Kindle publication date Xmas 2014, as yet untitled
Tree-spirits don’t have Mummies and Daddies; they just come with the tree. One day there’s a little baby tree growing happily in the ground minding its own business and trying to avoid being seen by rabbits whilst the sun sparkles merrily overhead and the rain trickles into its roots (at least, that’s the theory – the other side of the coin is a bit darker and might go like this: freezing frost, choking brambles, mice taking a piss round your roots and rabbits eating all your best bits) and the next day the sun sparkles merrily overhead etc. but now there’s a tiny baby tree-spirit stuck under one of the leaves and glowing placidly in the dark.
No one really knows where the tree-spirits come from but since every tree has one and they’re invisible until the tree gets to a few inches tall it’s always assumed by those that might care that they were actually WITH the tree – or maybe growing inside it – from day one.
And then they make themselves visible. Or grow big enough to be seen.
The tree-spirit existed, it had been with its tree forever and it had had an interesting life.
You can’t argue with that.
It had seen ferocious winds, baking summers and bitterly cold winters. More to the point its tree had grown up beside a road frequented by humans and so the tree-spirit had had a front-row view of human activity.
Which is more than most tree-spirits can say. Most tree-spirits think seeing a fox is a red-letter day.
If the wind blows from the West that’s news; if the sun goes behind a cloud that’s news; if a flower gets eaten by a rabbit that’s BIG news (which, in all fairness to the flower, is correct).
Seeing human activity had been very educational. The tree was big and broad and had been around for many decades. It perched at the top of a rolling hill, spreading its broad branches to create a puddle of sun-dappled shade, the perfect spot for picnics, poets, ramblers, drunks, crooks exchanging goods, lovers, tramps, coach parties and buried bodies. The tree-spirit, being bright and – let’s face it – with plenty of time on its hands had learnt several languages and built up a not-altogether-inaccurate picture of the world.
Being a tree-spirit it had sometimes caused minor disturbances by throwing twigs at the people sprawled down below but invariably it had been ignored. This didn’t bother it too much as it had a repertoire of other tricks up its sleeves including spitting (‘It’s raining!’), screaming (‘There’s a baby crying!’) and farting (‘Dear God, something’s just died!’) which were far more effective. But it had to be in a bad mood or wild with the wind to be bothered with those. Mostly it just watched, picked its nose and ignored the insults of birds. It was an easy life.
A tree-spirit’s duties are very limited. Mostly God just lets them play. Occasionally there’s a bit of house-keeping to do – brushing dust off leaves, polishing bark, flicking off bugs – but it’s fairly token, part of the job description left to give tree-spirits a sense of purpose and meaning. Nobody wants to feel undervalued.
The tree-spirit knew it had a purpose. In the morning it would wake up and the rain would be falling, or the dew gathering, or the sun poking through the leaves and somebody had to be there to watch it. The foxes and rabbits were too busy killing and being killed to notice; the flowers were just flowers; the mice only knew how to piss; the birds were noisy nuisances too busy being spiteful to care – and the humans? The humans were too wrapped up in their own world to see anything.
So it was up to the tree-spirit to welcome the day and watch it unfold. It was up to the tree-spirit to give a running commentary on God’s handiwork by just noticing things.
The tree-spirit was very, very good at noticing:
When it wasn’t busy noticing things or polishing bark or flicking off bugs the tree-spirit would eat. Usually it would have a nibble of a few leaves and the tree was okay with that because tree-spirits are good company and bring a feeling of ‘rightness’ with them, but sometimes it would drink sunlight or hold its hands up to the stars for a little starlight and feel refreshed. Being on such a delicate diet the tree-spirit tended to blend into its surroundings invisibly and sometimes you could be looking straight at it and not realise it was there.
Life, for the tree spirit, was sweet and simple.
But all that was about to change.