I wrote this story a few years ago, for a #BlogBattle competition. But Midsummer is upon us, the forests dancing with life, the land burgeoning with green, and it felt appropriate to share it again. This is my favourite time, when the wheel of the year turns towards autumn harvests and cold winter nights. Happy Summer Solstice, everyone!
When The Moon Is Full
Once upon a time, when the world was younger, there lived a boy. Tall and lean he was, his skin nut brown over strong muscles, his clothes as tattered as the leaves among which he lived.
No darkness came to stain his days – he was warm and well-fed, the forest providing all that he needed. He roamed along paths he knew like he knew the feel of his skin, or the sound of his breath as he lay alone at night. And as he roamed he hunted, gathering his crop.
But no nuts cracked between his strong white teeth, no berries stained his lips, no blood flowed across his long fingers. Instead, he gathered memories. Bubble light, floating untethered around sleeping travellers taking their rest beneath tangled branches. They would wake unaware that anything had been taken, only a mild headache marring their day as they travelled on to the road beyond the trees.
And so the boy leapt and ran, graceful as any stag, through glowing leaves and past ancient stones, the precious memories tethered to him, dancing like fireflies in the dark of night. When he reached the tree he called home he would sink down among the roots and close his eyes, savouring the sounds and thoughts as they washed over him, nourishing his soul.
But one night, something changed. The moon was full, a golden globe sailing above the treetops, shining through the branches to pick out white flowers like stars dotted along the path. Around him the forest was lush and green with spring, the scent of flower and foliage strong enough to send a man mad. But he drank it in, the wildness of the night running through his veins. Then he saw her.
Dressed in velvet green as the leaves on which she lay, curled at the edge of a small pond. Her long hair was the dark brown of tree bark, her skin golden as his own. He stopped, entranced by her curves, by the rise and fall of her breast as she slept, one slender hand outflung. A bubble of memory appeared, fragile and feather light, floating around her head.
He reached out to take it, all at once desperate to have one small piece of her beauty. But when he touched the bubble her eyes came open and she stared at him. Green, her eyes were, iridescent in the moonlight like dragonfly wings, the pupils night dark. He heard her voice in his head.
‘You have taken something that belongs to me.’
He said nothing, frozen in place, the bubble floating around him like guilt.
‘It’s not right to steal, you know.’
Still he said nothing. He did not know what to do.
‘What’s your name?’ She stared up at him, lips dark crimson.
He found his voice. ‘I don’t know.’ He did not.
She frowned, her head tilting to one side. ‘Do you remember nothing?’
The boy thought for a moment. “I have no memories except for those I steal.’
‘Then let me remind you.’
She stood, like a snake uncoiling, and reached for the bubble tethered to the boy, taking it back. As the tether broke he gasped. And he remembered.
He had been sent here, not so long ago. A gift from another realm. But it was not memories he was supposed to steal. It was pain, easing the path of the weary travellers as they passed through the woods. But in his youth and haste he had forgotten, taking memories instead.
‘Do you see?’ Her voice was the whisper of wind through branches, her perfume apple blossom, earthy and sweet.
He nodded, tears in his eyes. ‘I – I am sorry.’
‘Hush,’ she said, coming close to lay one finger gently on his lips. ‘You were young, and you did not know any better. I should have helped you before.’
‘Who are you?’ he whispered.
She smiled, her face close to his. ‘I am the forest,’ she replied. ‘And you are mine.’
It is said that the woods bordering the two lands, where the road passes between the trees, is a place of wonder and beauty, where a man might find rest in the most difficult times. It is also said that a spirit lives among the trees, as beautiful as Spring itself, her companion tall and strong.
And sometimes, on a night when the moon is full, they can be seen dancing in the glades, as close together as two vines twisting, their sighs echoing until dawn.
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