rolan finds her standing on the stump of a fallen tree. she has an arrow in her hand, and in the other her bow. he stops just next to her and finds what she had been looking at, and at the same time, the haunting noise that had been echoing through the forest suddenly has a body. it rattled like a broken war horn, but now it's quieter. slower and more labored.

as dayya nocks an arrow and draws it back, the bear pulls its bloody face from the fawn's stomach and takes a look around. it's almost as if the bear senses something, senses danger. or maybe he simply smelled an unfamiliar scent; the scent of two humans. dayya lets the arrow loose and it pierces through the fawns left eye. with that it finally goes limp, the noise is pulled back into its lifeless body. the bear doesn't seem to notice and continues eating. continues pulling pieces of muscle and stomach out with its teeth. rolan looks at his daughter standing there, she still holds the position. bow pushed out in front of her, with her other hand pulled up next to her mouth; fingers out stretched. she's as stiff as a statue, even the air that's passing into her body doesn't cause her chest to rise, or her stomach to expand. he imagines that maybe, just for a second before letting the arrow fly, her heart even stopped beating.

to make a shot like that, he thinks, she would need that kind of focus.

her skills with the bow had surpassed his own long ago, and she's only gotten better since then. it's seems to be the only daily task she takes any pleasure in at all.

she turns to him just before stepping down from the stump and gives him a kind of half smile, but also raises her eyebrows and looks off to the side.

it's as if to say

there's your beauty.

as they walk back rolan asks

"were you angry when you let that arrow fly?"

she watches her feet as she makes her way through the tall grass, and around trees and shrubs.

she says

"no, i wasn't. i'm not now, either."

they walk through a clearing, then a denser part of the forest. the sunlight has trouble fighting its way through the canopy, and eventually it gives up and allows the leaves to swallow the light.

rolan says

"y'know that most of the time bears don't even eat large prey like that? they're actually really lazy hunters, they usually just go for what's easy to eat. i mean... most of the time they aren't even hunting necessarily. they spend a lot of their time foraging for plants."

half way through he feels as if he's not talking to anyone in particular, but just talking. it's a feeling he has sometimes while trying to talk to his daughter about the beauty that's around them.

dayya says

"it's just... ugly. how its laziness is what causes another animal to die in agony."

she shakes her head at the ground.

"i don't know... i wouldn't do that."

rolan shrugs.

"no, but you aren't an animal."

"no, i'm not. but i'm imagining how painful it must be to be eaten alive, and i feel bad for that fawn for being born here and being born as that kind of animal."

they break through the dense forest and come out into their grove. the grass covering the ground has been taken over by wildflowers in the past few weeks. it's a beautiful kind of invasion. each time rolan sees it, he can't help but think it's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. but he cools off his ego and reminds himself that this is his own art work, and that it's simply adequate. that anything nature could make would be more beautiful by leaps and bounds. but he does allow himself to appreciate the flowers that have grown on the roof of their cottage.

dayya walks towards the cottage, not minding the flowers that she steps on along the way. she shuts the large circular door behind her with a loud creak. he stares at it for a moment, watching her pass by one of the circular windows as she sets her bow and quiver down. he remembers what it was like to build that cottage. how he had to peel the hill back the hold it as he constructed the inside. it's not much of a house, it only has one large room, but it was the most he could do. any more would disturb the nature around them too much. when he was done, he gently laid the hill back, and it seemed to conform to the room perfectly. he's proud of it, and back then dayya seemed to enjoy watching him do it, but she wasn't satisfied with the final result. she wanted her own room, and less windows. but she did seem pleased to pick the shape of the doors and windows. rolan leaves her with her thoughts, knowing that anything he says at this point won't assuage her feelings.

if only she would understand, he thinks, if i could just break through to her, nothing would feel that way anymore. if i could just try again to make her see how fortunate we are.

rolan paces the grove, deep in thought. mostly his thoughts come to him in what if's.

what if i tried that this time instead?

what if instead of hoping she'll simply stumble across what i make, i show her?

what if i made some kind of animal this time?

what if she helped me make it?

rolan leaves the grove and ventures into a part of the forest that grows so dense he has to climb up into a tree and move through the branches.

