This is a short story I wrote for my Creative Writing class at New West, and I wanted to share this with my peers. Hopefully this will be one of many writing pieces I will share on New West Press. Without further ado, here is my short story “Sticks and Stones.”
The moon was just peeking over the horizon, ready to fill the empty space the sun left. A cool breeze wafted through the forest, brushing through the tree’s many branches. The forest slept quietly, with only the noise of the wind to rock it into a deep sleep.
When the moon was right above the horizon, just starting its major ascent into the sky, footsteps started to echo through the forest. The main road in the forest started to bustle. As the forest slept, people were awake and rushing. This particular road was for merchants, who traveled in between the two major cities on the opposite sides of the forest. They clamored through the narrow passage to get from place to place, but it was always so crowded. People shouted and cursed, but by the time the moon was at the peak of the sky, not a soul was left on the passage.
The forest sighed, and fell back to sleep. The animals that were woken up went back into their burrows and nests, and even the trees seemed to slope with the weight of sleep. They thought the rest of their night would be peaceful, but one last man had not made it through the forest.
A traveler, wearing a long tan tunic and a purple scarf, ran quickly through the brush. He had many books and scrolls bundled in his arms, and was clutching onto his precious cargo. Voices could be heard shouting and yelling from the direction he had ran from. The man looked back to see lights coming up over the horizon. Men on horses, with spears and torches in their hands chasing after him. The traveler screamed, and sped through the forest. He reached the main road, and ran for the town opposite from which he had come.
He had cleared most of the forest, almost making it to the safe barriers of the city ahead, until he reached a very peculiar spot. The Council of the Trees Passage was ahead of him. A very peaceful spot, where ten unique trees stood in a circle, each of a different kind. The man ran through the Council’s spot, but fell on a surfaced root. He dropped his belongings, and the pages flew in every direction. He tried to gather as many as he could, but the horses caught him before he could escape. The man would no longer be able to walk the streets again as a free man. The guards got off their horses and gathered the stolen papers, and when they checked to see if they had all of them, they saw a very important scroll was missing. The men searched the area, but even with their torches, they could not find a single page in the darkness. They rode back to their own city, with their prisoner captured at last.
The ten trees, circling the open space, had woken from their slumbers once the rumbling of the horses hooves were far in the distance. The tallest and most wise tree, the redwood, was the leader of the council, and when he slammed his mighty fist on the ground three times, the council was in order. With this, the trees old wood and twisted branches formed into hands and hair. Everything from their roots up had molded into a human form, with limbs made of branches and hair made of moss.
“My friends, I apologize for the rude awakening, I know we did not expect such an event to take place here, but this is the perfect opportunity for a meeting. Does anyone have an issue to bring to the table?” The redwood’s voice was booming but hoarse. The other nine trees started to think, did they have any problems since the last meeting? Had something important happened in the last four hundred years? The problem was, no one remembered anything, since they were asleep. The apple tree, who was on the opposite side of the circle, noticed something in her neighbor’s’ hair. She was a very short woman, and could not quite reach the piece of rubbish. She stretched her arm as high as possible, but she still couldn’t reach the trash. She tapped her neighbor on the shoulder, who harshly responded by slapping her arm away.
“Don’t touch me,” The tree slapped his neighbors arm away. Even with very frail arms, he hit the apple tree very hard.
“Acacia, don’t be like that! I just wanted to tell you that you have something in your hair…” The apple tree flinched at the acacia’s harsh retort. The acacia reached up and grabbed the paper from his thin hair. It was a single piece of paper, with the royal North City stamp placed on its exterior. This document had a stamp that was so rare, that the acacia thought he may be seeing things. The North City stamp was placed on every official document, and the only reason why the trees knew that was because of a child’s lesson a few hundred years ago. A South City teacher brought his kids to the council’s circle, where they weren’t too close to the city, but could see it from where they stood. He explained the lesson and showed examples. Only a few of the trees heard the whole lesson, and relayed everything to the opposite side of the circle. The acacia’s neighbor, the willow, looked over in astonishment when he recognised the seal.
He pointed to the piece of paper and said, “I think we have our discussion!” He passed the paper around the circle so it would eventually travel to the redwood. When it got to their leader, he saw the insignia and sighed.
“What’s the matter? It’s just a bit of trash, isn’t it?” The apple tree said.
