Sia had always loved the old willow tree. The old willow tree was her best friend, ranking above all her young human playmates. He'd never hurt her, tease her or abandon her, like her friends had now.
That was where the little lady was going now, as she cried her handkerchief to a pulp. She hadn't the heart or strength to rush, but the willow would be patiently awaiting her as it always did. She liked to think that she was the only one who knew the way past the fence and hedges into the forest near the village while avoiding all the village elders. The forest was her secret; her retreat. No one would find her there.
Past the permanent huts, the pound where the cattle slept peacefully at midday, the thorn bushes, the fence where it had fallen a little, the line of ash that surrounded the village and finally the deciduous thickets, the willow waited. Sia scraped her knee a little while climbing a tree to jump over to another tree on the other side of the fence, and she sustained a few bruises when she fell down to the ground as she always did, but she didn't have long to go and it didn't bother her.
The sight of the old, majestic willow tree in the glorious sunlight made her want to cry. And she did. She hugged it hard and sobbed loudly, knowing no one would be able to hear her. She could even almost feel the willow tree wrapping its branches around her. The tree understood.
But it wasn't entirely safe here, even though she was only on the outskirts of the forest. She climbed her old friend and seated herself on one of his thicker branches, high above the ground, all the while telling him why she was sad. Any adult would have known that her reasons were insufficient and childish, and would have told her to make up with her friends. But the ancient tree knew she was a child, and said nothing as she climbed to a fatal height above the ground. Sia could be afraid of facing her parents after doing something wrong, or later that day after they'd realise that she had ignored her duties on the farm and goofed off with her friends just to fight with them and disappear. But heights?
She was not afraid of heights.
She must have been the only person who climbed him all the way to where she was. She could bet that she was the best friend the tree had ever had, too. And she knew he must have had more; she just knew. Perhaps there was this friendly aura around the tree that just called you to it. It was the only one in the area that wasn't felled a few years ago on an order by the village head for firewood, and that's when she had found it amidst some stumps. Amidst death, she had found friendship.
"I wish people never existed," she told the tree as she leaned against the lean trunk. "The world could do without people. It would be safe, you know? No fights, no teasing, or... treachery," she was pleased at being able to use the new word she had learnt (but not quite understood), "Or trouble."
She thought again, looking at the jungle that stretched deep into the darkness, somehow, in the bright afternoon. The forest was alive. "No life, actually. That would be safe."
Then, another thought: Earthquakes. She had in her lifetime been through a mild tremor from the interior of the country, away from the coast, and her mother had told her about another that had taken place many years before she was born.
And another thought: Volcanoes. Whatever the hell they were.
"The world could do without movement," she decided.
But none of those would do her any good. "Maybe there just shouldn't be life, except for you and me. We'd get supplies from the neighbors', and I could travel the WORLD!"
How will you travel the world?
"My bicycle, of course!" she said, even though it was her brother's. His most prized possession, too. She wondered how the willow had asked such a stupid question.
Then, muttering to herself, she fell asleep, holding on the tree's rough bark as she always did when she sat in such a dangerous position.
Maybe the ground below missed her?
She was asleep; he could trouble her later.
But she wasn't afraid of heights, yes?
The girl got up.
The tree seemed to grow taller, somehow. Her hands were not holding on to it any more. They seemed to be cut and bruised. Had he done this to her? He couldn't have. Even so... she had held on so firmly.
The dust that had created her called to her. The tree of abandoned love grew mighty in front of her eyes.
Had the tree...
Shrugged her off?
She was not afraid. Not of heights.
Not of falling.
Why was she trembling?
She saw images flash before her: A home she never had; a man she never loved; two young girls she never raised and nourished. And yet, it made her sad.
She hated the tree that never loved her, the wind in her hair that wasn't caressing her. She hated the sky for cowering behind leaves rather than being at her death-bed. She hated the world for bringing her up just to be killed by her best friend.
Not her family, though. She asked the tree for a final favour, if he could spare her some kindness. He had no reason to, but she was earnest. She wanted to be found, and her body deserved a proper funeral pyre. The tree heard all this, and as it grew taller, a million times taller, it whispered as the forest itself grew quiet to hear it.
How many people had he hurt this way? How many families had he crushed? What wood nymph resided here that called people to their deaths? To Sia, at that moment, the Willow's aura was more menacing than friendly now. Maybe it was fear that led her here, and her wish to get over it. For she certainly was afraid of heights now. Maybe she always was.
And so, she left the world, and left it nothing of her. Nothing but a sound in the deafening silence and the hell's furnace that was the afternoon:
A sickening crack.
Written by WaveDivisionMultiplexer
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