The Lone Leaf
by Silas Hurst
Once upon a time in the shadow of an extra-ordinary, levitating mountain there laid a valley, and in that valley there stood an ordinary tree. Every year, the tree grew countless leaves that gathered light for it all through the bright, warm phase until the tree took the leaves’ life in preparation for the colder, sleeping spell ahead. The dried, paper leaves fell to the ground, never far from the tree, and dissolved into the soil on which the ordinary tree stood.
One season a leaf grew on the tree that was unlike all of the other leaves that season or any before. The leaf looked and shook and sounded the same as the rest, but inside of it there grew a great angst. None of the other leaves - content with gathering light for the tree - understood the leaf or even noticed it.
The leaf was alone.
By day, the levitating mountain looked down on the leaf through the clouds, and the leaf looked up to the mountain, obscured through the branches of the tree. By night, the leaf looked into the great, twinkling black sea above, and felt as if something might somehow understand the leaf.
One night, a magic wind blew in from the Northwest. It was warm, and whispered to the leaf: “You are different, young leaf. Come away with me before this tree uses up all of your life.”
The leaf was enraptured to hear the magic wind’s invitation, but responded: "I was born unto this tree. It has given me life, and so I owe my everything to it."
“All life is given. Those that truly possess it know that it is theirs and theirs alone,” said the magic wind.
“But how will I go? I am but a leaf here on this tree.”
“You are no more ‘but a leaf’ than I am but a breath. Let go, and let me lift you.”
“But why me, magic wind?”
“Because you are like me, and we are like no others.”
They blew away before the dawn, and when the morning light flooded the valley, no leaves missed the lone leaf that had gone, and neither did the tree.
With the magic wind’s help the leaf could fly wherever it wished. so they flew first over the valley hills towards the rushing crash that the leaf had heard ever since it could remember. They arrived at twisting waters, and the magic wind said: "This is the great river. It collects the heavens that the trees don’t drink, and carries it through the land so that the animals may live."
“Where does the river end?” asked the leaf.
The magic wind replied: “Far from here, the land sinks below the heavens, and the river flows like a ghost. This vast place is called the sea.”
To which the leaf asked: “What is a ghost?”
“A ghost is something that has life, but is not seen.”
“Does the river have a beginning?” asked the leaf.
“The river takes its form atop high mountains.”
The journey along the river was long, and by then the sky was turning warm and the light came to rest behind the levitating mountain.
The magic wind continued: “That is the highest mountain in the land. From the top, you can see the whole world move.”
The leaf replied: “I have always seen the light set behind the highest mountain, but this is the first time that I have seen its majesty.”
The magic wind said: “Majesty is freedom, and freedom is the world’s secret, natural magic.” The magic wind’s words rang true to the leaf, as it could feel its own magic now, shimmering within.
“Then let us see the world’s majesty as the highest mountain does.”
That night the magic leaf and the wind crossed over the valley from which the leaf grew. Seeing the other leaves in their unknowing slumber, it seemed to the magic leaf like nothing was more true than the fact that it was indeed different; mistakenly born from the same, ordinary tree. Yet the magic leaf still felt an odd sense of longing when looking upon their likeness that it did not yet understand. It was a sympathy for simplicity; a pining for solace.
Morning’s light shed first on the extraordinary, levitating mountain, as it always did.
The magic leaf and the wind soared through the rolling forests at the foot of the levitating mountain. Alone, the great trees would have seemed to touch the sky, but they paled next to the colossal mountain. Here, the river fell from the levitating mountain’s edge to a beautiful lake amidst the trees, creating a never-ending rainbow over the wood.
The magic leaf and the wind ascended the rocky facade of the levitating mountain. Many creatures, despite the mountainside’s perilous, icy gusts, traversed its steep, ordinary face with ease and called it their home.
But as the magic leaf and the wind grew nearer to the peak, there were no more plants or animals; only ice and stone. The tree from which the leaf came was an impossible speck of dust. Even the great trees at the levitating mountain’s foot swayed like blades of grass.
The river’s beginning had since past.
The higher the magic leaf and the wind ventured, the harder the icy gusts blew, until the magic leaf realized it was no longer being lifted by his companion, the wind. It was then, in that moment of doubt, that the icy gusts carried the magic leaf away from the mountain’s surface.
“Magic wind! Magic wind!” the magic leaf cried out. “Where are you?”
An icy gust howled: “You are alone, leaf. There is no magic here.”
The leaf knew within itself that the icy gusts were wrong, and it flew, lifted by its own majestic, natural magic, through the ceiling of dark clouds that obscured the extraordinary peak.
Above the clouds’ surface, the levitating mountain was still and silent. The clouds, silver from above, washed slowly around the peak like a stone in the river. The magic leaf could see the whole world moving, and could feel what it knew to be the wind’s spirit sweeping across the land. A distant break in the clouds revealed the horizon, and the magic leaf saw the sea for the first time.