“Tell the story again, Pap!” She bounced up and down on his knee, eyes alive with excitement. “Tell the story about Dreamscape again!”
The old man smiled at his granddaughter, “I just told it!” he exclaimed warmly.
Her eyes darted left and right, “Oh, I’d like to hear it again! About your journey to Dreamscape, and your relic from the other world. The preeeeeess…” Her eyes lit up and widened with the last word, she elongated it as if it had mystical properties.
“Trees.” The old man corrected. “I’ll tell it another time, perhaps next cycle. Your mother is calling, go!” It was true, her mother had been is calling, yet he didn’t tell her the real reason he couldn’t tell the story again. There was still a part of his old soul that felt betrayed, that wondered if he had done something wrong. Had he angered the great being, or was it just playing a game with him? Everytime he told the harrowing tale, a piece of his heart turned more tender, more sensitive. A little died.
The tale had traveled, and brought him success as a young man. The first Dreamscape traveler to bring back a tangible piece. Fame’s draw had been nice at first, but it began to taste like turned fruit after a time. Despite his attempts to recreate the Dreamscape, he could never get back to the lush place of I am all.
* * * * *
The boy went to the place in his dreams. He walked the same path as he had when the Dreamseer brought him to the other world. But the way was different. The land was barren: dirt, rock and soil replaced the previously lush, deep gathering life he witnessed in the dreamscape.
It was different and yet the same. Brown and yellow had replaced green, and the textured quality of the Dreamscape had become flat, less dense. Yet landmarks still existed. The boulder in which he awoke in the dreamscape lay lifeless to his right. The stream which brought him and his tribe life meandered the through the valley the same way it had in his dreamscape.
Some part of the boys mind was dreaming, his vision was filled with the recollection of the Tree’s world, it overlapped with that of his own world like a thin, revealing veil. It called to him, but not in the same way the being had in his dream. Before the being had encapsulated his mind, spoke with him and filled his senses with its presence.
Now, it was nothing more than a whisper. A hush through the wind, or the breathy whine of a late night breeze. He clutched the seed in his hand, and opened it to look at it once again. It sat unremarkably in his palm, brown and miniscule. How can something so small create something so grand?
Kneeling down near the stream, near the place that looked similar to the dreamscape, he dug a small hole. When it had reached no deeper than his elbow, he gently placed it down and buried it under the dirt. He sat back on his knees and waited.
“Are you there?” he asked the seed.
There was no reply. The dirt did not stir, nor did the voice in his mind.
I am all, the Tree had said in his dream. What you see is where I reside. He looked out before him, all he saw was dirt, rocks and open air. Clouds moved unimpeded in the sky above him. The boy squinted his eyes hard and concentrated, as if forcing the memory of the Dreamscape would somehow bring it to life.
“You lied to me,” the boy finally said and kicked dirt at the freshly buried seed in front of him. “You said we’d speak, but all you’ve given me is lie; words to dash my spirit.” Was it just a dream? Had his journey to dreamscape occured? How else could he explain the seed he brought back with him?
The spirit was wicked, and now he laughs at my disheartened soul from the other side of dreamscape.
The boy got up and left, looking over his shoulder every few steps to make sure nothing happened when he did. He slouched his shoulders when nothing did and left the sacred grove. Tears fell from his eyes as he turned back and walked away, as he would do for the weeks that followed.
* * * * *
“Can you take me there, Grandpap?!” She tugged at his sleeve one morning, jumping up and down, in a way that made his old bones ache. “Can you take me to the place where you dropped the… Tree’s seed? I want to see where the story ends!” She was smiling, her grin was ear to ear, it displayed both rows of her perfect teeth.
“It is very far,” the old man said to his granddaughter. “And not a very fun hike. It’s going to take all day. And I don’t think your mother will want you to go.”
