Gladys put both hands on the tree and pulled herself up from the ground. She could see the waning moon through the bare branches. The sky was indigo blue, her favourite colour. The great artist had painted it all for her. She felt it.
“I was here before. I touched this tree once.”
Once, under a tranquil sky.
Her knees were still bleeding. She could see grit and fragments of leaves stuck to the grazed flesh. There was nothing she could do for now. More important things mattered. Like finding out how to get home.
She could feel the bark cracked and dry beneath her splayed fingers. As she stepped back, she let go of the trunk and looked at the medley of colours; brown, red, yellow like flax. There was a tree exactly like it outside her apartment back in England. A London Plane. A beautiful tree. Her favourite. She loved how they shed their outer bark in layers to reveal a multitude of colours beneath. A divine way to rid themselves of pollution.
Impulse overcame her. Her fingers worked like pale crabs, scuttling across the woody surface, peeling flakes from the tree. Fresh bark showed underneath the dead dregs of autumn. Around the trunk she walked, tearing at the tree. As the last flake of old fell, impulse gave way to addiction. Slivers of new green growth fell atop the pile of dead bark.
The trunk became thinner as she worked and Gladys noticed too that it was changing shape. As she peeled, the branches fell around her, exposing the nakedness of the moon. The tree was now a stump of its former self, standing barely five inches above her height. She pulled from the top, ripping lignin strands like threads of celery, until a dome appeared. Running her hands over the smooth surface following the line of the wood, she saw two distinct broad mounds, like shoulders. Yes, the shape she had carved was definitely human. Male.
Carved? Or revealed?
~END OF EXCERPT~
(November 2022: This story will be included in a short story collection soon to be published in 2023. Check back for more soon!)
The London Plane – First published in Monomyth Magazine Volume 10.1 (Atlantean Publishing, 2010)