Clothed in Lights


(Tree in Tivoli, Copenhagen. Credit:


Though it is leafless

The proud tree is unashamed

It is clothed in lights



A Tree in Pyjamas




The trees are naked

Except one wearing ivy

Like it’s pyjamas


Moving Forwards part ‘The Last’

‘Nononononono,’ said Rodger as the branch jerked aside. When he looked up again everything looked blurred as if he had water in his eyes. ‘Not now, why now?’

The carabiner was still close, but every time the praying mantis dived he was pulled away from it. He looked down at the Spiral.

‘Stop it!’ he shouted, ‘hold still!’

The Spiral did not hear or did not understand. The branch dodged when the praying mantis came near and then jerked back as if trying to hit it.

Rodger looked up at Frederick who seemed to be pulling out his own hair. There was no time. He stared at the approaching praying mantis. It was worth the risk.

He took the stun gun from his trousers. Aimed. Waited until the praying mantis was within range. He pulled the trigger, just as the branch jerked away.

The thin wire shot from the gun and connected with the praying mantis. The praying mantis fell out of the air like a rock and pain exploded in Rodger’s hand. It raced up his arm and left a complete numbness behind.

As his muscles stiffened, Rodger saw his grip on the branch was slipping. Gravity made him lean backwards gently so he could see the hole in the sky. And Frederick reaching for him. Shouting. Rodger could not hear the words, but he could see his lips moving. Then Rodger was falling. Wind whistling in his ears.

A branch shot out for him and wrapped around his chest. The pain would have made Rodger cry out if he could move; the branch had probably bent one of his ribs. He saw Frederick running in and out of view, probably searching for anything in the machine that might help. Rodger cursed and swore on the inside, but his body was as responsive as a statue.

The hole in the sky flickered. The rope with the carabiner fell to the ground. And then there was nothing above him but the clear blue sky.

Moving forwards part 20

Rodger had barely taken his fifth step when he heard a gurgle behind him. He spun around. The Spiral was there head hanging low and the flute in its hand. A few seconds passed before Rodgers brain had fully processed the information.

‘You came back?’ said Rodger.

The Spiral said nothing and looked down at the path.

‘You came back!’ Rodger ran towards it beaming and almost threw his arms around it, but remembered the danger at the last minute and skidded to a halt. ‘I…’ he touched the Spiral’s cheek gently, ‘thank you.’

The Spiral backed away from him quietly and began playing the flute. Only then did it occur to Rodger. The Flute Bearer was nowhere in sight. Had something happened? But he was not able to formulate a question so that the Spiral would understand, and he probably would not understand its reply if he could. So he just walked along beside the tree and the Spiral, keeping their pace and checking his watch every so often.

The tree moved into place beneath the hole with ten minutes to spare. Rodger’s hands shook as he picked up the rope ladder. He could see Frederick sitting up there, but there was no time for greetings.

He rushed back to the tree and hung the rope ladder on the longest branch. Then he turned to the Spiral and gestured upwards wildly. The Spiral had stopped playing when he went to retrieve the rope ladder. Now it was looking at the ground, panting. Rodger moved close and placed his hand gently on the Spiral’s cheek.

‘I know you’ve been playing for hours, but I’m running out of time. Please, just a little while longer.’ And he pointed at Frederick sitting in the hole above them. The Spiral put the flute to its lips.

‘Thank you,’ Rodger jumped into the safety harness, onto the rope ladder and grabbed it tightly, ignoring his complaining muscles. The branches of the tree unfurled towards the sky, the rope ladder was hoisted up and Rodger with it.

The branches were far from long enough to reach the machine, but Frederick seemed to get the point and lowered down their spare rope. With a carabiner at the end.

‘I love you Frederick,’ said Rodger with a smile. When the tree finished uncurling, the carabiner was still dangling about a metre over his head. Rodger moved his stun gun to the back of his trousers before he climbed from the rope ladder onto the branch itself and inched along it until it grew too thin to be safe.  He clung onto the branch with his legs and reached out for the carabiner.

There was a buzz. The branch jerked. Rodger’s face slammed into the branch and blood flowed from his nose. Rodger turned his head. The praying mantis was diving for him.

Moving Forwards part 20

Rodger looked at his watch. One and a half hours. He paced back and forth. Looked again. Two hours. They were not coming back.

