Pandora’s Music Box (or The Song of the Trees)

tree magic© Nevit Dilmen. CC BY-SA 3.0

While going through Grad Bernart’s research diaries, I recently came across an odd little box. It’s an elegant thing, made of wood—several different varieties, by the look of it—and intricately carved with forest scenes. It sits comfortably in the hand and has a small, wooden crank on one side.

I suppose I was hoping it might be a music box, especially as there were a number of birds (magpies, I think) in the carvings. At the worst (and more in keeping with the grad’s character), I thought it might be a prank, like a jack-in-the-box, only scarier and potentially more harmful. There was a folded piece of paper tucked in under the box but, being of a curious nature, I didn’t have the patience to read anything. I couldn’t wait to give the crank a couple of turns and see what happened.

I should have read that piece of paper. How could I be so stupid? I know Bernart got up to some crazy stuff; I should have been more careful.

But I wasn’t. I gave the handle a turn, eager to hear a song, but all that came out of the box was a faint rustling sound. I turned the handle a few more times and, still, the box only creaked a little, like a tree bending in the wind. I examined the box more closely, hoping to open the lid and check if the mechanism was broken, but it was sealed shut all around.

Naturally, my only remaining option was to give the handle a good crank, wind up its springs tight, and let the box do its thing. What followed was, again, a rustling of leaves, the creak and groan of wood and the occasional snap of a twig. That was it.

Then I read the piece of paper. Here’s what it said:

“Success! Years of work have finally paid off! This little box is proof that my theories are correct, proof that trees have their own kind of language and proof that I can communicate with them!

Ooooh, I’m so excited! I’m going to have to wait a few days before I write up a proper paper; I need to calm down first. If I’m not careful, no one else will understand. They’ll say it’s all the result of fertilizer and good weather. I’ve got to show them that, however strange, it really is communication.

First things first, though. I didn’t realize how quickly—or intensely—the trees would respond to the invitation in my music box. There are suckers and seedlings popping up everywhere. It seems like every inch of open space in the garden has a willow, birch or sycamore springing up and there are cedars and pines sprouting in cracks in the garden walls. I didn’t think cedars could even grow this far west!

Given that I’ve invited them in, it seems rude to dig them out, but I can’t have the trees taking over the entire garden. I hope they don’t get angry with me.”

That’s enough of the grad’s notes for now. Suffice to say, within a couple of days of my playing around with the music box, the first seedlings appeared. My wife keeps telling me that they’re taking over the garden and I have to dig them up.

Me, however, I’m spending all of my time in a desperate search of Bernart’s notes, trying to find out what angry trees can do.


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