Tag Archives: forest

Chapter 52: Birthday Party

It was Ellen’s fortieth birthday party. Yani made a three-layer chocolate cake with a happy face composed of slices of juicy prange on top. Lem composed his own face to look just like the prange face. At the head of the table sat a gangly thin teenage boy with the faintest shadow of a mustache over his sensitive mouth.

“Father, please do the honors,” Yani passed the knife to the boy so that he could slice the cake for everyone.

The boy sliced a piece of cake for Ellen and handed it to her. After all, she was the party girl. Then he sliced a piece for Lem and Yani. Finally, he cut a piece for himself. It was the largest piece of all, and everyone at the table laughed at that.

At forty Ellen had a few strands of white and grey in her thick black hair, and two or three almost imperceptible laugh lines at the corners of her eyes, but she was still a beauty. There was no question about that in anybody’s mind.

The boy and Ellen were the same height. He was much thinner, of course, but her body was still attractively packaged.

The boy had decided about four years ago that nobody should celebrate his birthdays. He just didn’t feel like celebrating them. Birthdays signified another step towards non-existence. It didn’t really matter whether you were going forwards or backwards in time. Maybe the reason Ellen chose to celebrate her birthdays and the boy didn’t was that he knew how much time he had left and she didn’t.

He hoped she’d live forever, somehow independent of his mind, until he thought about it rationally. None of his creations, none of the artifacts of his mind, would survive the cessation of his existence. All his creatures were rational. They all would know exactly how much time they’d have left. He wondered how they could all deal with the same fate so differently.

Ellen understood what was happening. She saw with her own eyes, day after day, night after night. Sometimes, though, she couldn’t help but look at him through other eyes. If only her family and friends could see her, Ellen, a forty-year old woman gallivanting around arm-in-arm with a sixteen year old boy, they’d tell her she’d lost her head and her dignity. They’d think differently, however, if they knew him the way she knew him. He might have looked like a boy but he had the depth of experience and wisdom of a seventy year old. Ellen knew she’d stay beside him to the bitter end. She hadn’t mentioned it to him but she had resolved years ago that she would even carry him in her womb if that would prolong his life for a few more months. Ellen couldn’t imagine life without him.

 

After they had finished the cake, the boy got up from the table, took Ellen’s hand, and told Lem and Yani not to wait up for them. Ellen and the boy walked out into the crisp night air, turned to their left, and walked up the path toward the strand of trees.

 

They reached a promontory overlooking the valley of shadow with dimly lit caves on the hillsides stretching away as far as their eyes cared to see.

The boy glanced to his left at the strand of nearby trees. There was a gap between the trees. He took a folding knife from his pocket, opened it up, and made two parallel notches on the bark of one of the trees bordering the gap. In the starlight he saw a pale path. They turned to walk toward it. The boy made two more parallel notches on a tree beside the path. The trees were dense and over-arching so that they could not see even a sliver of the night sky above them. They walked slowly along the path, hand in hand. Often they had to duck their heads to avoid the low hanging branches and out-reaching brambles.

They came to a wall of branches with thorns and discovered that the path turned to their right. He made another two notches on a tree at the turn. They followed the new path for some time until they came into a clearing lit palely by the weak starlight from above. The boy double-notched the tree at the entrance to the clearing.

There was a more-or-less flat boulder half sunk in the middle of the clearing. They sat down on it for a few moments just to catch their bearings.

“Where are we going?” Ellen asked the boy.

He put his arm around her, drawing her toward him, kissing her fragrant hair. “We are going to face my fears,” the boy said softly.

There was a sound, barely discernible, of unlubricated metal against unlubricated metal. He walked to the edge of the clearing and strained his ears to hear better, but he no longer heard it. Then he heard it again. They both heard it now: “Over here…”

There was a path at the edge of the clearing. He called out in a trembling voice barely audible, “Keep speaking so I can find you.” He double-notched the tree next to the path and Ellen rose to join him.

“Over here … over here … over here-errrrrr,” the disembodied voice continued through the darkness.

They saw a glint of metal in the weak starlight.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

Advertisement

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

Chapter 48: Meanwhile Back at the Cave

Lem and Yani guided Ellen to their home, one of the caves she had seen from the cliff. When they reached the third cave, Lem stopped and put his hand on the glass wall. The glass wall dissolved. They passed through the entrance into the cave, after which the glass reformed. Lem pointed to a sofa and asked Ellen to make herself comfortable. Lem sat down on a chair opposite her.

