506 words, as written in 22 minutes.
The crisp mountain air fills my lungs, the same scent as vanilla – the way the flowers bloom. Lush green grass unrolls before me as the train comes to a stop at a small station deep in the heartlands.
Spring blooms pop up amongst the sea of yellow-green, bright pops of pink and purple, a scattering of blue like a modern art piece. I imbibe my energy drink and make my way from the carriage onto the concrete platform. Behind me a small grey town with brightly coloured tiled roofs rises up from the steppes.
Tonight the skies will be clear enough to see the stars. I slowly look upwards at the deep blue horizon, the almost navy above me. It filters through with streaks of cloud that leaves a powder-blue aurora hanging over the fields.
In the distance, a single tree rises up from a single stand-alone hill. It’s thick branches reach out to vein the horizon with the skeletal white of its bark. A brief wind kicks up, rustling the grass and grazing through the leaf-less limbs of the tree. It catches me unready, the sharp ice of it draws away my breath.
I step from the platform, into the grass. The tips of each blade caresses me about my knees, a few flowers scatter before my advance as I make the long walk towards the tree. The sea parts around me, the wind kicking up against my skin. The closer I get, the harder it fights me. Land, air and over-head sea push back.
The aurora shifts with the drifting atmosphere, the floral scent changes to rain and lightning. A small drop splashes on my nose, a dozen more follow against my arms and chest. I pull over my hood to protect my face, though it is only cotton. The rain is only light, a drizzle that is washed away by the breeze. It comes from behind, pattering against my back with gentle but noticeable prods.
The tree looms up ahead of me, its skeletal arms outstretched in an embrace. I mimic it, stepping closer. The bark peels at its base, the crack of lightning overhead makes me wary of approaching it. Looking backwards I see a sheet of rain, thick white around us in all directions.
I approach, the face of it, the eyes in the wood. The branches seem to close around above me, the knots in them follow my movement. One hand against the bark, the smooth paper of its skin surprises me. I lean in closer, it smiles and the branches no longer seem so menacing. They’re shaking in the wind, the eyes in them looking out in random directions.
I sit at the trunk, looking out over the field the tree surveys. The rain is moving away from us, washing over the grey and colourful town. Ancient protectors of this steppe, lost in the fade. My head rests against the wood, arms wrapped around my chest. I dream beneath the tree for the second life in a row.