Once, there was a tree. That tree was a beautiful one; it had a dark oak trunk, and it was shiny with scented oil. The leaves were a dark purple, ranging from light lavender to the deepest violet of space, and the branches were the same, glossy oak as the trunk. The roots wove in and out of the universe, back and forth, forth and back so you couldn’t tell where it was anymore.
It had a soul inside of it, of whom no one knows, but there was a soul that begged for companionship, to not be lonely anymore. It had laid there to rest so many years ago, all it wanted was someone to be with. The soul could control the tree, so it decided to go looking for someone to accompany him for the rest of eternity. He searched all the planets far and wide, but there was no one fit enough for him, until he visited Earth. He began looking through all the countries, winding the roots into the ground, trying to find someone. He would capture one from each country, and since they weren’t for him, the tree gobbled them up, never to be seen again. After so many people he had captured, he still kept looking, for he thought there was someone for him. The roots sensed something under the country of Norway; in a little cabin in the woods, layered with snow. The soul had never seen snow, or cabins, so the scenery did please him.
The girl’s name was Elise, a pretty, delicate name, just like a swan’s feather. She was like any other her age; pale skin, sky eyes and hair as fragile as her name. Elise was also quite superstitious, so she regularly went out hunting for ghosts at dusk, disappointed in not finding any. The soul was thirsty for someone like her, so he did what he had done for everyone else.
One day, Elise went out again for ghost hunting. With the sky a pretty purple and orange blend, she threw on her fluffy fur coat and with her lit lantern, went out into the forest.
Elise was specifically looking for the Myling. They were the ghosts of children that weren’t buried properly, so they would jump on the first person they saw and demand that they would be taken to a cemetery. Elise wasn’t so much scared of them; she was looking for them to help, after all of the sad stories she’d heard.
Trudging through the snow thick forest, the sky began to darken to a navy, deepening the shadows and causing her lantern to glow brighter.
Elise swivelled around quickly, looking to see what was there, but there was nothing but her, the sky, the snow and her lantern. As she continued looking through the forest, the soul’s tree roots kept slithering below the earth, keeping eye on Elise and scolding himself for accelerating so fast.
After the sky had turned pitch-black, Elise started to head back with the heaviness of another day of failure. Even after all the stories about people dying of exertion, she thought the unfortunate children just wanted one of their own to help them.
“What’s your name, pretty?”
Elise thrust her lantern out in front of her, smiling because she was sure that she had found one of the Myling. “Hello? I’m Elise, what’s your name?”
“Oh, that information isn’t up for grabs right now,” said the scratchy voice beneath the earth.
“Oh okay, that’s fine. Are you one of them? The Myling?”
The soul was a bit confused at what she was saying but just went along with it. “Yes, I am.”
“Would you like me to find a cemetery for you?”
The soul was even more confused. “No, I’m fine.”
“Okay then, if you’re fine with it, I’ll head back now.”
The soul got ready to follow her back. “You do that.”
Elise nodded back to no one in particular and began her long walk back to her cabin, unknowingly being followed by the soul right behind.
In the safety of her warm cabin, Elise was sipping hot chocolate by the fire while thinking about the ghost she had met earlier.
“Elise, will you help me weave this blanket?” her mother asked.
Elise didn’t respond, she just oddly stared into the fire while sipping her beverage now and then.
“Earth to Elise!”
Elise shuddered awake, spilling some hot chocolate on her blanket, staining it. After looking down at the ruined blanket for a second, Elise turned to her mother. “What did you ask?”
“I was- oh never mind, what was so important that you didn’t hear me?” Elise’s mother asked, crossing her arms.
Elise opened her mouth and closed it, unsure of what to say. Her mother was the opposite of Elise: she absolutely detested superstitions, paranormality or any of those things. Every time Elise had told her she would be out ghost-hunting, her mom would give the most disapproving glare that one could give, so Elise just stopped telling her. She had to come up with something reasonable, at least that seemed reasonable to her mother, so she wouldn’t be yelled at for the billionth time.
“I. . . was recording something by the pond,” said Elise, but then regretted it. Who records things by ponds?
“What were you recording?” her mother asked.
“. . . I was recording a . . . song? A song. I was recording a song by the pond.”
What type of excuse was that?
“What’s it about?” prompted her mother, while starting to weave her blanket.
“Um. . . I don’t want to tell you so it’s a surprise.”
Her mother just shrugged and said, “Okay, let me know when you’re done.”
