As an extension of my previous post to offer a few (maybe four?) free stories of mine to help provide at least a few moments of distraction, here’s one called Roots.
I wrote this one after being inspired by one of John Urbanicik’s inkstain stories from his book InkStained: On Creativity, Writing, and Art which I first review for Rue Morgue Magazine and also posted earlier on this blog HERE. John’s story centered around wondering what happened to a tree if you were no longer there to see it. It made me think of my own association with a favourate tree, and thus this story was born. I hope you like, and maybe it will inspire you to write your own take on trees and how we’re all connected.
by Rick Hipson
Ever since Sylvia could remember, the oak tree had always been there, planted years past by her parents. A part of her childhood, it provided shade on the brightest of days and watched over her as she read beneath its canopy, propped against its sturdy trunk. Other times, she simply stared across the field to dream the afternoon away.
As her childhood blended and merged with her teens, the oak tree grew so gradually Sylvia hardly noticed. She enjoyed plucking the ample acorns off the ground and would stack them against the thick trunk on the rare occasion she had time away from friends and afterschool events. She read a little less beneath its canopy, but, when she did, would often stare across the field towards the woods, dreaming and planning her life beyond childhood. Once, she brought a companion with her, a boy named Tom, and had her first kiss with him. They would later marry beneath that same tree, vows sealed with a kiss. The oak stood as strong as it ever did that day.
Sylvia and Tom, wife and husband, enjoyed much happiness in the years to come. They eventually moved into Sylvia’s family home after her parents enjoyed retirement elsewhere. The happy couple fostered many fond memories of picnics and vacations and holiday gatherings and new friendships. As time and luck allowed, they stole treasured moments of quiet reflection beneath their tree. It was as if the tree had always been there, and they felt the same about themselves.
After many failed and trying attempts, they would eventually have a baby; a beautiful girl named Sophie who was fast to steal their hearts, giving only love in return. Now their family was three and the old oak tree watched over them all, providing shade against the sun and serenity to sit and dream and talk and love whenever they could.
A few days beyond their daughter’s fourth birthday their little girl died suddenly in her sleep for no other reason than it was her time to go. Sophie’s father left soon after, lost and hurt and angry. He never returned. Sophie’s mother lived on as best she could. She held on to the love of her child with all the strength remaining, desperate to ensure the love of her child would never fully escape. Sylvia, now alone, but not completely, would sit beneath the old oak tree, sometimes dreaming, more often staring across the field seeing nothing but empty landscape drawn back against grey skies. A simple headstone was all she had for company, all she had to talk to, but not completely. Sometimes, when the breeze was low and the air warm, she could feel safe beneath the blanket of the canopy above. She whispered made-up stories, fantastic stories rich with magic and fairy tale adventures only her little girl could hear. She imagined Sophie stirring, even smiling, as she rested buried beneath that oak tree, forever dreaming herself.
As the days and months marched on, washed away by grief and time, Sylvia visited the tree less and less until she no longer left the single roses she used to bring upon each visit. She forced herself forward, to live in a world she no longer recognized, a world she wasn’t sure she could ever understand. She learned to focus on positive things, productive things, things which would move her away from the haunted memories of her past. She vowed to pause only long enough to feel as blessed as she could for the love she locked deep inside, then carried on.
Against the quietest of nights, threatened by the chaos a restless sleep, she would whisper her fair tale stories and be swept back into a world she understood, one in which she could embrace her Sophie while they danced, laughed, played and become anything they dreamed to be.
As the months turned to years, Sylvia left her house, her childhood home with all its ghosts and moved across the world to chase new dreams. She gave one last look towards the old oak tree and all that remained of the life she once had. Then she drove away and never returned.
As the years merged into decades, the natural clock ticking deep within the tree began to slow. Branches, once majestic and firm, drooped beneath the weight of time. Decayed limbs no longer flourished with lush leaves. Only a few acorns remained, mere remnants of its dying breath. One day, lightening struck the tree and set it ablaze until only ashes of what used to be covered the ground. When the rain came, traces of the tree washed away leaving only the last of its acorns to rot.
As the world marched on, always forward, the rotted acorns crumbled, and their seeds seeped into the Earth and took hold. Ever so slowly, the seeds germinated and over the next few years, roots stretched down into the soil, seeking out the nutrients it needed to grow and develop into new shade for the little girl who long ago had come to rest beneath the canopy of its mother.
Many years later when Sylvia became as old as she would ever be, she returned to that tree, impressed by how it had grown, and laid down against its trunk. Sylvia drew a long breath of air into her lungs from the world around her. She let it pass slowly from her dried lips against the quietest of nights and felt it flow back across the plains of time and existence. Her eyes grew heavy and began to close. She shivered but was not cold. Above her the fresh canopy rustled, but there was no wind.
As Sylvia’s dreams, old and new, embraced her one last dance, the old mother whispered one last story of magic and adventure until, in that final lasting moment, she felt the love of her child and of the life she touched forevermore.
< FIN >