Sylvestris by Erus Arthurs (Lucent Dreaming Issue 4)

There should be a forest here, not one tree. The lone sentinel, the hilt of a dagger sheathed deep into the earth, stands tall, and watches me tread the vestigial tears of the many fallen giants. The springy mass of decaying pine needles resists my steps, squeaking under the agony of my weight – so much, so much, please stop, please stop. The level sea of needles spans to the horizon, and the only landmark, positioned in the centre of the compass—otherwise the earth—is this singular pine standing firm, as if sole siren to this sea entire. And so, I am wary, and I am observant. I see the armour protecting its core, segmented patches, each an auburn shield, behind which mobilises battalions of ants. Moths prepare for take-off, and spiders flit strategically, preparing for ambush. I see the patient limbs stretching out to signpost nowhere. I see the multitudinous needle-tipped fingers threaten to stab the flesh of any passing scoundrels. I see the cones forming at the ends of the limbs, pallid, yellow, as clenched fists and the dance of this lone siren, who, inspired so by the breeze, bobs and rebounds to the respiratory cadence. The sunlight illuminates the tree as if it were an actor performing a monologue on centre stage. Yet, as if to exemplify the turning point in a tragicomedy, half the tree is in shade, and half is in light. The dance of the darkened side, if only for the influence of shade, seems portentous and gloomy, but the lighted side is joyful and pleasant. The latter half, with its rhythmic jig, releases thick clouds of pollen, golden plumes that fill the air with thick, shimmering blankets which float to the horizon. The sullen half responds to the virile mists by excreting tears of amber resin from its core. To this melancholy side I slip, and see a knotted loop tied round a middlemost branch. The loop lacks a host – for this I am thankful – and I watch the twisted fibres sway with the languid motions of the plaintive dance. Yet the eye, the loop at the end of the cord, jerks in confrontation with the rhythm, as if the pace is too much. The eye’s pained expression beckons me closer, and out of either compassion, curiosity or fear, I heed its call.

I consider to whom the rope is subservient. Looking up, returning its blink-less glare, I consider the noose. The pine gallows and swing-rope, the tugging and the fray, the fear and tremors, the joy and freedom. I then consider the screaming, and the silence – the metronomic tick of a conclusive act. There’s the lack of birdsong to consider, as well as the sniffs at quickened pace, and hard swallowing that seems unnatural – apples return to the tree. Beckon to, amble forth; place footsteps to drown out the inner thumping. The climb, the ascent, the embrace, the fall…oh the fall! The final dance; an attempt at tap without a floor. The absurdity. The ignoring of a Frenchman’s advice. The wish to say sorry…to have said sorry…no desire to return. The darkening, the smile-bloom, the subside and deep dive. The echo and moan. The Titans and Us. The sweet ring. The final. The—

No.

It won’t do.

And so, I jump down and step back from the tree.

Shrouded by isolation, the weight of loneliness forces me to my knees. The needles stab my legs as I issue subtle, sorrowful laments, and watch my tears cascade through the layered surface beneath. In recognition of my lugubriousness, the wind abates, and silence swallows my sobbing. But then a gentle crackling sound emerges from below, like a bonfire popping. My weeping ceases as I see, where my tears slipped beneath the needles, the surface begins to swell and ebb. Brown shoots sprout from the spongy floor, which, like earthworms escaping drenched soil, wriggle upward and sluggishly swing left and right. Watching these lines spring and grow, I sit up, and then stand. At knee-height the lines begin to weave together and form myriad sprawling extensions, which, each of their own accord, spread, stretch, and unfurl to become a mass of undergrowth. In moments I am surrounded by an ocean of shining green ferns. A wonderful rustling accompanies the abundant growth, and as I watch the ferns propagate to the horizon in every direction I look, I feel the ground shudder. As the shuddering progresses to tremor, a massive creaking sound preaches from below. Then, the earth quaking with great ferocity, through the ground thrust gigantic trees, fiercely piercing upward like pikes striking the sky. A clamour erupts as each tree greets the world with a roar, but as the frontline expands, the quaking and battle-cries retreat further into the distance. Then a stillness, and silence.

