Don't you stay behind, don't you stay behind, they said. So I stayed. They didn't know what I was. They almost never found out.
About this creation
Life had accelerated quite dramatically for Mayor Asbestos Jones since his projects had really begun gathering steam. The boredom that once sat in his chair had been washed away by a flood of ministers and letters and all kinds of random communication.
"Mayor," he muttered under his breath. "More like telegram officer."
He reached for his plate of food. This tranquility was rare now.
His peace was broken almost as soon as he touched his food. The heavy footsteps of the Minister of Human Development and Popular Health burst through the doors.
"Mayor Jones, sir," he huffed. "We have a situation in the old forest."
Asbestos Jones sighed.
"The old forest? We have a hundred old forests. Which old forest?" he demanded.
"The old forest, sir. The forest we are clearing for homes for the homeless."
"Oh, that one," Asbestos said absentmindedly. "What happened?"
The minister marched right up to Asbestos' desk. He was clearly bothered.
"There's something down there. It's - you should go see for yourself, sir."
Asbestos ignored him.
"You couldn't just telephone me?"
"We don't have one, sir. With all due respect, you're the only one that does."
"What's this garbage for if nobody uses it?" he asked. "What about the telegram?"
"There isn't a wire that goes out to the old forest, sir."
"You could have used the nearest one, then," Asbestos said.
"Look, sir. There's something down there. You really should just see for yourself."
The mayor rose to his feet, grumbling. He picked up one of his canes.
"Which one should I take, minister?"
"Excuse me, sir?"
"Let me tell you," Asbestos said. "This one."
He took a plain, wood cane and placed it in his palm.
"I save the fancy one for real problems," he said.
The minister turned his back and rolled his eyes.
Asbestos Jones came out from behind his desk.
"Let's see this problem of yours, minister."
The Construction Site, Blackwoods, Olympia.
The construction site was, just as the mayor expected, alive with death. Trees were cut down, underbrush was pulled out, earth was scrubbed sterile, coal was burned. A sickly mix of smoke and morning dew swam in the air.
"So, minister. Where is this problem of yours?" Asbestos asked after a long silence.
"It is just ahead, sir."
Asbestos gestured with his cane.
"Why is construction stopping here? We've barely made it into the woods yet!"
"Because of the problem, sir. That's why I wanted you to see for yourself. We may have to cancel this housing project"
"What? Why didn't you say so earlier?
"I did, sir. Five minutes ago, when you said it was too quiet. I said so ten minutes ago as well, when you said the same thing," the minister replied, obviously exasperated.
Asbestos ignored him, instead tapping a large wooden object with his cane.
"What's all this?" he asked.
"A steam engine, sir," the minister said. "You insisted in the text of the project that we use this as an opportunity to test the latest in Olympian technology."
The mayor raised his eyebrows.
"it's uglier than I expected."
He looked up, sniffing.
"Tell me, minister. Is it always this foggy?"
The minister sighed.
"Yes, sir. That 'fog' is largely the exhaust of the steam engine. If you don't mind, sir, I would like to show you the problem sooner than later, so I don't waste any time."
"Right, of course," Asbestos said. "One more question, minister."
The minister turned around. He closed his eyes.
"This, steam engine, all this - does it seem at all inefficient to you?"
"Yes, sir, it does. But it powers the crane. It's necessary. Unless, of course, we don't use the latest technology as per your request."
"Oh, no, keep using it, of course," Asbestos said quickly. "It's just...it does seem a little excessive. I'll have to get the Ministry of Steam Engineering on this one."
Asbestos thought he heard a voice in the mist as he and the minister moved on. I do believe...*
"It's probably nothing," he thought. Oh, I do believe,
*italicized words from I Found a Reason by Cat Power.
"Here it is," the minister said." In all the things you see.
Asbestos Jones peered over his broad shoulder for a better look. He was greeted by the strangest thing he had ever seen. What comes, is better,
He wasn't sure he had come across anything quite the same. The forest floor was mottled with knobbly black roots, a testament to the age of the Blackwoods. Here, the twisting legs of an ageless tree plunged deep into the soil. As they went, they rolled around a glowing yellow orb, brilliant like a cat's eye. It pulsed gently, sometimes more brightly... Than what came before.
Asbetos Jones frowned.
"Now tell me, minister. What. Is that?" he asked.
"I don't know, sir". And you better come, come, come, come, to me,
All at once the forest floor began rumbling. The ancient roots shook as ripples tore through the earth. The orb slowly grew brighter,
And brighter, ending in a blinding flash. The roar of the earth rose to a deafening peak.
Almost as suddenly as it had began, the earth stopped its shaking, and the orb's brilliance vanished. Better come, come come, come come, to me,
"How come it just did that?" Asbestos asked, startled.
"That's the first time, sir," the minister replied, equally startled. "It has never done anything like that before."
Both stared in awe at the orb. Slowly, its light returned, and it began pulsing gently again. Better run, run run, run run, to me,
The minister turned to Asbestos Jones. Better come...
"What should we do, sir? I'm not sure it's safe to remove it."
"And I absolutely agree!" Asbestos said. "Just build around it. We can find a solution later."
As they talked, a third figure appeared, seeming to falling out of the fog.
Asbestos turned toward the stranger. Oh, I do believe,
"What are you doing here? Get back to work!"
The stranger didn't move.
"My name is Amasoma. Do you know what you have found? Do you even know what has happened, or what this means?"
"Well, yes..." the mayor started.
Amasoma gestured toward the glowing orb.
"That, is the Heart of the Forest," she said. "It is even older than the trees of the Blackwoods. Leave it be, mayor. You don't know what it is you have discovered." In all the things you see.
Asbestos' voice rose in indignation.
"Do you know who I am?"
He reached toward her, but the mist grew thick around them. He couldn't see. What comes is better,
"Minister!" He shouted. "Turn that infernal engine off! I'm drowning in this slime!"
"Yes, sir!" The minister shouted back.
By the time the smoke cleared, Amasoma was gone.
"Who was that?" Asbestos asked.
"I don't know, sir," the minister replied. "I've never seen her before."
"I don't like her," Asbestos said. "Do you know what, minister?"
Asbestos straightened his collar.
"Destroy that thing. That thing she called the Heart of the Forest."
"Are you sure, sir?"
"I am. Minister, I don't like being told where to build."
* * * *
Thornley lay in his bed. He couldn't sleep. None of the old tricks were working. Counting sheep, tossing to the other side...he just couldn't sleep.
"The flower I picked the other day died today," he thought to himself.
He began thinking of all the flowers he had picked, when they had died. So many of them in the past - it was like counting sheep. What comes is better, than what came before.
"This one died faster than the others," he thought, yawning. And you better run run, run run, to me,
He yawned again, and turned over. Better run, run run, run run, to me,
"Maybe it will grow back or something."
Better come, come come, come come, to me...
*italicized words from I Found a Reason by Cat Power.