Prose, Grades 7 – 9: Third Place

The Fall — Noa Ní Aoláin Gross

It was a serene Sunday morning, sunshine streaming through the air likening to small ribbons of shining gold. The scene that unfolded before me appeared to come straight from a fairytale. The type of story where everyone is sheltered and safe, surrounded by the most majestic of things.

I stood and watched as the iridescent sun rays slowly reached every corner of the forest, awakening all the creatures from their slumber. I was roused from my trance-like state by the collective chirping from the birds scattered throughout the forest. I forced myself to drag my mind elsewhere and concentrate on the tasks at hand. I went about my business keeping track of all the different systems and overseeing them to be absolutely certain everything was working as it should. Throughout the day I overheard passersby comment on the ‘beautiful color of the forest this time of year.’ As they walked by I said nothing, I just kept working.

When the temperature began to swell midday, I thankfully heard the rumble of clouds and the soft pitter-patter of rain on my roof. As I began to collect those precious drops of water, a young girl and her mother passed by on the forest trail. Although I should have focused on my work, as the pair passed I managed to overhear a snippet of their conversation.

‘Mama, why did they take them? It was so beautiful before they left, why did they have to go?’

The mother brought her daughter closer as they passed me by and said, ‘I don’t know, I just don’t know.’

As the two rounded the bend I contemplated the young girl’s question, why were they taking us away? What had we ever done to them? Before I could think about the topic any longer, I realized that the glistening water I had collected earlier was being sent to the wrong place. I left the question hanging in the air, unanswered. Days passed, the girl’s question long forgotten.

With the slow inevitable change of the season, I was preparing myself for winter. On one especially cold day I remember some workers came into the forest. I was so focused on my roof, making sure it was ready for snow, that I ignored them. That is why I can’t say for sure it was them who put the strange mark on my house. They left, and life continued on. With so many of the others gone, it was not hard to soak up what little sunlight was left and store the energy for winter.

Time moved on. The marking became part of the house, inseparable and ingrained. Two weeks later is when they came back. It was a misty day with clouds thickly spread out over the sky. It seemed on that day as if the weight of the world was pressing down on the forest. My house curled in on itself to get away from the bitter cold wind that had disheveled the plants days earlier. With nothing much to do I surveyed the scenery. The sun turned into a pastel ball of yarn unlike the glaring sun that had beaten down on the forest over the summer. The animals were long gone, tucked away in their little burrows, huddled together no doubt, to keep the warmth in.

As a gust of wind rattled my roof, the workers came. One by one they took us down, and slowly worked their way up the path to my house. When they started on me, it was agonizing torture. I wanted it to end, and finally it did. They left me on the ground until they finished with all of us. I was on the forest floor surrounded by my people, yet at the same time completely and utterly alone. As they loaded us onto waiting trucks, they stood me upright for one quick, glorious moment. I breathed in the scent of my home for the last time. As quickly as it started, it was over, and I was gone.

My last thought was of the little girl who passed by me some time ago. What she said that day that I had forgotten, ‘Oh Mama, why did they have to cut down the trees?’