People of the Green Cloud ~ A short story by Susan Anwin

People of the Green Cloud

by Susan Anwin

The village was waking up slowly to another green morning. Its residents hurried along the flimsy network of suspension bridges in the weak light, trapped fireflies zigzagging angrily in their lanterns. Life buzzed in the cobweb of settlement; every tree was connected to every other tree, houses and bridges grew out of the trunks, an interconnected mesh of living green, under the green clouds, above the green mist.

The villagers didn’t need to mind their step, but a newcomer (not like there were any newcomers around here) would need to watch out; there were some who fell into the haze around the roots; noone knew what befell of them. What was beyond that swirling green in either direction was anyone’s guess – if there was anything, at all.

Azöb scurried along one of the bridges, running errands for his mother. He just wanted to get over and done with it – gathering spiderwebs with dewdrops caught in them, catching the noise a cat’s paw made, stealing the veil between night and morning. After he was done with all that, he’d be free to explore all the hidden nooks and crannies in the village. Even though he grew up here, there still were secrets to uncover, treasures to be found, as if the settlement was a little different every day. And then there was the beyond, where nobody in their right mind went, where his mother explicitly warned him not to go.

He didn’t stop to gather his friends – they wouldn’t want to go to the beyond, either.

He left the last shops and the last bridges behind. He scuttled along branches and twigs, jumping from one to the next. He went higher and higher in the crowns, until he reached the highest branch of the tallest tree, where he sat perched, boring his gaze into the green clouds. No matter how he strained his eyes, he couldn’t see past them. Disappointed, he left his vantage point and headed the opposite direction, scuttling down the trunk, way way down until he submerged into the fog, and the tree started branching again. He climbed along the longest root, until he reached the very end and hung there, casting accusing looks at the swirling green around him. Then he got an idea.

It took him weeks to build the flimsy contraption in secret, smuggling out parts in the small hours of the night to his hiding place outside the village. When he was ready at last, he rushed out of the village on the first possible occasion.

His mother might be mad at him, but she’ll be proud once she hears of the feat he accomplished, he thought, as he set to assemble the vehicle. Her son, going where no one went before him.

The hiding place was close to the lowest roots, so he didn’t have a long way to descend with the contraption strapped to his back. Once he reached the last point where he could still safely wedge between the roots, he checked the joints and ropes one last time, admired the light, yet sturdy structure, the graceful arch of the wings. He always had a hand for building things, did Azöb. He climbed into the single seat in the middle and pushed the glider away from the root. For a frightening minute the glider just bumped on in the green fog, tossed to and fro like a leaf in the storm, and he was afraid it’ll just corkscrew down into the abyss. After a few precarious moments he managed to straighten out its nose. Now the tangle of roots were his sky gliding back above his head – as much as he could see of them in the murk. He went lower, wanting to get out of the green blanket, wanting to know as always, what was beyond. After a while the fog started to get thinner and thinner, and he finally saw… nothing. A black chasm was yawning at him, sucking him in before he could alter his course, and he began to fall endlessly.

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