When I first woke up and saw they had shut me in a hollowed tree, I scraped, cried, scraped. The wood was too thick, and as the insides grew back they restricted my movements. Now all that’s left is a pocket of air, in front of my mouth. A big one, it must be, because if I stick out my tongue I can’t touch the edges. It gives me time to think. Still, my thoughts never turn to escape.

Mostly, I listen. Sometimes cars drive over the nearby track. Sometimes walkers pass by, talking to each other. Once a couple etched their initials into the bark, and their knife cut my shoulder – the shoulder pressed up against the edge here. It astonishes me that, whoever is behind this, they put me somewhere so narrow that I can’t even stretch out, but have to stand folded on one side. The perpetrators won’t get away with that. When I get to the authorities, my second charge against them, after putting me here, will be that they caused me these cramps. In fact, the cramps are so bad that I’ll make it my first charge. The one relief is the intermittent currents that rise through the trunk; as water is drawn up from the soil I am gently lifted a fraction, before dropping again under my own weight. When I could still move a little, they would click my arms and legs into place. Now that the wood almost fully regrown, the effect is lessening. Soon the currents will be little help at all. So actually, why mention them.

It would be very hard to explain why I don’t think about escape. I’ll explain anyway, just to prove it; I won’t take long. For one thing, I’m not sure what to escape for. I don’t want a car, or walks in the countryside, or to etch my initials in a tree. But I know I’d end up doing those things anyway. I’d buy a car to get to a new job; I’d go for a walk one day because someone recommended it for clearing the head; if my future lover wanted to etch our initials into a tree, I’d have to play along. It would be the least I could do.

Still, I struggle even to picture those things. I don’t remember them, so I might as well forget them. That should be easy enough, only it’s not, because I keep hearing rumbles and footsteps, and feeling something sharp in my shoulder. It’s not very logical to sense things that have gone, and so are forgotten; or not yet here and so unknown; or here and so forgotten but not. But there are rumbles, footsteps and a sharpness in my shoulder, and they each remind me of something I can’t picture.
But none of this is important. What I wanted to say is that I’ve been put here out of malice. What could the perpetrators have held against me? If I could put aside the rumbles, the footsteps and the sharp pain just there, I’d tell you everything, and you’d see that I’m like you: a person of good character. In case you have doubts, rest assured that if I could move, it would be no trouble to prove that I have a body. Only I can’t, which makes proving very difficult. I could stick out my tongue and show you that there is a pocket of air in front of my mouth, thus proving I have a tongue and a mouth, but when I think about it I can’t.

I might just say this – as I’ve said everything out loud so far – I might say this, out loud: if I were out there, I would be scared of being done. The price of driving a car or walking or etching is to be done. All you have to do is recognise that you are closer to being done at the end than you were at the start. Here, I just don’t know when I am at the end or beginning or middle. I treat things as if I were in the middle because then I don’t have to start saying what I’m saying now or stop because I’m already finished. And I haven’t said anything yet. What I say is that there are rumbles and steps outside and a sharpness just there.

But who sees the light pouring in? Who sees the boots? Who hears the rumble turn shrill? Then the teeth cut through and it falls over.

About Jonny Elling

My interest is in anything and everything to do with human culture. I'm a contributor to Don't Do It, The Oxonian Review and The Oxymoron, and at the moment I'm writing my first novel.

My interest is in anything and everything to do with human culture. I'm a contributor to Don't Do It, The Oxonian Review and The Oxymoron, and at the moment I'm writing my first novel.

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