I stand in this immense and freshly primeval forest, immobile, unable to move even my head – only my eyes can swivel in their sockets. Yet, I’m not frightened – like everything around, I am simply still. And then a sense of presence, a disruption of undergrowth, whispers of sound, and an appearance of form. Ahead a figure wanders through the forest. Expertly rounding the trees and sweeping ponderously through the ferns like a ship cutting through the surf, it manoeuvres toward me. It nears, and I notice its wooden limbs and laborious walk. As if in a constant state of felling, it seems always to be tipping forward. Closer, I discern its head to be constituted from moss, while its face is an expression of leaves – perhaps ivy, or oak. Its eyes, ears, nose, and mouth are but slight gaps in the leaves – hollows of shade. The figure halts mere inches before me, and with its dark gaps, peers into my eyes. Its wooden arms raise and touch my shoulders, and as leaves descend over its eye-gaps, its mouth rustles forth fey sounds,which create a harmonic warbling. The sound, as it becomes ever louder, drains my energy; as the voice engulfs the space around me, my eyelids droop, and the figure’s countenance fades from view. And so, I rest…

In the darkness behind my eyelids, I sway with the alternating highs and lows as if cradled upon its rhythm. Distant horizontal and vertical lines of various hues appear in the dim and, crossing over each other, combine to form a tapestry. These lines become so tightly woven that I cannot detect margin nor imperfection. Stretching ever further, the tapestry, being woven at a patient, languid pace, after some time expands beyond my field of vision. I feel then fully enclosed, embraced, secure in its support – solitary, warm, content.

Like paper held up to light, the tapestry begins to glow. All around is an encompassing radiance, and upon this lambent surface, like mouths taking first breaths, open many pores that subtly assume a spectrum of colours. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of pores spawn; some form buds, some blossom into flowers or shapes, and some sprout lines that wiggle and serve as legs. These latter pores animate, slowly at first, and some combine with others to form larger pores a variety of shapes. I observe many moving pores begin consuming the stationary pores, while some of the larger pores seem to devour only other moving pores. Before me arises a display of lifeforms that birth and die, eat and grow, move and stay. If I strain my eyes hard enough and watch closely, I see a thin line that connects each separate pore, so that on the tapestry is constructed a more minute and interwoven sequence of lines. The size of these smaller lines correlates with the size of the connected entities. The lines themselves are a plethora of hues. Due to the activity of the pores, these lines move in a chaotic manner, and watching them warp is mesmerising.

Now an immense fractal world that morphs constantly with itself, the tapestry updates its design as if respirating, correcting error, and levelling inequality. The vast and spectacular fractalisation floods me with awe, and the combinations of vibrant colours are so astonishing it is as if rainbow oceans clash together in spectral tidal waves, creating crystalline surges of iridescent spray. Interactions between the living, moving pores become so intricate they become beyond comprehension. In this world before me I find the beauty of interconnectedness. Through all things slips the thread of eternity, infinity, and perfection.

I desire to join the beauty. I wish for the thread to pass through me, to pierce me despite the pain. I long for a sense of connection, but from my position I cannot move – I am but an observer, a presence. I wonder if I focus my mind, whether I could join the splendour. And so, I focus. My repeated attempts, each a great expenditure of my energy, distance the tapestry evermore. Yet, with my severe craving I drive harder, more strenuously, and the fractal patterns retreat to greater distances. Agony climaxes as the distance becomes so vast that everything is shrouded in darkness. And so, in isolation I float.

 

Browse issue 4 in full.
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, imaginative and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. Our aim is to encourage creativity and to help writers reach publication! Subscribe to Lucent Dreaming now, support us on Patreon and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

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