Not all things of importance have their beginnings etched in purpose or design. Some findings are a chance meeting with opportunity and coincidence. Falling apples from trees, mole on old pieces of bread, daydreams about speed and distance, much of what we know, much of what we discover, is but a contrivance of accident, imagination, and study, coming together in some inexplicable combination.
Kayleigh’s purpose was merely to get outside; her intent was to enjoy the sunshine. She finished up the last of her breakfast and placed the dishes in the sink, chores for a later time. She stepped in front of the picture window and held her face up to the sun waiting for her outside. The warmth on her face brought on a smile. She moved to the side and opened the curtains all the way. She smiled a second time on noticing Darwin already sleeping in the rays. She bent down and scratched his head; he was too content even to purr.
No need for a raincoat today. She doubted it was even dry from the long walks she had taken in the last few days, when the rain had all but washed her away. Not today. This was her last day off before going back to work, and she wanted to make the most of it. Two years in the city had been enough; the job there had been a lucky find, but the opening that allowed her to transfer back here was a godsend.
She closed the door behind her and placed the key under the mat. She limbered up, walked a short ways, and moved into a slow jog out the pathway and down towards the forest. As she ran the sun glided along beside her, darting in and out of the trees that lined the road. No cars, no other people, she was an early bird for exactly that purpose.
Twenty minutes into her run she hit her stride, that wonderful place where she always found she could run forever. She checked the timer on her wrist, the pace as near as she had intended. No sound from her sneakers, this was so different from when she ran on the city sidewalks. A few birds bid her good morning, the easy breathing the only other sound.
She was now well into the forest; small paths went off in many directions; she knew most of them from when she had lived here in her younger days, and felt safe and secure in taking any one of them. The spring growth had already begun its profusion of colors, but many dead leaves were still scattered about and yet to be consumed by the season’s insatiable appetite.
Ahead she saw what was a park of sorts where people would come to picnic on the weekend, or children could be found playing. To one side was an old stone bench that had been there for as long as she could remember. It looked lonely now. She had been lonely the last time she sat on it. She shook her head, how could an old bench be lonely?
The path she needed to take went off to the right of the bench, a half mile beyond that and she would swing around and make her way back. She stopped running. She pressed the timer on her arm, not at all sure why she had stopped. The urge to sit and enjoy this remarkable place was overwhelming. It had been so long. She was home.
The bench awaited her. She placed her hands on the stone as she sat, the stone cool to the touch. A few squirrels were busy scampering about, swirling their tails. So peaceful here, it had been such a long time, too long. She was home again. The sun poured out from behind a tree and she squinted her eyes as the light hit her. She lifted her face and closed her eyes, and let the warmth of the sun embrace her.
“You have returned.”
Her eyes shot open, and she all but flew from the bench. She looked around, searching for who had spoken. No one was about. The tree line was a distance away on either side, other than the tall black oak that was but a few yards from the bench. It was big enough to hide someone; someone was hiding behind the tree. She crept forward, not sure whether she would fight or run. Her heart pounded with the idea that someone might be hiding, and somehow knew who she was. Step after step she circumvented the tree; there was no one.
“I’m sorry I startled you.”
Kayleigh took a step back; she spun around, looking in every direction possible. Nothing.
“Please sit, and we will talk.”
“Who is this? Where are you hiding?”
“I’m not hiding. I’m right in front of you.”
She reeled with the impossibility of what was happening. There was no one in front of her. The voice she heard was not a shout; they couldn’t be far away. It must be a joke; someone is playing a recording and it is hidden in that tree. “Very funny, whoever you are. Now stop with the joke and tell me who you are.”
“I’m an old friend. You gaze upon me, even as you speak. I will agree it is not so usual to speak with a tree. If I were to name myself it would be Ezra; he was the little boy who many decades ago planted the seed of my growth without his knowing. He was merely walking along, but in doing so he walked on the small seed that made me who I am today.”
Kayleigh searched the tree for anything that might deliver the voice; the spring leaves were still little more than buds, and she was able to see clearly that no one was hiding there, and there was no evidence of any unusual items or recording devices. Her heart continued to beat fast as she continued searching for any possibility other than the notion of actually talking to a tree. One idea came to her: escape from here as quickly as possible, and sort things out later.
“Tell me who you are now.”
“I’m what I say I am. I only ask that we might talk. Then you can make up your mind.”
A couple of years of living in the city had taught her to listen to her senses and follow her gut. She felt no such alert here. For whatever reason she had no signal of danger; whatever this was, the sound of the voice told her she was safe from harm. She moved to the bench, sat down, and looked at the oak. At best she thought herself going mad.
“You are Kayleigh Mertin. The last time you were here was two years and three months ago. You sat on this very bench and you cried. It was not the first time you had been here; for all the years you have lived in this place you have come here with your family and friends, and as you became a runner I would see you here in early morning before others came this way.”
“How do you know all this?”
“Not all trees are sentient. We are but a few. Not all humans can hear the trees; they are indeed a rare few. Sometimes even though we can talk to humans, there’s no reason to do so. This time it’s imperative we speak. For your world, and ours, is on the verge of extinction. What you do next will be all there is to tip the balance.”
Kayleigh looked to her left; two other joggers were making their way into the forest. The black oak went silent.
I am looking for ideas for my next book, book five. As I finish editing book three, and writing book four (some 50,000 words in) I continue to look for new ideas. The above in one such idea. I would love your comments on this opening scene. Is it enough to make you want to read more.
One of these scenes will most likely be the beginning of my fifth book.