Elise nodded and sipped her hot chocolate, now thinking about the predicament she had gotten herself into, all the while the soul underneath her was recording everything, waiting for the right time to strike.
The next day, Elise went out to the nearest pond to think. She had told her mom that she had been recording a song, which was all a lie, but now she actually had to record a song so her mom would have proof.
Elise looked out onto the frozen pond, the glassy surface reflecting herself back for her to observe. Why a song? Out of all things, why a song? What was so special about songs that Elise had to choose that for her excuse?
Without stopping to think, Elise started singing. At the start, the soul beneath the earth cringed a bit at the sound, but after a bit, it started to stop and listen. Elise had never really sung out loud before, because she was too shy to, but once her ears got used to it, her voice started to flow. It started to weave in and out of the forest, wrapping around the bushes and trees in gossamer light silk. It woke up the animals gently with its touch and beckoned them forward to the edge of the pond to investigate the beautiful sound. The soul started to sway with the music, and the animals peeked out of the forest to see Elise, now singing without a care in the world. For those moments, with Elise singing, the animals and soul listening by the frozen pond, everything seemed perfect.
Elise slowly backed away from the note, fading it away into the distance, and she turned around, suddenly noticing the cluster of squirrels, deers and other little animals there listening to her. After making eye contact with nearly every one, a baby deer lept up to her without any fear. Jumping straight into Elise’s arms, she embraced it with a gentle hug, and then let go, staring into its dark eyes. After nodding goodbye, the baby deer skipped off to its mother while the animals retreated, and Elise thought to herself:
Maybe I’m not as bad at singing as I thought.
Elise went to sing at the pond every day, because it brought her joy unknown to her before, and the animals enjoyed it too. The soul also tagged along to observe her, and he also liked to hear her sing and to be wrapped in the weightless silk of her songs. She met the little deer every day too and named it Noelle, a nice, eloquent name for the cute thing. After experimenting with different notes and melodies, Elise began to develop her own song, one of the skies and the lakes and the forest. She began to write down the verses in a notebook, and started to record it with her mother’s voice recorder. Singing her own song with her silky voice comforted the animals all the better, and the soul too.
A few weeks after Elise had begun her daily visits to the pond, she had developed her song. She went to her mother after having a cup of hot chocolate and said, “Mor, I’ve finished my song!”
Her mother looked over from dusting the kitchen and said excitedly, “Have you recorded it?”
Elise nodded and held out the voice recorder. “Here it is.”
Elise’s mother smiled, took the recorder and pressed play. Her gossamer voice instantly flowed around the room, wrapping her mother in its silk and Elise too, for the first time. Elise blushed a bit when her mother gaped at the sound, and at the end, her mother ambushed Elise with a hug not even worthy of a bear.
“This is amazing!” exclaimed Elise’s mother.
Elise blushed and turned into a tomato, for this being the first time she was showing someone her singing skills.“We can’t leave this to go to waste! This would be the next phenomenon in Norway, Europe, the world! I’m so proud of you Elise!” and with that, Elise was engulfed by another greater-than-bear-worthy hug.
The next few months passed quickly, and the soul made a decision. He had witnessed Elise grow as a person, her personality, her strengths, her weaknesses, everything. Elise was just that of a swan feather; delicate and fragile, but soft and gentle too. Little Noelle had become Elise’s pet now, and she was loving her new home, snuggling up with Elise by the fire with hot chocolate. The soul had come there to capture Elise, to keep her for himself for evermore, but now he had a different point of view. She was too kind, too soft, too gentle for someone like him; she deserved to be right where she was, not for some thing in a tree to snatch her off.
Then he thought, he’d done that already to hundreds of people, and he then decided to set them free.
He first needed to find out where the people were, since the tree had gobbled them up. Diving into the endless roots of the tree, the soul finally found mere remnants of the people that once used to be lively, kind, caring, so he willed them to be alive once more, and the remnants formed each and every being again. After a bit of explaining, they followed him out of the roots to the hollow in the tree, and he apologized to each and every one of them while he let them go. It took a while, since he had captured so many people, but at one point, they were all free and heading back to their awaiting families, who had long thought they were dead.
The soul peered into the window of Elise’s cabin one last time, and saw a man in dark sunglasses and clothing ask, “And what’s the title of the song?”
Elise and her mother looked at each other for a second, and then Elise said, “Elysian.”
The man with the glasses nodded and wrote something down on a clipboard, and then after one last glance at Elise’s bright blue eyes, the soul zoomed back off to his corner of the galaxy, feeling happy.