Trembling Aspen

Anyone who’d spent the last decade of their life felling trees in the Canadian wilderness would find the forest familiar; to Calvin Ross, it was as comfortable as sipping hot coffee in his favorite recliner. Yet as the fog rolled in and dusk gave way to night’s heavy hand, Calvin’s spirit filled with trepidation. She has to be out here somewhere, Calvin thought.

Sleep hadn’t come easy to Calvin over the past few weeks, and part of him wondered if she had been nothing more than the imaginative longings of a sleep-deprived mind. Life as a logger was lonely; there were so few women. Calvin longed for female companionship, yet searching the forest at night would seem odd to anyone. But God, she was as intoxicating as she was mysterious; Calvin had to find her.

Earlier in the day, he’d slipped out of eyeshot of his co-workers, the sound of chainsaws buzzing away in the distance. He’d slept perhaps three hours the previous night, and the day had taken on that dreamy look and feel as if he’d been wearing dirty eyewear, sounds muffled by a faint ringing in his ears. A mature trembling aspen had seemed to call out, volunteering, and Calvin approached, eyeing the perfect place to begin notching.

His chainsaw roared to life, yet something startled him, and he turned before making his first cut. When he turned back, her angelic face smiled at him from behind the tree, her eyes vibrantly green, her thin hands wrapped around the trunk as if she was emerging from within the core of the poplar. Calvin jumped back, startled. She giggled playfully and danced away, exposing her nakedness, her flowing hair shimmering like gilded autumn leaves. Calvin quickly pursued, trying to glimpse her prized parts, yet no matter how much they both moved, leaves and branches seemed to conceal her pink buds and rosy blossoms.

“Wait!” he yelled. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s my home, silly,” she giggled again, popping out from behind another tree with a glittering smile. “Come back tonight. I have something to show you…”

“Who are you?” he asked as she pirouetted away.

As she vanished with a rustling of leaves, her syrupy voice called back: “Hama...”

Calvin had spent the rest of the afternoon fantasizing. He’d recalled a conversation he’d had with a man with a guttural, unpronounceable name who’d spent five years foresting in the Siberian taiga. The man told of a mystical forest beauty, Anastasia, who’d bestowed her magical wisdom to a man named Vladimir Megre. Vladimir had gone on to write ten books about it: The Ringing Cedars, apparently becoming a catalyst for a New Age movement with a holistic, environmentalist worldview. Perhaps Hama was Calvin’s forest beauty, come to change his life, change the world.

As night took hold, the labyrinthine forest was now hiding its secrets, hiding her. Calvin feared he wouldn’t find her or would get lost searching. He cut through a sentry of trees, reaching a rutted path, and turned toward a flash in his periphery. A radiant, sparkling spiral cut into the night air before his eyes as sweet, honey-glazed laughter shattered the silence.

Hama stepped from behind a tree. In the soft, flickering glow from the inexplicable spiral hovering over the path Calvin saw that mesmerizing smile, saw her sweet parts he longed to taste and caress.

“I thought I wouldn’t find you… What is that?” Calvin said.

“Shhhh…” Hama stepped directly behind the golden swirl. “Walk through the Gyre, and we can be together…”

Calvin swallowed, advancing slowly. Hama spread her arms, welcoming him to her bosom. Calvin nodded in acquiescence, more to himself than to her. Two more steps and the whorling sparks flickered at his chest. He looked at her once more. Hama bit her lip, beckoned him with her eyes, ran her hands over silken skin.

“Are you sure?”

“It is the only way…” Hama moaned. “Please, I must have you…”

Swelling with arousal, Calvin crossed into the Gyre. Instantly his body was aflame; he burst into a silent scream as the Hamadryad’s fiery passion engulfed him in an inferno of white-hot despair. The Gyre and Calvin were swallowed by the surrounding darkness, disappearing into nothing like a flame into the metallic lid of a zippo lighter.

As if etching a warning into the very ether of the forest, Hama spoke once more…

You will never cut me down…”

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