Thursday, 27 August 2015

SWC #7: Some of the Trees

Today I'm linking up with Ashley's Summer Writing Camp for the last time. It has been massively enjoyable for me, and if you still haven't checked out Ashley's blog then you really definitely should.

Writing Prompts



I have not 100% stuck to the prompt. (What can I say, I'm a teen rebel.)

This is less a short story, more the opening of a novel. I intend to write a novel called Some of the Trees one day. It shall be fabulous.

It's set in the Republic of Ireland (so I expect you to read all the dialogue in an Irish accent).

Maire is pronounced my-ra.

The places mentioned are all real, but after a preliminary internet search I don't think they have fairy pools. Creative license, yes? But "Liscannor" does mean "ringfort of CeannĂºr", so points for that, right? Liscannor is a village in County Clare. 

It's on the coast.

This is a rowan tree, and if you didn't already know what one looks like, you should go outside more often.

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This is the kind of pool you're imagining. 

~***~

Some of the Trees

The woods outside the village were always listening.


When she was a little girl, Maire tried to explain this to her parents.

“Look,” she’d say, “that tree is watching you.”

But they didn’t understand, and so as she got older, she stopped telling them. She still visited the woods, though, and felt the trees’ invisible eyes. 

On the day Maire’s best friend decided they were no longer talking she went to the fairy pools after school.

Maire had spent the past few years getting used to Hannah shutting her out, but this time there was cold, cruel finality in her eyes. She had walked off to the bus with Laura and Seonaid, laughing in a loud, ice-coated way and casting one derisive glance back at Maire. She could not stand getting on the bus after that so now she walked along the forest track, tears stinging her eyes.

The fairy pools lay in the glens along the valley. These ones, in the woods that cloaked Liscannor, were not as big as the ones in Ballyalban nor as famous as those in Kinvara, so there were almost never tourists snapping pictures of them, but they were deep and sparkling and Maire loved them. She slumped on the bank. The wet of the autumn grass was seeping through her school skirt, but she was too tired and too miserable to care.

The hairs on the back of her neck rose up in the old sense that the trees were watching her. There had been an incident, years ago, where a boy entered these woods and never came out again. His father, searching for him, had likewise disappeared. Some muttered they’d got on a plane and started again, far away from their family. But there was an air of unease about the case.

Maire had never been afraid, but now a sense of the unknown crept over her like mist.

In Celtic myth the rowan tree is the home of the fey, and that is why the fairy pools were so named: a clutch of rowans stood on the bank, casting a red reflection into the water. Here more than anywhere Maire could almost catch the sound of the woods breathing.

The woods, the rowans, the disappearance of that boy: it was all tied up with why Hannah was cutting her off. When they were young they had played here and made up countless stories about the fey that lived in the trees, but when they started secondary school Hannah had relegated the games to secrets. Then she had stopped playing altogether.

For years now she’d been complaining that Maire was weird about the woods, that she lived too much inside her head, that she needed to let go and grow up. Hannah hated their small village, their quaint church, the traditions their grandparents held. She said she wanted excitement. Maire knew that, to Hannah, she was as dull as everything else she wanted to shake off.

Maire shut her tear-filled eyes and listened to the whispers of the water. The wind was picking up, whipping through the branches with winter on its breath, and a shiver ran through her. The trees’ clipping together sounded almost human, like voices in a harsh and foreign tongue. They covered the grass in shadow, and unease pricked Maire’s skin. There was something threatening in the air’s frost-promising cast. She glanced at the sky, much darker than when she’d left school and covered by grey clouds. It was time to go; but part of her was enthralled by the pools, no longer laughing and sunlit, and the dark fingers of the trees. 

Maire stood, the thought of leaving half-formed in her mind, but as she began to walk she found herself moving toward the rowans. The path retreated behind her, and she stretched out her hand to brush the glassy surface of the pool. The reflected red berries shuddered beneath her touch, ripples spreading outwards.

Here the trees hugged the waterline. From the bank Maire could reach only the outermost few. They bent over the pool like mourners, and Maire imagined their roots snaking beneath its bottom, so that they cradled the whole pool. She pictured them below the soil, spreading like veins, and suddenly the blood-red of the rowan berries was calling to her, as if the roots twisted through her own body and around her heart. All she wanted was to plunge her hands into the earth, follow the roots’ path as her own blood sang. The leaves rustled in her mind, beckoning, and she took one step and then another. Icy water soaked her school shoes and crept around her ankles. She did not feel it. She waded toward the rowans, hand outstretched to touch their boughs.

That was when she saw the boy.

His eyes were shut, his skin deathly pale. His body was upright but he did not stand; he was held there by the trees, like a corpse in a vertical coffin. The branches twined around his shoulders, leaves in his hair, and the rowan berries were blood-bright splashes on his skin.

Maire could not think, could not feel. The urge to touch his icy neck was overwhelming.

The fairy pool lapped at her calves, and, silhouetted against the winter sky, she reached into the clutch of rowan trees.

Don’t touch him!

The shout bounced and shattered through the clearing, and Maire span, stumbled, crashed to her knees with a shriek and a splash. The water knifed her legs and she lurched to her feet, looking wildly around, and felt a hand grasp her arm.

Someone was pulling her away, arm around her shoulders, and they did not stop until the clearing was behind them and the motorway roared in the distance.

Maire retched, bent over double at the edge of the wood.

She was shaking, soaked skirt clinging to soaked legs, and felt a coat draped across her shoulders.

