Under The Tree

A devastated cry of a bird followed Mako as he walked on what he hoped was the way to his home. He only just managed to duck out of the way as that same bird hurtled through the air, its piercing shriek deafening Mako for a couple of seconds before he regained the ability to hear. Only there was nothing to hear in this desert of beaten trees and broken up houses.


The bird’s anxious call probably sought out close ones, perhaps a little son or daughter bird, lost in the same storm that had engulfed and destroyed Artiget. Mako stared at the desolate environment unfolding before his eyes, to the right, to the left, behind…


A speck of orange caught his attention. How had he missed that? Traversing a few steps back over the mounds of snow, Mako crouched on his knees and dug around the orange patch of – what was it? Fur? His fingers hit the solid surface of a fallen tree and he pushed back the snow to find the long orange strands of fur or hair stuck beneath the fallen trunk. In panic, Mako frantically dug his nails into the snow, trying to excavate the hair from the deadweight of the dark tree. To no avail. The tree would not budge.


“Mako?” a thin voice rasped and trickled out behind him. Mako swivelled round to see a patch of that same orange colour staring right at him, the rest of the shape the orange patch was attached to stood as a silhouette against the blinding background of the blue sky, the sun emerging now to break the day out of its grief.


“Mako!” The shape slowly, determinedly moved towards him, and suddenly Mako was standing up, trying not to fall back into the snow as dizziness momentarily clouded his vision, and hobbling excitedly towards the orange-headed figure.

“Ari!” His voice broke as he hugged his friend, pressing her towards his body for warmth and comfort.


She had found him. She was alive!


“Ari, your hair-”


“-got stuck under the tree when it fell. Almost crushed me! I had to – had to rip it to get free.” Ari stood, in clear view now, shaking her unevenly torn ginger mane from side to side, sticky snow still tangled in the strands.


As the sunlight behind her shone stronger, the snow in her hair lit up and for a moment it looked like her hair was aflame, until Ari shifted her gaze towards the direction Mako had been heading in.


“Is anyone alive?”


“I don’t know.” Mako could not lie. He would have; he wanted to. He was afraid of the truth. But he couldn’t. Not to Ari. And not as fear gripped the very bottom of his empty stomach and churned his insides, brewing the ugliest, fiercest feeling of loneliness the young boy had ever experienced.


“We need to find someone, Mako.” Ari’s voice sounded strangely firm.


He watched her set off, ginger crop bobbing up and down, onto where the road had been and towards where Mako’s home stood. Or had stood?


“Wh-what about your-?” Mako struggled to finish the sentence, but Ari finished it for him.


“Dead.” She didn’t look back. She didn’t falter on the word death. There seemed to be no hesitation in her determined stride.


Mako shuddered, though his body was no longer trembling from the cold, and his stiff limbs had regained some sort of feeling.


Solitude. They were bouncing on the edge of a dark, hard truth of solitude. Or had Ari already fallen into its unrecoverable chasm?


Ari had found him, but perhaps it would have been better had she not woken up to a world where she was the last remaining member of her family – a world where her dearest ones, her mother, her father, were no longer. Would Mako have wanted to wake up to such a world?


He would soon find out.

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Nice hook at the end, Anna. The way you describe the hair is great. I held my breath. That's what you are looking for in your reader - a physiological change. So now they are on their search. I still wonder if Mako is a bit young. You have the option of having them develop a romantic relationship which will allow for another kind of tension to enter the story...a will they or won't they....kind of tension. I can so clearly visualise what you are describing. It is very evocative.

Thank you so much for your comment, Suraya. I went back to the older chapters and changed his age to be twelve - on the cusp of his thirteenth birthday. That still makes him a child, but one that is more likely to develop adult-like behaviours and transition into adulthood faster than a ten year-old!