“Don’t use it all up Dougal!”
Dougal stops pulling the wool from the box they’d found attached to the gate. “That’s what it’s for, isn’t it?” He snaps the thread through the cutting handle, marches to the nearest tree.
Anna has pulled out 7 ragged strands.
“Make the wish count Dougal, really make it count.” Frowning, she sees that Dougal has already tied the thread – blue, for his team’s colours - around the nearest tree in a clumsy reef knot.
He is wandering off, checking his phone. “Yeah, done it.”
“Please make it take, make it strong, make it alive, please…” Anna is weaving, constructing: begging.
Blue over rust, under red, over yellow, under green, over cream, under orange; she is creating a braid. Holding it up to the sun, she checks it is perfect.
Carefully she walks to the largest tree in the ancient forest, an Oak after which the wood is named.
“Ancient Oak Tree, please grant our wishes.”
Judge and guardian, roots in the earth, leaves touching the sky, the Oak stands proud at the entrance to the grove, has done for centuries.
Up on tip-toes, Anna ties the braid, to the only branch she can reach, and then impulsively hugs the trunk of the old tree.
Catching up with Dougal, she hugs onto his arm.
“Did you make your wish?”
“Yes,” Dougal sighs.
He knows what Anna is asking, but cannot bear to tell her. He tied the blue wool around the tree thinking about time, space, freedom – he did not think that he had wished.
They begin to walk along the track which circles through the wood.
Crawwwwwk…. down through the branches and leaves of the Oak tree a crow suddenly falls. It lands ruffled and surprised on the ground, casts a horrified eye up into the canopy and then hops off at speed.
Suddenly there is silence, a collective holding of breath, then the Birch trees rustle, the Beeches shush, the Pine holds his own counsel. This is a wishing place, wishes have been made.
Two wishes – opposing – one for a baby, one for no baby – normally would cancel each other out. Normally no ill would occur, normally the old Oak would scry and reach through the matrices of karma and time and find the best for all, allow a way through. But, something is amiss today.
Something has changed. A root foraging has suddenly broken through into something rotten, and before he knows it, the Oak has sucked and drank of the discarded, hidden carcass of an evil man. Suddenly things seem different.
The Oak cracks a tree-like knuckle.
As the couple approach the end of their circular promenade the future has been cast.
Supping on the evilness again, a new voice rises from the ancient Oak, “Blundering about in things only half understood! A mal-formance, a birth, a death……….. serves them right.”
They will both get their wish – she for a baby, he for none.
Both will regret it.
by F.E. Clark