• Prospect Theater Company

THE TREE STONE, a story by Jennifer Fell Hayes

Updated: May 18

You are sitting in the park feeling stirred up.


You have done it! And they deserve it! You feel courageous and strong. Why should they pick on you all the time? It was time to make a stand. And last night about the report card was just too much – all right, it wasn’t great.

You admit, you had been messing around in math. But you had tried really hard at everything else, and had really hoped to get an A in English. You tried to explain this to your parents, but they wouldn’t listen. Why do parents get so steamed up about things? It’s so unfair. And now you can’t see your best friend for a sleepover at the weekend. So last night when they sent you to your room you cut off a lot of your hair and put it in an envelope with a note which read, “Here is your perfect child.” Today after school you mailed it, and then came to the park instead of going straight home.


As you sit, feeling very upset, you are kicking some little pebbles at your feet. One is a little bigger than the others and you pick it up, and begin idly turning it in your hands. It is surprisingly smooth except for a little raised bit, and you see that that is in the shape of a tree. You like trees. When you visit your grandparents who live in the country, you take walks in a nearby wood and like to hear the sound of the wind in the leaves and see the way branches curve and bend in unexpected shapes. Trees seem friendly, somehow.

You trace the outline of the little tree on the stone with your finger and suddenly the stone gets a little warm in your hand. It almost feels alive! The tree shape becomes very clear and on impulse you stand up holding it. It moves a little in a certain direction and your hand moves with it, pointing the stone in front of you. A great arch entwined with leaves appears. It looks beautiful and ancient, and a bird with soft gray wings alights on top of the arch.


The stone moves again and you turn that way. Another arch arises. This one is covered with jagged silvery branches and puffs of smoke curl from some of them. Then the stone moves a third time and you turn with it, and there is a third arch. This one is less substantial than the others and seems to appear and disappear. It is twined with clouds and shadows, and then sunbursts and rain.

Each arch is vast and beautiful, and each has writing on it over the arch. The first reads, “Freya’s Green-Leaved Way of Memory”, the second, “Silas’ s Silver-Spiked Cave of Fury”, and the third, “Treppi’s Topsy-Turvey Tunnel of Doubt.” As you hold the stone you understand you must choose the way to go.


Which arch will you choose?


CHOICE A: Freya’s Green-Leaved Way of Memory

CHOICE B: Silas’s Silver-Spiked Cave of Fury

CHOICE C: Treppi’s Topsy-Turvey Tunnel of Doubt


CHOICE A: FREYA’S GREEN-LEAVED WAY OF MEMORY


You choose the first arch. You enter the green-leaved way and start walking. You notice the leaves on either side of you, and how some of them seem to be sparkling, and even sending off little green sparks. Suddenly, you’re not sure how, Freya appears next to you. She is wearing a flowing kind of dress and is wearing a little wreath of flowers. The flowers scent the air with the most fragrant smell, a little like new mown grass and the greeny-fresh smell of daffodils. She puts her hand up to indicate you should stop. She smiles and you are reminded of sunlight glinting off a moving stream. You feel shy.


“Hello,” she says.


“Hi,” you reply.


“What are you doing on my Green-Leaved way of Memory?” she asks. You notice little leaves seem to be growing out of the neck of her dress, curling up to her ears. You try to explain how you got here. She interrupts, looking more serious. “You mean you came to this area in a bitter and angry mood?”


“I – I guess so.” You feel rather embarrassed.


“Then I may not let you pass until you have been here a while.”


“Wh – what do you mean?” you ask anxiously.


“You have chosen to enter my Way of Memory, and once here you may not leave it feeling angry and bitter. It disturbs the memories, and I can’t have that.”


“Whose memories?”


“Why, everyone’s of course!”


You are taken aback. “What must I do?”


“Did you notice how the leaves glitter and shine in a special way?”


You nod. “Each leaf represents someone’s memory. The ones that are the most-loved memories shine the brightest. What you must do as you walk along my Way is look carefully at the leaves and you may feel drawn to a particular one. You must go and touch it. Then you will remember a time that was special between you and your parents – maybe a time when they did something specially nice for you.”


