I wake up on the ground. Sunlight sweeps across my body like a warm embrace, and a small patch of dew still clinging to the grass tickles my cheek like a baby's kiss. My heart knocks slowly against my chest, a friendly reminder that I'm alive, I'm breathing, I'm here in this strange, but wonderful patch of forest where nature croons and caresses me like a true child of the forest.


Sunlight doesn't touch the forest grounds.

I bolt upright, my heart pounding against my chest, not a friendly reminder, a warning, that my life, my breaths, could all stop in an instant here in this strange, and dangerous patch of open grounds.

I squirm and squint under the glassy glare of sunlight and find exactly what I'd been fearing.

No trees. Open grounds. Bare. Naked. Vulnerable.

Where am—no, stop.

Who am I?

There's a boy looking for me. I know only because his voice slices through the thicket of leaves and trunks and vines that hide me here on the ground. Is that worry or anger that cracks his voice, leaving the ends of his words rough and jagged? I don't know because I don't know him.

His voice sprints toward me, knocking aside the leaves and trunks and vines in between us. It knocks against each trunk, three sharp raps—whereareyou pleasecomeback don'tbeafraid. I ask the trees not to speak, not to give up my position. I ask, but I'm not sure they hear because the forest never stops chattering the way it always does, except where the boy interrupts it.

His voice rustles the leaves beside me.

No, stop.


There's a woman and a monkey. She has an eyepatch and slippery fingers—the monkey, not the woman. The woman has two eyes that sum up really to only half an eye since she squints at every piece of tamarind before mashing it in a clay bowl. Once, she picks up the monkey's banana and mashes it. I forgive her, but the monkey doesn't—not for at least for two nights. Once, the woman squints at my face and calls me boy. I think about correcting her, but then slip that thought into the next piece of tamarind that goes mashsmashgoop in the clay bowl.

Once, the monkey goes missing during the night and there's no mashing or squinting. The woman hunkers down in front of the fire with eyes closed, like she's already asleep. I offer to go out and search for the monkey, just in case she's not. She doesn't answer, so I assume she is.

I leave to search anyway.

There is no monkey. There is no woman. I'm alone, a foreigner in a land I think I once knew, in a tree that I don't remember climbing, rain water slipping off the leaves, coating my hair and face. I'm hiding once again. Once again? Has this happened before?

Protect me, I plead to the trees.

They sing back to me—a pretty song, but useless at the moment. I don't think the forest recognizes me anymore.

I remember, I remember, a little blue jay tweets as it glides by my ear.

Tell me, I beg.

It flies away before I can hear a reply.

"Luma?" the boy's voice asks from below.

No, stop.

Am I Luma? I roll the name back and forth in my mind, but it lands in no familiar valleys. I'm not Luma. I think about telling the boy this, but I hide that thought in the trunk of the tree, where I hide any other thoughts that would risk me speaking to the boy.

"Darling. Come down from the damn tree."

Darling? Am I Darling? This too, I roll around in my head, but it's a flat plain in there. It rolls on toward the ends of the world, uninterrupted. I decide not to trust the boy, not because he's calling me things I'm not, but because he wears a heavy, shiny helmet that hides his eyes, and he damns my trees like they're the ones doing the invading.

"Have you seen a monkey?" I ask. This, I don't hide in the tree trunk fast enough to stop from spilling out of my mouth.

A pause.

"Darling. This is a forest. I've seen many monkeys. I've seen so many monkeys for so long in fact that I'm beginning to see grandchildren monkeys of the monkeys I first saw."

I rub an orchid off a liliana between my fingers. Once, I think I might've done this before, for either luck or love. "I think I lost a monkey."

Another pause.

"Darling. I think it's time you came down from that tree. The thin air's starting to get to you."

"I have to remember. I have to remember. Havetoremember havetoremember." I grip the back of my neck, pressing my forehead into the slick curves of the tree.

There's a long pause from below. And then, "I'm sorry." The words flow to me like a soft breeze, so quiet perhaps I imagined it.

I take a deep breath, leap from my branch, and cling onto the trunk of the tree beside the one I just jumped from. My fingers and toes dig into the bark, pushing my body up the canopies, until the boy and his voice disappear. I jump. I crash. The branch cracks beneath my feet.

Stop. Help me, I beg the tree.

The branch stops. It stays put, for now, for as long as it takes me to swing around to another branch. I whisper thank you into the tree.

It's a small hope, but I think the forest is beginning to remember me again.