October 25, 2014

The Leaf


Another (disappointing) story in the series of anthropomorphic objects! Part one, part two, part three.

This one took me much too long to write.

The Leaf

   "Tell me a story," the voice said. It was a dry, crinkly sort of voice, one that sent a pins-and-needles shiver down my spine and made the back of my neck prickle. I didn't know where it was coming from. I was, as far as I knew, alone in a cave, trapped by the blizzard raging around me.

   "Yeah," I said, "I'll tell you a story. What do you want to hear about?"

   "Anything," said the voice. "I have not had much contact with the outside world lately."

   "Okay." I thought for a moment. "All right, here goes:

Let me tell you about Aly Grave.

     "Winter is here. The streetpeople huddle on their cardboard boxes, under blankets and newspapers, shivering in their filthy coats and hats in an effort to keep warm. She tries to ignore them."

   "Wait," said the voice. "I do not understand."

   "I'm sorry, what?"

   "To repeat, I do not understand."

     How dense was this voice? "Well, I guess I just started the story," I said. "But it's not like it needs any explaining yet."

   "Winter," it said. "What is Winter?"

   "It's a season," I said slowly, "right after autumn. In Canada, snow usually falls."

   "I see. I have never experienced anything beyond autumn."

     I blinked.

   "What is snow?" it asked.

     Clearly this voice hadn't been out much.

   "You can't be serious," I said. "Hold on, where are you?"

   "I am here."

     I honed in on the voice bouncing off the damp walls with my dog-like hearing. I had no clue where it was coming from.

   "At your feet," it clarified.

     I crouched down and looked around. The only thing at my feet was...

   "You're a leaf!" - a little, withered brown leaf, perched delicately on the damp cave floor, and apparently sentient. "How can you speak?"

   "I do not know," it said, and it trembled as if someone had puffed at it with a zephyr breath.

   "And how do you have any concept of what a story is? Or English?"

   "My tree knew," it said. Flutter, flutter. "It was old, very old, and it learned from the Earth. And it told us stories.

   "In the spring, when I was nothing more than a bud poking out to greet the harsh nip of a brisk morning after an April shower, it would nurture me and tell me about the season of new love and new life. It told me about the pomegranate tree, how it became the first being to be given a voice for its imagination. And it told me how the Earth named the pomegranate 'Punica', and why its fruits are so red.

   "In the summer, after I had reached my full potential and worked hard to provide energy for my tree in the scorching red heat of the relentless sun, it would soothe us with water drawn up through its wood, and tell us about far-distant lands so unforgiving that only the hardiest, most adapted creatures can survive. And we would ask if we were lucky where we lived, and the tree would answer 'No', for everything on Earth must suffer equally to exist.

   "When autumn first touched us, the tree stopped telling us stories. It only whispered to us again and again, 'Goodbye,' and nothing else. Our tree had betrayed us, and was letting us go. We did not understand. My kin grew brown and stale, and they slowly dropped; at first one by one, but then in masses, swirling with the stiff, sharp wind.

   "And when my time came, I did not say goodbye. I released my branch, and the wind whipped around me, carrying me along with hundreds of others. We were scattered across the land, and I was dropped in this cave. So you see, I have never known anything past autumn."

   I smiled. "When the storm lets up (you've experienced storms before, right?), I'll take you outside and show you winter."

   "I'd like that," said the leaf.

   "And while we're waiting, you can tell me about Punica."

     I don't know how long I stayed in that godforsaken cave conversing with a leaf. I got a cramp from crouching, and shifted to a more comfortable position. The leaf quivered sympathetically.

   "Listen to that," I whispered, turning to the cave entrance. "The wind's gone."

   "Does that mean we can leave?"

   "I think so."

     I looked at the leaf, and fancied it was looking back at me.

   "Are you ready to see the world?" I asked.


     As I picked it up by its brittle stem, the leaf seemed to chuckle wistfully. Then, it promptly disintegrated.

     I stared at the sad pile - nearly nothing - of leaf dust blending into the cave floor. Some snow drifted in, blowing it further into the cave.

   "Whoa," I said, to no one. No one was there. No more voices. I was alone. "Well, shit."

The End


Thoughts? Fish? Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet 43? Bring it.