The Forest of Lost and Abandoned Things.
There is a magic in lost and abandoned things. But children were the saddest.
The morning sun dappled itself softly across the grass, playing with the dew. Wildflowers bloomed in every colour. Clustered like gossiping youths across the small clearing. Petals of spotted pink and yellow climbed up the trunks of nearby trees. Each specimen ancient and extinct. Their gnarled roots a haven for lost animals discarded things alike. I rested in the sun. Enjoying the new warmth of the weak light.
A blue butterfly perched on my nose. Fluttering its wings on my gleaming metal snout. I puffed steam from my nostrils as it discarded me for tastier blooms.
A cry came from just beyond the trees. A baby? No, but a child.
And my job never done.
My joints protested as a rose. Screeching as the metal moved against itself. My scales were lost pendants, their chains formed my tendons, their jewels my eyes. My spines, keys that no longer had locks. Their old, rusted peaks shone weakly in the morning light as I moved through the clearing.
“A child forgotten,” one of the inhabitants whispered. Hidden in the branches. Just a pair of glowing eyes. No longer human. Here too long.
“Abandoned, it is not so rare,” snarled another, “We all came here somehow.”
“Abandoned or lost?”
“Is there a difference?”
“A lost child may be found.”
The rattle of metal announced my presence as I stretched my wings. A tapestry of hair pins, paper clips and coins. Connected by a broken umbrella or two.
“Hush,” I said, my voice carried through the trees and ruffled the leaves in the canopy above. The voices stopped, but the eyes watched.
Deep in the dark of the forest I followed the child’s cry.
The child sat, huddled amongst the flowers and the socks. Its clothes, plastered to its body, the colour of a bluebird’s wings. Shivering. It wailed. I rounded its small frame. Saw its eyes were the same. Turned more vivid blue by the tear-reddened edges. It froze. Big eyes turned round. Such a tiny thing.
“Where have you come from little bird?” I asked. It did not answer. I did not expect it to. Ones this small never did. It blubbered. It didn’t understand. All it knew is that it was lost.
“What do we do?”
“What is it?”
“A girl child.”
“Why is it wet?”
A tin can rumble came from my chest and the inhabitants fell silent once again.
“We wait,” I said. Settling down, I placed my snout in front of the little bird. My body curled around two trees before my tail circled to settle behind her. She was smaller than my paw. Water still leaked from her eyes as she reached a hand to my snout. Soft chubby fingers pressed against my scales. The small portraits and lockets interesting enough to stop her wails. For the moment.
Beams of light cut through the trees. Golden, they caught on the dust and pollen in the air setting it aglow.
“Someone has come for it.”
“Lucky, it will leave.” The glowing eyes slowly disappeared.
The golden light travelled across the ground, reaching for the little bird. A voice accompanied it, as if heard from far away.
Breathe, please breathe.
The trees creaked. Their bark not used to moving. But slowly they parted their branches. Swaying out of the light.
Breathe! The voice on the other side cried, as the light touched the flowers at the child’s feet.
“Breathe little bird,” I said. Her blue eyes locked on mine. She took a breath, and then she was gone.
~ ~ ~
Vines dropped from the canopy. Tangling together like long lost lovers. Monkeys played, birds chirped, and insects sung symphonies through the ancient trees. A forgotten ecosystem. The rainforest had been felled, now it was here.
The world felt thick and heavy. It collected in clear drops against my metal feathers. The air took on the sweet scent of rust as a brilliant orange bloomed over the tips of my wings.
“She is back,” whispered an inhabitant, disrupting my walk through my new ancient jungle.
“The girl child.”
“That’s not the girl child, that’s not a child!”
“It’s the same girl, no longer a child,” they argued. With no wails to follow I traced their whispers through the trees. They lead me to a Cypress. A giant. Taller and wider than many a building.
It was there I found the little bird. Older, but it mattered little. Everyone was a child to me. Huddled in the roots, amongst childhood toys and left shoes. Older now, but not yet an adult. My claws sunk into the moist earth as I walked towards her. The scorching midday sun cut through the trees in glittering beams of light. In one such beam, a red paper heart sat torn in half.
The girl was crying again. Softer now. The tears of a newly broken heart.
I curled myself around the ancient tree and rested my snout on the root next to her head. Forgotten memories danced in between my metal feathers. A thousand whispers, confessions of love and sun-drenched childhoods. I eased my wings down with an aged weary sigh. Dark black smudged her eyes, she sniffed, wiping her nose with the back of her hand. Her arms were long and lanky, like time has stretched too quickly for her body to keep up. She pulled them around herself, knobby elbows poking into the air.