“No, this is something much more important. This symbol here is from the North City’s government.” The redwood pointed to the shiny gold insignia on the paper’s exterior, “It was on the royal guard’s chest plates and on the horses’ saddles, so it must have to do with their government. We must return it, because if we did not, it would bring shame upon this council.”
“But the North City is very far away! How will we give it to them?” The acacia asked.
“If we work together, maybe one of us can think of a plan to return this important document. The floor is now opened to the Council. If you have an idea for a resolution, please bring it forth in a mature manner.” The youngest of the council, the crabapple, raised her fragile arm. The redwood pointed to her, giving her permission to speak.
She gulped, and said very quietly, “W-we know that’s the human’s paper, s-s-so why don’t we keep it on the road for them to find?”
Her neighbor, Birch, nodded his head in a very slow, sleepy manner. It was almost humorous that the two were next to each other. The crabapple tended to be more energetic and stuttered more often, while the birch didn’t say a word and was always half asleep. They were almost polar opposites, but seemed to have the same morals and views.
Next to the birch tree was the oak tree, and she firmly shook her head, “No that can’t possibly work, for any human could find it on the road. The guards should have it. Let’s wait until the guards come back, and we can give it to them.”
The spruce, pine, and maple tree all nodded their heads in agreement. They all looked very similar, and some could say they worked as a hive mind, never disagreeing or saying things in different wording.
The redwood thought about the choices, and slammed the forest floor with his fist to call the council to order. They all looked towards their leader, who put up his two calloused hands. He would count the amount of votes on his hands, and it was a very ancient tradition
“Let us take a vote. We either leave the note in the path, or give it to the guards when they come around.”
Before anyone could voice their vote, the maple tree realized something, “Wait! We cannot give it to the guards if they are here when we are asleep. Someone will need to stay up and wait for them.” the trees looked around at each other. None of them could stay up for long, then they would retreat back into their shells for another four hundred years.
“Then let us take a vote on the two ideas, and if that one wins, we will vote on who will stay up.”
“But that will not work either!” the oak tree said, “No one will want to go through with that plan, because no one wants to stay up that late! I will volunteer to stay up, if you choose this method.” A few trees sighed, relieved that they would not have to keep awake into the late hours of night. The council voted, and with the final verdict of the oak tree staying up, the other nine trees went to bed as the sun rose over the horizon.
The oak tree watched with the scroll in her hand as the sun rose over the horizon. The oranges and pinks painted the sky, and the birds awoke to sound their morning tune. The morning winds crept behind the oak tree, sending a gust of warmth into her body. She breathed in a sigh of the cool morning air, and she felt truly alive. She watched the entire day as the merchants walked past her. She was finally able to make out every merchant’s face and everything they were carrying.
Much later, the oak tree was starting to fall asleep, but kept herself awake by watching the lights of the two cities on the opposite horizons. She pinched herself and kicked herself, so she would not fall back asleep. When she heard footsteps coming from down the path, she looked in anticipation for the guards. She did not see a knight on a horse, dressed in the best armor, but a small child dressed in rags.
The oak tree became angry, “All of this waiting for nothing?” She picked up a rock at the foot of her trunk and threw it across the circle. It hit the apple tree, leaving a very deep dent in her trunk, but it did not wake her.
“Augh! I wish I didn’t agree to this stupid task, where are those guards anyways? And what’s so special about a piece of paper it’s just a dead tree-” the oak tree’s pupils shrunk, and she screamed as she threw the paper into the clearing.
“I am NOT dealing with this in the middle of the night! If those guard really want their… corpse document… then they can get it themselves.” The oak tree said through gritted teeth, and started to slowly fall asleep in her place. From her roots, the wood of her tree started to climb upwards, encasing her body. Her hair crept outwards into branches, and those branches sprouted leaves.
Once again, the forest was silent, and the council was resting. The wind sped through the forest and into the council’s branches, and finally, the forest was back into a deep slumber.
With the morning winds, the paper was picked up from its spot in the center of the circle, and it flew back towards the gates of its rightful owners on the breeze. The morning guards on their daily patrol were able to retrieve the document, but they would never know what mysterious force brought it to them in the first place. The people of their world would never be able to understand the more mysterious actions of the trees that surrounded them.