Yani offered Lem and Ellen a cup of water and a plate of fresh fruit. The young woman raised the cup to her lips and drank down the cool thirst-quenching liquid in a few gulps. She eyed the fruit with desire and curiosity. Lem smiled, reached over to the plate, picked up a prange, and popped it into his mouth. “You really should try the prange,” Lem said amiably with his mouth full of the tart pulp, “it’s fresh from our garden. Yani picked it just before you arrived.” Ellen picked up a prange from the plate and bit off a tip of the fruit. The tangy taste seemed to explode in her mouth. She ate the rest of it and reached for another piece of fruit.

Yani sat down on the sofa beside Ellen. She turned to see her better. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so blue,” she said.

“Our parents were light beige colored like you,” Yani answered. “We are genetic adaptations to a certain environment.”

Ellen hesitated, “mutations? I mean …”. She immediately regretted using that word.

Yani smiled and looked at Lem. “I suppose you could use that term.”

 

“Look,” Ellen cast about, looking for a way to launch into the reason she had come to the cabin, “I’ve come all the way from … well, it doesn’t matter where I came from … you’ve probably never heard of it … I’ve come all this way just to interview him …”

“Why would you want to do that?” Lem asked.

“Because I’m a journalist,” she shot back, “and a damned good one at that!” Ellen had a strange feeling after saying that so vehemently, like she had said it before.

“No,” he said, “I meant why would you want to interview Father?”

“I want to understand how and why he writes what he writes,” she attempted to justify her existence to Lem, like she remembered having to do on her first day in the introductory journalism class when she had to stand up before the professor in the packed lecture hall and explain why she wanted to take that pretentious bastard’s course. “His books,” she stammered, “I’ve read every one of them …”

“He wouldn’t know about that,” Lem answered. “He’s just a young man. He hasn’t written any books yet.”

“I … I don’t understand,” Ellen stammered. “What’s going on here? Where is he?”

“He’s …” Lem looked at Yani and back at Ellen. “I have to bring him back here.”

Lem got up, walked through the glass door, and was out of sight.

 

The young man got up and ran out of the clearing crashing through the thorny branches. He smashed against a tree but kept on running. He ran into another wall of branches and down the path to his right. He came into the clearing and slowed down when he came to a flat boulder. He sat down on it and examined his surroundings. He saw the Tin Man sitting on the tree trunk. The Tin Man raised three metal fingers and a familiar voice called out “Father … Father! Please Father!”

 

Little by little his consciousness shifted into something more familiar. He looked up at the starless night and recognized the cobalt outlines of Lem’s face above him.

“Father, are you alright?” Lem asked. “Please answer me.”

A wet pain throbbed on the left side of his head. “I suppose so,” he said.

“What am I going to do with you,” Lem feigned exasperation.

“I just wanted to go for a short walk,” he said, struggling to sit up. “I had no idea I’d get myself lost in this damned forest.” He tried to stand up. His legs were still wobbly.

Lem put an arm around his father to support his weight. “You must be more careful here,” Lem told his young father. “You are blind in more dimensions than those in which you can see.”

“You really know how to make a guy feel good,” he said sarcastically.

“Wait til you get home,” Lem smiled.

 

They walked arm in arm in silence until they reached the cliff overlooking the caves in the valley. The far mountain tops turned golden in the blush of dawn.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

Chapter 47: The Great Escape

He crashed through the thorny branches tearing at his shirt and scratching his face. He had a knife-like pain in his side from running but his mind attempted to ignore the pain. His legs avoided rocks and jumped over fallen logs of their own accord. Somehow he reached an open path. He could see a small patch of open night sky above him. The sweat stang his bloody scratches as he ran down the path. Imperceptibly the small patch of open sky closed as the tall trees conferred in susurrating whispers.

The left side of him smashed against a tree knocking the wind out of him momentarily but he kept on running trying to reach the edge of the forest and the clearing where Lem’s and Yani’s cave.

He ran into another wall of branches with thorns and down the path to his right. He came into a clearing lit palely by the weak starlight from above.

He slowed down when he came to a more-or-less flat boulder half sunk in the middle of the clearing. He decided to sit on it for a few moments just to catch his breath and his bearings. He examined his surroundings.

He saw the Tin Man sitting on the tree trunk between the two bushes.

The Tin Man raised one metal finger. A multitude of voices murmured something unintelligible.

The young man got up and ran out of the clearing crashing through the thorny branches tearing at his shirt and scratching his face. His legs avoided the rocks and jumped over the fallen logs. He reached the open path and could see a small patch of open night sky above him. The sweat stang his bloody scratches as he ran down the path. Imperceptibly the small patch of open sky closed as the tall trees leaned into each other.

