Tamrind found himself standing in the middle of his bedroom in bare feet. Instead of the wooden floor he expected to feel, there was nothing, and yet that seemed as it should. He couldn’t remember how he got there or what he was listening for, but he knew there was something moving outside. He could sense it. Through the glass of the window he could see tiny green motes of light dancing to and fro. Fireflies drifted among the low branches of the rose bushes that grew under the sill. A shadow darted out from the thorns, disturbing the fireflies and scattering them about. It wasn’t one he had seen before. It shimmered.
When he turned away from the window his surroundings shifted from room to grassy field under a dusky sky. In the distance was a huge tree breaking up the horizon, reaching its branches skyward, and among the blades of grass were small darkened circles filled with firefly light, a greenish glow, leading him toward the lonely tree. His steps took him triple the distance than any normal footfall as he followed the luminous path. In moments he was looking up into the crown of branches at the champagne glass shaped leaves. Under his hands the bark felt soft to the touch, but there was no give under his fingers that one would expect. The fireflies wound around the tree spiraling upward from the ground into the overhead boughs, some of them dipping in an out of the leaves and shaking off bright blue drops of liquid.
Early summer was on the breeze lifting off the wildflowers and moss nestled in the cracks of the trunk, but Tamrind didn’t smell it. He just knew it was there. The scape was soundless, not even the rustle of leaves in the night wind, gentle as it was. No one was to be found, but the vastness of the plains stretching in every direction with the champagne leaf tree the only thing to break up the monotony. Even the lighted path he followed from his room had vanished.
As he walked around the tree, tracing his hand along the bark and trying to avoid disturbing the little bugs, Tamrind came to a woven basket nestled among the roots. It was already half filled with acorns with a few scattered on the ground around it. He knelt down and reached for one of them. “Hey!” A voice from above backed at him. “Don’t touch those!”
Tamrind looked up into the boughs but count see anything but leaves and the inky sky peeking between them. “Uh, sorry?”
“You should be,” it sounded like a girl’s voice. “Those are mine. Go find your own.” He couldn’t see the girl, but he could see the branches shifting under her weight as she moved through the tree.
“Calm down. I wasn’t going to take them,” he said.
“Get out of my tree! What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I’m not—” He looked down at his feet and the ground far below, yelping as he scrambled to grab onto any branch within reach. “How did I get up here? What’s going on?” Tamrind’s face snapped around to hers. She was half his size, dark green curly hair cropped to her chin and sparkling in the low light, and she was dressed in what looked like cast off flower petals. “Who are—”
“I didn’t make this dream for you, human. Piss off!” she yelled. With both hands, the girl shoved him off the branch not giving Tamrind time to cry out. The pit of his stomach dropped hard before his world went black.
He opened his eyes with a start. Sunlight was streaming through his bedroom window warming up the pitcher of water on the nightstand next to his bed. Sheets were a tangled mess around his legs. It was just after dawn and the cloister clock would start to chime, calling everyone to the mess hall for breakfast. He rubbed his face with his hands and sighed. His head ached and his stomach felt tight for some reason. Another restless night and the morning didn’t promise to be any better. How many more nights would he have to endure sleepless, hopeless, dreamless.
The last thing he remembered was leaving a note on his rocking chair. He never expected an answer, because as far as he was concerned prayers were worthless. The gods had stopped listening years ago or maybe they never were in the first place. And yet, there was that little scrap of paper resting every night with one final plea, ‘Wake me if you’re out there…’