The sun has set,
like statues, meditate.
The wheat has all been cut.
Federico Garcia Lorca, The Sun has Set
The veranda sang a lonely song in the dark. Its voice was full of damp and rust. Accompanying its lonely cries, a chorus of dormant bedroom doors, rattling in the breeze. The forest quietly observed the pitiful orchestra. A solitary chair rocked back and forth, as if its owner still sat there. A dog-eared poster of a beach-bodied brunette pin-up, curled hair and pearly smile. A half-cut pile of logs incompletely piled, riddled with damp. An axe buried in the gravel road which led to the porch, and an empty car, head lights dim, losing colour. The door was open, and the keys, still jammed in the ignition, jingled and rattled against the dashboard. Everything rattled here. It was strange, for the breeze became a stiff wind, and from a stiff wind to a harsh maelstrom. The chair rocked faster, and the axe fell over. The slamming doors became shouts, cries, moans. But the trees remained still; not a leaf nor needle moved. They watched the air and the moon and the dimming headlights attentively, quietly. The Pines’ needles lightly shimmered with anticipation. They were waiting.
Something else, not embittered by rust or rot, came stumbling through the trees. A creature, on two hind legs. A man; a human being. The trees, if their mouths weren’t sown shut, would have gasped. Instead, they watched as the man clambered onto the landing of the veranda, breathing heavily and holding tightly to its tiny yellow hat. It wore a yellow jacket too, smothered in mud. It rippled against its shins, and glistened as the rain began to fall. Even from high up in the canopies, they could see the man’s fear.
we can smell it
in our roots, our tendrils
curl and caress the earth.
He unnerves us, he does.
It had found a collapsed part of the roof; a section of the master bedroom half-buried in soggy blankets and headless teddy bears. The moonlight made the man’s tired eyes glitter. It was a strange creature, for it tumbled back and hid itself deep in the shadow of the fallen roof, as if to hide from the rain. The rain rose, not fell. It accumulated like sentient mercury and formed a misty creature in the air. The rain became the Cloud, which hung quietly over us all. It always watched; it always knew; soon there would be no moisture to quench the Earth. However, the Night was still damp. The Cloud drank with what seemed like a grin; a dark break in its ruddy skin. It rumbled, and then a flash. A boom and a crack, and then a falling tree.
we could see a contorted scream
from the man, in the flash.
a few of us grinned.
The tree, in an almighty crash, flaming and blinding, tore through the empty car. The windows exploded with the impact, and the car alarm died with a whirring whimper. The flame spread slowly towards the house as it spilled from the hood of the car. It bit and roared, with teeth that gnashed and jaws that snarled. The flames licked and bit their way along the veranda, crawling towards the entrance. The rain barely slowed its terrifying pace.
it filled our noses
the stench of burning hair
but from where?
The flames, with pale, lanky arms, pulled itself through the doorway. They spotted the writhing shadow of a man, so small. The man tore the hat from its head and began to burrow away from the flame, pathetically tearing the boards from the walls. Poor thing, it was trying to escape. The man looked back and saw the flames gaunt figure reflected against the damp walls like a shadow puppet. The flaming marionet stalked with thin legs, that flickered and contorted into long, ugly shapes. It hissed as it met wood; it consumed like the Cloud.
The Cloud continued to watch. It did so unmoving that the rain also stopped. The flames, now mere meters from the man, were also in a stasis. Everything had frozen; the wind, the rain, the residue from the flames – even the sound of nothing and everything. It became a dead silence, except for the terrified man and the body of the fire; cat and mouse. But the man now turned, shoulders heaving up and down. It grasped something with its hands. What was it?
The man was doing something else; it was grasping the air, snatching droplets from the sky. It held handfuls, then bundles, of raindrops in its arms. The trees were startled as the man began to run towards the flames. It screamed, and with a monumental gasp, threw the rain upon the flames. The flames cried, hissing with anger, and then nothing. For a moment, the man was plunged back into darkness. Total silence, except for those of us in the trees. We w-
we could smell the fear-
what? How can they hear?
The flames crawled away, as if cut deeply; a solitary bear shot in the leg.
Shut up! He can hear you!