“Follow me.”

She looked up at the boy who had dragged her away.

Stupidly, all she could say was, “You go to my school.”

He frowned. “This is Liscannor. There is only one school.”

“I—” Maire had nothing to say. The cold was stinging, and it was starting to rain, but more than that the blood-red rowans flashed in her vision; them and the boy ensnared by their branches. 

She felt a hand on her back, propelling her along. “My car’s down there,” the boy said. “You need to get warm.”

Maire let herself be led, head spinning, barely seeing the trees as they thinned and turned into tarmac.

Sitting in the kitchen of a strange house she felt the cup of tea’s warmth spread through her hands, and tried to banish the image of the trees stooping over the fairy pool.

The boy had introduced himself as Lucas, and Maire had placed him vaguely as one of a school-uniformed throng in the corridor between classes. Now his sister had come in, and they were both thrown sharply into focus.

Lucas may have faded into the background, but of course Maire recognised Regan O’Bride. She knew them now: twins from the year above, pale-haired and viewed as slightly odd.

Lucas was the kind of boy who won maths prizes and stayed in the computer room every lunchtime, equally afraid of the sun and other people. He was almost skeletally thin. Maire thought he was the sort who might forget to eat. When they’d arrived he’d handed her some of Regan’s clothes, avoiding looking her in the eye, and retreated to put the kettle on.

Regan was totally different and yet utterly the same. She strode around the school in pointy boots that were in no universe regulation, surrounded by a troop of girls with strange hair and moody Tumblr blogs. They were not cool like the Hollister-wearing girls, who rejected them, but they listened to bands you wished you’d heard of, and everyone had a small part that secretly wanted to be one of them.

Or in Maire’s case, not such a small part.

She could not believe she was sitting in Regan O’Bride’s kitchen, wearing her too-long tights and too-small skirt.

She also could not believe that the rowan trees behind the fairy pool were steeped in magic, and amidst their branches a boy slept a sleep like death.

10 comments:

  1. I really, really like this!! Great opener, I want to read the whole book! That is 100% serious, I want MORE.

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    1. Thank you so much! The plot is sorta running in my head now. I don't know. Need to finish my WIP series first!

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  2. Gah, the awesomeness! I adored the description of the boy in the rowan trees.

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  3. Great story - this is my favorite of the SWCs you've done.

    I've never actually seen a rowan tree in person before - they don't really grow in Ohio. :(

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    1. Really? Wow, thank you! :D

      Ah. Ohio. I see your problem ;)

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  4. Wow! I love this. I like how Lucas and Reagan are different.

    Also, the whole concept. The trees and the boy. When Maire seeks refuge there after her best friend's rejection, I initially thought that the pool's pull would be positive. But now, I have a more foreboding feeling toward it since 1) Lucas warned her against it, 2) Lucas could see the boy also, meaning 3) Lucas probably knows what he's talking about since 1) and 2) and also his weird reputation leads me to believe he actually knows the truth about the fairy pool.

    The only thing I thought was a mite strange is that Maire didn't seem surprised Lucas saw what she saw. . . I guess it's just something that I personally, if in such situation, would think odd. Also, it would seal the deal on what I saw as being real and not made up in my head. Extra creepy there.

    This sounds so interesting! Plus, I love anything Celtic. It so much fun to learn about. I already love the characters!

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    1. Ohhh no, definitely not positive magic in this one. Scary magic. Evil trees.

      This is actually not all I wrote -- in the section after this, which I didn't include because it was a bit rambling and ineffective, they discuss the magic and Maire is asking how has she never seen him before, going to the pools all her life. Basically the pools only reveal the sleepers in the trees once the trees think you're in their power. Maire is mesmerised by the trees and wants to touch them; in doing so, she is acknowledging their magic because she is giving sway to their obviously supernatural pull. Once she's acknowledged said magic she can see the "rest" of the magic, AKA the sleeper. However there are some -- like Lucas and Regan -- who can see without this, hence why they know the boy's there. Or maybe they had a near miss, too, when they were children? And once the trees have revealed themselves once, they stay revealed? They must stay revealed, so that Maire can continue to see the sleepers as the story develops.

      The only problem with this acknowledgement thing, though, is that at the beginning -- “Look,” she’d say, “that tree is watching you.” -- it seems to imply that Maire understand the supernatural element as a child. So why couldn't she see the sleepers then? Or is the boy the only sleeper?

      I'm sorry, that was a far longer ramble than I intended. I just want to get my thoughts out, because as you can see I have no idea how this magic works!

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    2. That sounds so cool! That makes sense though. And yeah, I have to write things through in order to figure out how it works, so I get it.

      Perhaps she has to be older? Because sometimes children seem to have a sense for things like that, so she has to see it at an age when she would probably not believe unless she did give into the pull of the trees? Does that even make sense? I don't know!

      This does sound pretty awesome! I hope you get to continue with it! :D

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    3. Maybe ... hmm. I'll have to think on that one. Maybe when she was very young (like, a toddler) her parents took her there and she told them there was a lady in the tree or something, and maybe one of them somehow knows and is terrified that Maire will be caught up in the evil magic so they tell her off and forbid her to say it ever again and that makes her stop believing .... ??

      I recently wrote another opening chapter which I actually like more so when I've finished Corrie's series I might go with that one ... I don't know, though! I guess this idea will fester for a while now and I'll be able to pursue it further in my mind :)

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Thanks for commenting! :)