The Hanging Gardens – Epilogue

From all corners of Precipice men and women took up axe and shovel and pick and anything that could conceivably cut wood and rushed for the moving forest, slashing and beating back the tide of tree and root. Rain watched as the forest grew madly forward, barely held at bay by the villagers.

“Will!” he called, but the will o’ the wisp was nowhere to be seen. Rain wasn’t used to the brightness, even at dusk. Every torch lamp in the streets looked like Will to him. Where had she gone?

“I’m here,” came Will’s small voice, made barely more than a whisper by the shouts of the villagers and the savage chopping and slashing at the village edge. The trees were still growing, still reaching–even the villagers couldn’t keep them from rooting through houses and overtaking them.

“Where are you?” Rain called, looking frantically around. The forest was out to get them–out to get Will.

“There’s so much light out here,” came her faint voice. “I’m here. I’m everywhere.”

Will o’ wisps never ventured outside of forests–they always led you deeper inside. The darkness was heavy–that’s what Will said–but so much light must be overwhelming, too.

“I’m not a spirit of the forest anymore,” said Will, louder this time, defiant. The forest seemed to hear, and slowed its advance. “You’ll not take me. I am the air. I am the sun. I am fire and sky. You are anchored, rooted in the dirt. I am free.”

She said it again: “I am free.”

With a great sigh, with birds erupting from the trees, the forest relented. Its magic was spent. Will was out of reach. The curse was over.

As the villagers pushed back the forest, felling trees and cutting away bush, Rain searched for Will. He couldn’t see the little light. Everything was so much brighter than the forest. She could have been anywhere. She may have been free, but Rain didn’t want her to leave. He wanted to thank her for guiding him out of the forest. He wanted to welcome her into his village, to show the others that not all will o’ the wisps were dangerous.

But she was gone. She had joined the light.

Rain called her name once more, but there was no answer.

When his mother called his name, he thought it might have been Will. His mother had an axe in hand, face scratched and splintered and drenched in sweat, and she threw herself at her son, laughing and sobbing. He was gone for so long.

Rain told her about getting lost in the forest, about the witch, about Will, but he could tell she didn’t believe him. “Let’s just go home,” he said, defeated.

His mother put her arm around his shoulder and together they walked to their house, mere feet away from where the forest finally stopped growing. And just as they reached the front door, the sun finally set behind the cliffs of Precipice Village. Twilight at last. And there, bobbing in front of the cliffside, was a little light. Not a torchlight or a star or the setting sun. A lone light.

Rain stopped his mother and looked at the mysterious orb. Could it be?

The light was soft, but brighter than Rain had ever seen before. It was as warm and beautiful as his mother’s smile, shining with happiness and purity.

“Will?” said Rain.

The light did not answer. Instead, it flashed twice, once quickly, then a little slower, as though it were saying “Thank you.”

His mother was watching, too. Everyone was watching. And the last will o’ the wisp ascended into the night sky, higher and brighter, brighter than the brightest star, forever pointing the way north for all the lost children in the forest.

 

 


 

 

 

Day 315’s three random writing prompt categories were, “The hanging tree,” “Autocannibalism,” and, “A forest world.”

I really enjoyed writing this. I look forward to being all finished up with my prompts and able to polish my favourites into complete stories.

– H.

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