“He said he loved me,” she whispered. “He left. I just wanted it to stop hurting.”
Pairs of glowing eyes watched her from the shadows.
“Many have ended up here because of love,” I said, “some have lost it, some gave it away.” More eyes joined, like a thousand glittering stars shining from the shadows. “Some because they discarded it.”
“I wouldn’t throw it away,” the little bird whispered, “if someone gave it to me, I would keep it. Safe.” She pressed a hand to her chest.
Light shone through the canopy. Cutting through the air against the sun. The chorus of the forest stopped as the branches began to move. Golden light reached for the girl, slowly, as if scared she would run.
“Love abandons us all at times,” I told the little bird.
Wake up, please wake up, a voice called.
The girl lifted her head from my scales. “Mum?”
“And then it finds us again.”
Wake up, Wake up!
“MUM!” the girl called, standing, and searching the sky for the voice. She took a step towards the light.
“You must not return again, little bird,” I said. But she was already gone.
~ ~ ~
The sun hung low on the horizon, painting the sky in pink and red. Leaves of russet, orange and yellow cut across the air like dancers. Collected in piles with a sigh, their job done, time to rest a while. They crunched under my paws as I walked. Careful steps. As three lost cats played chase around my feet. Their bells chiming in the silence of the maple forest. White and blue and black, the kittens tumbled over each other. I puffed smoke from my nostrils as their play became a fight. The felines sheathed their claws and scurried off into the trees. Cats had a habit of coming and going from here as they pleased.
“Again?” someone whispered.
“She was told not to return,” said another.
A lullaby chased the leaves across the wind.
“She has brought someone.”
“You can’t bring someone here, you fool.”
I left them to bicker and followed the song.
She stood amongst old scrolls of forgotten plans and lost artworks. Curls of paper creating a nest at her feet. The evening light cast her long shadow across the leaves and ground. Swaying. Singing to the bundle in her arms
She wore a paper dress, coated in the colours of the forest from the waist down. I reached her with slow steps. Mothers, I had found, were fearsome creatures. I bent my head over her shoulder. She cooed to the infant, pink and red and far too small.
“I told you not to come again little bird,” I said.
“We’ll go,” she said, not taking her eyes off the babe in her arms.
“The child must stay.”
The forest stopped. The inhabitants ceased bickering. The creatures stilled. Even the leaves halted their dance. Hanging in mid-air, the wind holding its breath.
She shook her head.
“No,” she said, “no.”
“There is no other way little bird.”
She pressed her face to the bundle, breathing him in. “I can’t leave him.”
“You are not the one doing the leaving child. He has already left.”
Light glimmered but the trees did not move. A deep voice sounded on the other side.
Please don’t leave me, please. I can’t lose both of you.
She ignored it. Turning from the voice and the light.
“I just wanted to meet him,” she said, “I never got to meet him.”
Please, please. The voice broke over the words.
“How long do I have?” she asked. Turning her red and blue eyes up at me.
“The trees won’t move. You must take yourself back this time.”
She shook her head pressing her face to the babe in her arms. “How? How can I go?”
Please, I love you, please! The voice begged.
“Last time you were here you wanted love. Go back to it, little bird.”
She closed her eyes and listened to the voice. Tears leaked out of their edges.
The voice was chanting now, I love you, don’t leave, please don’t leave!
With shaking hands, she pressed the boy into my gleaming arms. Peppering salted kisses across his tiny face and body.
“Take care of him?”
I bowed my head.
On a deep breath, she stepped back. Just one step. She hugged her hands to her chest as if to stop herself from reaching out.
Golden light glimmered beyond the trees behind her. Her breathing was ragged as she stumbled backward another foot. Another. Another. One unsteady step at a time. Her eyes not leaving the bundle in my grasp.
Tears fell from her face, and where each one landed a flower grew. Blue daisies and white roses, carnations, and bluebells. They travelled, filling the meadow. Curling around the old, abandoned plans at her feet. An ocean of blue in the middle of fall.
At the edge of the trees she paused, one last tear dropping onto the forest floor. Light fell over her back.
But she didn’t leave. Not yet. The moment hung. A silence like no other.
She turned her head and let the light caress her face. Closing her eyes, she took one more step.
Then she was gone.
