Dryad Seed: Part 3 (Conclusion)
It had been decades since she left her forest. She had not spoken to anyone since her talk with the rocks in her stream all those years ago. The Dryad lost herself in the joy of music and having a voice again. She reveled in it. She didn't notice when the man stopped singing. She didn't see him step away from her.
When her song ended, she opened her eyes. The man stood before her and stared.
"Thank you for singing," she said. "It has been so long since I've sung. I forgot how much I missed it."
He stood silently for a moment. His wide eyes scanned her. He blinked, then spoke. "I, um, I like to sing too. My name is Jack."
She laughed a slushy sound of crinkling leaves. "Nice to meet you Jack." Then she sang again. After a moment, he joined his voice to hers and they sang through the afternoon.
They discarded many afternoons in song. Jack became so enchanted with her that he stopped doing much else. Whether it snowed, rained, or the sun shined hot, they sang, laughed, and shared stories.
But then, one summer day, though the Dryad sang well, she could not lift Jack's spirits when he came to the tree.
"Don't you like my song?" she said.
Jack leaned against her feet and spoke quietly. "Your song is always lovely, my friend." Then he pointed to the nearby stone where he lived. "But I have spent more time singing with you than working. I have no money and people are coming to take my home from me. They will send me away from you."
Her branches drooped and she said, "is there nothing we can do? Is it too late?"
The sun lowered in the sky as they considered what to do.
At last, the Dryad had an idea. It was the only thing she could give him. "You could cut down my tree and sell the wood."
"No! that's a terrible idea," Jack stood and looked at her, "I won't hurt you because I was foolish."
"I am not sacrificing my life, but time," she said. "I can put my being into a seed. You can plant me; I will grow again." She was a beautiful tree and her wood could be sold well to take care of him.
He smiled, "I could sing with you again soon?"
She laughed her slushy leaf sound. "Yes, in time, I will grow strong enough to sing again. "
The sky grew lighter. "We must hurry now." She said. "Wait until the seed falls into your hand. I'll see you soon my friend."
The dryad pulled herself from the branches of her tree, singing whispered farewells as she did. Though the morning sun glowed behind the forest of stone the tree was somehow growing dim. The singing faded into a single note. Then, into the man's hand, a single seed fell in silence.
* * *
Jack placed the seed in the soil beside the tree, watering the ground with his tears.
Then he cut down the beautiful tree that he had spent so many evenings with. He took the costly lumber into the forest of stone. Though it brought him wealth, it had been more precious to him than any coins could match.
He was given money and it was enough. He had food through the winter and enough money now to keep his home and take care of the next tree. When Jack returned home, he was grieved by the empty soil. There was a little brown patch of rich soil beside the stump he had cut. He did not wish to sing tonight.
Time passed as it always does, unobligingly fast and slow all at once. Jack continued to thrive. Every day he visited the new tree. He watched it grow taller and stronger. Over time he changed as well. His visits grew shorter. A ring appeared on his finger. He sang again. His hair grew thin and his belly grew wide. He would carry a boy along with him sometimes to sing and play beneath the tree. Sometimes the boy would climb up into the branches and fall asleep. Jack often wondered what voice lulled his son and made him sleep there so easily.
* * *
The Dryad saw that the boy changed too. He became strong and too large to climb into her branches. He often came now without Jack. The dryad longed to speak to her lumberjack again, if only one last time. But it seemed like he might have forgotten her.
“Lumberjack?” she called out one day, but no voice answered her except the wind.
One late summer day the young man came and carried the lumberjack that the dryad loved. He was pale and thin like the deer in long winters. His appearance frightened her and she could find nothing to say.
The young man rested the lumberjack on the ground against her trunk then sat down beside him.
“I’m listening.” The boy said.
“Take care of this tree for me," Jack said. "She will take care of you, in fact, she already has.” The lumberjack said. "And, sing to her. Trees like that."
The boy said, "Yes sir," but the Dryad heard no music in his voice.
Then Jack turned his face up toward her branches. “Sing me to sleep one last time.”
The young man cleared his throat and opened his mouth, but a different voice swelled over the men. "Goodbye old friend. I'll watch over you as you look up at me in a quiet forest of stones."