and cooling slowly. The echo of those words seemed to whirl about my head as if they wanted to be spoken again and I murmured them softly as we walked through the woods. Only after a brief moment did everything suddenly become clear and calm again. My friend took my arm and held me with a sharp cry that shot up into the still air.

"The trees!" she said, "They're moving!"

I frowned and looked hard at them. Sure enough, they seemed to be moving slowly forwards back to where we had come from. Then we heard the shouts and cries of disbelief - followed by screams that were suddenly cut short. My friend wanted to run, but I stood firm and held her in my arms. I felt that if we moved the trees would cut us down too. I did not want to hear my beloved friend scream in pain or fear, yet it was all I could do myself to be still. I held the blackthorn staff beside me and somehow it protected us both. For a long time the trees moved past us and now there was a clear and powerful sense of anger in the air. A dangerous blazing rage that seemed to crackle between the moving columns of the trees. Only after they had gone, leaving the earth churned up around us did we move slowly, watching the still moving trees.

They tore apart the fences and the gates. They tore up roads and with their branches they destroyed cars. When they moved to the town, we knew we had to find more secure homes. We wandered for some time amid the devastation, but then she took up with a band of people and we argued. She left with them and I continued sorrowfully on. Now I live here among the rocks with my blackthorn staff and with what little I can scavenge from the devastation. When the trees moved, they made up for all the insults we had given them and the land over time. Fire did not stop them, even poisons did not stop them and those that dared to try using these weapons suffered at the branches of the shifting trees. I had somehow known the words to rouse them, but I did not know the words to still them again. I have not found them yet.


joanne May said...

Hi Griffin,
Hehe... I really like the idea of shifting trees that attack greedy property developers and land owners!
I enjoyed reading your story. It really captured my imagination.
Thanks for sharing!

Griffin said...

I find the idea that people can own land because they have it written down on a piece of paper utterly absurd. So did the Native Americans. The land owns us, not the other way around.

I also had the line from Macbeth in mind 'that Birnam wood shall come to Dunsinane' and the slight camera shake gave me the idea of the trees in motion. I'm glad you liked it.

Rosemary in Utah said...

This one reminds me of "The Bagley End Correction", which I had to search a bit to find. You've done so many now!

Griffin said...

Yes I have but somehow it doesn't feel like it! A fellow notetaker told me about the Bagley End Correction and I loved the phrase. Another notetaker recently came up with a great line that I used in a poem and will no doubt use in a story.