it'll be a lot easier on the way back, he reminds himself.

after nearly an hour of this exhausting kind of travel, he finds the path that he's looking for, and descends from the canopy. the trail is lined with the skulls of animals, which glow from the inside on account of some kind of bioluminescent bug colony. it glows with a dim blue light, and it matches the light all around him in color, but not brightness.

a pond sits to the left side, it too glows with the same kind of blue light, but nothing in the water would logically cause it to glow that way. after a bend in the trail he finds the cottage. it always finds a way to sneak up in him. it's as if it moves each time he visits, or it's just that well-hidden. this deep into the forest always seems more humid than anywhere else. it's as if the dense canopy above forms thick rain clouds and completely blocks out the sun. everything is always wet, and a light mist rests close to the ground. the entire area hums with a kind of energy that matches the blue glow and the cloudless rain.

the swollen wooden door seems to open on its own, and he makes his way inside the small room. the ceiling is made of the roots of a tree, they grow so close together that it's like a traditional roof. but crawling through the tiny gaps are several thousand lightning bugs. their collected light casts the room in a warm yellow glow.

she says

"have you come for a visit? or are you here on business?"

rolan makes his way to the low table and sits down at it. taking the weight off of his legs is a relief.

he says

"business, i guess. but, can't it really be for both?"

"i suppose it could, the only difference is if you leave with something."

"well... then i'm here on business. so i guess we'll both have something when i leave."

she turns to him.

"this can't continue. you know that."

she carries over two small cups of tea to the table and sits across from him. some days when he comes to visit her, she doesn't resemble a human as much as she does today. she always takes the form of a humanoid, but sometimes she has fewer human traits. when he thinks about it, he realizes that this is the most human he's ever seen her. but still, he has trouble looking directly at her. instead he finds himself staring at the table, or her cup, or strands of her hair as they curl away from her head.

he says

"i know."

"then why don't you tell me that you're here for a visit, and we can share a cup of tea, and when you leave you can keep your remaining years and go about your life."

he disregards her plea, and instead he says

"dayya is getting older."

"of course she is, that's what kids do."

"but... you know what i mean. you..."

he motions to the tree above.

"you listen, don't you?"

she takes a sip of her tea, and after some deliberation, says

"i do... i care about the both of you and i want to make sure you're not in danger. but my intention isn't to involve myself in your drama."

"but i involve you in it when i come, don't i?'

"you do... i would like to imagine i simply give advice, and that i don't directly interfere. although sometimes you take my words and use them, don't you?"

he can feel her eyes on him, and he suddenly gets the feeling that a wild animal has just spotted him, and maybe has started stalking him. it feels closer to how sibling lions would play fight. but still it grounds him, it reminds him where he is; who he’s in the presence of.

he nods at the wrap she has around her chest.

"but sometimes i'm not sure what to say to her. it feels as if i'm just running around in circles, throwing little cups of water onto a roaring fire."

"she sure seems like that sometimes, doesn't she? she's very fierce."

"yes... i think she has more in common with her surroundings than she knows."

"of course, but... i believe what your trying to do is take this roaring fire and fit it into a little box. i mean would you really want to try and put that fire out? regardless of how hard you try, she won't fit into it right now."

she draws in a breath, and as she releases it, she says

"she might never."

he says

"i just... wish she could see what i see in this place. i wish she loved it the way i loved it. not because it would make my life easier, but... i know my love for nature is second to my love for her. i wish she could experience love that intense."

"i'm sure there are things dayya loves that intensely. but everyone is different."

rolan sighs to himself. he tries to remember the last time he saw dayya show love for something. he tries to remember the last time he saw dayya show any emotion at all. he feels stupid for not being able to, and he gets that same feeling in the pit of his stomach. like he failed somewhere up the line.

he says

"i don't know what dayya loves. i don't think i've ever seen her show love for anything."

 "she killed a fawn this morning out of mercy, didn't she?"

he shakes his head as he says

"i'm not sure how merciful it was. she told me on the way back that she felt bad that the fawn was born to the forest. it was like she was killing it to finally set it free."

