(written for the [Fiction] Friday prompt on October 17, 2008)
I drifted, weightlessly, twirling down and down and down, tumbling over and over. As I tumbled and fell, and screamed with fear and excitement and exhilaration, I thought back upon the days leading up to today.
With the wisdom of hindsight on my side, I could honestly say that I had felt it coming for weeks. The moments of brightness were fewer and farther between and the darkness – it seemed to just be darker and colder.
I had thought that it was all a result of that day when it never got bright. It was so windy, so wet. The birds and squirrels never came out to play that day; I guess they knew better than I did that something was wrong. It was so windy. It hurt me when the wind kicked up, slamming against me and whipping me backwards into my momma. I was frightened. I cried to my momma because I was worried – worried that she would lose her grip on me, that I would be picked up by this fast, swirling wind and fly away, so far away, never to return.
“Relax, child,” she said to me with her calm, wise voice. “It is just a storm, a hurricane. I have seen many. You are safe and all will be well.”
My momma was always so strong and wise. She knew so many things about the world and she would teach me about them. Yet, as I felt the bitter sting of the rain as it slapped against me in the harsh wind, I couldn’t help but doubt that she could hold on. How could she be strong enough to keep holding onto me in this awful storm?
But she never let go and this storm passed, as all storms eventually do. But ever since that time, since that hurricane, I felt different. Momma was still there, of course, holding me, teaching me. But she seemed tired, maybe a little distant.
“I am weary,” she answered when I asked her if she was alright. “It is getting toward the time for me to take a good, long nap.”
“No naps for me!” I shouted and went on about my business of playing in the gentle breeze.
Eventually, though, I had to acknowledge it, too. I was feeling tired. I had less energy. I noticed that it was cooler, I was cold. I felt it deep down inside me. Something had changed between me and my momma. When the wind would blow and I would try to settle in against her, it felt forced. It felt coarser, rougher, just on the edges at first. Maybe it was me. I was growing up. Was I getting too old to be looking to my momma for shelter?
“Momma,” I said, “Are we growing apart?”
“All things that must happen, my child, will happen as they must,” came her reply.
“But momma,” I said. “I need you. I need your advice. The others… they are making fun of me. I have spots on me, bright yellow patches, like bruises, that weren’t there before. The others – they pick on me.”
“Do not worry, my child,” she whispered. “The others are just jealous of your beauty.”
Time passed but I was not really sure how long, several weeks at least. It was a bright morning and it was chilly, almost cold. The gentle breeze stung me as it blew past me. Momma and I had not spoken in several weeks, not because of anything more than us not really having anything to say. We were both very tired. But today was different. “Momma!” I shouted fearfully.
“Yes, child,” came her soft, distant reply.
“Are you still holding me?” I asked. “Why can’t I feel your touch?”
“I am still here, my child,” she said.
“I’m afraid,” I said. “I don’t know why I am frightened. I feel like I am… alone.”
“You will never be alone, my child,” my momma said.
“You—you’re not holding me,” I said, panicking slightly as the breeze kicked up again. “Momma! I’m losing my grip!”
“Just relax, my child,” she said. I could hear the calmness in her voice. “You are ready.”
“I’m not ready, momma!” I screamed. I tried to cry but I could not.
“Remember,” said momma. “I love you.”
“I can’t hold on!” I shouted. I felt my grip on my momma slip just as the wind picked up.
And I fell.
Well, to be more accurate, I floated. I twisted in the air, flipping end over end and side to side as I drifted downward in a slow, spiraling pattern. “Wheee!” I sang at one point as the wind swirled and I floated back up. There was momma, so straight and tall, so tired. And my friends, they were there, too, with yellow and orange and red spots of their own. A bird flew by and nearly crashed into me, but the wind swished me out of the way at the last second.
Eventually I came to rest on the ground, right near momma’s feet. I was scared. Momma said I would never be alone but I couldn’t touch her, couldn’t hear her, couldn’t feel her calmness. The ground was cold and damp for it had rained over night. I was alone and I was afraid, for I had never been alone before. I felt myself about to panic. But then I heard them. More friends were floating through the air, tumbling their way toward me. And then we were together, some red, some orange and me, bright yellow – we were all together and more friends were coming. The wind was different down here, it was less fun. Occasionally a big gust would come and we’d all shout with glee as we were lifted up again, only to spiral back down.
Momma looked so lonely now, all of her children now gone, down here with me. I felt sad for her. I hoped that the wind would pick me up and bring me back up, all the way up, to where momma could see me and know that I was alright. But it didn’t and even if it had, I don’t think momma would have noticed. She was so tired.
And I was tired, just like all of my red and orange friends. A squirrel skittered by, causing us to scatter but we were too tired to care. It was cold, so very cold. There was very little light anymore and even the light did not energize me anymore. When it rained, the water did not slide off of me in a big droplet, it just stuck there coldly. But it didn’t matter. My beautiful yellow color had faded to a dull brown and I decided that it was time to sleep.
The wind had blown me to the side, next to a fence, where I was now trapped underneath many others. “Good night, momma” I whispered, knowing that she had already been asleep for a long time and would not hear me. I allowed myself to drift off to sleep, alone for the first and last time. It was a sleep I had earned and one which would last me an eternity.
it took me halfway through before I finally figured out it was a leaf 🙂
question: wouldn’t the other leaves be siblings, rather than friends?
I really like how you began kinda at the end, then put us back in the beginning, and slowly nudged us through the development and ultimate “release” of the leaf. Nicely done 🙂
~willow~ — thanks for reading and yes, you are right that they’d be siblings. However… in the spirit of not editing, once I made the error, I just went with it. Sigh. I need to be more of a rebel.
Forget it – that is no error to my reading (and there’d be other trees, huh?). I’d call nit-picking on that. Have to say last was best here – if I were handing out prizes you just won. Topical, but in a more pleasant way than the stock market. And first person, meeting the challenge head on, unlike my piece.
I’m always a bit curious how many of the writers stick to the 5-10 minute stipulation of the “rules” and your comment shows you did not rewrite, but if this was really ten minutes then you can write fast AND well, so well done!
Paul — wow. thanks for the great comment! I really appreciate it! As for the time it took… I do, in fact, write very quickly, especially if I am not editing as I go along (which is a good thing for NaNoWriMo). There are days, though, where I just don’t feel it and it takes me hours to write a paragraph or two.
For this piece, it was just under 10 minutes.
This was beautiful. I enjoyed tremedously. I could picture the story easily in my head.
Wow… I was really moved by this story… very beautiful and poignant. I feel like the mother tree and my leaves are beginning to turn… you truly have a gift for writing.