A Childhood Dream
Bored and restless, the girl wandered aimlessly out of her house and down her quiet street, away from the centre of her small home town. Without really knowing where she was going, she made her way to the small forest which ran along the back fences of all the houses in her street. Deciding that maybe a quick walk in nature might cure her of her restlessness, she entered into the cool, green mustiness beneath the trees. She sauntered along the path with her hands in her pockets, taking her time.
The girl was heading towards a small clearing in the forest that she had thought of as 'hers' ever since she had found it many years ago. She remembered that day, long ago, when she had wandered along this rough track much as she was doing now. She had had the same sense of being drawn, somehow, to her little space in the forest. Whenever there was nothing pressing to occupy her mind, it seemed to call to her.
Stepping carefully between two bushes and ducking her head to avoid a low branch, she turned from the trail and walked deeper into the woods. Here the trees blocked out all sight and sounds of human activity; she was truly alone. As the trail was left behind her, she started to listen for the rushing, bubbling sound of the small river that signalled she was getting closer to her destination.
But silence seemed to press in all around her, and it was only with an effort that she was able to shrug off the sudden feeling of claustrophobia that descended upon her. Suddenly the air seemed far too close for comfort. She told herself that there had been no rain recently, and that perhaps she was still too far away to hear the sound of the stream. After all, it had been many years since her last visit to this place. But despite the logic in her mind her heart quickened, as did her steps.
Soon she could deny it no longer; the sound of the stream was nowhere to be heard. With an odd sense of foreboding, she pushed through the undergrowth and into her clearing. Her discovery forced her to stop dead in her tracks.
The image of this place in her mind was so clear, so perfect. A crystalline waterfall tumbled over the edge of a small rock ledge and fell gently into the quiet pool below, to trickle away and continue its journey through the forest. The floor of the clearing was carpeted with soft, green grass. And placed in the centre of the small open space, a smooth, grey rock that had provided her with a seat for countless visits of her childhood.
But the image in front of her eyes was nothing like what her mind had remembered. The sight before her was one of ugliness and decay. The flow of water along the stream bed had slowed to a trickle of greenish brown sludge that dripped down into the pool and covered its surface with a foul-smelling, oily sheen. Much of the grass had been ripped up by the roots and strewn around in earthy clumps, to make way for a shallow hole that had been dug into the ground to contain a fire. The blackened ashes had been rubbed over the remaining grass, and litter lay in piles around the clearing.
And the stone, her stone, where she had spent so many hours in quiet contemplation... It lay in its place in the centre of the clearing, smeared with ash and ugly graffiti, a symbol of the destruction of her childhood world. The girl dropped to her knees beside it and brushed a trembling hand across its defiled surface.
She discovered something that day.
In this world, even childhood dreams could be destroyed.