"maybe she saw herself in that fawn"

she finishes her tea, then sets the cup down on the table with a small knock.

she says

"does she know that there is a world outside of this one?"

"she does. i've told her where i come from, and why i've chosen to live here."

she looks at him more curiously as she says

"does she know about humanity?"

"yes..."

"what did you tell her?"

he takes a moment to choose his words.

"i didn't lie to her. i told her that humans war with each other, and that they kill and rape and pillage. that they pick on the weak by nature, and that they plot against one another. that they take pleasure in each other’s pain. that they make entertainment out of it."

"you've told her how you feel about humanity... "

then, as if taking a needle and poking him with each word, she says

"but does she know the truth about it?"

he tries to retort with the same energy, but it dissolves in the room.

he says

"that is the truth."

"that is simply a fraction of what humanity is. did you not tell her about the side of humanity that is gently and caring? the side that would put themselves into danger for each other, and fight for each other. or sacrifice themselves for the greater good? did you not tell her that they can band together and create beautiful things? if you only looked at what you wanted to look at, everything in this world can be very ugly. even nature. do you think that the weak aren't picked on out here? that a mother won't abandon her baby if it's misshapen, or lame? leaving it out to be eaten."

he leans back onto his hands, and says

"i know... but out here it's survival. animals aren't... sadistic in their actions. humans are."

"humans can be, just like anything can be. consciously or not."

more frustrated now, he says

"i don't... understand what this has to do with dayya. i think we've lost the point here."

"rolan, the point is, if dayya doesn't like her surroundings, then she should have the freedom to change them. she'll be of that age to explore this world and there is little you can do about it. you would be doing your daughter an enormous disservice if you tried to keep her from seeing this world. and let’s be honest... you can't rolan. that raging fire will consume this entire forest before she lets that happen. it's a matter of time before she realizes that she can be free."

her words pour down on him like a heavy rain. they soak his hair and his clothing, they muddy the ground under him, and each time he looks ahead of himself a rain drop seems to find his eye.

he says

"i just... i want to show her the beautiful side of nature. like you said, if she only see's the ugly side of it, if... she's never exposed to how beautiful it can be, then it would be unfair. unfair to her."

he looks up to her, looks up closer to her eye line than he had been.

he says

"i can show her how beautiful it can be."

"rolan she doesn't know anything other than nature... don't you think she knows it well?"

"i just... i think i can show it to her. even if she does decide to leave, wouldn't i be doing her a disservice to not try and show her true beauty. pure beauty?"

"i think you're hearing what you want to hear. and it would be useless for me to continue."

she sighs.

"if dayya is fire, then you're stone."

she stands and moves over to a table cluttered with wooden bowls, spoons, plants hung out to dry, and salves wrapped in leaves. she has the antlers of a deer, and fur from some other animal. pieces of stone that sparkle, and a number of things that glow.

over her shoulder, she says

"i don't mind giving you advice, but at some point i might have to cut you off, rolan. i don't know how much more of this i can witness. do you... really think you can win her over one day?"

she turns to him and leans on the table. she crosses her arms in front of herself and her energy is genuinely frustrated. he can feel it in the air. the hair on his arm stands up as if lightning was about to strike.

she says

"what would winning her over even look like? she suddenly changes her opinion and decides that she loves nature? the she loses the quality about herself that can potentially be curious?"

rolan doesn't answer, he has no answer. and with that he feels truly pathetic. he would take abuse from her at this moment and he would take it without question. he would feel that she was in her right to do it, but still he would ask her. he would offer up more than he had to.

after a few minutes she comes over to him and kneels down next to him.

she sighs, then holds out her hand, and rolan places his in hers.

she says

"you have twenty-one years left. i won't allow you to go below twenty, so the most i can do is a week in exchange for a year. but... this will be the last time. anything more than this... what's the point? you won't have enough life left to enjoy."

she moves his face and he finds himself looking into her eyes. they shift between multiple different colors and shapes.

rolan manages to find the words.

"thank you... i appreciate it very much."

