One day, I was walking the hills northeast of LA with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean below me, I noticed a small, dark cloud in the otherwise blue sky. If you live in one of the northern states you may find clouds nothing special, but here in California we can go through a hole week without seeing a single one of them. And if there are clouds, they are small and white, like little sheep hopping over the deep blue sky.
That cloud was small, but dark, and moved at a brisk pace towards the sun. As if it wanted to swallow it. I felt a little bit anxious when I saw it, because the cloud’s shadow on the ground was dark and black and moving towards me.
Then the cloud reached the sun, and at the same time the shadow of the cloud reached me. It swallowed the sun, and it swallowed me. It got dark.
When I came to, I was lying on something soft. It was cool, and I smelled the faint, rich smell of undergrowth. I opened my eyes and looked into the dense web of branches intertwining over my head.
I sat up. Looked around. I was in a forest as deep as one could imagine it. Tree stems formed a green hall, and my eyes got lost in a somber distance.
I got up on my feet, and walked on the soft grass. There was a bird in one of the trees. His voice didn’t sound like a regular bird song. It was as if he was relaying a message to a distant master.
And then I felt the presence of something. I looked around. The branches of the trees touched each other, shivering. A deer hopped away into the distance, disappearing in the underbrush. Even the buzzing of the thousands of insects had stopped.
Where was I? What forest was this? I had never seen anything like it. How could I ever get back to where I came from? I turned, but the forest was just as thick on all sides. So I just started to walk, knowing it was a silly thing to do, but I just couldn’t stay put. Something pushed me forward, and my feet obeyed, and I walked.
I walked for hours until I finally came to a a tiny clearing, where a tree stood that seemed to glow from inside out. The wind had raised a bit and I could hear voices whispering in its branches: “Stay! Stay!”
I approached the tree. And the forest fell silent again. Then I heard the steps. They were coming from afar. From behind me! I turned, but there was nobody. Then I heard the steps again, and again they were coming from behind me.
This went on for a while, and whenever I turned, the steps stopped and then started again behind my back. Only closer then they had been before. Something was coming at me, and it didn’t want me to know from which direction.
Again I heard steps behind me. This time I turned around very quickly, and there stood a tall, dark figure, dressed all in black furs, and a black beard cascading down his front.
“What are you doing in my forest”
It seemed the voice was not coming from him, but from within my head. The tall man had extremely large eyes, in which played red sparks like buzzing insects chasing each other.
I hadn’t said a word, but he seemed to know everything.
“What is this in your hands?”, he asked.
I looked down and suddenly I was holding my camera. I just saw the image of the tree disappear from its rear screen. I hadn’t even been aware that I had taken a picture.
“It’s a device to record your desires and dreams”, I said.
I wasn’t sure if he had even heard me. Talking to him seemed like talking to myself.
“You know that this is my forest”, he said
“I don’t know how I got here”, I said,”And I can’t find my way out.”
“There is no way out”, he said, and turned around, and walked away.
I saw my camera hang from a branch… who had put it there? Then I noticed it was my branch… it was a branch growing out of my trunk. The branch was me… what had been my arm and the hand holding the camera… The wind grabbed my upper branches and I whispered “Let me go!”
Then I heard the other trees. They all whispered in the cool evening breeze: “Let me go! Let me go!” All those wanderers that had somehow reached this forest, and couldn’t find their way out. As a last resort I looked into my mind to find anything, anything… I found the image of an ocean, a wide panorama, and I didn’t know how it got into my tree mind, as there wasn’t an ocean here in this forest, and I had never seen an ocean…
Then the sun set, and birds flew over my top branches, colored in rose colors by the parting sun. And the night fell, and I clung to the image of the ocean, and I fell…
…I fell onto a very hard and rough surface. Something loud and dangerous was rushing towards me, I felt, while I still couldn’t open my eyes.
My eyes popped open. The horizon was wide, and the ocean in the last light of the day. Two angry lights were racing towards me. I rolled to the side. The blurting horn sound distorted as the car passed me by. My right arm hurt where it had protected my camera when I rolled off the highway. The housing still had hit the ground and there was a scratch.
And I saw an image, a single image on the display, of a magic tree… that felt so familiar the way it raised its branches… it was me, the tree in the picture, it was me, before I became that tree… and then it was not me… it was the sorcerer’s tree… dangerous to anyone who found it…
I hung the camera over my shoulders, and looked at the sun setting in the Pacific far below. I went to my car and found a sticker on it “Abandoned vehicle. Scheduled for towing.”
The sticker was three days old. Had I been away this long? I unlocked my car, and drove off the mountain to the last, red rays of the sun that smirked at me, painting me in rose colors like passing birds, as it disappeared into the Pacific Ocean.