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The Golden Queen - If you go down to the woods today!

Where forest glades are never empty, especially of memories. But then, you never know who's watching you dance.

By Kelly Sibley Published 4 months ago 12 min read
Top Story - November 2023
9

Iron Bark – The Waifs

Steal My Kisses – Ben Harper

Suzie Blue – Ben Harper

The countryside throughout the South Coast of Western Australia is amazing in its ever-changing diversity.

It can momentarily transform from coastal scrub and Peppy trees to rough grey-trunked gums or rich green farm hinterland. Then, as if someone had drawn a line in the black dirt, the landscape changes once more, and you find yourself shrouded by glades of gigantic Jarrah, Karri and Marri trees, all towering over the road like white and green giants. Their girths wider than any human’s embracing arms could stretch, whilst their branches and canopy envelop the world, casting an essence of shaded and green otherworldliness around you.

Whilst driving through such a glade, I watched golden sunlight dapple down onto the pitch-black, twisting tar road; happiness, at long last, swathed me. The path to my new life had begun. The air smelt cleaner and easier to breathe.

Just before the turn-off down Middleton Road to Northcliffe, I spotted a parking bay on the right surrounded by ginormous trees and decided to stop, take photos - and possibly a wee!

One long-ago winter, my family had driven through this area, …when my Mum was still alive. Then, through child's eyes, the trees had looked like giant golden spears shooting up from the ground, their straight and true trunks piercing the sky. In summer, they were white pillars holding the Sun amongst thin, wind-swept clouds.

As we walked through the bush, my Mum held my hand, pointing out tiny, delicate little Donkey and Spider orchids. With a blade of grass, she triggered off Venus Fly Traps, enthralling my enquiring mind with her knowledge.

We walked around together, seduced by the beauty of this ancient forest, smelling the sweet white five-petal Crowea. Her warm hand, long, soft fingers gently wrapped around my own as she showed the world in her own unique, patient way.

Standing near a giant Karri, I couldn’t help but smile at a thicket of those special flowers. My father had always given her Crowea as a token of love. Never roses …always Crowea!

It was impossible to ignore the life force heartbeat as it pulsed through the landscape. The bush and its giant trees looked down at my tiny being.

Sitting down on the concrete and steel picnic bench. The memories of happier times full of love swirled around me. Turning my face up towards the sun hidden amongst the tree’s leaves, its warm heat mended my soul. What a gift! This spot had given me back memories long forgotten. The forest had remained, just as my memories had, overwhelmingly beautiful.

All the oils and decaying leaves were a heady mixture that only added to the deep, blissful feeling of happiness washing over me. The realisation that my new beginning and the opportunity of a fresh start were just down the road sent a tingle along my soul!

No background noises.

No family.

No ex.

No stress, drama or trauma.

“What the HELL!” burst out in shock, echoing around the enclave as my heart smashed against my rib cage.

I swear I’d seen a person standing in the thicket of scrub!

But as I blinked, sunlight caught my eye… and nothing.

Shit… I had thought I was safely alone.

“Who’s there?” was called out forcibly as I strained to listen for any out-of-place noise. “Who is THERE?”

Nothing…

Mrs Sharpe had set my imagination up to trigger off point. I’d been laughing along the road, thinking to myself, ‘Wonder when I’ll see my first vampire fairy!’ And then made the decision not to join the Sunday afternoon pub session group.

Trying to get a grip on my own stupidity, I reprimanded myself, “Oh, for goodness’ sake, Cassie! Get a frigg’n grip.” Then I turned to the forest and spoke as bravely as I could fake, “Well, you know what, I don’t believe in any of that fairy bullcrap, so…” I waved to where the shadow had been, “have a nice life and go annoy someone else, I’m celebrating.”

And with this in mind and the fact that a huge emotional weight had lifted from my shoulders… the occasion needed to be marked.

Pointing to the nearest tree, I commanded, “Wait there!”

Rushing back to my car, a small… okay, stolen mini bar fridge bottle of red was pulled out from my esky… after a quick vinegary sip was spat on the ground, I looked at and then replaced it with a half-frozen icypole, grabbing my iPod, a song was selected with the volume turned up.

Climbing up onto the clean, flat, and inviting concrete picnic table was a little bit of a feat; admittedly, it took an un-lady like go or two to get there. But finally, standing in a spotlight of sunlight streaming through the canopy, happiness flowed to my very core!

Raising my frozen mushy delight to the surrounding bush, I called out theatrically, “Ladies and Gentle trees, I know I probably look like a complete loser…but I don’t care!”

Turning a full circle to encompass my audience of Jarrah, Karri and other iron hearts, I continued thoughtfully.