                                   

 ❀

rolan sits on his knees in the garden and stares at the newly formed flower. it didn't turn out exactly how he pictured it, it's much bigger than he wanted, and the petal color isn't right. he wanted it a yellow, but not the yellow of a sunflower. more like a deep yellow, maybe closer to orange. the slowly waving arms are uncolored, and he can't think of what to change them to.

dayya walks by, ushering a goat over to be milked.

rolan says

"hey, check this out. i made something cool."

she kneels besides him and says

"the... flower?"

"yeah. it's an eternal flower. the um- long arms it has follow the sun as it moves across the sky. so down here-"

rolan points to the stamen on the stem of the flower.

"-the arms collect pollen in the morning, when the sun is the lowest in the sky, and throughout the day it carries it to the middle where the pistil is, and it pollenates itself. after a few of these cycles, when it makes seeds, they'll grow here-"

rolan points to the underside of the flower bulb.

"- as the arms move, the bulb flexes and eventually it'll push the seeds out and new flowers will grow around it."

dayya stares at the flower, and rolan watches her face as it doesn't move. it doesn't form an expression; it doesn't even move subconsciously. it reminds him of how still she is when she shoots.

to break the silence rolan says

"i can't figure out what color to make the arms, what do you think?"

ignoring him, she says

"so essentially it impregnates itself? that's weird."

he shakes his head as he says

"oh no, i know it sounds weird. i mean it's not like it's getting pregnant or something... lots of- flowers are pollinated this way. not exactly this way, i guess, usually insects come around and do it. but that's what's cool about this plant, it can do everything it needs to do all by itself. i was even thinking i could make a way for it to self-photosynthesize, like without help from the sun. do you um... have any ideas?"

dayya says

"do the seeds have a way to be dispersed somewhere else?"

she stares at him but doesn't elaborate.

"um... well no not really. i guess a bird could come around and carry the seeds away, but-"

she chews the end off of his sentence.

"how about a way to protect itself from predators? is it poisonous or something?"

this time it's his turn to be still.

he says

"no, it's not. but it can all be changed..."

dayya stands and continues with the goat, over her shoulder she says

"i don't know how eternal it will be then."

rolan is left with his flower. the oddly white arms stuck in a day long wave. looking at it now, it does seem unethical. in a completely controlled environment it could be self-sustaining, but not out in nature. it doesn't have a way to ward off predators, and the ground just below it would be overpopulated in no time. rolan pictures the entire grove being taken over by his eternal waving plant.

he thinks to deconstruct it, but instead he lets it be.

i can always uproot it later, he thinks, or the goat will come by and eat it.

dayya spends majority of the next week inside the cottage. only the most necessary of chores she gets done, and other than that she hardly leaves her bed. she doesn't even get up in the morning to shoot and make new arrows. he tries his best not to bother her, which isn't hard since he spends the last couple days of the week in a different part of the forest, working on something for her. when he finally thought of it, he was too giddy to even sleep. he got up in the middle of the night and went out to run experiments. on the morning of the last day he finishes, and nearly runs back to find her.

he opens the door to the cottage and doesn't bother to close it behind himself.

"hey, dayya, come take a walk with me. i want to show you something."

she gives him a curious look, but she pulls on her boots and follows behind him.

she says

"how far are we going? and why are you so out of breath?"

he looks over his shoulder as he leads the way.

"come on, it's just to the overlook."

"one second."

dayya takes her bow and pulls on a quiver of arrows. rolan thinks to tell her that she won't need it but decides against it.

today isn't about petty arguments like that, he thinks, it's about the beauty of nature.

the forest quickly swallows them, and they have to walk single file to make their way through. rolan attempts to make small talk with her, but he's never felt that they had anything to small talk about. even if they did, dayya isn't a small talk kind of person. so instead he leads on in relative quiet. only the ambient sounds of the forest accompany them.

the overlook is exactly as it sounds. it's a cliff that's elevated a couple hundred feet from the rest of the forest. just on the other side is an ocean of maple trees, and unusual for the season, all the leaves have turned orange and red. it looks as if everything below them is on fire.

rolan looks back to see her reaction.

she says

"these trees are out of season?"

then she pulls her eyes away to look at him.

"did you do this?"

a sheepish smile spreads across his face, then he looks back to his project.

