Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Eighth of December - A Riddle

The sky was a wash of purple and orange punctuated with adamantine stars, and it never changed. Underneath grew strawberries - miles upon miles of them in neat, perfect rows stretching into the distance between the sparse trees.

Jael sat alone in his tree. Not many people had their own tree. He was unusual in that respect. Piem was his closest neighbour, living in a large tree with two others, close enough to talk.

"Piem!" Jael shouted.

Piem appeared from behind one of the thick branches and raised an eyebrow, twitching his overlarge moustache.

"I'm going to do it today," said Jael.

Piem walked carefully along the branch that brought him closest to Jael's tree, sat and stared thoughtfully into the middle distance. "You want to end up like one of them?" he asked, pointing to a nearby tree from which three corpses hung, suspended from the neck. The bodies bounced against each other gently in the breeze. "They say that's what happens to you if you go down."

"I don't think they're real. Have you ever looked at them up close? They haven't got faces. They're fakes."

Piem looked unconvinced, but Jael ploughed on. "Piem, can I tell you something?"

He nodded.

"I've been feeling strange lately. This whole place... the fields, the trees..." he fell silent.

"Spit it out, then."

"I... Look, I'm not convinced any of it's real."

"You're so weird," said Piem, grinning through his walrus moustache.

"Come with me," said Jael with unusual urgency. "I'm going down to the strawberries. Today."

"You're always looking. Why do you keep looking?"

"It's better than being like those fools out there," replied Jael, gesturing in the direction of a cluster of trees on a hill. "Who wants to spend their whole lives with their eyes closed?"

Piem shrugged. "They find it easier. They don't trust people who look down all the time."

"Well I don't think it's such a bad thing," Jael replied. "The longer you look at the sky, the more stars you see. The more I look into the strawberries, the more... the more..."

"The more what? What have you seen?"

A set of swinging corpses on a nearby tree rocked in the growing wind. Jael didn't answer.

"It's Wednesday. Shall we go tree-hopping?" asked Piem in a falsely bright voice.

Jael sighed. "You realise these fields go on forever? I mean literally, forever. There's no point going sideways - we'll never get anywhere going sideways - the only way out is down."

"But why do you want to get out?"

"Is all this really enough for you? I want to be someone."

"You already are someone! You've got your own tree man! Most of the others have at least seven to a branch! There's at least two others in mine!"

"What do you mean, 'at least'?" asked Jael.

Piem looked darkly into the upper branches. "I think there's another one up there somewhere... But that's neither here nor there - your tree has the highest branches in the forest. How can you be so dissatisfied?"

"That doesn't matter much to me any more. It's getting harder. I don't know. Maybe it's me, but doesn't this place feel a bit dreamlike to you?"

Jael and Piem turned as a group of people living in a nearby tree struck up a lively song, all singing it together with their eyes screwed tightly shut.

"It's all wrong," said Jael.

"You're not feeling yourself," said Piem. "It's all right. Just stop looking down for a while and you'll feel better. It'll all work out in the end, Jael. Relax."

"You know, I think I disagree. The more you look, the more you see what's really there. There's something under the strawberries, Piem." His voice was suddenly conspiratorial. "There's someone there - with eyes - eyes the colour of... the colour of..." he gestured in circles as he searched for a metaphor. "... cranberry sauce," he finished, lamely.

"Come on man, you can't see very well - you wear those spectacles for God's sake! You sure you're not misunderstanding what you've seen?"

"No! I mean yes! The more you look the more you learn to... oh, I don't know... 'tune in', I suppose. Haven't you ever tried?"

Piem shook his head, his face blank.

"It's all right," said Jael, with a half-hearted shrug. "Maybe I am the only one. Piem?"



Jael jumped from the branch and hit the strawberries - and vanished.

Piem leapt to his feet. But Jael did not return. He was gone. And in his heart, Piem knew that one day his time would come too. But not yet. He had a few years yet.

(Written 28/02/17. This one's a riddle! So I'm not going to explain what it means here - but if you have a guess, or can figure out what's going on, please put your thoughts in the comments section! Who are Jael and Piem? and where are they? Let me know if you figure it out...)


(Update - well done to everyone who guessed, and especially to those who got it right! Here is the explanation...

Lyrics to Strawberry Fields Forever by the Beatles:

"Let me take you down 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever

Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It's getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn't matter much to me

No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you know you can't tune in
But it's all right
That is I think it's not too bad

Always, no, sometimes think it's me
But you know I know when it's a dream
I think a 'No' I mean a "Yes"
But it's all wrong
That is I think I disagree

Cranberry Sauce"

Jael = J.L. (John Lennon)
Piem = P.M. (Paul McCartney)
8th December = the date of the murder of John Lennon.)

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