“To all who have gathered here today, I welcome you into our commemorative arena. Please, raise your branches and join me in celebrating this momentous occasion!”

As the music’s introduction continued, I patted its trunk and addressed its sisters and brothers with heartfelt honesty.

“Breathe deeply, my friends, from the winds of freedom!”

A small mouthful of sweetness was sipped before I continued my epilogue.

“Enjoy the moment. Rejoice in the day’s light. Celebrate the night. Live long, love and have a bloody good time doing so. Because, lady and gentle trees, we…. are…. FREE!”

I started to spin on the table to the beat of the music and the rustle of leaves, from the call of little birds and the lilt of the lyrics. The music and my freedom grabbed me, and I let go! Lifting my face to the sky, smiling at the trees spinning around in my vision. A new life was starting! It was there, just down the road in Windy Harbour, waiting with a welcoming smile.

The music changed and, along with it, my mood.

The forest became still and seemingly brighter, as if someone had turned on a spotlight.

My control over my own being loosened and slackened as the world spun around in a kaleidoscope.

Is she going to be this easy?

I danced and floated on a cloud as if it was my sole purpose was to entertain, to swirl, swing and embrace…

She's not going to be strong enough! Shouldn't have bothered.

The scents gathered around me as I moved my hips seductively from side to side, not believing that I could feel so free and so comfortable with being out of control. Is this what my new life would feel like? Because if so, I would embrace it. No worries, no concerns, no need to be in control.

It's not going to work. She's only gonna cause problems.

As I sang out the words, my heart and soul harmonised. My knee-high blue wrap-around skirt allowed free hip movement from side to side. I became primal, willing to do anything to bring pleasure.

“Too easy… totally pointless!”

Holding tenderly onto the delicate branch, ensuring I wouldn’t damage the giant tree’s dainty leaves, we both moved to the beat. Lit by the Sun’s warmth, beaming down onto the picnic stage, I couldn’t help but be blissful in my realisation. This was a moment! A portion of time to commit to memory. One that when I tortured myself with memories and the night-time toe crunching happened, I would now be able to balance it with some positivity.

I lived and breathed in a dreamy, happy land of no worries and little thought. I'd have to buy this brand of icicle again because I was completely as high as a kite! The giggling phase had set in as another weird thought entered my head.

She's not gonna last a second, I'm gonna have to get rid of her somehow.

A chunk of icy pole fell off and down from my raised hand right smack bang into the middle of my boobs.

“SHIT!” was screamed out; all off my nut high as a kite diva behaviour was vaporised with the simple act of shoving a hand down my top, scrabbling for the numerous cold and quickly-melting sticky fragments, then scooping out the slush and slopping it onto the ground.

Turning in a panic with my brain completely engaged, a collection of now wet napkins from my esky was grabbed. Albatross elbows went up as the sloppy mass was rammed down my t-shirt in an uncoordinated attempt to ‘clean myself’ and retrieve the last freezing pieces of icypole.

As the song went into its first bridge, a crack, loud enough to get through my uncoordinated, flustered rush.

Instinctively looking up, a heartbeat was skipped as the vista of a branch as wide as my thigh fell in intricate motion …directly at me! “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

Everything slipped from my grip. Stepping backwards off the table, in an unhurried articulation, I began to plunge towards the inflexible ground, insensibly hoping to land out of harm’s way.

Didn’t like my chances! Squeezing my eyes shut, tensing my muscles, readying for the slam of the ground below. Hoping the pain wouldn’t be quickly followed by a blow of death from above.

A feeling of heat and wind surrounded my body.

…Ground?

Ground….

Any minute….

Any minute?....................................?

One little eye peeked open and peered about.

Floating in mid-air…

“What the hell…?”

Silenced by upside-down, warm, blue-green and heavy-lidded eyes looking down on me.

“Holy Crap!” blurted out of my mouth. My mind had now truly disengaged from reality. “I must be dead!”

Grinning broadly, dark ocean eyes crinkled in the corners, highlighting the tinge of forest-green within their depths.

The words of the song rang out from my iPod.

“Always have to steal my kisses from you.”

In a ringing explosion, the branch slammed into the ground.

The shock propelled me upright into a sitting position. Wide, scandalised eyes were drawn to how big the branch was. How really ‘big’ it was! How much… much, bigger than my thigh it was! The vibrating end was so near my face that it made my eyeballs hurt to look at its point.

A kookaburra let rip a mocking laugh.

Scrambling to my knees... The picnic area was silent …empty, all except for my beating heart and the vibrating log of a branch.

“Where are you?” echoed out into the emptiness.

As soon as the words left my mouth and echoed around the clearing, stupidity engulfed me. The answer was so self-evident.

I was, as I had been before, …alone.