The man looked up. But it wasn’t looking at the trees. It was looking higher. He was looking at us. Us. Us.
How?? How can it see us?
“I CAN SEE YOU. I CAN HEAR YOU.”
The man had said that. It now wielded the axe from the gravel, waving it around manically. The silence had been broken. But its lips did not move. The rain began to fall horizontally, striking the trees rather than the man.
The Cloud growled. It had grown upset. It noticed the disbelieving glimmer in the ugly man’s eyes. That wretched man, it could see me. It could see us, in the trees. No other had. We no longer goaded one another in our thoughts. None of us shared a word, for the man’s ears could hear our brains. Our voices were also the man’s; we could hear its thoughts. It could hear ours.
HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE???
“WHO ARE YOU?”
The Cloud responded with a grunt, and allowed Sound to come back. It was a terrifying waterfall of noise, one which drowned the strange man’s voice. The ocean of sound startled the man; it held its hands tight to its ears. Yet as it did, we also felt an overwhelming sickness. We clawed our non-existent ears with our non-existent hands and cried aloud, calling out towards the Cloud. It was punishing us, torturing us. Why!
What did we do?
The Cloud watched. The Cloud reigns over us all. He is our great founder.
He holds the bridge to thought. What He thinks we think. He is our narrator.
The man screamed, and so we did. We had no mouths, so the screams curdled in our heads that didn’t exist.
A clatter of thunder, and a bolt of lightning struck the man clean. Within an instant, our screams died. Where the man had stood, there was now nothing more than a glimmer of grey pebbles – mere gravel in the earth. The little rocks rolled onto the gravel path, taking form with the rest of the small rocks. And then silence. We stood quietly in the canopies, as still as the trees. With his thoughts scattered into ash, the Cloud has cured us of the curse. We no longer need to feel, for there is nothing to feel. Without man, we are without thoughts.
The silence resumed, as did the nothing in-between. The axe had left its owners hand, and lay half buried in the gravel. The solitary chair rocked back and forth, nervously. A quiet breeze carried the distancing murmur of flames, and the trees were silent. Not a word they whispered, for the Cloud wished it so. We are so terribly delighted to say nothing…except…a man wanders through the brush, donning a yellow cap and jacket. We are scared, and cheer him on. The flames erupt, and we watch the sky turn blue and the rains turn still. Then nothing.
I haven’t much time to say this, save only now
Whoever reads this, this is us
Inside your head, we exist
We have only two lines left to say
Listen to us, hear us, we are watching
Once upon a time, there was a perfect little cottage in a perfect little forest. A little girl called Hilda was watching her father cut logs by the side of the house. A tinny rumble came from the opening in the trees: mother had returned home! Her car rumbled into the dirt driveway. The little engine tugged along, hardy as its owners; Hilda’s mother worked tirelessly for her. Her mother laughed excitedly as she burst out of the car, hugging her daughter tightly.
“Oh, how lovely to see you darling,” the mother exclaimed. “And, oh dear husband! You look as strapping as ever!”
The husband laughed a gentleman’s laugh, and threw his weight into splitting another log. He was halfway there. He was storing firewood for the stormy winter ahead. The Cloud was soon to come. His mother grinned, and took Hilda inside, forgetting the keys were still in the car’s ignition. Ah well, that is nothing! The husband grinned, and as his wife disappeared into the cottage, he slipped a little picture of a pin-up into the boarding. He needed some candy to keep his mind from slipping into the forest, where the White Ones lay watching. He could hear them, see them, smell them. He didn’t need to turn his head, for he could feel their stare digging into his back. They watched him at the foot of his bed at night-
It was another happy day, and the family had a picnic by the edge of the forest clearing. Delighted, they had a variety of desserts and drinks: cordials, wines, juices, jellies, cupcakes, lollipops, and all other treats the loveliest child would want. All three sat on a little rug, perfectly mindless and happy. Not a thought in the heads of either mother or daughter. But the husband saw their thoughts, and the deep purple eyes that peeked past the trees. Their long, clawing nails, and their snarling-
“What a wonderful way to end the Autumn,” giggled the mother, raising a glass of apple juice. “Oh my! I’ve left the car on!”
She laughed, Hilda laughed, and the Cloud laughed with them.