‘Shit,’ Rodger circled around the tree. What now? He could not possibly reach the hole on his own. ‘Shit,’ he covered his face in his hands.

No, wait. Perhaps he was overreacting. Perhaps they would be back in the morning. Yes, that was more likely. They just did not think that it was necessary with the seaweed. And he really should be grateful that he was not going to be drenched in cold seawater for once. So there was nothing else to do than get some sleep and wait for the morning.

He sat down on his rucksack with his back against the tree. Closed his eyes. Took a deep breath. Shifted his position. Took several more deep breaths. The praying mantis seemed to be attracted by the flute music. No, not just ‘seemed’, the Spiral had made it clear that it was attracted by the flute music. And they had been playing the flute all day.

Who was he kidding? They had left him here to die. And perhaps that was best. In this dimension they just wanted to get rid of him. And in his own dimension no one cared if he was there or not. Except Frederick. Frederick had been… Frederick. Almost like a big brother. Sometimes he had been annoying, but mostly he had been the best friend Rodger had ever had. Frederick would probably blame himself the rest of his life if he came home without Rodger.

That was no good. Rodger rose to his feet. He could not give up without trying. But he had tried. And he had found a way. And the way out had slipped between his fingers. Or thrown a rock at him and gone back to the ocean.

And why had they done that? Because he got a little impatient? He paced up and down the path staring at the place where they had disappeared into the waves. Would they not have done the same in his position? It was not as if he hurt the Spiral. That damned Flute Bearer just overreacted to every little thing. And the Spiral just tagged along.

Had he not saved them both when the praying mantis attacked? They should be thankful. Was a little help to much to ask in return? Ungrateful little bastards. He picked up a stone and threw it into the waves.

‘I hope it knocks you cold!’ he shouted at the sea and tossed another. And one more. He went back to the tree breathing heavily.

He squatted down beside the tree resting one hand on the bark. He could feel a beginning headache. Probably his body telling him he was exhausted. And this shouting and tossing stones was not helping. He settled down with his back against the tree. He had to rest. At least until morning. He checked his watch. At least without them tagging along he should be able to reach the place much faster.

Rodger woke with a start and looked at his watch. But he could just as well have looked at the sky. The sun had only just crept over the horizon revealing a sky completely devoid of clouds. Rodger sighed. Was the weather taunting him as well now? He rummaged through his rucksack. He still had plenty of food left. He tossed a packet of biscuits to the ground. And what did that matter if he did not get back? He massaged his temples. Tossing biscuits did not help either.

After a light breakfast he took one last look at the tree and moved on towards the hole in the sky.



Read part one here:

Moving Forwards part 19

He marched back to the mermaids. The Flute Bearer was still playing. The Spiral slithered about gurgling and gesturing, sometimes looking into the sky.

‘Please,’ said Rodger, ‘can’t you make it go any faster?’

The Flute Bearer kept playing and the Spiral kept gurgling. Rodger sighed and marched off in front again.

During the day, the mermaids took turns playing their flutes. Rodger walked back and forth numerous times, but no matter how fast he walked in front of the mermaids and the tree, the tree did not move any faster.

When night came and the mermaids insisted on stopping, Rodger checked his watch. The Machine would do the next jump in about 37 hours. If it had just been him, it would be plenty of time, but now he was not so sure.

The next day was torture. As the sun raced across the sky, the tree crept forwards at a snail’s pace. He tried to push the Spiral forwards, but it just gurgled and pointed to the tree, and he did not dare touch the Flute Bearer for fear it might leave. It would probably only take even longer if there was only one mermaid to play. To top it off, all through the day his thigh burned and itched in equal measure.

When the sky grew dark and they stopped playing, Rodger went up close to the Spiral.

‘Look, I’m really grateful for your help,’ he said, trying to figure out how he would mime ‘grateful’, ‘but it’s very important that I get there in time.’ He pointed to his watch. No, they did not have those. He moved his hand across the sky from horizon to horizon. ‘So, please,’ he folded his hands, ‘please can we move on?’ He took he Spiral’s hand and turned to go, but the Spiral pulled its hand back.

‘Please,’ said Rodger.

The Spiral gurgled and pointed to the water.

