Monday, March 12, 2007

The Forest Queen

I thought this story was on here. Now it is.

She heard it all from where she lay. She felt it through the earth and
it was in the chirp of the birds. The problem was not urgent, it could
wait for her, the world always waited for her. Bit by bit she returned
to her body, slowly rising out of the dark mist of sleep. With just as
much calmness she became aware of her surroundings. She could feel
that she was covered from head to toe in a thin layer of rusty brown
leaves. She guessed it must be autumn already, but this did not
surprise her, sometimes she slept for a few hours, sometimes months.

She pressed her arms gently against the soft ground that lay below
her, feeling it give slightly as she did. As she propped herself up on
her elbows she felt the dry leaves, still slightly damp with dew, fall
from her chest and face. With the leaves no longer acting as a blanket
she felt the cold air tingle on her skin. This combined with the smell
as she took a long, deep breath in confirmed what she thought. There
was no mistaking that dank and almost musky smell, it was the smell of
the slow decay of fallen autumn leaves.

Only now did she open her eyes. Looking almost straight up she could
see, through a mesh of tangled beech branches, the constant grey of an
overcast sky. The almost uniform brightness across the sky made it
difficult to tell where the sun was, but after a few minutes she
managed to pick it out. From the height in the sky she surmised it
must be mid-morning. She swung her legs round, through her bed of
leaves, to her side, enjoying the muted rustle that they made. In one
swift movement she sprung to a crouch and slowly rose to standing. As
the last couple of dew soaked leaves slowly slid off her skin,
drifting down to the floor she drew in another deep breath.

"Well beeches, it's time to see what all this commotion is all about,"
she said in a soft and quiet voice. Turned around slowly she surveyed
her surroundings with a closer eye. Here the forest was fairly dense,
making it difficult to see more than a few trees in any direction. She
silently padded towards the nearest beech and effortlessly bounded up
the side of it.

She moved much like a cat, full of grace and speed. Had anyone been
around to watch this sight they would have been entranced; it's not
every day that you see a pale and naked woman bound up the side of a
tree like a cat climbing a fence. As she neared the top the trunk
started to quiver when her hands landed on it, so she picked a
suitable branch and rotated around the trunk so that she could land
her feet on the branch. With her feet steady on the branch she lent
forward, grabbing the branch with both hands so that she was now
crouching down. As she did this her long black hair rolled forward off
her back to rest on her hands, slightly obscuring her view.

Her balance was good enough that she did not need to be this low down
on the branch. If needs required then she could even run along branch
this thin. However she preferred the feel of bark in her hands. The
rough knots and spots of lichen reminded her of who she was and of her
place within the forest. It also had the practical advantage that she
could easily drop down to hang below the branch if required. This
thought didn't cross her mind, she was now too busy scanning the
horizon, seeing what had changed since she last awoke.

The low hills running from the north to the east were still there, as
was the river valley to the north. This forest was situated on a small
hill, which while it was not a significant hill it was high enough to
give a good view of the surrounding countryside. The large town to the
west lay quite and still, looking even more dead on this overcast
day. Her feelings towards the town had long ago changed from disgust
to indifference; she now accepted its presence, it was part of the
world, she still did not like it, but neither did she hate it
anymore. She noticed that it was later in autumn than she had at first
thought, most of the trees had now shed their leaves. A cold but
gentle wind blew from the north west across her face, she knew that
this meant there was not going to be any rain today.

It was her ears and not her eyes which picked up the direction that
she must go. Once she was aware of the sound she closed her eyes to be
able to focus on it more clearly. It was to the south, behind her from
where she was crouching. She could hear the low rumble of engines and
had the wind been blowing a different direction she was sure she would
have smelt the choking black fumes from them. Even just the thought of
this made the back of her throat dry up and her lungs constrict
slightly.

Sadly she knew where she must go, so stood up upon the branch,
twisting around to face the trunk at the same time. With grace equal
to when she had climbed the tree she lept from the branch to a lower
one, slightly further around the trunk. She continued like this,
quickly spiralling down the trunk until her feet landed on one of the
long roots that the tree had spread across the ground. Once more she
bounded silently through the bed of leaves, towards the south. As she
got closer to the sounds she slowed her pace, making sure that for as
much of the time as possible that she had a trunk or a bush between
her and the slow deep roar. Soon she could see the bright yellow of
two diggers slowly shuddering, belching out fowl dark vapours.

