Part Two: Up the Tall Tree
Chomping on a piece of jerky, Wyclef makes a decision.
“I’m going to the Far Side, today. I’ll get myself as lost as I can tomorrow.”
Renewed with vim and vigor, he sips his canteen, double checks that his gear is all fastened, and sprints forward. The rush of greens and browns as he cuts through the woods invigorates him, sending more and more energy into his legs. Soft stings on his cheeks from low-hanging leaves barely register. His feet, long attuned to the dips and rises of the ground, toss dirt and decayed foliage in his wake.
He can’t really lose himself in these woods. Not anymore.
Here, in his woods, Wyclef feels alive. He knows them better than the birds, better than the ants. They are his dominion to explore, and to discover, and to rule. Here, in his woods, he is free to be Wyclef, with no worries about what others think or how he’s supposed to act.
By the time he gets to the Far Side, he’s not even winded. There was a time before, when he first began to prowl the 500 acres owned by his family, that Wyclef couldn’t make it to the Far Side in a day, yet alone without being completely exhausted. Now, the journey is a blink of the eye.
He crosses the threshold, out of the woods, expecting to see the vast farmland beyond. The patchwork fields, with their patterns of green and gold and lavender and their puzzle-piece symmetry, bring him to a calm place. A place of tranquility.
What he sees is something else entirely. Something horrible.
“Oh my… What’s happened?”
Perhaps his eyes have deceived him. Perhaps this grouping of farms is a fluke, and everything else is as it should be.
Heart thumping, lip quivering, Wyclef turns away and finds the Tall Tree. From its peak, he can see for miles in all directions. Somedays, he uses it as a sort of crow’s nest, searching for new land. Other days, it’s more of a lighthouse. A place where he pretends to bring the rains safely to shore. Today, it might be the most important tree in the entire woods.
Wyclef scales the tree as quick as a cat, hand over hand, using its ladder-like limbs to propel him to the top. From there, he holds his eyes closed.
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”
He doesn’t want to see what’s out there, in the world beyond. He cannot stomach if his fear comes true.
“This all just a bad dream.”
It’s not Wyclef. It’s real. And you must open your eyes. It’s time to embrace your destiny.
He cries, shaking his head. His cheeks redden and tears streak down his face, squeezing between tightly clasped eye lids. A deep breath, one last sob, and he opens his eyes.
There’s his family’s home, safe and snug, exactly where it should be. There’s the far stretching emerald treetops. There’s the long, winding path to Rinn, and farther to the City itself.
And then there’s utter desolation. Farm houses burn, fields are fallow and ruined, as if dug up and covered in ash overnight. No flocks of sheep roam. No cattle graze. He can see prone spots laying haphazardly across the fields, but refuses to admit what they are. Everything he’s ever known, all the people he’s grown up with, are gone. Senselessly destroyed. And for what?
Looking out upon the devastation, Wyclef realizes he has a choice to make. He’s never been a hero before, and no one who knows him would consider him brave. But he can’t just do nothing.
No, no you can’t Wyclef. You have to do something. But what are you going to do?
1) See if any of the farm families need help.
2) Run home to see what Father says.
3) Hide in the woods for the rest of the afternoon and hope someone else takes action.
The choice is yours. Choose wisely.
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t… I really don’t know what to do! Oh please, oh please, someone send help…”