He stares at his new neighbour. He wants to curl his mouth, if he had one, like he’s seen those pink stick things do. He thinks they’re called ‘peeple’. He’s heard one of them say “sum peeple!” but he can’t be sure. He has to call them something and they’re small, like beetles, so they’re the beetle peeple.
He doesn’t understand their language, still feels like he doesn’t belong, even after all these years.
He did once, he thought, hear familiar words, his mother tongue, but it came from a little black box. He was listening hard until one of the peeple prodded the box and it crackled, like it was in pain, then the voice was replaced by music… loud, unpleasant, not like the birds. He knows music from the birds but that doesn’t help because he can’t speak their language either.
The new neighbour’s really quiet. He’s sure he should be picking up something… maybe she’s still too young. He can’t remember how old he was when he first started sensing things… not feeling, he doesn’t feel as such, but he’s old, wise and knows how life goes – in his part of it anyway.
He’s seen thousands of peeple coming and going, using him as shade, shelter, protection… a climbing frame, until one got very high then screamed as it… ‘he’ went down very quickly. A moving white box with coloured lights came and put him, and a screaming bigger ‘she’, inside and went away making lots of noise.
He prefers it when it’s quiet, and dark, it’s cooler when it’s dark. Sometimes it gets too hot. He thinks where he’s from, originally, is colder, except he can’t really remember. He remembers a journey, going over some water but most of it was land, green like here. He thinks he was young, like his neighbour, when he arrived. It was a long time ago. When she’s old enough he’ll ask her if she remembers. There won’t be so far back for her to think.
After the white box went, some more peeple came and put a barrier around him, and big yellow squares with black squiggles he couldn’t understand but he knew what it meant; that no-one could touch him anymore, couldn’t climb, couldn’t hug.
He liked it when peeple touched him, even when they cut squiggles into him. It didn’t hurt, just tickled a little, felt nice, like they were making him their own, like he belonged.
But now he has a different kind of company, his own kind and he can’t wait for her to grow, to have someone to ‘feel’ with.
There’s that tingling again. It’s like… no, it can’t be. He tells himself not to be so silly. He knows ‘silly’ from the little peeple. They’d do funny things with their faces then tell each other not to be silly, but silly looks like a lot of fun.
It is! It… no, it can’t be… It is! A new bud!
He’d felt sick for ages, not like the little ‘he’ who’d fallen from him because ‘he’ hadn’t moved… but tired, old. It’s not like that now. It feels like when little ‘he’ started climbing, to explore, reach out… grow.
They’re taking the barrier away! He must be better. He can have peeple touch him again. He feels like being very silly today!
There’s a big ‘he’ with a large shiny stick. What’s he doing? He’s pulling a bit of… something out of it and it’s making a roaring noise, like he’d seen one of the little ‘he’s do which made a little ‘she’ scream. All the other peeple laughed but he didn’t find it funny. The little ‘she’ had looked scared. He remembered scared from when the sky grew dark, and the rain came, and there were loud noises way above them and the peeple screamed and ran to him, and he made them feel safe.
Hey! He’s cutting squiggles into him, making him his own. It’s not unpleasant but it’s not stopping, he must really like him.
He feels all wobbly, wants to put his branches out to balance himself. He felt like this when he got sick, but he doesn’t feel sick now, he feels… free. He feels… aliv…
Photography courtesy of morguefile.com.
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