This is a short story I wrote at work.
Maybe it's shit, maybe its good.
“I can finally see” said the girl of 23.
“I was wandering around in the dark for such a long time, I forgot how to use my eyes. Actually, I feel rather silly saying it, but I forgot that I had eyes at all!”
Some may have called the girl a fool, and others still might. Why shouldn't they? She seemed perfectly well-adjusted, but it was no secret that she had spent the better part of her adolescence scurrying about in the filthy, hollow tunnels under an old oak tree. But if we examine the the girl's story with empathetic hearts, it is not difficult to understand her foolish liabilities. The tree's special amber color and smoothed bark made many before her slip into a warm caramel daze whenever they thought of it.
“If only,” she would puzzle, “if only I could find an opening in the stump of this tree. One that would be just big enough for me to enter, and have a nice cup of tea on a seat of comfortable roots. That would be nice.”
With each spring day, she would return to the tree and pine over such an opening, but content herself to sit below the oak's great arms and reap its tranquility. One such afternoon, her head lolled over a lap full of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. While the detective adventures were satisfactorily amusing, they would not keep her from an afternoon siesta. As drool mounted upon her lower lip, something approached. A funny little thing small enough to bathe amply inside a thimble. It wiggled in front of the girl's nose and tapped against it upon catching a gentle Northwesterly breeze. The girl's eyes widened as she became aware of the inchworm dangling directly in front of her proboscis. She cooed where she could have screamed. It was only his proximity that she took issue to. With two fingers, she carefully cut the castaway's line and set him upon a neighboring root. She watched as he made his way down into the grass. She pulled back a handful of blades in an effort to observe her new friend for a little bit longer. To her surprise, the critter had inched out of sight.
“Where could he have gone? He was just here!”
To add to her surprise, the handful of sod she was clutching eased out of the ground, leaving bare a portion of what seemed to be an old rabbit hole.
“I could probably...”
She clawed at the ground, pulling away chunks of dirt and moss with a jolly fervor. She was on the brink of uncovering her underground paradise and was beside herself. The hole quickly widened, until a girl-sized opening was formed, and no larger. She was delighted to know that the tree's root structure would prevent entry of anything larger than herself. It was as though a magical hideaway had been made specifically for her. This particular tree had sought her as much as she had it. She made a cozy earthen bed where she returned to for many days to bask in the warm underground. Sometimes the girl slept in the tree at night, and a trail of trinkets could usually be found in and around its base. For a long time, the girl was transfixed with her sanctuary.
As she grew intimately familiar with the cave, she gradually became dulled to the excitement of its newness. Her spirit was lively and grew anxious. She fought feelings of boredom; trying first to invent interesting ways to sit, then ornamenting the cavern with beads and bits of yarn. Try as she might her special little place had become an ordinary burrow, like any other. She hated the thought of abandoning her beloved tree, but began to daydream about other retreats. A compromise seemed the best alternative so she began concocting a plan.
“I'll make a tunnel. One that I can crawl into whenever I want, just below the roots that hang to make my bed. But I must be careful not to disturb the roots, or I will have no bed to return to.”
The next time she returned to the tree she wore an apron embroidered with strawberries and carried a small green gardening trowel. She began digging not far from the tree and remembered the excitement she felt upon discovering the rabbit hole. Dirt smudged her perfect apron as she hurriedly gouged out the earth.
Dig, dig, dig, dig,
A perfect tunnel. Big enough to crawl into, too small for anyone larger than herself. She crawled inside, feeling warm and safe. The tree's proximity offered the girl reassurance, and she took to sleeping in the tunnel more quickly than she had in the hollow of the tree. Over some time, the tunnel and the cave were gradually connected, separated only by the assemblage of roots on which the girl had made her first bed. She knew that to tear out the tree's roots would result in its death, so she dug no further skyward.
The tunnel replaced what the girl felt was missing from her treehouse sanctuary. She adorned her new home with beads and yarn. She felt invigorated. Until one day, she felt a pang of remorse that sent shock waves down to her toes. Her wonderful tunnel became just a tunnel, like any other. Its familiar twists posed no new challenges to the girl. She tried to find new ways to sit. She decorated. All the while, she became very, very dirty.
'No matter!' she thought. 'I'll make another tunnel and connect the two.'
So she dug another tunnel.
She dug and slept in her underground network until it expanded so far she would later be given an award for being the first person to hand dig their way to China. She worked by candlelight and her eyesight became poor. Sometimes she got lost in her magnificent labyrinth, and she would daydream about when she slept upon her cozy bed of roots. Walking through a lengthy passage one day, she met a mole.
“What are you doing here in my tunnels?” she exclaimed.
“Your tunnels? Surely you don't imagine you are the only one who has ever or will ever be down here?!”
The girl felt crushed. She had thought that, and her sense of ownership promptly deflated. She wished she had never left the tree that belonged only to her. She resolved that she would return to her beloved cave, if her eyes could feebly direct her to it. She thought for a minute of asking for help, but in a flash, the mole was trundling off, letting out a snarky cackle from its twisted smile.
“I don't need your help, anyway!” Her voice echoed through the dark expanse. “I've built all these tunnels, so surely I can understand them by myself.”
She took up a candle and squinted her weak eyes. She could see at close range, but relied more heavily on her memory to navigate. The roots she tripped over and narrow ceilings she hit her head on were only fully recalled when she failed to avoid them a second time during her backtrack. She thought she might have stopped digging long ago, had she kept closer tabs on how many times her mishaps repeated themselves. It appeared she had been taught the same lessons over and over without learning anything. The journey was exhaustive. Her dirty clothes began to tear and her chipped nails bore a stratum of dirt. She became very sad and wished that someone else could make the journey for her. It was this way, as a blind dirty shadow of her former vivaciousness that she finally, mercifully returned to the retreat of the tree.
The bed of roots she used to sleep on was chewed through during her absence. To her astonishment, the tree had not died, although many of its leaves were badly withered. She had never realized that it had much larger, far reaching rhizomes that made it difficult, although not impossible, for any one creature to destroy it. Only a few bits or yarn remained stuck to the sides of the inner sanctum, the rest had been scattered. She felt sadly nostalgic. The tree was the same, but it was not. She lingered only for a short time, deducing that the creature responsible for the chewing was also the tree's latest inhabitant. Probably the mole. She didn't know for sure.
What she did know, was that she could never again make a home for herself inside the snug tree. She could also never return to the hollow labyrinth. All she could do was crawl up through the tunnels, out through the tree, and into the sunlight. She would try to see again.