‘Oh, come on.’ Rodger Grabbed its hand, yanked it forwards. The Spiral fell forwards and pain shot up Rodger’s arm as a stone connected with his elbow.

‘Ouch!’ Rodger let go of the Spiral and cradled his arm. The Flute Bearer slithered past him without looking at him, touched the Spiral on the shoulder and moved towards the water. The Spiral looked from Rodger to the Flute Bearer and turned to follow.

‘No, wait,’ said Rodger. The Spiral looked over its shoulder, but continued into the water.


The mermaids disappeared beneath the waves. After an hour, they had still not returned with any seaweed.



Read part one here:

Moving Forwards part 18

‘Oh, come on,’ said Rodger. In three strides he was behind the Flute Bearer and snatched the flute from its hand. ‘I won’t let you ruin my only chance.’ He gave the flute back to the Spiral and glared at the Flute Bearer. The Flute Bearer glared back, but did nothing more to stop the Spiral.

The music made all the trees react at once. They uncurled and stretched towards them. Rodger’s heart beat faster. As they went to the path again, Rodger kept an eye on the Flute Bearer. The Flute Bearer ignored him and instead kept glancing into the sky.

When they reached the border between the stones and the earth, they paused to cut the net holding the earth and one of the trees swam out to them. Ever so slowly.

‘Can’t you make it go any faster?’ Rodger pointed at the tree and jerked his hand towards the hole in the sky. The Spiral saw him, but kept playing its slow tune, and the tree continued at the same pace.

‘You could make the branches move quickly,’ Rodger pointed at the tree and reached out in front of him as if trying to catch some invisible insect. ‘Why not the roots?’ He mimed wading through water with slow dragging steps. The Flute Bearer was studying him intently and with… amusement? It made a small chortling sound and gurgled something to the Spiral. The Spiral stopped playing to cover its face in its hands. The spluttering that followed might very well be laughter.

‘Hey,’ said Rodger, ‘stop it!’

The Flute Bearer looked very smug.

‘And you,’ Rodger pointed at the Flute Bearer, ‘I don’t see you trying to make yourself understood.’

The Flute Bearer looked away.

‘Argh, look,’ Rodger stepped in front of the Flute Bearer, ‘It seems what you want most is to get rid of me. So,’ Rodger picked up a small stone, ‘imagine this is me,’ Rodger pointed to himself then the stone, ‘If you get me up there,’ he pointed to the hole in the sky, ‘I’ll be gone,’ he closed his hand around the stone, let it disappear into his jacket sleeve and opened his hand. ‘Gone.’

The Flute Bearer studied his empty hand.

‘Do you get it?’ Rodger flipped his hand over to show there was nothing there. ‘Gone. I’ll be out of your hair.’

The Flute Bearer turned away from him.

‘If you had any hair.’

It slithered closer to the island, cut some more of the net and loosened the earth with its hands. While the Spiral was still laughing, it began to play.

The tree moved a little faster now, but not much. Rodger waited for the tree to reach the stones then strode off in front. When the music seemed to grow distant, he stopped and looked back. The tree was about halfway between him and the island. He put a hand to his forehead. This could not be happening. He finally found life. He finally found help. He finally found the solution to his problem. Was everything going to be ruined just because his ‘solution’ was too slow?



Read part one here:

Moving Forwards part 17

The Spiral rose up slowly, stretched and slithered over to Rodger. He noticed that it now had its own flute around its neck.

‘What, are you alright now?’

The Spiral stretched and gurgled and pointed to the sun.

‘I’ll take that as a yes,’ said Rodger, ‘can you get your friend up?’ he pointed to the other mermaid. Even though the Spiral had a flute as well, he still thought of the other one as the Flute Bearer. ‘We have to hurry to the machine,’ he pointed the way that he wanted to go.

The Spiral slithered over to the Flute Bearer and tickled it with its tail. The Flute Bearer jumped up and threw itself at the Spiral gurgling.

‘Argh,’ Rodger stepped close to them, ‘we don’t have time for that,’ he grabbed the Spiral by the wrist and strode down the path dragging it along. The Spiral gurgled and resisted at first, but after a while it seemed to get his meaning and it slithered along beside him without him having to drag it.

Rodger felt bad about being such a killjoy, but he would feel worse if he missed the machine. He just had to get inside before the next jump.

