Tree of Memories

Idea from Carnaval by Akiko Shikata

The cheerful voices and laughter sounded and faded behind me as my feet crunched through the snow. Usually I loved the snow. Its white contrasting with the greens of the pines and firs as it collected on their branches. The bitter cold biting my skin; the fresh smell it brings with it. It sparkling in the sunset. The blanket of white reflecting the moonlight and making the night that much prettier.

But this winter... I don't think anything could cheer me.

Every time I look to the deep forest that surrounded this castle I saw him, standing there and smiling, trying to get me to follow him into the trees. The pink blanket that was always clipped to his shoulders blowing in the soft wind. His hair collecting the snowflakes, making it glitter like stars in the night sky. Then he would run through the tall, bare trunks, leaving me to catch up to him. After a few minutes of trying to catch up to my friend... I would see it happen all over again...

The invisible shadows stealing across the ground, crowding around and engulfing him, too quickly for any kind of reaction.

He was my friend, and we promised each other that nothing would separate us. But... I guess promises can only go so far. Especially when they are between two kids, who are way over their heads in someone's business.

I continued to walk aimlessly through the plains just outside the castle, pushing past the happy crowds of people that could never comfort me. Soon I found myself standing on the edge of the forest that took my friend from me, staring out into the darkness underneath the canopy of leaves. The moon's light couldn't reach the ground, couldn't penetrate the thick cover.

Head lowered I continued on, now walking with a reason. I needed to see it again, the tree that held all of our memories that we shared with each other...

By now the snow was starting again, drifting to the ground silently, adding to the ankle deep blanket that already covered most of the floor. Passing by shrubs and bushes that managed to survive the assault of the wind my frozen tears fell to the ground, creating small holes in its perfect, undisturbed surface.

I was shivering, even though I had my arms wrapped around one another. My hair did nothing to warm my ears, and my fingers were numb. But I didn't care. My only wish was to see him again, not to be next to a fire. I wouldn't need a fire if I was with him. His blanket could keep both of us warm. And it would bring me closer to him... Stifling a sob I hurried to the tree.

The tree of memories.

Our tree of memories.

Soon enough the tree was in sight. The snow draped over its branches glittered in the light given by the moon. It was a single tree in a small clearing; a small cave just under its trunk, made by the roots as they pushed away the earth. Next to the tree was a stone carving with several small crystals embedded into it. On the stone read my friends name. Just below the stone was a letter with a red wax seal, my families affiliation engraved in it.

I had written the letter, apologizing for everything I have done to my friend, intentional or not. Kneeling next to it I recalled the words I had written:

Rest in peace. Please… Just- … I want you to feel something that's not related to pain, torment, anger, hatred, and regret. And- … I want you to feel like this for once in your short life…

You were my best and only true friend. Even despite the things I did to harm you in any way… you always tried to cheer me up when I was down-... I really regret everything I have done to you. But- … I know I was a jerk to you. Didn't care if you were hurt. I betrayed you in so many ways. Yet… You never abandoned me when I was in trouble. You saved my pathetic life so many times and I never thanked you.

I should have known that you were hurting inside. I know what it feels like to not have a family that cares about you. … and I think it is because of that that I was so cruel to you. I just didn't want to re-live it trying to make you feel better. And it was because of my selfishness that you didn't have anyone who liked you… not even a little bit.

I'm so sorry… It's my fault you-… passed away like this. With no one by your side. You didn't deserve that. You shouldn't have been so alone your whole life… with the pain of your illness and the deep ache in your heart… … … And the fact that you became friends with the ghost that possessed you proves that you were alone. I could've prevented that too. If I wasn't so selfish… you wouldn't have had to go through all that alone…

It would be better if we were never introduced… because then… you wouldn't have been treated so cruelly.

And…

Another thing I want to say to you… something that I didn't get to say while you were alive… is that I really like you… who am I kidding… I love you!

...I love you so much…

I fell to my knees, placed my elbows and forearms onto the snow, crying. If it weren't for me you would still be alive. You would have gotten proper treatment. You wouldn't have had to die.

Several minutes passed, maybe even hours, as I blamed myself for everything that happened to my friend.

But I didn't come here to cry.

After a while I managed to look up, at the tree root cave.

I crawled over to it, then reached down. My hand rubbed against a silky surface; my friend's blanket. Wrapped inside of it was a hand-drawn picture of the two of us together, several years before. Just next to the blanket is a small piece of cooked sugar, colored blue, wrapped in a thin sheet of paper. This represented my name, since it means both Rain and Candy. Then a white square of fabric, with two corners connected to a white ball; a ghost. This represented my friend's name, since it means spirit.

There were a few other objects that told of everything we had been through together also inside the cave. Mostly clay sculptures that I made out of the earth, and other drawings.

I pulled out the blanket and hugged it tightly, my tears starting up again, just like the little kid I am.

This tree will let me be with him, sleep with him, and see him all over again. Even if he isn't there anymore...