"yeah, i know you like it when the trees change colors, so i changed these so they're always red and orange, year-round."

she stares at it and she works through a couple diluted emotions. they hardly show on her face, but he watches it closely. he follows through these emotions with her, trying to estimate how she'll react.

she says

"why are you doing all of this? i mean the flower, the trees-"

the motions below her.

"-are you bored or something?"

rolan, unsure of how to answer, stumbles over a few words.

"i... i want you to see that things in nature are beautiful. i get the feeling that you don't really like living out here, i don't know if you've ever liked it. but i thought it would change..."

she says

"dad, the things that you’re doing... they're unnatural. you can't show me the beauty of nature by constructing it. isn't that the heart of nature? the natural evolution of things?"

he nods slowly.

"right... no your right."

he can't believe he didn't think of it that way first.

feeling stupid now, he says

"i just want to make you happy. it seems like nothing ever really does. so... i don't know. i don't know what i thought."

a gust of wind blows through the trees and they come alive. rolan listens to them for a moment and tries to not feel embarrassed.

dayya says

"i don't like nature... i don't really know how else to say it. i don't like trees or plants or animals... or any of it. it's a brutal place that we live in. it's like this ugly beast rolling through, instructing everything to be terrible. it's telling the animals to run around and mate with anything it can just so it might have a baby that isn't devoured or abandoned. it's telling the plants to be poisonous and teaching the insects to paralyze their prey. it's just telling everything how to kill everything else better, or more efficiently. it even tells the sun to burn you, and the water to drown you, and the cliff to give out under you and make you fall to your death. everything is in constant chaos. everything that lives here is miserable, and everything is death. even these leaves-"

she motions below her again.

"- the leaves turn red and orange because they're dying. they're not getting enough sunlight. that's why they turn that color."

she pauses, and rolan watches tears well up in her eyes.

"i hate being here. but... where else is there?"

she turns and looks into his eyes.

"i don't want to live in nature, but i'm scared of other people too."

rolan almost says it.

the words really almost come out of his lips, and he's taken aback by himself.

why would you be scared of other people?

it would be taken as a joke if he really said it. he can see the drills they used to run when dayya was a child. how she would run back to the grove as fast as she could if she were to see another human. how she was taught to find him and hide in the cottage, under the bed towards the back of the room. he can see himself instructing her to push her feet apart just a little more as she draws her bow back. elbow pushed out, fingers up by her mouth. he can hear himself instructing her to draw in a breath as she draws her bow, aim while she holds it, then to release as she releases the arrow. he remembers drilling her to see how fast she could reload and how quickly she could aim. he remembers teaching her all of it. he's the reason that she can put an arrow through the pupil of a fawn at nearly forty yards. and seeing her now, with tears rolling down her cheeks, it's a rare sight, but it's also his fault.

she continues

"i know that they're just as brutal as nature. so, what do i do? do i just live like the plants and animals? in a reality where everything wants to kill me. where something is just waiting for me to slip up? what if i broke my leg out here and i couldn't get back to the grove? a bear would come along and tear my stomach out, and i would die in agony... and nothing in this disgusting place would flinch. because i should have had a stronger leg."

she sighs in frustration.

"i know it's natural selection. i understand how that works. but... why does it have to be that way? why is everything a parasite? why is everything a monster? why... would creatures that are weak even exist? is it truly just to die in agony?"

rolan feels his entire body freeze up. then tears come to his eyes as well and he looks away quickly before she can see. they look out over the orange forest, rolan feeling embarrassed, dayya feeling something that he doesn't understand. but he feels the intensity that she feels it. he can feel that trapped feeling that she must feel. he feels it as the captor, even if it was accidental. he can understand that there is no escape from this place that she hates, because he made her hate the place she could escape to.

dayya eventually turns and starts down from the overlook.

she says

"we can walk together... if you want."

"that's okay... i have work to do here."