He smashed against a tree knocking the wind out of him but kept on running.

He ran into another wall of branches and down the path to his right. He came into the clearing and slowed down when he came to a flat boulder. He sat down on it and examined his surroundings. He saw the Tin Man sitting on the tree trunk.

The Tin Man raised two metal fingers and a multitude of voices murmured something unintelligible.

The young man ran out of the clearing crashing through the thorny branches tearing at his shirt and scratching his face. His legs avoided rocks but not the fallen log which he tripped over and hit his head on a rock. A blackness darker than the night engulfed him.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

If a Tree Fell in the Forest

“If a tree fell in the forest but no one was there to hear the noise, did it make a sound?”

My first philosophical question was posed to me by my father when I was a small boy. As I remember, there was no correct or incorrect answer. There was only the recital of various arguments and rebuttals. Finally after almost 60 years, I thought of a better question. If only my dad were still alive to appreciate it with me.

It’s this: if billions of trees in a forest all fell at the same time, could you hear the sound that one of them made as it crashed to the ground?

There are so many of us, each with his or her own desires, needs, hopes, stories, disappointments, fears, loves, and sadness; his or her voices, faces, bodies, pleasures, and pains. How can we possibly see or hear or touch them all?

Know that those who are unheard and unseen wither from the lack of hearing or seeing. That is the problem of other consciousness: being conscious of others who are unconscious of you.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Prose

Chapter 36: Down by the River

Sangor returned alone to the compound. His friends were surprised to see him alive, standing on his own legs. One of the men jeered, “What’s the matter, Sangor, didn’t they have room for you in Paradise?” The men around him smirked or chortled.

Sangor stared at the man and the men around him until the sounds died. Some of the men wondered what had happened to Sangor.

When he finally spoke, Sangor spoke so softly that the men had to strain their ears to hear him. “They’ve decided to let us return home,” he said. Nobody else said anything for a long moment. “Those of us who want to leave are free to do so.”

Still nobody spoke. A voice from the back of the cave asked, “What’s the catch?” Another said, “They’ll shoot us in the back as soon as we leave this compound!” A third man who had been part of the aborted escape attempt said, “So what, we’ll never find our way out of this god-damned hell hole to the river. We tried before and see where it got us!”

Sangor waited until the other men had run out of words and silence once again began to fill the cave. “A Rat will come in one hour to lead those of you who wish to leave to the river,” he said. “Anyone who wants to stay here can stay.”

“What are you going to do?” the silent man who had led the aborted escape asked.

“What do you think?” Sangor answered coldly.

 

An hour later, nobody noticed that a Rat child had appeared in the captive compound. “Hey look!” a voice said and all heads turned in the child’s direction.

“Follow me,” the child said. “I will take you to the river, to the point where it may be forded.”

The men stood up, testing and stretching their legs, after sitting or lying so long on the hard stone floor. They began to file after the child across the threshold where the glass wall had been and into the sunlight.

Many of the men, including Sangor, looked around themselves at the caves and fields, but mainly at the cloudless cobalt sky that stretched from one horizon to another.

The child led the men up the winding narrow path to the plateau from which they could view the green valley. The men kept their eyes on the child’s back, especially those who had attempted to escape on their own and kept returning to the same point.

The child went through a gap between the trees and disappeared from the view of some of the stragglers. They hurried their pace and latched their fingers into the collars or the pants of the men in front of them to make sure they weren’t left behind. The men up front disappeared through the gap between the trees, followed by a millipede of men holding onto each other for dear life, until the last straggler had made it through.

They walked along a forest path with a meandering creek running along between the trees off to the right of them. The water lapping the rocks gave them hope that they might actually make it to the river.

Three of the captives, one of whom was the silent man, plotted to overpower the Rat child as soon as they were in sight of the river. They’d take him captive or they’d kill him.

The men could hear the rushing torrent of the river. The child had fallen back, as some of the men hurried forward to see with their own eyes what their ears promised them. The man next to the silent man grinned to himself. This was going to be almost too easy.

When they reached the river bank, the three men turned on the Rat who had no place to run to, but he was nowhere to be found. They looked everywhere within a radius of 30 steps, careful not to lose a line of sight to the rest of the group. Frustrated, once again, they caught sight of a flat boat tethered to one of the trees overhanging the river. The men filed down the embankment to the boat and climbed onto it. One man untied the rope, letting it fall from the tree, and while the rope slid along the bank towards the water, the man jumped onto the boat grasped by the outstretched hands of his countrymen.

The men paddled the flat boat with great difficulty to the opposite shore and stepped gratefully onto the far shores of Sector 127.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels