Last night the treecreeper had again dreamed. Uncanny dreams: of light rushing pell-mell through entangled tree roots; up and down the insides of trunks; out to the end of branches and back.
The treecreeper rarely left its forest; with its intricate knowledge of the trees' bark, it thrived in its perpetual hole-prospecting. But today it was restless; unnerved.
It was now early afternoon. In a moment of determination, it dived out from a branch of the tree in which its nest lay, arced under and over boughs — rustling, in its earnestness, right through any particular dense leafage that it encountered — and was out... out of the forest!
The treecreeper flew, intuitively rather than with predetermination, towards the Hazel grouse1 hills — but not point-to-point. At unpredictable intervals, it would circle a time or two; or allow itself to be buffeted back by the wind, as though at the end of a reel that had been drawn taut. Its thoughts wanderered.
Shin-deep in the soft moss of the forest of the lower tracts of the Hazel grouse hills, an old fellow — a gnome, perhaps, if we were to seek a characterisation in common parlance, though he was known only as an elder — silently observed this erraticness. Where and how he lived was unknown to those around, but he would at times be seen, with quotidian frequency, picking berries for hours upon hours: sea buckthorn2, lingonberry3, crowberry4, cloudberry5, raspberry, blueberry, and small wild strawberry. He wore a coarse brown shirt that seemed as though it was made of earth, bound together with thin, hair-like roots; and a thick cardigan that had the appearance of cottongrass6.
With decisiveness, the treecreeper descended to a pine nearby the elder, and begin to fervently prise its way into a little opening in the bark... it broke through...
No other-worldly light! No insects either; ordinarily the treecreeper would have been disappointed... just ordinary sap — but it was familiar; it was what one could expect! The elder noted the treecreeper's relief intently.
It was a steadier course that the treecreeper now took home. But in the instant that it flew off, the elder, who could tell two birds apart by the smallest difference in their feathers, resolved to make that same journey; and before dark fell, for the first time in living recollection, his slow steps had led him beyond the Hazel grouse hills.
This is the fifth part of an episodic tale written in November and December 2022. Previous part. Next part.
Last updated: 03:09 (GMT+1), 6th December 2022