As night transcended to day the sleepy voices of the forest spirits wrapped themselves around each member of the group with a protective glow. The harmonious melody melted away like a rush of new life sliding into each of their bodies. Every now and then the medium for this ethereal state traveled in a hypnotic goddess tone with every sound dipped in beauty, drifting through time and gravity. The mythical and spiritual were illuminated with colours beyond the imagination. This energy floated from Vaalbara’s inner core on a delicate and light magical wave. The constant energy healing their emotional pains, with no negativity from the outside being allowed to leak in, as they slept.
The night sky turned its dark silky shades into marbles tinted in morning blue and sunflower yellow. As the sun broke free from the soil it ascended the sky breathing light to a new day revealing a bright green field with a single majestic tree in the far distance. The sunlight broke through the misty woodland air and wrapped its warm bronze glaze upon their bodies. The tree spirit hovered once again reassuringly above them. The group awoke to Ash humming. He took the last watch at night.
‘Why did you leave us in the forest?’ asked Bradley, ‘London could have…’ he continued, but stopped short before finishing his sentence.
‘I am sorry my dear young ones. Some new force had kept me from you, but even if I were present, there would have been nothing I could have done to help London. I am most sorry for your temporary loss. You need to grow and realise your own strengths and fears. Fear clouds reality from you. Defeat fear. Use the shaking of your body, the anxiety in the pit of your stomach and unleash it to protect the good, and all that which you hold dear to yourself. Have you not realised that unlike at the beginning of our adventure you are now answering your questions for yourselves and you are better prepared for what rests ahead,’ replied the tree spirit.
‘You said temporary loss,’ said Jumo.
‘So London is still alive,’ added Bradley.
‘Yes, but for how long I do not know.’
Ash did not say anything. It was the final confirmation he sought to that what he had already guessed and the new hope gained from Jumo’s compass. Instead he just sat there thinking deeply. Eventually, he got up and went off into the forest and returned a short while later with some berries and leaves. The group sat down to eat.
‘I have family descending from the Luo community. Some live by Lake Victoria sharing its waters with Uganda and Tanzania. The fishermen and Nyanza are always visible even with your eyes closed. Although Kenya is a country in relative poverty, the people are proud. I close my eyes and I can see it; green, white, blue, red and all its vibrant colours. It is beautiful country, warm and vast with such variety and flexibility. The sound of cars hooting, market vendors, donkeys, and dust everywhere. It is both chaotic and peaceful,’ said Jumo with a tear in his eye.
‘It is okay to cry when you are happy. Smile from the heart and cry with the mind,’ said Aruna, ‘that’s what my dad always used to tell me.’ Jumo smiled.
By now Ash noticed that the forest contained a deep growing darkness through the leaves. He stood up and signalled the group to get ready to move forward.
They stretched out into the open field. The ground was a welcome firmness beneath their feet and neither of them showed signs of concern or tiredness. They were becoming one with Vaalbara and feeding of its energy to rejuvenate themselves as they moved forward.
Shades and shadows came and went across the sharp green grass. Bradley looked up only to realise that there was nothing flying in the sky, neither were there any clouds, yet the flicker and passing of shade continued. He looked round to call to Ash, but found that he was by himself. The tree in the distance had disappeared and all that remained was himself and the vast green field.
He calmed his thoughts and pinched himself in the hope to return to reality. He then shut his eyes tight for a few moments and opened them slowly to find that he was in the same field and still alone. Ash mate where are you? He shouted. A shadow loomed over him from behind so he jumped forward into the light whilst looking back. Nothing was there. The shadow moved into his direction again. He ran in different directions evading the shadow fearing that something evil would consume him if it remained enveloped on him for too long. As he ran forward he crashed into something solid yet invisible at the same time. He looked around to make sure nothing was coming. He felt around the invisible surface and turned what seemed to be like a handle. Light appeared from a doorway. He looked back and saw the darkness rushing towards him and so he jumped into the light.
After gathering his bearings he realised that he was back at home. He called out to his family, but received no reply. Something seemed odd about the construction of his house. It took him a short while to notice, but everything was in fact in reversed position, or perhaps it was Bradley himself who had been reversed. The furniture was placed in opposite positions. The photos on the wall were the same, however, they were all without Bradley’s presence in any of them. His whole existence had suddenly been brought into doubt. Before he had time to explore any further he heard a sound from upstairs.