You feel frustrated. “But there are millions of leaves here!”


“Show me the stone I know you have.” Freya’s eyes are very green. You reach for the stone and show her.


“Simple!” She says. “When the stone becomes warm, hold it out it will point you to a particular leaf, and that is the one,” She holds out paper and a pencil. “When you touch the leaf, it will bring to your mind this special memory. Write or draw something about it on this paper. Good fortune to you,” she says. It happens as she says. When you touch the leaf you are filled with memories of a special day with your parents. You remember how kind they were as you draw or write. You come to the end of the Way. The stone grows warm and points to a cleft tree. You must step through it to continue your journey.


Notice how the left side of the tree feels damp, the right hot. You see signs ahead: “Charilla’s Chasm of Peril” or “Fleon’s Fiery Lake of Fear.”


CHOICE 1: Charilla’s Chasm of Peril

CHOICE 2: Fleon’s Fiery Lake of Fear


CHOICE B: SILAS’S SILVER SPIKED CAVE OF FURY


You choose the second arch and enter the cave. Silvery stalactites shoot down through the ceiling as you walk, and spiky branches jab out from the walls and up through the ground. You have to tread very carefully, weaving in and out between the spikes. You feel wary of touching the spikes. An unpleasant-looking figure approaches, with a sour face. He is wearing a small crown of silvery spikes.


“Who are you?” He booms with a loud voice. “What are you doing in my Cave of Fury?”


You try to explain but it makes him angry. “You are not allowed here! It is mine! Mine!” he yells.


You try to get past him, try to get out, but he snarls at you, “Oh, no you don’t! Now you are here, you may never leave!”


“Never?” You ask. Your voice is a bit shaky.


“Well, there is one way. But why should I tell you?”


“Because – because - “ you stammer, clutching the stone in your pocket. You feel it grow warm again. Desperate, you hold it up.


Silas steps back from it, “Ha! Why didn’t you say so before?” He growls. “In that case I will tell you the only way to get out is to reveal something of the reason you came to find that stone. Draw it.’


You are puzzled but think about it. The reason was your parents being so mean to you!


You draw a picture of your parents yelling at you. Silas watches warily.


“Give it to me!” He takes it and tears it across.


“Hey – you tore my drawing!” You are taken aback. Silas just growls in reply and stamps on the torn pieces. He beckons. “Now you! Stamp!” he orders.


You feel a little funny about this, but you want to get out, so you give a little stamp.


“MORE!” yells Silas. “Not enough!”


You stamp harder and harder, getting into it. Suddenly the cave vanishes and Silas disappears. You feel a bit foolish stamping and bend to pick up the pieces of paper. You look at them. You feel very badly you stamped on a drawing of your parents. Then you remember how mean they were. You are glad you cut off your hair. You put the pieces in your pocket with the stone and walk away. The stone grows warm and points to a cleft tree. You must step through it to continue your journey. Notice how the left side of the tree feels damp, the right hot. You see signs ahead “Charilla’s Chasm of Peril” and “Fleon’s Fiery Lake of Fear.”

CHOICE 1: Charilla’s Chasm of Peril

CHOICE 2: Fleon’s Fiery Lake of Fear


CHOICE C: TREPPI’S TOPSEY-TURVERY TUNNEL OF DOUBT

You walk towards the tunnel and notice it is made of trees, but something is weird: the trees are upside down. Their roots are in the air and their leaves on the ground. The tunnel twists this way and that appears and disappears. It makes you feel very uncertain. Are you going the right way? A figure pops up suddenly in front of you, as if he came out of a tree. It is Treppi. He is smiling a big smile.


“Hello!” he says warmly. “So glad to see you! Can I help you?”


You are very relieved. “Yes, please!” you say. “I want to get to the end of this tunnel – is this the way?”


Treppi starts to frown. “Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t! Who are you anyway?” You try to explain, but, weirdly, you are not sure.


Treppi is all smiles again. His hood is fringed with little bells that jingle as he moves his head. It makes you feel a bit confused. “So nice of you to come!” He says, “Would you like a Dubious Jube?” He holds out a piece of candy. You hesitate.


Treppi’s face changes again to a big scowl. “It’s always the same!” he whines. “My little offers are rejected! Why aren’t good enough for you?”


“I’m sorry,” you say, “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings –“


Treppi giggles. “I dropped it on the ground anyway! It’s all dirty – see?” You feel very confused. You need to get out of here.


“I know what you’re thinking!” snaps Treppi, moving his head so the little bells ring madly. “You want to get out of here, don’t you? I knew I wasn’t good enough! Why can’t you treat me like I’m perfect?” You feel uncomfortable.


“Why are you on your own?” asks Treppi. “Where are your parents?”


“It’s none of your business!” you snap, annoyed. “Just tell me how to get out of here!”


Treppi starts to cry. “No one likes me. Everyone thinks I don’t try, that I could do better. Everyone yells at me.”


“Oh, dear,” you say. “I’m sorry you feel so sad. Can I help you feel better?”


Treppi stops crying and opens his eyes wide. “What? You’re offering to help me?”


“I guess so.” You say. “What can I do?”


Treppi gives you paper and a pencil. “Will you write down some ways I could show people I’m trying even when they think I’m not? Or draw a picture of what I might look like when I’m trying my best?”


You write /draw something for him. “Oh, boy!” Treppi hops up and down in excitement. “No-one ever did that for me before! I don’t want you to go!” He sighs and looks sad again “But if you must, it’s that way” He points.

“Goodbye!” you call, and walk away, a bit puzzled.


No-one’s perfect, you think, but can a person show more clearly how much they are trying? The stone grows warm and points to a cleft tree. You must step through it to continue your journey. Notice how the left side of the tree feels damp, the right hot. You see signs ahead, left, “Charilla’s Chasm of Peril” or right “Fleon’s Fiery Lake of Fear.”


CHOICE 1: Charilla’s Chasm of Peril

CHOICE 2: Fleon’s Fiery Lake of Fear


CHOICE 1: Charilla’s Chasm of Peril


You choose left. As you walk the path becomes a narrow, shaky plank bridge over a huge chasm. Down below are sharp rock and swirling, dangerous water. You must put one foot forward carefully in front of another and walk with arms out for balance. You are scared. You hold your stone tightly for comfort and it grows warm and points down to a little rope ladder hanging from the bridge.


“No way!” you think. “I’m not going down that!” But the stone keeps pointing, so you put it in your pocket, stoop down and take hold of the ladder.


You climb down fearfully and find yourself on the rough, jagged rocks. The sound of the water is deafening and spray hits you from its dashing turbulence.


You hear a soft voice. “Help!” You see a figure lying nearby, trapped in a crack in the rocks. It is Charilla. She wears a gray, spray-soaked mantle and a necklace of river pebbles.


“Please help!” she cries.


You approach, uncertain what to do. You reach down and try to pull her out.


“No!” Her voice is desperate. “The only way is to give me your stone.”


“My stone?” You are dismayed, as you know now it is important for your journey. “I need it!”


“Please!” she begs, her voice growing fainter. “I have not strength for much longer. Please save me.”

You struggle with yourself. I don’t have to! You think. I might be stuck here forever without my stone! “How about I find another stone?” You look around.


“No!” she gasps. “Only yours will do. Please – please.” She is crying.


“O.K.” you say reluctantly, and hand it to her. It has grown very hot.


As soon as she takes it, she puts it in the crack in the rock. There is a flash and a sound like thunder, a towering shower of spray and suddenly you are back on the path. Charilla is with you, the pebbles on her necklace glowing.


“Thank you – I cannot thank you enough.” She hands you your stone.


You are astonished.


“It was a test.” Charilla smiles and spray falls from her outstretched hand. “You passed. Unselfishness and kindness bring their own reward.” She points to the road ahead. “You are ready for the Tree of Wisdom.”


CHOICE 2: Fleon’s Fiery Lake of Fear

You choose right, and as you walk the air grows hotter and the leaves on the trees near you look as if they are burning. Little flames lick through them. Little pebbles on the path glow red and ahead is a vast lake, only instead of water it is filled with burning roses, grass and leaves. It is beautiful, with crimson and pink petals, golden leaves. But it is also frightening as there are fierce flames but nothing is charred or burned. Nothing changes color or is consumed. Your path leads straight to the Lake.


“Oh, no,” you think. “I’m not going in there! I’ll get burned to bits!”


“It’s the only way through!” says a scary, ringing voice, followed by laughter.


Fleon appears. He is wearing a cloak of crimson and a flame leaps on his forehead. Little flaming leaves circle his hair. His eyes pierce through you and you are afraid.


“I thought so!” he laughs mockingly. “Too scared! You’ll never go through, I can see. I’ve gotcha!”


“No you – you haven’t!” you answer, suddenly brave. “I Will go through!” You can’t stand his laughter.


“Ha! That’ll be the day!” he cackles.


You step forward. The path is very narrow, very hot and smoky, and you cough. Then you hear a tiny bark. A little brown dog is trapped under roses by twisting, burning stems. You look for Fleon, who is under a tree back on the path, eating an apple. He sees you and bursts out laughing again. Who will save the little creature? You realize, to your horror, it has to be you. I can’t, you think. Then the dog cries piteously and looks at you with big brown terrified eyes.


You step into the Lake. Immediately you are nauseated by the smell of smoke, and feel burning hot. You reach down for the dog, but the stems burn your hands and they are strong and tightly woven. “What shall I do?” you think desperately, and feel the stone grow hot in your pocket. You reach for it, and touch the stems, which shrivel up. Quickly you pick up the hot little dog. Back on the path the dog wriggles with joy in your arms and licks your face. You are across the Fiery Lake. Then you realize you dropped the stone into the burning roses.


Fleon appears at your side. The dog runs to him. He is smiling and hands you your stone. “Congratulations! That was a test and you passed!” You are astonished. “Unselfishness and kindness bring their own reward,” he says, and points to the path ahead. “You are ready for the Tree of Wisdom.”


FINALE: THE TREE OF WISDOM

You follow the path, noticing some trees in particular, how their branches twist and bend in curious ways. A figure wearing a green robe approaches.


“I am Arbryn, Guardian of the Tree of Wisdom,” she says. “I am to give you this.” She hands you a piece of paper. “Keep it till you reach the tree.” Her voice is like the wind whispering through the leaves. She guides you towards the Tree. “You must walk twice round the Tree clockwise, and twice anti-clockwise, then stand three paces back opposite one of the Tree’s Eyes.”


Tree’s eyes? As you walk you notice eye shapes on the Tree’s trunk. You finish circling the Tree and stand the three paces back from one of these. You can feel a humming coming from the Tree, mixed with the sound of birdsong and the soft patter of rain on leaves. You see the Eye open and look at you. Its gaze pierces you through to your heart. You feel, rather than hear the Tree speak. “Remove your hat.” It says. You remove the little knitted hat you have been wearing.


“Why did you cut your hair?” asks the Tree.


You explain.


“What must you do now that you have reached the end of your journey?”


“I don’t know,” you say.


“Think of your journey so far, your adventures, your memories and thoughts, your feelings, and crush and tear the paper Arbryn gave you into the shape of something you remember from that journey.”


You do so.


“Now walk around me once more and then hold out your paper shape to me and I will blow on it.”


You do this and feel the cool breezy breath of the Tree over your hands, and hear the musical humming again.


“Lift the paper high and then let it fall at my base, and Arbryn will keep it safe,” says the Tree.


As you do this you think of your parents, and remember how kind and caring they usually are, and you understand they know you can’t be perfect, no one can. You know suddenly you must go home to them and talk to them, that you have the courage to do that. That you have more inner strength than you realized.


The Tree speaks. “You have done well. Touch my bark as a farewell and a sign of friendship between us.”


The bark is warm under your hands and you feel a faint tingling. The humming stops. You turn, and are ready to go home. As you walk, you feel a warmth in your pocket. The stone engraved with a tree is still there.

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