The Willow Tree
“Thats it, thats where they went.”
“Down there?” Bruce pointed down into the dark tunnel.
“Sure of it.” Bruce and Ford were best friends. Both living in Saint Michael’s orphanage. They’d known each other since they were little babies, and generally both went everywhere with the other. You wouldn’t just talk about Bruce, or just talk about Ford. You’d talk about Bruce and Ford, like a package.
“I saw him go down there last night, with a big pot” Ford said. “It’s got to be where they’re keeping it”.
“I guess you're right” Bruce said. The two boys stepped cautiously onto the first step down. Bruce fumbled for a light switch or a lamp and found nothing. Not like there was any need; the smell was already swirling up the boys’ noses.
“mmmm, we found it all right” Bruce exclaimed
“Smells like bacon” Ford said.
The smell reeled in the two hungry boys as they bumped into a table. CREEK! Someone was at the door. both boys rapidly swiveled their heads towards the door to see a large silhouette standing in the threshold.
“You two, what are you doing down here!” the voice yelled. The two best friends look at each other and simultaneously whispered “Run!”
They ran as fast as their legs could carry them down the corridors of the tunnel, but no one followed. Only the sound of a deep laugh nipped at the hairs on the back of their heads, as if mocking the stupidity of running through the maze of dark passageways. Were they lost? They didn’t know, they didn’t have time to think about that, they’d only had time to realize that punishment would come if they were caught. They ran for what seemed like hours, corridor after corridor, turn after turn. Until there wasn’t anything but them and the tunnels and they’re legs. But they weren’t lost there was light, a light of hope and a light of reality, they had reached an exit.
The boys burst through the doors and sunlight blinded their eyes, the fields thats where they were, but that meant.
“The old weeping willow!” Ford said turning around. There it was the largest willow in all of the state bigger than a large building. However this willow tree wasn’t just big, it marked a threshold of life and death. once past the tree theres no coming back.
“Oh come on it’s just a tree, don’t be so scared!” Bruce said.
“Yeah but its not the tree that scares me it’s what’s past it. Remember John and Joseph, John went back there and Joseph went in to find him, neither returned.”
“Oh come on the older ones just tell us that story to scare us.” Bruce said.
“OK well if you’re so brave why don’t you go in there yourself.” Ford snapped back. Giving Bruce a shove towards the tree.
“Fine then, Ill show you!” Bruce said as he marched towards the tree.
“No Bruce don’t” Ford stuttered
“Oh don’t be such a wuss!”
Ford turned around and started running in the direction of the orphanage, he’s got to tell the others.
“He’s gone, he’s gone, you’ve got to help him!”
Ford was screaming as he ran towards the grade 7 room his age group slept in, and burst through the doors.
“Bruce went into the swamp you’ve got to help him.”
“Ain’t nothing anyone can or will do ‘bout that one” someone said, snickering
“Once in that swamp, you never come back, it’s a proven fact.” “Remember John and Joseph”
“They never came back.” A kid blurted. “Why would Bruce have a chance, he ain’t comin’ back.”
Bruce had been walking for hours, it was nighttime, but that made no difference in the swamp which shielded the suns rays with large whomping canopies. CRACK! Bruce heard a sharp noise far to his left, was it wildlife, was it a sign, was it death.
“Hello” Bruce shouted, but there was no reply and Bruce continued walking. CRACK the noise was closer this time and he saw half a stick pop up 5 meters away in the same direction… direction, thats when Bruce realized, he didn’t know where he came from, he could gamble and walk in a certain direction ‘til death or ‘til glory, but it was a risky one. and he didn’t take it. His body brimmed with fear, and his stomach did flips. Was the myth really true was there “something” out here in this dark old smelly swamp just 5 meters from his current quivering wobbling swaying stance. He started to feel dizzy, he wan’t to go back, back to the orphanage, back to his friends, but there was no returning, he fell onto his knee and cursed his own ignorance. SNAP! it was close and behind him. He turned around.
What Bruce found was scary for it had not been there before, but oh so helpful so he thanked the gods, there was a path, he couldn’t see where it lead but he took it as a guidance from god and followed the small dirt road. So he walked and he walked, and he walked until his legs felt as if they were about to fall off. Was there still hope? He asked himself, could he still make it back? Is that where this path lead? Maybe no, maybe yes, but it must lead somewhere, as all paths do they lead people where they want to go. However this path may not lead Bruce where he wants to go but to where he needs to go, which is anywhere but where he is now.
Where Bruce found himself at the end of the path was not where he wanted to go, nor where he thought he needed to go, but was it where he needed to go, if where he needed to go was somewhere other than where he was then the path had achieved its duty as a helpful path. However Bruce didn’t find it helpful. Therefore the path hadn’t achieved what it should have or was meant to have done. Bruce found himself at a brightly lit building with glass windows and children inside, he looked up and managed to make out the words, ice cream shoppe. Ice cream shoppe? an ice cream shoppe? here in the middle of a dark and dangerous swamp, that was in business and swarming with happy children. Bruce did not take it for granted, nor was he pleased. He’d hoped his findings might perhaps help him get back to the orphanage, but maybe it did. Maybe he could ask for directions.
Bruce stepped inside the building and a bell rang loud and clear. The children stopped what they were doing and looked towards Bruce with sad and slightly sympathetic expressions, but after a few seconds they went back to talking and everything seemed normal again. Bruce walked up to the first boy he saw and asked.
“Hello do you know how I could get out of here and back to the nearest town” Bruce asked. The boy laughed, as if Bruce had told him a funny joke..
“Don’t you know, this is where all lost children go, god leads them here so they can be safe, but when you pass the age of fifteen, POOF, you’re gone. My good friend Joseph just went today. You recently missed his memorial.” “Joseph was here before anyone have remember, he and John.” “But John went months ago.” Bruce turned around, he wanted to cry, laugh, and run all at the same time, there were too many emotions and Bruce turned around and turned the door handle, but it wouldn’t budge, nor was there anything outside, just void. Bruce looked down at his feet, he knew everyone would think he was dead, maybe he was dead. Maybe this was heaven, but there was no knowing for sure. All bruce knew, is that he was lost, and would never be seen again.