(Read Part 1 Here. )
The stranger said nothing, but I could see he had much to say. He was a proud island. Smooth rolling hills gave way to fierce and rigid mountain ranges. The forest was mighty and ever present. The trees were green and smooth, with the smallest tree being taller than any building. Their branches extended far beyond their bodies, with flower buds sprouting everywhere, yet they were closed, as if they slept while the sun was shining.
From where I was standing, I could see where the widest and tallest tree stood. It was a Goliath, ever watching the island. From wherever I stood, I could look up and see him, gazing down at me; judging my every move; seeking to understand. I only dared to look up a few times. I felt insignificant. I was insignificant.
The densest and most wild part of the forest stemmed out from that one magnificent tree. He was the father of this brooding island. His children dominated his flanks, and their seed spread to the rest of the island. They all stood, proud like their father. Ever watching, but swaying in the wind, while the Father Tree never wavered. While they were rooted in the island, he was rooted far below. The island was his, it was grafted to him at the beginning of the age.
I was a ghost in a forgotten land. I hovered from the lifeboat to the sand, and from the sand to the forest. The sun was climbing already; I had not noticed. The trees were bathing in it’s light, and I bathed in the shade.
I had all but forgotten my dire needs in the shock of my present discovery, but now the thirst clawed at my throat again. I could not fathom that this threatening and strange place could be my savior and solitude. At once, though, my needs screamed all the louder, and I heard a faint sound: A stream.
At once I fell into the stream and opened my mouth to drink. I gulped it into my stomach till I could barely breath. Even then my body was tempted to forgo breath, and inhale the sweet cold water; just to taste more on my broken and bleeding lips. . . I stood. Alive.
The trees swayed. The wind no longer furiously shook their limbs, but still lightly caressed them. I walked deeper into the forest. The creaking trunks had made some space for each other, and for travelers to walk beneath their shade. Their roots ate the soil hungrily, and drove deep into the hardened ground. I had to climb over some and jump back to the dirt.
Deeper and deeper I went. My body fueled by nothing but an ever present desire to discover. To get to know this strange land, this forest of whispers. The Father Tree could be seen in the spaces between the fingers of the trees. He judged me.
There were fruits hanging from the vines of the ancient trees. Growing so far down from the branches that you did not need to climb. They were soft as plums, with a fuzzy skin. When I bit down I was surprised and overwhelmed by the lack of juice. It was sweet and creamy, like a custard. I grabbed two more and greedily devoured them.
I walked on. The silence within the trees assaulted my senses. Nothing but the slight brush of wind along the tree branches, and the soft tread of my feet against the soil. The birds were quiet today, or there were no birds at all. Dawn had come and gone and they did not sing a cheerful tune. No sound of the world waking up, for this world was always asleep.
No man had walked this land for a long time. My footsteps would remind the trees of a long forgotten age. I could not speak, I could not yell for someone. The silence had drowned out my voice.
I stopped to rest from walking, for I had been walking for a long time. I was now approaching the foot of the Father Tree. He was frowning down at me now; intimidating me with his massive presence. I could hear my heart-beat amidst the silence; screaming for something other than the sound of my own body, my own feet, and my own trembling uncertainty.
I started my long trek around the Father Tree. As I stood near him, I could feel his ever deepening roots searching the lowest parts of the world. The tree was taller than the sky itself. Perhaps he wanted to meet the stars.
As the sky darkened, I was still not passed the tree. I wondered if anything lay beyond it, or if this was the end of the earth, and the Father Tree blocked the way to heaven itself. My wondering was false, though, as finally when night was deepening, and the stars were again greeting me; the father tree was at my back.
I could hardly see the stars above me, as they were blocked by thousands of gently rocking branches. Yet, as darkness had completely shrouded me, and I was fumbling in the dark, the blossoms on every tree opened in a sudden flourish. Bright green light erupted from every petal. They had become shards of glass, reflecting the sun they had absorbed during the day.
As my eyes adjusted, I gazed back at the Father Tree. His blossoms were brightest of all. His proud and powerful demeanor gave way to a bright and cheerful warmth. They looked up to the stars, and they were children of the stars.
I continued, the blossoms lighting my path. I don’t know what I sought, but my spirit led me on. Survival was no longer my concern; curiosity was in my heart. . . I followed the trees, and they led me to a small clearing, and when I saw where they led me, I gasped in surprise. There was a house.
Small and bright it stood. It was round as a trunk of a tree, with bright orange petals shining all around it. This house was not built by a man, but grown out of the ground. It was as much a tree as the trees around me, and it was alive just as they were. There was no door, but a thick sheet of vines covered the entry way. I parted them and stepped inside. I was not greeted by anyone. There was no fire, yet the house was warm and welcoming. The same orange petals bloomed along the top and sides of the inside of the tree-house. I could see a table and chairs, with a cot in the corner. The same creamy fruit was growing in patches near the walls. Casks of water were stacked near the food. They were of the same craft as the house around me; they were grown straight out of the ground. They were sealed completely, with no cork. I would have to prick them open with a knife or a rock, which I was loath to do, as they seemed just as alive as everything else around me.
I wondered if I was invading some hermits home, the lord of this wild and magical forest. Yet I did not think so. This house did not belong to anyone. It was a gift to lost souls. A place to rest, and carry on.
I thanked The Father Tree, and drifted to a peaceful sleep.