“I already asked her!” the girl said, never skipping a beat. “She said it would be ok, as long as you want to go. She said it’d be good for your old bones.” She sucked in air and clasped her hands over her mouth. “I wasn’t supposed to say that last part…” she admitted.
The old man let out an old, dry laugh and patted his granddaughter on the head. “Perhaps she is right,” he said. “It has been some time since I’ve been there.”
* * * * *
Two generations had gone by since his last visit. The walk that took him from his village and to the seed’s resting place had not been noteworthy when he was a young boy. Now, as an old man, it was painstaking. He was breathing heavy, sweating and aching all over. To make matters worse, the sun hung high in the sky and beat down its unrelenting heat on his weathered body.
“How much further?” his granddaughter called to him from up ahead. She skipped between rocks and rock walls, chasing lizards and bugs as they scurried to their hidey holes.
“It’s just past this canyon,” the old man panted. He rested his hand against the rock wall next to him and caught his breath. Looking up at the sun, he began to wonder why he took this trip in the first place. He grit his teeth, grimaced and went onward, feeling each step of his foot and each hot breath in his lungs.
The world hadn’t changed, as much as he could tell. The same rock paths wound in and out of the canyon, rocks, boulders and dirt littered the landscape like it had two generations before. The river still weaved this way and that beneath the canyon path they walked on. Its refreshing promise was close enough to taunt him, but far enough to stay out of reach.
“I think I found the hole!” she cried from in front of him. Her voice echoed off the rock walls of the arch.
“Be careful,” he called, wiping the sweat from his brow. The arch would be nice, it would provide some shade, albeit a small amount. He used his hands to guide him, his vision was dead set on the feet that propelled him forward. He almost stumbled into his granddaughter because of it. She stood still in the path that opened up into the valley he had been in so many years before.
“Whoa, there,” he said to her, “almost ran you over.” She said nothing. He was about to say something when he saw her gaze was transfixed on something in front of her. He rested his hands on her shoulders and followed what she was looking at.
When he saw it he let out his old breath. His eyes welled up with the moisture he had seen so many years before in Dreamscape. His hand went to his mouth, to keep him from crying out in both happiness and despair.
There, resting in the hole he had dug so long ago was Tree. It was not as grand as the one in his dreams, but it had still grown taller than the old man. Its arms stretched outward and housed a thousand blips of green and brown, full of promise of life. The tree was a stark contrast to the rest of the landscape that was devoid of anything higher than his waist. When he looked around the tree, he saw others sprouting up, miniatures of the tree that stood before him. Dozens littered the landscape: a small glimpse at what the future might hold.
The whimper he was holding back came through, despite his best attempts. A knot in his throat rose then fell, and with it came tears of relief.
“Are you ok, grandpap?” his granddaughter asked him.
He did his best to smile at her, but his trembling lips wouldn’t cooperate. “Yes, my dear. I am just happy to see my friend alive and well.”
“Your friend?” she asked.
“Yes, my friend.” He knelt down to her level. “Why don’t you call to It.”
She looked at him, somewhat scared but mostly unsure. At first he didn’t think she’d do it, when she turned away from him and looked out into the valley before them.
“Are you there?” she said in a voice so quiet, he strained to hear her.
When nothing replied, her shoulders sagged slightly, and the old man did his best to guard his tender heart. She looked back up at him when It echoed in their minds.
I am here. It replied.
Her head darted around, looking for the source of the voice. “Where are you?” she asked breathlessly, her eyes avid with excitement or fear. Perhaps both.
I am all. The voice said. What you see is where I reside.
“I don’t see you…” the girl responded.
The old man put his arm on his granddaughter’s shoulder and pointed with the other towards the tree. “That is where the voice resides,” he said to her.
She shot a glace at him and parted her lips to reveal a toothy smile.
Come, my friend. The voice said to them warmly. It has been too long, and the day is hot. Come to my shade and rest your weary feet. Come and be still in the embrace of this sacred grove. This link between our worlds.