The Story Tree

A tree stands tall on his patch of grass lining the shops and cafes of his hometown. With the wind’s help, his branches sway towards the window of his beloved bookshop. He listens.

On afternoons when the window is open, the tree leans close so that he can hear stories being told. A woman with a lively voice tells them at the same time each day. After school, children flock to their favourite storyteller. They gather around her, chattering and chuckling until she opens her book. Silence. She reads.

At story time, the tree is transported from his town to faraway lands. Words carry him, roots and all, to places a tree cannot go. His branches become wings, climbing to the clouds as a storybook dragon. His trunk becomes legs, trekking on trails of adventure up snow-capped mountains. His leaves become gills, breathing the ocean with unknown, unseen creatures of the deep.

Books feed the tree with goodness and badness and happiness and sadness, nourishing him with something not found in sunbeams or raindrops. Birds and bees all cherish the magical flavour of his flowers over any other tree in town.

When winter comes, the bookshop window remains closed, and the tree cannot hear any stories. All he can see is the storyteller’s mouth moving, her arms flapping. His branches sag. His leaves fall.

When spring arrives, the window opens again. If not for his roots, the tree would jump for joy. Stories breathe life and colour back into his branches.

Seasons come and go, along with years. Children come and go, too. The tree remains, looking forward to his daily ritual more and more as time passes.

One autumn day, the story is interrupted by a rumbling noise. The woman’s words are muffled by a BRUM-BRUM-BRRRRRRR, thump.

The noise continues the next day, getting closer and louder. It is coming from something hidden behind the other tall, broad trees that line the road. It ruins another good story, drowning out every word with its BRUM-BRUM-BRRRRRRR, thump.

On the following day, the tree can finally see the noisemaker. A man is holding it, a sword with a thousand mechanical teeth. The teeth are angry and hungry, biting into wood, BRUM-BRUM-BRRRRRRR, thump. Progress has come to town, but it is worse than any monster in any book. Trees fall to the earth, thump.

It is the tree’s time to fall. He looks through the window of the bookshop one last time. Dew drips from his leaves. BRUM-BRUM-BRRRRRRR, thump.

After a long sleep, the tree stirs. But he is no longer a tree. He is a book. His trunk and his branches are now pages, alive with words. He sits with pride and anticipation on the bookshelf. The woman reaches for him. The children gather around her, chattering and chuckling. She opens the book. Silence. She reads.

Posted in EWG Bookshop Competition Entries.