They walked in silence for what seemed like a deathly eternity. Their every sound was amplified and rebounded off the thick over-lapping layer of green leaves. Each of them wrapped within their own dark uneasy thoughts. What lay before them was unknown. They each pondered the option of returning home, but as they continued along the path it closed up behind them with every footstep. Each of them thought of all the things they took for granted like dinner on the table, playing outside with friends and family. Jumo stopped to scribble something in his notebook.
‘What you doing?’ asked Aruna.
‘I’m taking notes and drawing a map of our journey. It may help if we get lost. In any case, I want to record everything that happens here,’ replied Jumo.
‘A very wise young man indeed,’ added the tree spirit, ‘but you will not get lost whilst I am here.’
‘What should we call you?’ asked Aruna looking at the tree spirit.
‘I do not have a name. Many things have no name here including this realm itself.’
‘Well, that will not do,’ said Jumo.
‘Oh, and why not?’ asked the tree spirit.
‘Well, things need to be named in order to form knowledge, understanding and classification,’ replied Jumo.
‘Black skin, white skin, yellow and red skin,’ said Kurumi looking in the opposite direction more out of shyness than sadness.
‘Rich and poor, beauty and ugliness,’ added Ash.
‘Here we know everything by thought,’ said the tree spirit. Jumo looked puzzled.
‘Sod that,’ said Bradley. ‘Let’s call you Tree.’
‘Well, that was so very original,’ said Jumo sarcastically.
‘Ha. Ha. Jumbo’s got jokes,’ replied Bradley. The group laughed.
‘If it will make you happy, and I am glad you have all found your spirits again,’ replied the tree spirit. The laughter subsided. They had walked the final steps of the path, which now disappeared behind them to reveal a great blue sky. The sheer purity and brightness of the natural light was amazing. Never before had the sky seemed so crystal blue to them. It was as if it had been airbrushed by use of a computer software application. They stood rooted to the spot in awe.
‘I wonder if the sky should really look like this back home,’ said Kurumi. The sky was so majestic and the air so pure that they did not at first realise the tall finger-like sharp pillars of limestone reaching up and piercing into the skyline.
‘Are those tsingy?’ asked Jumo.
‘They have no name here, but yes they would be known as that on earth.’
‘Amazing. The tsingy are only known to be found in Madagascar, Africa, I believe,’ Jumo explained to the group who were all rather quite clueless as to what tsingy actually were. ‘Tsingy means where one cannot walk barefoot. They are thought to be the fingers of Gods pointing the way to the heavens. They are both a mystical and wonderful sight to behold. It is said they are around 200 million years old.’
‘However, these are not just any tsingy dear Jumo,’ said the tree spirit. ‘These formations are razor sharp and slippery.’
‘I see,’ said Jumo. He leaned forward to Ash and whispered in his ear. Just like how they are described in the National Geographic. Nothing to worry about then.
‘Shall we proceed?’ asked the tree spirit.
‘Right, up you go first Tree,’ said Bradley.
‘Oh, but I cannot. This is why you are all here. From this point onwards an energy field that detects my presence and consumes my spiritual energy protects the land. Each step forward you take allows me to move forward in flight. The enemy has prepared well and thought deeply, but so have I. By having children of the earth here, your very presence counters these spiritual barriers that have been formed. Three amongst you have been feeling this energy around you already. The tree spirit swayed in the direction of Ash, Kurumi and London. All of your skills and knowledge will have to be used collectively if we are to reach our final destination.’
Ash looked all around him, his eyes searched for answers. There was a crack in the tsingy perhaps leading to a way in, but no light shone upon or from this opening. For Ash, the only way would be up and over the tsingy for there seemingly was not a way around it. London stood by his side; her smile gave him great comfort as it always did. She stared at the tsingy.
‘Tree spirit do we have any kind of rope around here?’ asked Ash.
‘Plenty,’ replied the tree spirit. It pointed its boney top branch towards a vine resting on the floor. The group were somewhat bewildered as Ash dashed over to the vine consumed in deep thought.
