The golden light from the sun beamed through the treetops while a gentle breeze caused the branches to dance in response. The shadows played along, following the light’s embrace step for step, gliding about in sync with the leaves. A single drop of dew remained, hidden underneath one of the greener leaves. Jeremy reached out the tip of his finger, gently collecting the single droplet and delicately dripping into a small, glass test tube.

“Ah, yes. This will do,” he muttered, stifling a smile behind his monotonous tone. 

“Really? You only need one? I thought we’d have arrived much too late and I’d have gotten in trouble again,” said a whiny, high-pitched voice. 

At that innocent, little comment, Jeremy couldn’t conceal his smile. 

“Heh. No, no, you’re not in trouble. Lots of light still left in the day. We’ll have plenty of time to see it all.” 

He stretched his arm down and excitedly, the child grabbed his hand.

“Ooo! You mean we’ll get to see the tree swing? And the homemade slippery slide? And the super-mega-awesome treehouse?!” 

The child’s voice shot up an octave as he rambled on about more wondrous places they might get to visit. 

Jeremy had told him all about growing up here, in this forest, his home away from home. Jeremy didn’t remember his real home anymore, he’d lived amongst the trees and vines ever since he turned eight. Even though he didn’t remember where he had been before he was eight, he was it was unpleasant. Every time he tried to recall something from beyond ten years ago, an ache would burrow through his ribcage and into his heart. He often cried when that happened yet he didn’t know why. It wasn’t like he could remember what had happened. He’d often wondered if it had something to do with his parents. 

Jeremy let go of the child’s hand, knelt down, and pointed. 

“See that over there? That’s the slippery slide. Leads right into this pool of water.”

The child bounced up and down on the spot, tightening their hands in glee. 

“Would you like to have a turn?” asked Jeremy.

“Would I?!” Before Jeremy could say another word, the child had raced off, up the vine-rope ladder and was skidding down the slide, headed straight for the crystal-like water. “This is the best! Wheeee!”

Gazing into the water, Jeremy touched at his cheek. It was prickly, a beard was starting to grow. He prodded at the small sags appearing beneath his sunken, green eyes. He didn’t remember them either you see, his parents. He knew he must have had both a father and a mother, and that they probably looked something like him, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember them. 

The child squelched out of the lake and clambered up the ladder once more. It took him quite a few steps to climb the ladder. It used to take Jeremy a while to climb the ladder too, but it was all worth it for those few seconds on the slide. Now though, now Jeremy could leap up the top of the slide with a single jump. And the slide was barely worth it. It wasn’t fun anymore. Maybe it was because it wasn’t as big as he remembered it, but Jeremy was sure that wasn’t it. After all, if that was the problem, he could have simply built a bigger slide. 

“Come on. We’ve still got more to see.”

“Awwwww!” whinged the child. “But I want to play on the slide some more!”

The child crossed his arms defiantly. Jeremy smiled. 

“I promise that we’ll come back, together, and we’ll play on the slide as much as you like. How does that sound?”

The child nodded furiously. His frown now turned upside down, he skipped beside Jeremy, whistling merrily. Jeremy thought it funny how easy it was to appease a child. He wished he was still convinced by simple statements. He wished he didn’t try and search for what people actually meant, that he simply took them at their word. Lies or truth, it was still much easier that way. Not having to worry about being betrayed because, you were a child, you hadn’t grown up yet. It wasn’t betrayal to lie to a child. You were merely telling them something to make them stop being, well, childish. 

They visited the tree swing, which Jeremy again thought was much too small to be amused by anymore. He even fastened a larger tyre to the rope and gave it a go. But it still wasn’t much fun. He was right, it wasn’t the size that mattered, it was something else. Disappointed but not surprised, they visited a few other places he had enjoyed when he was younger but the result was always the same. The child had a marvelous time, while Jeremy was left forlorn. 

“Come on then. We’ve one final place to visit. The treehouse.”

Arriving at the treehouse, the child was visibly disappointed. 

“Hey, you said this treehouse was ‘super-mega-awesome’. All I see is a bunch of old, broken panels. And I can’t even see a house. You lied to me!”

The child crossed his arms once more, huffing as he furrowed his brow, clearly angry at Jeremy. Jeremy smiled. 

“Just watch. I promise it’ll be worth it. For both of us.”

Reaching into his pocket, Jeremy pulled out the vial from before, filled with a single droplet of dew from the forest. Popping open the cork he poured the liquid into a hole in the ground. Dashing about he plucked different leaves and fruits from the surrounding flora and placed them into the hole as well. Once the ingredients were gathered, he picked up a stick and mashed them all together. Mushing the fruits and twigs together eventually formed a pool of purple, bubbling ‘water’. Scooping it up in the vial, Jeremy paced over to a large oak tree. 

“You want to see the super-mega-awesome treehouse?”

The child nodded excitedly. 

Grinning, Jeremy splashed the concoction onto the giant oak. Magical bursts of purple starlight emitted from the tree as it split itself in two. The rest of the forest seemed to bow before it. All of the flowers, vines, and trees drooped as their life was drained from them, absorbed by the giant oak. Severing itself, the oak’s roots stretched up from the ground and surrounding Jeremy and the child formed a ginormous treehouse. Made from roots, flowers and colours you could only imagine, the roots slithered their way around and upwards, forming layers upon layers of rooms. 

Jeremy winced and knelt down, making eye contact with the child. 

“It really is super-mega-awesome, don’t you think?” he whispered. 

The child’s smile reached from ear to ear. 

“How would you like to play here for a while?”

The child said nothing but just kept on smiling, giggling as the roots twisted around him, lifting him up to the higher levels of the treehouse. 

Jeremy exhaled, sighing. His smile now upside down, he pushed his way through the roots, out of the treehouse. 

The golden light from the sun beamed through the treetops while a gentle breeze caused the branches to dance in response. The shadows played along, following the light’s embrace step for step, gliding about in sync with the leaves. The giant oak tree sealed itself back up, returning its borrowed life to the rest of the forest. Only this time, the forest seemed more vibrant, greener. Drops of dew began to appear, scattered over each leaf. Jeremy breathed out and bent down to look at himself in a nearby puddle of water. Prodding his cheek, he smiled. His beard had disappeared. The sags in his eyes had disappeared as well. He was much shorter now, short enough to ride the slide and the swing. But that wasn’t why he was smiling. After all, it wasn’t about size. It was about the feeling he had inside. Now he wouldn’t have to think about truth or lies or responsibilities. Well, not for another ten years at least. Skipping out of the forest he tried to remember what had just happened, but … nothing. 

Oh well, thought Jeremy. I guess I’ll have to wait until I grow up a bit more.

August 24, 2019 03:57

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