                                         

rolan places his hand on a tree, a faint green light passes from his hand, and into the bark. it makes a creaking sound before the light moves up and into the canopy, then the leaves of the tree turn back to their natural green color. he goes from tree to tree, repeating this same process over and over. he feels like a virus moving through the forest, even though it's more like a cure. but since he talked to dayya, he can't help but feel like a parasite.

he asks himself

was i just scared back then? when i poisoned her mind in the way that i did? did i do it on purpose so she would never leave? or did i just... assume that she would be exactly like me and love the forest?

he places his hand on a tree, and gradually the leaves change, but he doesn't pull his hand away from it. he feels the rough bark on his fingertips and tries to find something to hate about it.

but what is there to hate? he thinks, this tree didn't choose to be here. it didn't choose to grow into this thing. nothing around here did. everything is just acting on natural instincts. they don't know any better. it's just survival, everything is fighting to survive.

even in that he tries to find something to hate, but it's hard.

what's ugly about survival? even humans, when put into the right situations, will do anything to survive. even if those things are brutal. humans are just animals.

then he comes to an epiphany.

civilization isn't any different than nature. they're just animals that became too self-aware. they started realizing that they could industrialize hunting. why chase down food, when you can grow it in a barn and kill it when you needed to? maybe it's not for everyone, living like this. maybe it's just not for her.

he looks at the tree again, and he realizes that just like the tree, dayya also didn't choose to be born here. he remembers what she said after killing the fawn.

i feel bad for that fawn for being born here and being born as that kind of animal.

maybe she was right when she said that dayya saw herself in that fawn.

does her resentment for nature eat her alive, he wonders, does she feel that even if she can escape the bear, she has nowhere to escape to?

he sighs and looks down at the ground and finds that he's up to his knees in shrubbery. it looks as if it's reaching up at him, like a child wanting to be picked up.

rolan spends the next couple hours changing the trees back. when he's done, he uses what's left of the spell that was placed on him to open a rift. when he steps through it, he's back in her home.

she says

"rolan, here for a visit?"

he sits down on the floor near the fire that burns in the middle of the room, and he says

"yeah, i am."

she stands at a table and continues working on what she's working on. she grinds something into a fine paste in a mortar and pestle, then throws in a powder and continues grinding.

after a few minutes of rolan staring at the fire, she comes over and sits with him.

she says

"what's on your mind?"

he draws a breath in, and as he releases, he says

"dayya hates it here."

it's the most succinct way to put it, and the most direct. it's a summary of her life.

she replies with silence, and it gives him an opportunity to let the statement sink in. every memory they share is now stamped over with the word "hate" in bright red letters.

void.

redacted.

removed.

canceled.

she says

"well, dayya is sixteen now. at that age she will hate most things. when she's older she'll move away, probably somewhere more populated, and she'll get to experience a different way of life. who knows, maybe she'll find her way back to nature one day."

she puts it so simply, but she was also wrong to assume that dayya is simply growing out of her environment. that she was yearning for more.

but it should be just that simple, he thinks, that's how the world works, kids grow up and they move away, and they start a life.

he says

"i think i ruined that though. i've been filling her head with my opinions of humanity, and i think i scared her. i know... i scared her. she told me today that she's scared to be around other humans."

she pulls her lips into her mouth then slowly lets them out.

"that's a shame. and you feel guilty about this?"

he leans back onto his hands and stretches a leg out. it's sore from all the walking he did that day, and all the kneeling in the garden.

he says

"i do... but if i knew that she hated nature so much, then i wouldn't tell her how i felt about humanity. at least i don't think i would. it's... not like i was trying to brainwash her or something. she was always curious to know about that kind of stuff. she didn't even know there were other people until she was six or seven."

through the open door, a deer walks in. furtively at first, then after sniffing her out, it becomes more confident. the deer's face is streaked with blood, and from its red antlers hangs what looks like moss.

she stands to greet the deer and uses her fingers to push some of the dried blood away from its eyes, then gently pokes around at the moss. she scoops out some of the greenish paste from the mortar and pestle and rubs it into the base of its antlers.

the deer blows air out of its nose, then taps around on the ground as if it was looking for somewhere solid to stand. she applies a second coat, then motions towards the door and the deer turns and walks back out. it's a very casual encounter. like two old friends exchanging gifts, or simply saying hello in passing.

rolan says

"what was wrong with that deer?"

she smiles.

