It Makes Me Wonder

It has been many years, but I still remember the trees. They were tall and grey and, from a distance, hazy against the dusky sky. The wind blew often from the west, and that, I think, is why the branches of many of the trees stretched toward the east. During the winter and the early spring, when all the leaves had fallen, one could look up and, though the wind did not blow, imagine that the trees still danced to its song.

The trees did not make up a forest--simply a small glade--but a more wonderful and magical place could not be found. As a child, I would spend many a day exploring all the secrets hidden there.

It was a place of freedom in an otherwise dark world, a place to which I could run after a long day spent in the indoctrination center--or, as the government preferred to call it, school--a place where I could escape all the pressures placed upon me by others. It was a place where my imagination could run wild.

Every tree had its story. There was the tall pine in the center of the glade beneath which two warring generals of old had made their peace. There was the beautiful willow, beneath whose boughs many a pair of lovers had met. And there was the solitary tree at the very edge of the glade. What type of tree it was I know not. It was old and dark, and it’s branches, gnarled and twisted, spread out in the most terrifying of fashions. I was certain that at one time a witch had stirred her evil brew beneath it.

Perhaps the most wonderful of all the trees was the old, sturdy oak which stood but a short distance from the witch’s tree. It was the home of a dryad named Boris. He had lived for more than two hundred years and had seen many people pass through that glade--lovers, knights, kings and queens, and who knows how many others.

He was one of the oldest of the glade’s denizens, but he did not look old. I never saw him fully--just as I never saw any of the creatures there fully--but I caught glimpses. He was rather handsome. His skin was the colour of bark, his eyes rich, dark brown. His hair, which was long and wild, was green during the summer, but in the fall it would turn to brilliant shades of red and orange. He was rather pleased with that fact and no little egotistic. (I think it made him feel better before his hair turned dull grey and brown with the winter.)

He was a rather blustery fellow, but one never doubted that, if a friend of his were in danger, he would risk his life to save him. Everybody loved particular the dryad of one of the birches. She thought him dreadfully handsome and had fallen head over heals in love with him.

Poor Boris spent much of his time evading her advances, for he was in love with one and one alone--the willow on the other edge of the glade. He was convinced that a beautiful maiden made her home in that stately tree, and he was determined to make her his. Every day without fail he would tromp across the glade, sit at the willow’s foot, and whisper sweet nothings for hours on end. The willow was my favorite place to sit, and I found that if I sat quietly enough and listened hard enough I could catch bit and pieces of his words. If nothing else he was romantic; too bad it was wasted on a tree.

The pixies all laughed at him, but, then again, the pixies laughed at everything. The glade came alive with their small voices and their silly antics. They flitted about constantly in games of tag and hide-and-seek. And sometimes, upon the wind, I could hear their voices lifted up in song. Their voices may have been small, but I have never heard any others sing with such beauty as did they.

Try as I might, I could never quite see them. All I could catch were the shortest of glimpses, save for once. Nearly eight years had passed since I first began coming to the glade. I was sixteen. I was making my way through the trees when suddenly out from behind some leaves there darted something small and blue. I stared in shock as it slowed and hovered before me. It was a pixie. How old he was I know not, for his feature, sharp and smooth, seemed ageless. He was blue from head to toe and clothed only with a loincloth. On his head he wore an over-sized hat, which he preceded to take off as he bowed low before me. Then, with an impish grin, he stuck out his tongue and flitted off.

That glade was a beautiful place. I loved lying on the ground and simply staring up at the trees. The clouds too were magnificent to behold. They were where great kings and queens made their homes. One could see the cities and the palaces stretching across the sky.

I remember how beautiful it was, and nothing anyone can do or say can erase that memory.

I wish I had never told Julien all that I thought and felt. But how could I have not? I loved him so very, very much.

I remember we sat outside at a table on the open porch of a small restaurant. The cars whizzed by, and overhead one could occasionally see a shuttle. Usually, the shuttles were simply bound for destinations across the globe, but that day I remember I saw one bound for the moon.

I could never quite keep myself from feeling a slight wave of pity when I saw one of those shuttles. The moon was the place where the government sent all the criminals they deemed to be great menaces to society. The moon is a harsh and unforgiving world, and I could not picture then, nor can I picture now, anyone who could truly deserve such a fate.

Julien and I talked much that day. I enjoyed his company so. During the course of our conversation, I found myself gazing up at a nearby tree. Something prompted him to ask me what it was I saw. I know not why, but I told him all about the pixies, dryads, kings and queens who peopled my imagination.

His face grew dark as he said, “Eyes as beautiful as yours ought not see things which don’t exist.”

I laughed and told him, “I doubt you would find my eyes as beautiful if I didn’t see the things I see.”

How I wish that he had understood. I tried with all my might to make him see what I saw. We argued much over the next few weeks, until finally he gave up and simply reported me to his superior.

I still can’t believe he did that. I can’t believe that anyone could willingly cause as much pain as he did to me.

It has been many years since I have seen the trees and the clouds and felt the wind against my face and the warm rays of the sun. They locked me away in a sub-level of some dark complex. They put me hard to work doing meaningless chores--filing papers mostly, though sometimes I write reports on some pointless thing or other. They tell me I do my work well, and, because of that, they say, I cannot leave; I serve society best here in a world lit by artificial light.

They tell me fairies are not real. They are things to be imagined only by small children, and even then it is frowned upon. I, however, am a grown woman, and for me to see the things I see is detrimental to society.

It makes me wonder. Why are they afraid of creatures which exist only in my imagination?


Copyright 1999 Jessica Menn