The Tiny Big Houses – Part 3: The Tree’s Fear

Music by Dante S. Ryu, 2016

by Christina Ryu

The following days Li guarded the tree very carefully. He did not relax at all during the nights. He wanted all his senses to be focused at all time. He was afraid that the shadow would come back. For the first two nights nothing happened, just a few birds, which he easily scared off. The third night however he knew something would happen. Even before he got there he knew. His mother’s face was even paler than before and her eyes looked tired. He went to the tree prepared for the worst. When the night came and the tree started to light up he saw that it was weaker, he saw its fear, some of the flowers didn’t shine as bright as before and he could almost hear the tree sighing heavily in the wind. He gave it water as usual but he didn’t sit down, he stood prepared for a fight.

It took hours but finally he heard something, something in the dark. He didn’t see it at first but then. Then he saw the shadow clearly, luring at the border of the forest. Li had decided that this time he shouldn’t go in there, instead he should try to get it to come out to the light. He hoped that it would be easier to fight it in the light were it couldn’t hide. The shadow didn’t want to come out at first. Then a sound again and Li could see a leg, the light from the tree made him see it clear as it step out of the forest. It was big, much bigger than Li. Li knew he couldn’t show fear. He needed to be strong. He took a step closer, raising his stick. The shadow didn’t back off, instead it came closer and Li noticed that the light from the tree got weaker. Once again out of nowhere he screamed: What do you wantGo away! The shadow stopped, took a step back, it seemed to hesitate but then it was gone.

This procedure happened every night after that. The shadow came one step closer every night, and the light from the tree got weaker. At first Li could scare it away with words, and the tree could regain its’ light. Then it got harder. Li screamed, he swung his stick, he threw water, dirt, fire at it, at last it always left but every night it was a harder fight and the tree didn’t seem to have the power to recover. He felt the fear everywhere. It was there in the tree, it was in the forest, it was in his mother’s eyes. He had almost stopped to sleep. At night he was always fighting and during the daytime he sat at the world-spot looking at the tiny big houses dreaming of a better world and praying for strength. He didn’t want to come home, he didn’t want to see his mother’s pale face or look into her eyes. He wanted to defeat the shadow first, show his mother that he could. Show that he could do his job and protect the tree.

Li felt weaker too, he knew he couldn’t do this forever. He knew he needed help. One night when he stood by the tree when the sun set. He realized he had to go against his mother’s will. As he saw the flowers of the tree start to light up he went closer, he touched the tree carefully. It was hot, he felt the power from it and that the tiredness in him started to fade. He knew he had to keep control, he knew that it was dangerous what he was doing that he could get obsessed if he didn’t know when to let go. He slowly started to climb the tree to the closest branch. The further up he came the more powerful he felt but also a bit distant to himself. It was like a drug that both made him stronger and weaker at the same time. He saw a beautiful bright rose and without hesitation he reached for it. He could feel that the closer he got to the rose the stranger was the feeling in his body. It was like he wasn’t in control of his movement and that the tree and him was connected in a way that felt like they were both taking and giving energy to each other. He almost had it when a voice stopped him. It was his mother. Even though her voice had been weak lately she now spoke with power. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it Li. Li didn’t want to listen. The power of the tree was so strong he was so sure that if only he had that flower he could save them all. His mother continued: It is too late, Li. You know it. It’s too close. He saw his hand being so close to the rose now, he could almost grab it. The rose wanted to be taken; it wanted to belong to Li. It wants to be mine, he thought. This thought was at first thrilling but then he understood that he was no longer in control. He had got lost in the tree. He forced his hand to stop, it took a lot of strength. Then he forced his eyes to look away from the flower. He slowly managed to turn his head and look at his mother. She gave him a weak smile. Then he saw something that made him regain all control, he saw the shadow right behind his mother and it was bigger than ever. He screamed and jumped down. He rushed towards the shadow but his mother was in the way, she grabbed his hands and made him stop. Li, it is no point. You have done a great job, but this shadow you cannot defeat. You will only hurt yourself trying. Li felt tears in his eyes- he had failed. He knew his mother was right. She was always right. He let his mother hold him while he saw the shadow getting closer and closer to the tree. The tree was shivering. He wanted to help, but he couldn’t. He watched when it happened with tears falling down his cheeks. The shadow reached for the flowers and they all got dark one after the other. When it was only one shiny flower left he whispered: I’m sorry.

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