This is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt.
It’s true we were on a public footpath, not hacking our way through virgin forest, but still, the sculpture was unexpected. The woods were silent and we had walked along in silence, I, listening to the birds, the other two finding walking quite tiring enough without wasting their breath on chit chat. When the carved tree trunk appeared ahead, it was greeted with squeals of pleasure, a relief from plodding and an excuse to break the silence. I stopped on the edge of the glade as the other two took selfies with the carving out of a fairy story.
Shadows moved among the branches but the birds had fallen silent. The undergrowth swayed almost imperceptibly. Something was moving away. I shivered, suddenly cold.
“It’s so peaceful here,” Betty shrieked. “I could almost sleep here,” she said, lying down on the tree trunk.
“We could certainly have our lunch here,” Alexa chirped. “It must be about time to stop.”
Betty sat up and looked around, suddenly serious. She pulled a face. “I dunno. There’s something a bit…funny about this place.” She looked over the other shoulder. “Like there’s someone watching.”
The ghost of peace and quiet.
Alexa stopped rummaging in her bag. We all listened. Nothing. Silence.
A while bell of convolvulus peeped over the wooden pillow.
Was that there before?
Ants marched across the recumbent trunk, drawing rapid, squiggly lines, like scars twitching. Betty leapt to her feet and batted tiny invaders off her shorts.
Alexa snatched up her bag. “Maybe a proper picnic place would be better.”
Betty was already moving along the path, into the green gloom, away from the clearing. Alexa followed, her eyes on her legs, swatting at anything that looked like insect life.
By the foot of the bed, I noticed a ramp of mushrooms. Where the trunk rested in the earth, the wood was spongy and greenish. Another convolvulus flower bowed in the breeze and my foot caught in a bramble runner reaching out to embrace the couch. The sun had shifted and shadows fell across the carved bedplace, filling it with darkness. The white bell flowers glowed.
My feet made little sound on the earthy path. I looked back, saw the shadows shift again and sunlight fill the glade.
This is peace.
The flickering movement was birds flitting from tree to tree, and a jay squawked as it flashed in colourful flight through the sunbeams. I could hear the chattering song of finches. I wondered if it had ever stopped.