Rodger made sure they kept a fast pace most of that day, but even so when night came, they had only just passed the spot where he slept the second night. Rodger wanted to press on, but the mermaids pointed very insistently to the water. When they came up with seaweed again, Rodger stopped them before they could throw it over him.

‘Do you really think that’s necessary?’ He pushed the Spiral away gently. The Spiral made a very convincing buzzing sound and Rodger let them arrange the cold seaweed camouflage.

The next day was not as cloudless as the previous, but it was still warm. When they reached the end of the islands, the hole in the sky was very clear. Rodger pointed it out to the mermaids with a laugh. It was all right, he was going to make it. The mermaids did not seem thrilled.

Rodger pointed to their flutes, to the nearest tree, to himself, to the hole in the sky. The mermaids stared at him. He went to the beach at one end of the island and drew in the sand.

First himself as a stick figure then a mermaid as a snake tail with the body of a stick figure. He added the hole in the sky and drew Frederick in the hole. Then he drew one of the trees in its curled state. He pointed to the Spiral’s flute and drew the tree with its branches stretched towards the sky. Then he pointed to himself and drew a stick figure in the branches.

‘You see?’ he said, ‘I just need you to bring one of these trees.’ Rodger pointed to the trees. The mermaids gurgled and gestured to each other.

‘Please,’ said Rodger.

The Spiral turned to him and made the buzzing sound.

‘I know, but it’s very important.’ Rodger stabbed at the drawing of the hole in the sky with one finger. The mermaids gurgled some more, their gestures became faster. Then the Spiral took the flute from its neck and put it to its lips. The Flute Bearer yanked the flute away while gurgling and gesticulating violently. The Spiral tried to grab it back, but the Flute Bearer held it out of reach.



read part one here:

Moving Forwards part 15

The praying mantis rushed towards him and something else reached out above him to meet it. The branches struck the praying mantis in the middle of its dive, knocking it off course. It zoomed up into the air regaining its balance and dived once more. One of the branches reached out and smacked it on the head. Another curled around one of its legs. The praying mantis climbed higher, getting its leg out of harm’s way.

As Rodger blinked, the praying mantis hissed, waved its forelegs at him and buzzed off into the distance.

Rodger lay still staring at the sky, trying to regain control over his breathing.

He was alive.

He was safe. For the moment at least. He sat up. His thigh burned, but it was possible to ignore. He looked behind him. The tree was swimming back through the earth moving to the music. The mermaids were close by. The one with the spiral on its forehead was playing the flute and the other one looked a bit, what? Grumpy? It was difficult to tell with those black eyes.

When the tree was back in place, the Spiral placed the necklace holding the flute around the grumpy one’s neck. They placed their hands on each other’s cheeks and touched foreheads. They stood like that for a while and Rodger felt he was intruding a very intimate moment. He shifted his feet and looked at everything other than the mermaids until they moved apart again.

Rodger cleared his throat.

‘So, err…’

The Flute Bearer turned its back to him and slithered towards the water, but stopped when it saw that the Spiral was not following.

‘I’m really, very sorry,’ said Rodger and looked the Spiral in the eye. Then he remembered that that might be a threat and he looked down at his feet instead. ‘I really need your help.’

The Spiral approached him and touched his cheek with one cold hand. Rodger swallowed. What was he supposed to do? He put his own hand on the Spiral’s cheek. The Flute Bearer gurgled and the Spiral moved away from him towards the water.

‘Waitwaitwait,’ said Rodger and ran between them and the water, ‘I still have to get back.’ He pointed frantically back the way he had come. To them. To himself. Back the way he had come. When the mermaids still hesitated, he pushed the Spiral gently in the direction he meant. The Spiral gurgled and pointed to him, to a tree, to itself, to the water, to itself, to the same tree.

‘You want me to wait for you at that tree?’ Rodger pointed to himself and then the tree.

The Spiral pushed him towards the tree.

‘Alright,’ said Rodger, ‘but you better hurry back.’ He tried to mime them slithering back quickly, but the only answer he got was another push from the Spiral.

Rodger settled himself against the tree and looked at his watch. This was the fourth night since he had left Frederick and the machine. There was still time. If only he could make the mermaids understand. He hoped they would be back soon. And he especially hoped that the Flute Bearer would not convince the Spiral to not come back at all.



Read part one here:

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