Errrr, alright. So I wrote this last year. I planned on, at some point, revising it. But I never got around to it, and I know I never will, so I guess I'm pretty much done with it. Because it was for a school assignment, it suffers from a length problem. It is both too short and too long. It rushes in some areas and drags in others. That's because of both a time limit and a page limit. There were some parts where I tried to add some prose, that turned into poetry, that turned into shit. But I like the beginning and I like the ending. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and highly imperfect, so I kind of hate everything that I do. But at the end of the day, I don't hate this nearly as much as a lot of other things that I've written, so I figured I'd share. Just in case someone else doesn't hate it too.
Wood and FireThere were some who said that The Wood was older than God. In a way they were right before there were Gs or Os or Ds, and long before anyone thought to put them together, there was The Wood. However, like all things, before it came its mother.
She was in all ways perfect. Born in the fire at the heart of the earth, she was first to step foot on its surface. Every word she breathed was a song of creation. Every step she took left new life in its wake. From her the first bud fell and grew into the first tree. Her love was its sunlight and soil and water and wind. And so, The Wood was born.
She had seen so many things in her long, long life. She had seen the moon dance with the sun, before it started seeing other stars. She watched as the water was poured into The Sea and the fish were dropped in, one by one. When the earth had gotten too full of itself, she cowered as it belched fire into the sky. She had seen giant elephants stomp through The Wood, their trumpets blowing proudly, pointed up to the sun. She had seen things larger and fiercer than them which made her flinch at just the thought.
And she had seen people, and, looking back on it all, she wished that she had not.
She had admired them at first. They were clever as apes, proud as cats, and curious as crows. Their words were sweet and their hands were gentle. They told stories that would make her smile, or laugh, or cry. And the songs they sang... She danced, and The Wood danced with her. She even walked among them then, occasionally, and taught them much about planting and growing. They, in turn, started to worship her. While she was amused by this at first, when she discovered the horrible things that they were doing to themselves and others in her name, she was appalled. She stopped coming to them after this, but they continued to worship her. In time they forgot who she was and why they loved her, but they worshiped all the same. As their population grew and they began to spread farther from The Wood, they split into groups which each gave her a different name. When one person found another who worshiped a different name, they fought. When one group found another who worshiped a different name, they warred.
Then they started building. They came with axes and hatred and fire and anger. They built weapons to kill each other, traps to kill the animals, and machines to kill The Wood. They built homes in cruel mockery of the ones they had destroyed. They built boats so they could pillage The Sea the same way that they pillaged The Wood. So The Wood grew wretched and violent, and when more men came, The Wood did not let them take what they wanted. Often it did not let them leave. As the people continued to expand and destroyed more of The Wood, she fled deeper into it, not wanting to see the corruption of the child that she loved or the people that she had once admired.
As men started venturing further into the unforgiving Wood, stories began to spread. They said that there was a woman in The Wood, but anyone who told tales of her gave a different account. She was dark as coffee, thick as an oak, with hair like a flowing willow. She was tall as a redwood, her eyes a burning autumn maple. She was slim as a birch and light as almond, hair thin as pine, eyes brilliant evergreen. In one regard, though, she was always the same: she was beautiful. She was like the rising sun, admired by all men. She was like the sea in storm, powerful and irresistible. She was like the summer wind, ethereal and intangible. Soon men started braving the horrid Wood just so that they could find her, and in their pursuit they burned and broke anything in their way. She hid deeper, and they followed her every shadow, destroying any place she might use to hide.
She was naked to her very core when they finally caught up to her. She was naked in the common way, as they saw that she had on no attire. But she was also naked in a different sense, like a turtle with no shell or a fish with no scales. So despite having never seen a woman more beautiful, they couldn't help but feel that her looks had been dulled as a picture of a flame is to the true fire. Her skin was the murky gray-brown of driftwood floating at sea too long. Her hair was a dying autumn rust. Her eyes were a dim, gray, hollow song.
She woke with a circle of a dozen men around her and an inferno of foliage around them. They dropped to their knees as she stood, compelled as their ancestors were to worship her. She must be so pleased, they thought, that we have rescued her from this foul Wood. She will thank us, and she will love us, as we love her. So confident, so proud, so self-assured as they were in their righteousness, that when she wept, they could not hear it. Her child and her home, her heart and her body: the whole of The Wood had been destroyed in their search for her. Her perfect voice, crying songs of grief, broke itself on the fallen trees and burning brush. Finally, when she could weep no more, she simply stood. She stood until the men around her, waiting reverently for her to show them some kind of sentiment, died of wanting her. She stood until the bones of the men and The Wood had decayed and disintegrated into the earth.