Standing upon motion-filled land, desperately twisting around in all directions. My only companions were giant Gum, Karri and Jarrah trees, all of whom looked down at me. No sound existed other than the wind in their leaves, the creaking of branches and my breathing.

“Stupid!”

How desperately empty, stupid and immature.

Bereavement washed over me. It was so real, yet here I was, undeniably by myself.

Surveying the area, the berating and tears began.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid idiot!”

Sitting heavily on the picnic bench seat, too many tears came out. Too many tears, all of which didn’t belong to this situation. Honestly… it had been a bit of a rough couple of days.

Resilience patted my shoulder and used a comfortingly soft voice. ‘Let it stream out; let it flow free. No one’s here to see this extremely hugely embarrassingly mammoth glut of sadness you have. No one but the trees, so just let your bullshit flow!’

Covering my face with my shaking hands, a wail drowned her out as I slipped into a blubbery pool of self-pity.

Then, with an inane smile and one final tap on my head, a humming, wildflower-collecting Resilience wandered off into the bush to find… I don’t know… herself, most likely!

“It’s illegal to pick wildflowers!” was yelled snottily after her. But, admittedly… it’s a bit hard to be dramatic when no one’s watching; thankfully, my tank of misery wasn’t too deep, and I ran out of tissues and momentum soon enough.

Pushing myself up and off the seat, the noise from my nose blowing into my limited supply of soggy tissues was replaced by a Noisy Scrub bird’s whistle. A heavily battered heart needed to rest and stay still… I didn’t need to hallucinate, not now.

The half-empty packet of tissues went back into my skirt’s pocket; as I brushed the dirt off my knees and skirt, I nodded to the giant tree that didn’t even know I was there.

“Thanks for the dance. If you’re free Friday night, give me a call.”

It was at this point Imagination came back in her now bright pink Cammo gear plus unicorn hat and stood by me, pointing to the rustling trees on the other side of the picnic area.

‘Someone’s watching… I can feel it in my bones.’ Imagination looked up around the canopies of the trees, scouring the foliage for confirmation.

Tired and despondently, a sarcastic announcement was freely given, “Shut up, Imagination, there’s no one there.”

Then, just out of the corner of my eye, as I turned back to face the car park, Imaginationsquealed with excitement. ‘A hand! Look, it was drawn quickly back into the shadows.’

Her eyes were wide with exhilaration.

I didn’t fall for it a second time! …I might be dumb, but I’m not that dumb! I walked off back into reality.

*

The trees liked her. You might not think so, but that little stunt with the branch wasn’t meant to hurt, just to get ‘Light’ down off his perch. All children sometimes need a little encouraging push. Seems like the dancing girl was going to be interesting, even though Light had second thoughts about her!

A little bright blue bird landed in the picnic tree grove, hopping around in interest.

On one of the oldest brother's branches, ‘Nyit Djinda’, rose from his hidden perch and flew off into the distant blue sky.

The tree’s sap ran sweet; happiness filled their cores. Their child of light was interested in the weird dancing girl; he better make sure the blues don’t find her, though, because they’ll burn her alive.

Kaa-kaa laughed out to the bush, telling anyone interested what had happened.

The trees throbbed to each other in annoyance.

This particular foreign Kaa-kaa bird was a bit of a sticky beak. Couldn’t keep its big mouth shut. So, a well-aimed gum nut fell on the wide-beaked bird’s head.

That shut the Kookaburra up!

The trees rustled with their own shade of humour.

Translation - Noongar Dictionary by Rose Whitehurst

Kaa-Kaa = Kookaburra

Nyit Djinda = Little Star

I would like to acknowledge the traditional Noongar owners of the land of which my story was written about, and pay my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.

Thank you for reading, please consider subscribing.

SeriesFantasy
9

About the Creator

Kelly Sibley

I have a dark sense of humour, which pervades most of what I write. I'm dyslexic, which pervades most of what I write. My horror work is performed by Mark Wilhem / Frightening Tales. Pandora's Box of Infinite Stories is growing on Substack

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (5)

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  • ROCK 3 months ago

    An enticing piece; thank you for taking me down under for a glimpse of wonder.

  • Margaret Brennan4 months ago

    what a great story! definitely put a smile on my face.

  • Rachel Deeming4 months ago

    It's funny, I think, how life provides you with threads. Last night, I was watching a programme about huge trees near Esperance in WA and feeling nostalgic for Australia and then here I am reading this magical, quirky moving-on story set amongst giant trees which read in parts like a fantasy and in others like an allegory. Very interesting and original.

  • This comment has been deleted

  • Fascinating, enveloping, engrossing.

  • Test4 months ago

    Your ability to blend imagination and reality adds a unique charm to the narrative.

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