‘Ash don’t be stupid!’ said Bradley in a stern voice. ‘You’ve never tackled anything like this before. Let’s turn back while we can. I was only joking when I said for the Tree to go up first.’
‘Go back to what?’ asked Ash.
‘What do you mean, go back to what,’ said Bradley. ‘Football, Arsenal, fish and chips, home.’ The last word sat deeply within the hearts of the group. ‘This is all mental, Ash!’
‘I can’t and won’t to go back,’ replied Ash. London now sat down and became still. The tree spirit’s glow was fluctuating as it hovered above her head. Aruna and Kurumi held each other. The atmosphere became intense once again. Jumo gazed at Ash as he hastily continued to pull at the long vine. Everything he was doing was done in a trance-like action; he appeared emotionless before the group, quite different to his usual self. ‘Bradley, you’re my best mate. That fact doesn’t need clarifying. I know what waits for me back behind those trees. However, I know nothing that sits beyond these rocks,’ continued Ash.
‘Exactly! What if something dangerous is out there? This place gives me the shivers mate. What if one of us gets hurt, what will we do then?’ asked Bradley.
‘Or dies,’ said Aruna in despair.
‘May I say something?’ interjected Jumo, ‘from what we have been told by the tree spirit, our home sits unknowingly in the face of ultimate destruction. I wish not to be heroic, but can you not see that we are indeed earth’s last chance.’ Bradley walked up to Jumo. Their faces were no less than an inch away from each other. Anger raged all over his body.
‘I never much liked you from the start Jums. You always speak as if you have no emotions. I’m not pretending to be a scientist or some sort of an adventurer. I’m just a lad. Yeah, I admit it, maybe we don’t dance at the same club, but I want to see my family and friends again. Don’t you want to see your parents again?’ asked Bradley forcefully.
‘I am not sure whether seeing them again ultimately matters anymore,’ replied Jumo. This comment only fuelled Bradley’s anger further. He raised his fist and threw a punch towards Jumo, but Ash intervened just in time to take the full blow. He was sent tumbling across the ground. The girls held their breaths in disbelief and watched as Ash absorbed the pain in the quietest manner that he possibly could. At seeing the blood trickle from the corner of Ash’s mouth London started to weep.
‘I’m okay London,’ said Ash. He turned his attention to Bradley. ‘You don’t get it Bradley,’ Ash claimed. ‘There is no going back. The path back has been blocked.’
‘No it hasn’t, I can see it right there. We only have to walk back the way we came,’ replied Bradley. He pointed to the thickly layered set of trees resting behind them. Aruna took up a position beside Bradley clearly showing she favoured his stance without actually saying so. At seeing this Kurumi felt compelled to move in some direction, and in her heart she knew exactly where she would like to go, but she could not bring herself to move. Instead she headed over to London, her crying was now reduced to an almost inaudible sniffle. Jumo took up his place alongside Ash and helped pull him up to his feet. As this whole chaotic affair unfolded the tree spirit continued to fluctuate and hover somewhat precariously above London. They all stood there for a while without words.
‘I believe only Ash and I have realised this truth,’ said Jumo. ‘In order for us to go back, we have to take the journey back together. Meaning we have to all agree to go back at the same time. Am I right tree spirit?’ asked Jumo.
‘That is correct. This is a world bound by thought and energy. Since you came here together you cannot go back unless you all truly want to. Whilst dear Bradley here has a strong desire to do so the rest are confused. And you cannot go back the way you came for that path no longer exists. I must also admit that I do not have the required energy at present to send you back now even if you truly wanted.’
‘So, I have to follow you all even if I don’t want to! There is something very wrong in that now isn’t there?’ said Bradley. By now his temperature had dissolved to a rationalising manner. ‘I think I speak for Aruuma, Kurimeye and London, when I say that we want to go home.’
‘It’s not Kurimeye, it’s Ku-ru-mi. And it’s A-ru-na,’ said Kurumi. Bradley could never pronounce their names properly, so he always gave them nicknames instead. ‘Anyway, it’s about London and the tree spirit,’ Kurumi continued.
