Green and red

L’autre jour, j’ai écrit une histoire pour une amie américaine. J’ai essayé de la traduire. Et je n’y suis pas parvenu. Incapable de retransposer des mots, mes mots, dans ma langue maternelle. Alors je vous livre ici cette histoire en anglais, parce que c’est comme ça qu’elle veut rester.

Green and red

Pour Tara, et sa bohémienne. Que votre route soit belle et merveilleuse.

Today, I put on my greenest skirt. It’s my favorite one, I’ve sewn it with a cloth I’ve found hidden inside a whispering tree. Whispering trees are rare. I marked them with a yellow circle on my diary of joyful and wondrous things. They are hollow but not husks. And when the sky is clear, when the wind blows the right way, you can hear them sing, talk or cry. They tell of ancient lore, pieces of legends I try to collect. One day I’ll put them together, because I know they’re part of a whole. I’d like it to be the myth of how the queen of fairies lost her voice, but you can’t be picky about secrets.

With my greenest skirt, I’m wearing my white blouse, leather boots and a my silver earrings. That’s the clothes I like to go on an adventure with. Not the big kind. Great adventures can be extremely cumbersome things. I read it in books. Kingdoms rise and fall, magic relics are found and sometimes, even, people die. I’m not one for great things. When you’re looking at the world from too high, you miss an awful lot.

Like this golden pin I just walked on.

I bend over and pick it up. It’s a very small, very delicate item. I wonder what’s it doing here, at the outskirts of a forest. Surely it doesn’t belong to any of us in the settlement, I would know. We like to show our unique possessions to each other, making the rest of the group wonder how we acquired them. And this thing is certainly very unique. Around the needle, a tiny golden snake is wrapped. Its eyes are made of the smallest emeralds I’ve ever seen (although to be fair, that’s the first time I see real emeralds).

I quickly realize I’m squeezing it too tight. Some objects have a will of their own – or they wouldn’t keep rolling under the furniture – and this pin is one of them. I carefully place it in my open palm.

No reaction. The poor thing must be scared.

I close my eyes, taking a deep breath. We’re at the beginning of spring, the smell of fresh grass, renewed by the wind fills my lungs and the sun gently warms my eyelids. I try to empty my thoughts. To feel part of this reborn part of nature. Slowly, very slowly, I feel the pin spinning in my hand. I resist the urge to open my eyes, because that would be the best way to ruin a perfectly good adventure. After a while, the movement stops. The little snake moved. It’s now pointing towards the forest, its head held high, with its piercing green stare.

Uh. What do you know. A seeker.

Seekers are objects, animals or even persons longing for something or someone. All of their essence is drawn to what they want to find. Some of them can be used for practical tasks – compass, water-finding devices, lures for unicorns – but I always feel bad to use this longing for selfish reasons. Perhaps that’s why I decide to follow this thin dirt path into the woods. After all, I have a little bronze compass tucked in one of my drawers. I know it’s unwise, we still haven’t pacified what lies behind the trees. But the snake seems too sad to be kept waiting whereas humans perform their strange rituals.

The sun almost immediately disappears, hidden by a thick sky of dark-green leaves. I enter into a realm of earth, and darkness, and water. Here, the birds whistle a monotonous song which I don’t understand. The thorns along the path don’t seem particularly menacing but they still try to rip my skirt when I’m not paying attention. Even if it’s y favorite skirt, I try not to get too angry, there’s not reasoning with thorns anyway. In my hand, the tiny snake barely moves, just enough to keep me on the right way.

It’s at a fork that things suddenly get more complicated.

From the right, I hear the steps of a four legged-one. It’s agile, this one. Savage and dangerous. A wolf or one of its liege. From the left, a low growl rises. This must be a massive creature, one that makes rocks and rivers tremble under his wrath. I look at the pin into my hand. The snake is pointing right ahead. Whatever the path, it just wants to go on. Things like choices, shadowy beasts and dangers are of no concern to it. I take a deep breath and take the left path. Just because it seems the worst choice to me. As I walk forward, I feel it watching me through the trees. It doesn’t try to remain unnoticed. It’s too powerful for that.

“Won’t you show yourself?” I ask. “I know you’re here and I can’t harm you.”

There’s no bravado in my voice. Maybe that’s why it obeys. From the dense under-grove it appears. A massive bear clad in the armor of a human knight. Its paws are stained from dried blood and its eyes bright red.

“I’m looking for the missing part of this seeker.” I say. “Will you let me pass?”

Believe you I should,

Believe you won’t hurt the wood

On your path no trees would fall

You’d help friend snake, that would be all?”

The bear-knight’s voice is that of a young maiden. I know of no curse that turns you into such a creature. But if the ancient code is to be followed, I have to answer as he did.

No fear have to be had

This poor fellow just looked so sad,

I just want him to find peace

To take its place with a joyful hiss”

“Liar!”

The bear lifts me in the air with one of his gruesome paws. I let out a sharp cry, of fear and pain. I know he won’t tolerate any lie. As an avatar of the forest, he can’t stand words less straight than an arrow. Gasping, I try to catch my breath and to answer once again.

The truth it is, albeit incomplete

For adventures, I believe to be fit

My expedition will permit me

To add some more lines to my diary.”

Both our heads are very close now. The bear’s breath reeks of rotten wood, swamp water and swarming things. I only realize now that its face is just a mask. Without understanding why, I reach out to it with my free hand and pull the mask off.

I fall.

There’s nothing on my way now. The bear-knight in its shining armor has disappeared. And in my hand, the golden snake still indicates the way ahead. There’s something frantic in its emerald gaze now. We must be very close. So I try to calm the wild beating of my heart, I stand up and I continue my journey. The things of the forest seem less aggressive now. I hope it’s out of respect and not of fear. I don’t know if I’ve passed the test as it was intended, my book upon the forest-lore have been torn during the dark times, when the wisdom of nature was feared and spit upon.

Finally I arrive in a clearing. In a shallow pond, a huge, dark snake turns its head towards me. Before even acknowledging its presence, I put the pin on the ground. It begins to tremble before shattering into little golden pieces. It’s now a real snake, white and much taller which crawls towards the other animal. They look at each other, intensely. Something extremely important is going to take place here, something I should normally not be a witness of.

I won’t be.

Because I’m not in the clearing any longer. I’m back where I’ve found the golden pin. The forest looks exactly the same than before, maybe a little lighter. How many of us helped the white snake to rejoin its other half? One? Ten? Two thousand?

“Hey, what is that?”

Liam is looking at me with all the curiosity a six-year old can muster. He’s pointing at my neck. My hands touch a soft piece of fabric. A brightly colored red scarf.

“I’ve never seen you with this scarf. Is it new?”

I smile.

“Yes it is. It’s a gift from a friend. And a reward from a small adventure.”

“I like it. It looks very pretty with your green dress.”

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