She now went down on all fours, crawling slowly forward until she was
positioned behind a small shrub. It was a young holly plant, with the
evergreen leaves helping to hide her. She slowly parted some branches
to get a better look at the slumbering yellow beasts. Seeing the
driving seat of both of them as being empty she looked around for the
drivers. She could only see a lone man, stooped over a metal cable,
slowly coiling it. He wore a hat in the same colour as the machines,
but had mud caked boots and trousers. He wore a dark brown and heavily
padded jacket, clearly not a fan of the cold late autumn air.

Although she could see the field of churned up mud that the diggers
sat in, and the low hut in the corner where she assumed the other
workers were, she did not know the purpose of this destruction. For no
other reason than curiosity she wanted to know the reason, why these
men were here. She needed to find out from someone and there was only
one person she could see.

She let out a small chirp, sounding very similar to the evening call
of a blackbird in the summer. When she saw that the man was now
looking in her direction she stood, turned and ran behind the nearest
tree. She did not need to look back to know if he would follow, they
always did. She heard his boots tramping through the leaves, slowly
approaching the tree she was hiding behind. She waited, he was not
close enough yet.

When his heavy breathing could easily be heard she started to move
again. She could hear him stepping over the roots of the tree to her
left, so she circled the tree to her right. She managed to get behind
him quickly and slowly raised her right hand and rested it gently on
his right cheek. It was cold and rough, but she only had the briefest
touch as he quickly spun around on his heels.

As he faced her his mouth slowly opened with a look of slight shock
across his face. He clearly did not expect to see a naked woman who
was only a few inches shorter than him standing in front of him. His
eyes were fixed on hers, but they were not full of terror or surprise;
they showed confusion. She now placed her, still raised, right arm
onto his left cheek and smiled.

"It's OK," she said in her enchanting, bell like, voice. The words
seemed to comfort him as his shoulders relaxed and dropped, but his
expression did not change. He was still transfixed by her dark brown
eyes, lost in the depths of their darkness. She tilted her head
slightly and continued, "What is your name?"

"Chris," he replied, his voice flowing easily and without
hesitation. She still had the ability to enchant people, no matter how
many trees they had cut down, she was still the queen of this forest.

"Now Chris, what are you doing in our forest? Why are you here?" she
said, her voice still calm and sweet sounding.

Chris did not speak a reply and she was not expecting him to. Instead
she felt his response, the easiest and quickest way to find out. The
forest dropped from around her and she could now feel that she was in
the town. She was not a single person in the town, she was all people
in the town, feeling their emotions, hearing their thoughts. It had
been so long since she had done this that for a moment she was lost in
the complexity of it all.

She was not swamped by the complexity, but she found her self drifting
away with it, there was so much to experience her, so much beauty. She
was once more seeing the brightest side of humanity, the positive side
that they bring to this world. However she regained her focus and
tried to find out what was going on. It soon became apparent that his
was going to be a car park, images of shoppers waiting at a bus stop
appeared fading only to be replaced by an endless road full of
buses. It was to solve the problem of cars in town, offloading them to
the outskirts of the town.

Knowing the facts she now moved onto the feelings. There was pride
there, happiness as well; this was helping the town, helping to make
it a nicer place to walk and work. She had seen and felt enough. She
felt the darkness fade and returned to the forest. The man stood there
as before. She released her hand and ran straight past the man, who
still stood motionless staring where she had been. He slowly started to
move again, but only once she was long gone into the depths of the
forest.

She stopped running and lay against a tree with a large root
system. She lent back and looked up through the branches to the
sky. She felt the gathering of water in her eyes as her vision started
to blur. An intense feeling of sadness started to wash over her, she
did not fight it, she did not want to. She felt the salty water roll
down the side of her face, falling from her cheek and getting lost in
her hair. It was not the future destruction of the forest that made
her tears flow.