When she no longer remembered why she was standing, she decided to walk.
She left the circle of desolation that had surrounded her for so long and found a world that was no longer hers. Had she remembered anything about the land that she walked through, she would not have recognized it. There were no trees, or bushes, or grasses, or plants of any kind. There was only hard black tar and enormous stone blocks. Some had smoke and fire bursting from their roofs. And there were people everywhere. She was amazed and disgusted by how many people could fit into such a small space. A dozen of them in one block, two dozen in another, over a hundred crowding one stretch of tar. Few of them noticed her, and those who did paid her little mind. They had better things to worry about than a naked woman in the middle of the street, like business meetings, or stock portfolios, or naked women in their beds. She walked as a ghost through the throngs of people, intrigued and confused and utterly lost. She felt old, even though she wasn't, even though she was.
Ma'am? The voice was a thin whistle over the cacophony of life around her, but she knew it was directed at her. She turned around and found him standing within arm's reach behind her, his expression an odd mix of confusion, embarrassment, and pity. He removed his white apron and draped it over her neck, accomplishing very little of what he had intended. He introduced himself to her, and, after receiving nothing but a dead-eyed stare in response, decided that she must be a victim of some kind of traumatic event or psychiatric breakdown. Having no better idea of how to help, he decided that the least he could do for her was to put a roof over her head for the night.
I'm a baker by trade, he said as he led her toward his house, hoping that talking might stimulate her mind. What about you? With no reply, he decided to keep a steady stream of one-sided conversation until he reached his door. He made a bed for her on his floor, careful not to seem too eager to get her into his house. He didn't know what kind of suffering this woman had gone through, but he knew he'd never be able to help her if he scared her away. She, however, did not seem hesitant in the least, and immediately slept standing up in the doorway.
Over the next few months, The Baker continued to see to the well-being of the woman who he found in the street. He bought her several outfits of clothing to wear, though she needed a bit of help getting them on. He brought her food she took some time getting used to the idea of eating things like meat or eggs, or eating more often than once a week. He discovered that her quiet reservedness was mostly due to her inability to talk, and found that rather than having forgotten, it seemed as though she never understood language to begin with. There were days when she seemed almost child-like, filled with curiosity of him and his world. There were other days when she seemed leaden with ancient sorrow. He noticed, too, that she looked much healthier than when he'd met her. Her dull gray skin had gained some color and was now a light tan. Her hair, which he had assumed was dyed in some kind of dirt, had eventually been cleaned to a rich mahogany. Her eyes were the green of a normal eye. A normal human eye.
So, this is the shop, The Baker said, stepping onto the wooden platform inside the front door of his bakery. Over the past few days, he had started taking her out of the house in order to get reacquainted with society. He was hesitant at first, partly afraid that she might be overwhelmed, and partly afraid she might get too encouraged and leave him. He had fallen in love with her, of course, too quickly for him to even realize it. But it was because of this that he knew he must help her recover, and if she decided to leave him, so be it. He knew what was right and what was wrong, unlike so many of his kind.
She entered the block with a skip in her step, so excited at her new outlook on life. Not a trace of her true self could be seen on her; not a branch, not a twig, not a leaf. Coated in humanity, cloaked in mortality, she had convinced herself that this was who she was. But when she saw in the oven the wood caught afire, she finally remembered her grief. She reached out to the fire, in which she was born, and in which her child had been destroyed. It burned and cracked her human flesh, which fell to the floor in a pile of ash. This is who I really am, she thought. How could I take myself for one of them? As the fire consumed her wholly, she smiled, and thanked The Baker silently as she passed.
__________________________________________The Baker sat with his son, who was just becoming old enough to understand his endless stories. It was autumn, though with no trees around there was nothing to tell by anything but the chill wind. They sat on the grass at the edge of the city, at the edge of the plain that once was The Wood. They were not aware of it.
...And where her ashes were, I found this, The Baker told his attentive child, as he pulled a small brown bulb out of his pocket.
If you put your ear real close... They both did.
You can hear it beat, just like a heart. They both did not, but pretended to.
He had been holding onto it so long that it was hard to let it go. But time had passed, as it likes to do, and he decided that it should too. Together, The Baker and his son planted the bulb.
And in the spring, it grew.