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Today’s story comes from the prompt and picture sent by
Jamie Gibbs. I chose this because of its fairy-tale quality, and I fancied the idea of a very literary, cynical take on what would have made excellent fantasy.
It took a full ten seconds for him to realize that he was awake and not in his bed. It had happened again–he had walked out to his backyard and beyond, and now he lay on the leaf-covered forest floor. A look at the partly clouded sky told him he would reach his office late again, and a glance at his wristwatch confirmed it.
Propping himself on his elbow, he rubbed sleep from his eyes and found his one-eyed gaze returned by the tree across where he lay. Like a monster escaped from his nightmares, the tree sneered, fixing its beady eye and thin lips into a knowing smirk.
I know you, it said, Peter Pansington, your surname has grown as much as the rest of you, especially your belly. How do you like being a grown up, eh?
Peter thought of his wife who could not cook. Or would not, at any rate. Of the children he had fathered who could never keep quiet. Of friends he never made. Of his boss who could not smile, his colleagues who could not stop laughing. Of his body that could not sleep in bed, wandering out into the woods each night.
Why, it is swell being grown up! he said, getting up and brushing the leaves off his trainers, Beats the hell out of standing like a statue all day in the middle of a garden, having fairies and animals and people gawk at you.
Wouldn’t you rather go back? asked the tree, its eye rolling in its socket, its lip uncurled.
No, he said, beginning to walk away, this may not be fun, but it ends. Forever gets to be boring. I’d rather be a bald, ornery man who grows old, than a boy who stands in one place, never growing up.
But what is the point? the tree threw the question at his retreating back. You made me, and now you’re going away.
There is the whole point, dear tree, said he, looking straight ahead as he walked back to the bedlam that was his home. There is no point. There never will be.
What should I do now? wailed the tree.
Take a walk, tree, grow old, have kids, die, said Perter Parsington, turning the knob on his back door. Stop searching for the point behind it all. There is none. Trust me.
If you liked this story you might like some of the stories I wrote for my A to Z last year.