by Christopher Kish
The old man in worn overalls stared at his family wall. Through all the pictures of lush green groves, bubbling brooks and grass covered knolls, one thing remained consistent, her: Flowing brown hair, emerald eyes and milky skin. In every picture, from the day his family left Ireland to the present she was there. It was his family's legacy to care for her. He also had loved her.
“Nepadari,” he whispered, “My sweet Nepadari” touching the last picture for a moment, his shoulders slumped, and he went outside.
The door creaked shut as he came onto the porch. The woodland orchestra quieted for a moment, and began again. Tyler breathed deeply of the cool air in defiance. He then started coughing so hard spasms racked his crippled frame.
He remembered, could not ever forget. Saving her life was all he had thought about every day for a century. He grabbed a delicate wood staff and hobbled down the porch like a man going to his funeral. He followed the beaten path into the tall trees and stopped for a moment to look at his old house. Old and empty just like him. It would all change today. He would never see his home again.
Tyler was one hundred and ten years old. Today was her birthday, her rebirth into this world. She was the only thing that kept life in veins far spent. His weathered face cracked a grin. A gentle breeze through the leaves rustled his memories back to where it started…
A ruddy faced boy ran through the woods as quickly as his ten-year-old body could take him. Spring was ending and he knew he had only a couple of days left to be with her.
He did not even realize he had tripped until he was rolling down the hill. He hit the little grove face first, smack into a puddle of mud.
This was embarrassing. She was probably laughing at him. He could hear the bubbling of the waterfall that seemed always to calm him.
“Nepadari.” he called in a rushed voice. She did not respond, instead he realized he was hearing sobs. He wiped the mud from his eyes and looked around: The beautiful grove he once knew with its fields of wild flowers and boastful oaks were gone. His chest suddenly became tight: Big machines and the stumps of trees stood everywhere.
“Nep!” he cried.
“I am here, my love.” a faint voice called him.
He saw her, huddled down on the old stump of the tree where they had met each other for over a year. He ran over to her, cradling her cold body in his arms. Tears streamed down his young face. “What happened?”
“They killed me.” She gestured to the tree. “Remember me.” Her green eyes looked upon him, the spark that had always been there nearly vanquished. “I love you.” She put a quivering hand on his cheek. “Mother is calling me back to the Earth.” She began to fade in his arms.
“No Nep, don't” Tyler begged.
“Remember me, my sweet Tyler. Plant the seed, re-grow my tree and I will come back to you. Remember.” She faded out of existence.
The little boy fell to the ground tears streaming down his face. It was then that he noticed it: A giant golden acorn…
The subtle winds blew his memory back from the past. He remembered. He loved no one else. In one hundred years, every day of his life had been dedicated to her. He had been a ranger most of his adult life and spent it preserving the beauty of the forests. He could not stand another boy going through the heartache he had endured.
He came around the corner to the same little grove his family had lost so many years ago. It had cost him a lot to buy back this land, now it is part of a National Forest. Every day he visited her tree, spoke to her, and encouraged her. She was sentient, just not able to take form. It had taken many years for her tree to gain full strength.
There she was on a rock near the tree.
“Nepadari” he cried. Forgetting he was a hundred years old, he dropped his staff and ran into her arms.
“Tyler” She spoke his name in a singsong voice that had wooed him to slumber on her lap many a lazy afternoon. He clang to her like a vine to a tree. He took deep breaths of her intoxicating scents of flowers and glade. He played with her long silky strands of golden brown hair as she laughed merrily.
“Pleased you are to see me I think.” Green eyes as deep and beautiful as the forests around them looked into his with adoration.
“I love you Nep. I always have. I am sorry.” His breath came sharp as pain racked his body. His heart that had beaten only to see this day could not beat any longer. It gave way, and life began to take its leave.
Nepadari grabbed him in her arms, “No Tyler, it cannot end like this.” Her eyes narrowed “It will not end like this.” Tyler tried to smile and took his last gasp of life. The Dryad lifted up her head and cried and the entire forest wept with her.
Time passed over the forests of Nepadari. She grew strong and full of life. As promised, she took care of her Tyler just as he had taken care of her. Smiling, she gave Tyler a pat, “There, is not this better than death, my sweet? Now we can be together forever.” She kissed him and frolicked off into the warm sunshine.
A slight wind rustled the leaves of a young tree. A tree, many hikers say, that resembled an old man twisted through its limbs.
About the Author: Christopher D. Kish is a fervent fantasy and science fiction fan…A passion that kindled in his teens. When he is not writing short stories of fantasy, he is currently writing a science fiction novel, SF being a close second love. His passion in life besides writing is his beautiful wife and an unhealthy obsession for pizza. Christopher has been a resident of Ohio most of his life. Visit him at his page on writing.com.