"nothing. it was shedding its antlers and i was attempting to soothe its pain. i've been playing the role of a doctor for them today."

"hm... i didn't even know they did that."

"it's beautiful."

he nods.

"yeah, it is."

they share a moment and listen to birds chirping overhead, and the rustling of leaves, and the sounds of a nearby creek.

he says

"i wish i didn't raise her out here. i should have just given her a normal life."

"that would have been a great sacrifice for yourself."

"that's what it's like being a parent"

she nods.

"yes, it is."

another silence passes as rolan tries to shape the request he has. she allows the silences to be as long as they have to be. he gets the sense that she knows he's trying to ask for something. he usually doesn't come and visit for any other reason. he only comes on "business" as she puts it.

he's not exactly prepared for what he has to ask for. he's not exactly sure what he even wants. so instead he speaks as clearly, and as honestly as he can.

he clears his throat and says

"i um... i want dayya to wake up tomorrow and not have her father's biases imbedded into her. i want her to be able to build her own opinions. i think... even if i have to trade the last twenty in, i want her to wake up tomorrow and not remember me at all."

rolan stays late into the night talking with her, and in the early hours of the morning he makes his way out of her cottage holding an anatomical heart made of wood, deep antlers and sunlight.

it's only a few hours later that rolan sits on the edge of the overlook. his heart beats weaker than usual, it feels as if it's slowly falling asleep. he puts a hand to his chest, and only then does he notice he still has crusted blood under his finger nails, and he still has dirt caked onto his arm hair. he puts his hands back down and looks towards where the sun is just starting to show a hint of light. it's his favorite time of day, where everything is still and serene. it's as if the world is caught between a transition phase, and only he is allowed to watch it. he often feels this way living out so far into the wilderness. he feels as if he's at the beginning of the world, and only he's allowed to watch it be sculpted. he smiles to himself, but the smile fades because he forgets to hold it. he forgets about his body, his thoughts, even most of his senses. the only other thing there is to do is fall asleep, and as he does, he falls without the sensation of falling. then he realizes that he's been sitting neck deep in a river, and he's been fighting to stay above it for so long. he allows the passage of time to finally pull him in. when it pulls him, it pulls him hard.

his thoughts are washed down stream as he has them.

does dayya fight in this way too? was she always aware of it? if that's the case then i don't know if she hates nature, or if she hates civilization. she may just hate consciousness. how lucky for the plants, to never have to fight in this way.

he gives into the pull of the river, and with it he feels free. he becomes the water, and in turn he becomes nature.

 ❀

dayya wakes up to sunlight shining in through the circular windows of her cottage.

she watches specks of gold dust float through the air and drift off into the shadows.

only after getting up does she realize that the gold dust is just regular dust, but regular or not, it still looks beautiful. she walks through the circular ray of light and looks out into the grove. there is something incredibly familiar about the place that she's in, but she can't exactly place it.

have i seen this place before? i'm sure i have, she thinks, well... of course i have. i live here. but how can i not remember it? but i know the grove, and the forest, but what are these things?

dayya looks at the lake of green spreading out in front of her, and the colorful things growing out of that lake. she looks just beyond it at different things that grow out of the lake. these things are huge. they stretch up further than anything else, even the sky. she catches a glimpse of something in the glass of the window. they look like two little lights floating off in the distance, and it's only when she moves, does she realize that it's the reflection of her own eyes. she blinks a few times, then moves to make sure what she's seeing is right. she holds a hand in front of one eye, and only one eye glows. then she does the other.

she smiles at this light and wonders if it's always been like that. it's then she swings the circular door open and walks out into the lake.

just outside she kneels down and touches the little green strands of hair that reach up. she runs her hand over the top of it and they tickle her palm. she laughs at it, but she laughs at how silly it all is.

she says

"there are so many of you... how did you all get here?"

they don't reply, but she can sense some kind of something from them. maybe it's an understanding of her words, or maybe it's far simpler than that. maybe it's just a life that she's sensing.

she says

"each one of you are alive, aren't you? well... if you're living then you need a name."

she looks at the army of tiny little green hairs that are all around her. there are far too many to count. then she wonders if maybe all of them are the same living thing.

she closes her eyes and says the first name that comes to her mind.