‘What about Leafy and Ash’s sister?’ replied Bradley.
‘Leafy?’ asked Kurumi confused. Bradley became somewhat annoyed that Kurumi was the only one in the group not able to catch up with his sudden changes of nicknames, conversations and even emotions for that matter.
‘It’s my new nickname dear Kurumi, though I wish you would all settle with just one,’ added the tree spirit. Kurumi looked dumbfounded. She honestly had no inkling as to what Bradley and the tree spirit were talking about, and neither did it seem the appropriate time to be talking about nicknames or even names for that matter.
‘If we leave now the tree spirit will die,’ said Kurumi in a plain voice. The group looked at her bewildered. The thought of a spirit being so fragile to such a simple action by the group made them feel uneasy.
‘The spirit is taking on a physical form in order for us to see and hear it. When you both began fighting its colour began to change. Our bad energy vibrations are directly affecting it.’
‘What-,’ added Bradley, but Ash stopped him from talking.
‘Put simply,’ said Ash, ‘when we argue we are sending bad energy out into the atmosphere around us. This world is full of energy as is earth and that energy was disturbing the tree spirit. Just like when you have the flu. If you cough you send your germs out in the air and other people are at risk of getting the flu from you.’
‘But that isn’t just it Ash,’ said Kurumi.
‘I know,’ replied Ash. ‘The tree spirit is using its energy to protect and conceal London’s energy and before you say something Bradley.’ Ash could see Bradley’s face squinting in confusion and his lips curled up readying to ask another question. ‘Just imagine that London’s clothes are really muddy and dirty because she had been playing in mud. She has a bad odour.’
‘What, like a smelly pong,’ said Bradley butting in.
‘Yes. She smells. However, the tree spirit has put an invisible blanket around her so that nobody can smell her odour.’
‘London and the tree spirit are connected,’ added Kurumi. Slowly Bradley and Aruna began to understand the situation.
‘London is not meant to be here,’ replied Ash. ‘The tree spirit is concealing her energy, but does not have the power to stop her from feeling or getting hurt. So, while she does not fully understand the dangers around her like we do, she does notice something bad when she sees it.’
It began to make sense to Bradley. When he hit Ash, London became really scared. It was the first time she had seen the two friends fight. In fact it was the first time for her to see Ash hurt. The tree spirit this whole time had absorbed and contained London’s energy flow and release.
‘That’s just all mental,’ said Bradley.
‘Right then, a case of resonation, quantum physics, the paranormal, and electro-magnetism,’ said Jumo. Slowing down on the word magnetism clearly in very deep thought.
‘You speak even worse English than Kurumi here,’ said Aruna to Jumo.
‘Whatever,’ replied Kurumi. She smiled.
‘Group hug everybody?’ suggested Aruna. With her beauty and charm Aruna had the ability to change a tense atmosphere with a simple smile. The girls came together to embrace, but the boys naturally could only muster a dry pat on the back.
Jumo crouched down and began to check his body.
‘What you doing?’ asked Bradley.
‘Checking everything. First to check that I am not hurt. Then check what’s in my bag for later use, then check the local surroundings to get a better understanding of where we are.’
‘You what?’ replied Bradley
‘Explorer Scouts,’ added Jumo, ‘I suggest you do the same. Our motto is to be prepared!’
‘Wise idea master Jumo,’ said the tree spirit. They all copied and took their direction from Jumo. Eventually they had finished and were ready.
‘We must get going,’ said Kurumi.
‘You are right dear Kurumi. Now that everything is clear. We must keep moving! Too much things to know and little time to tell. You must forgive me,’ said the tree spirit.
As soon as the tree spirit finished speaking a deafening sound and vibration echoed from beyond the trees. London jumped to her feet and rushed over to Ash. It sounded like the electrical surge running through a long florescent light bulb, but deeply constant and layered with darkness.
B. L. Crisp | Copyrighted to © Barry Crisp