He ascended the flight of stairs without hesitation, wishing to see any member from his family. When he reached the landing and opened his bedroom door, he found his mother seated on the floor in the centre of his room swaying backwards and forwards as if in some sort of trance. Her eyes were plain white like a marble and completely fixed in Bradley’s direction. His room was empty compared to its usual decoration of football posters and fashion models.
‘I will make this room my new study,’ his mum said. ‘Human anatomy, yes, that sounds nice.’
‘Mum, what are you talking about? Stop talking like that. You’re scaring me.’
‘I will experiment on people with the name Bradley because I really hate that name, can’t stand it. Thank God I never named any of my children Bradley.’
‘Mum stop it will ya, please.’ He moved forward to grab his mum, but found that she had already vanished and was now standing behind him. Bradley turned round as quick as he could, but his mother had disappeared again. This time however, she was no longer in the room.
‘This is a dream, I know it is,’ shouted Bradley. He closed his eyes and counted down from ten-to-one, skipping a few numbers in panic. When he opened his eyes his mother was standing right in front of him.
‘Goodbye Bradley,’ she said reaching out to grab his neck. Through quick reflexes, he managed to push her away. The force of Bradley’s push made her crash into the bedroom wall. His mother was light in weight as if a reflection of her true self. The moment she hit the wall something strange happened. She turned into blades of grass. The house dissolved into the earth and he found himself surrounded by his friends. Aruna sat on the grass angry with him.
‘Why did you push her for?’ asked Ash.
‘What? I, I didn’t push her. I pushed my mum.’
‘Your mother?’ The tree spirit changed its colour as it readied itself to talk. ‘There is some new energy upon this field. Our enemy has been very busy and is attempting to test us not just physically. Here you will find your innermost fears come to the surface. You will be tested mentally.’
‘That was scary,’ said Bradley, ‘sorry Aruna, really I am.’ Bradley reached out his hand to offer her some leverage to get up. She accepted.
‘It’s okay. It wasn’t you – well it was, but you’re not to blame after all,’ said Aruna. She had the natural ability to stay calm in all situations that was presented to her. ‘Leafy, you could have told us about this before.’
‘Quite right, but it is the first time for you humans to walk these paths and it appears that our enemy has set up an energy field here to make these fears more vivid and real. Be careful, the reactions of these elements are to me at least, unknown.’
Throughout the field, each of them was brought to a cold truth, a fear deep within that they did not want to share with each other, but instead knew what they had to do to ensure such fears were not to become reality. They faced them alone and kept their fears secret from each other. Ash feared not reaching a new dimension of spiritual understanding, Jumo of not returning home, Aruna of her struggle with her religious faith as she enjoyed life’s other pleasures more deeply, and Kurumi. Hers was of dying old and alone. They were each able to help each other break from the illusion by placing a hand on the other person’s shoulder. Ash also insisted that they did not walk to closely to each other in order to avoid what Bradley did to Aruna happening again.
After a short while they reached the great ancient lime tree, which rested in the centre of the field. Its trunk was so large that even if the group of friends attempted to create a ring around it they could not, and they did try. Its crown was a glorious decoration of yellow and avocado. From the short distance it looked as if the tree had natural markings on it, but as they drew closer they came to realise the markings were the names of children engraved in gold.
‘No child is ever forgotten,’ said the tree spirit.
They each subconsciously searched for London’s name. Having not found it their hope of London still being alive grew stronger. For an hour or so they continued to scan through the names of those children who had passed before them. The more they looked at the names the more they came to realise the fragility of life. It became apparent to each of them that although everyday life appeared to be full of people and energy, there was an equal amount of unknown death and sorrow. The names brought this reality home to each of them.
Ash did not want to linger anymore than they already had done, and by now the scent of rain was hanging in the air although no heavy clouds were to be seen. Its freshness was so crisp and refreshing that it was almost as if they had dipped their faces into a bowl of cold morning water. They pressed forward keeping a distance from each other, but engaged in conversation about what they would do if they ever made it home and whether or not if life as they knew could ever be the same again.
B. L. Crisp | Copyrighted to © Barry Crisp