"grass... what about grass? grass. it sounds a little weird if you say it too much. but i can't name all of you individually. it would take too long."

she thinks about the name, and as she says it in her head it sounds right. it's almost like she knew it all along, but she figures that it's just a really good name for it.

she says

"i like it because it's... all of you."

she spreads her arms out to motion to the entire lake of grass.

"grass... you are all grass."

she stands and takes the fresh morning air into her lungs and when she releases it, she can't help but smile again. it's as if the air escaping her lungs spread her lips into a smile. it kissed her on the cheek before blowing out into the world to find a new home.

she points towards the tall things just beyond the lake, and says

"then... what are you guys?"

again, she senses a feeling of familiarity, and a feeling of life.

"you're much older than the grass, huh? but you aren't grass. grass won't grow into you one day. so, you guys need a different name too."

she surveys the wall, and a name comes to mind.

"trees. treeeeees... yeah, i like that. it sounds old. doesn't it? but it fits."

the trees don't answer, but in the absence of words she finds a confirmation from them. they don't mind it, but unlike the grass they don't feel as if they need a name.

she looks up to find the circular blue sky above her, the borders being made out of trees. it makes for a blue, fuzzy kind of circle. she imagines that this is what it would look like from the bottom of a lake. of a real lake.

she continues looking around at her surroundings. she knows that she's seen them a hundred times before, but she can't help but feel like she's forgetting something else. not the grass or the trees. but something different than them. something minuscule, probably, but still something. she looks down to find herself naked, but she wouldn't think about putting clothes on unless she left the grove. even then she might not, if she was feeling lazy. when she looks down, she finds a small scar on her chest, and the feeling comes back again. it feels as if something is just out of view from her. like there's something she wants to see, but as she turns to it, it slips behind a tree, or is obscured in some way.

she laughs this feeling off as she realizes that she was remembering a dream. in the dream she was the opposite of who she really was. she remembers hating the trees and the plants. she remembers hating something else too, but when she tries to remember what, it's pulled away and completely forgotten.

she takes a deep breath again, and the pure air around her pulls the feeling through her and into the earth, where it's destroyed. what fills her then is what she fills herself with. it's what she sees and what she hears and what she feels. she feels the air on her skin and the grass on her feet. she sees vibrant colors and dense forests and blue sky. she hears a beautiful noise out into the forest, and she wants to walk into it and find that noise. as she looks at where she wants to walk for the day, she gets an overwhelming feeling that there is so much out beyond the grove to see. so many things that she's never exactly seen before but feels like she knows.

are they all my family, she thinks, is that why they feel so familiar? are the trees my grandparents, and are the grass my children? but how could i have forgotten them?

she wanders over to a spot in the grass where none of it grows. in the absence of the grass, something like grass does grow, but it has a head. and on that head colorful things sprout.

she says

"okay guys... what are you?"

she kneels down and surveys over the circle of colorful plants.

she takes a breath in, then says

"oh... oh wow you guys smell different."

she kneels lower and puts her nose to the plant and takes a breath in.

"so, you guys are like the grass, but pretty and smelly. hmmm.... what would be a good name for you?"

but can i name all of them the same thing? she wonders, they all look so different. different shapes and sizes and colors.

then she spots a flower that looks different than all the rest, and she decides to start there. she looks at it's dark yellow petals, and she laughs when she sees the two that are over grown. they look like long white arms stretching up towards the sky.

the plant doesn't talk to her, but she gets the feeling that the arms aren't supposed to be white. they should actually be a color.

she reaches out with a finger and gently touches the arm, and they turn a dark purple color.

then she says

"okay... what do you look like? what do you... feel like?"

the word comes to her, and it's a word that makes her laugh.

"yeah... flower. flower. okay, you are a flower."

she looks at the other flowers around her, but nothing looks quite like it, but they all seem to fit that name. they are all flowers. she finds a spot in the dirt just next to it that looks as if it had been dug up recently and she feels a slight vibration of excitement at what could sprout there.

she looks back to the flower, the first flower, and says

"thank you, flower, for being beautiful today.”