The leaves fell. The creatures began to move, and the forest started again.
The babe cooed in my arms. Stretching its new limbs, a small hand catching on my shining scales.
I turned and took him with me into the shadows.
~ ~ ~
Taller than my haunches now, the child climbed up my metal back. He caught snowflakes and watched them melt against his skin. I puffed steam from my nose and vibrated with a tin metal growl. The child laughed and jumped in the snow on this forgotten mountain slope. His laughter was a welcome addition to my forest. As much as I pretended displeasure.
His joy brought out the inhabitants. No longer just glowing eyes and hushed voices. With each smile, they remembered their form. And when they were whole enough, they left. My forest was quieter now.
The sky was filled with swollen clouds. Tucking the moon in to sleep amongst their pillowy forms. Lost civilisations filled the valley below us. Their buildings casting strange shadows in the moonlight. Pyramids, statues, and columns thought to be at the bottom of the ocean. Ancient artwork that had been weathered or destroyed.
We walked through them the child and I. He ran about my legs like a mischievous cat. Playing with the lost memories and abandoned dreams of people and times past. They spun like ghosts through these ruins.
We came to an amphitheatre made of marble and stone arches. Snow collected on its relief sculptures. Old warriors covered with soft powder, glinting in the sleepy light of the moon.
The child scurried into structure, following the memory of a girl, a metal dragon, and a torn paper heart.
The little bird stooped in the middle of the amphitheatre. A cane in her weathered hand.
Her hair was white and deep lines drew a map across her face. A long journey. A long life. In here there was a different sky. Colour cut ribbons across the heavens, as stars fought for attention in the inky black. Lost letters scattered like leaves across the marble floor. They whispered their secrets to each other, before flowing in the rivers of the wind to somewhere new.
The child hid beneath my legs. Suddenly shy, as we walked towards her. She was staring at the stars.
“Hello again old friend,” she said. Her voice had changed, softer now. Like time had worn away its edges.
“Hello, little bird.” The child peeked through my legs at the woman he knew so long ago.
Lights glittered outside the stone walls. Now no brighter than a flickering candle flame.
“I know those voices,” she said, but the memories dripped from the tips of her fingers, pooling on the ground in the shadows at her feet.
“Don’t I?” She asked. Her shadow darkened as more memories fell. Memories of pain, loss, and anger. Her heart lighter now. The little old bird straightened, dropping her cane to the side.
I can feel it can’t you?
Colour threaded itself back through her hair and her features softened.
“I get to stay this time?” she asked. The age had not vanished from her face but collected in her eyes. The blue glowed in the soft light.
“You get to stay,” I said.
The child slipped his hand into his mother's and smiled. Together. At last.
With a wave of my wing, they vanished. Gone. But never forgotten.
In the distance, a child cried. My job never done.
About the Creator
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
I really like this take on the contest! I'm a sucker for bittersweet stories, and this filled that need! (I've been going through a block phase for reading and writing) And an afterlife for children is something I always like to see! Some of my favorite bits: What the dragon was/what it was made of. “A lost child may be found.” --- it really stuck with me/was very profound. "Soft chubby fingers pressed against my scales. The small portraits and lockets interesting enough to stop her wails." "Her arms were long and lanky, like time has stretched too quickly for her body to keep up." "Collected in piles with a sigh," "Colour cut ribbons across the heavens, as stars fought for attention in the inky black." --- I always love a good rhyme. And, again I love the way you describe things! Do you write poetry? If you wrote a collection of poems, I would 100% buy it. Also, I just noticed that you draw your own art! I was an artist before I was a writer (but I realized I preferred writing and art was just a tool for it/concept design). Do you have a place where you post more of your work? “Many have ended up here because of love,” I said, “some have lost it, some gave it away.” More eyes joined, like a thousand glittering stars shining from the shadows. “Some because they discarded it.” “I wouldn’t throw it away,” the little bird whispered, “if someone gave it to me, I would keep it. Safe.” ---ugh. This hurts me. The fact that children are so innocent but often get mistreated. Anything that reminds me of that is profound to me, and this one is beautifully so! "Her breathing was ragged as she stumbled backward another foot. Another. Another. "Tears fell from her face, and where each one landed a flower grew" --- love this bit of worldbuilding/how this land of forgotten dreams works. I liked all of them, but this one especially stood out to me.
This was such a unique interpretation of the challenge, rich with metaphor and beautifully written from beginning to end. Excellent work!
Very good descriptions