in the Forest of the Morphs
to find several kinds of nuts and berries. He picked and ate them
as he went. He didn't dare risk eating the mottled brown and yellow
fungi that grew on dead wood and fallen branches. They looked bloated
and toadlike, with a spongy cellular appearance. When he kicked
at their domes, they oozed a thick milky juice.
Deeper and deeper
he advanced. He had to step carefully over the twisting intricate
roots of the trees. The ground was covered with dead leaves and
Then he came
to one particularly old tree. Large clusters of nuts hung from its
lower boughs. But even its lower boughs were too high for him to
reach. He needed a stick to knock the clusters down.
Nearby was a
smaller younger tree that opened out in thin straight branches.
With a clean snapping movement, he broke off a length of branch.
What was that?
He looked around but there was nothing to see. Had he imagined it?
So faint and fleeting, like a tiny wail in the air. Perhaps his
ears were playing tricks on him . . . . .
He returned his
attention to the clusters of nuts. He waved the length of branch
over his head, preparing to strike. But immediately the strange
sounds started up again.
No doubt this
time! It was a whole host of tiny voices, all piping and fluting
in long woeful tones.
'Hey! Where are
you? What are you?'
He spun around
in every direction, trying to locate the source. He swished his
branch this way and that. The voices seemed to come from among the
leaves and twigs and roots, louder and louder. Now they were on
the ground as well as overhead.
'We'll all tell!'
'Just be still!'
He stopped his
swishing. 'Be still?'
You're disturbing us.'
He peered down.
He could swear that some of the voices were coming from right beside
'Why can't I
see you?' he demanded.
don't look in the right way.'
'You have to
learn how to look.'
Still he didn't
understand. 'Are you inside inside the leaves?'
between the leaves.'
'And the twigs
and roots and things.'
'We're in the
There was a sudden sharp shriek as Ferren bent down and stretched
out an exploratory hand. 'That's my bit of bark!'
'Your bit of
'The bit of bark
by your foot. And the two dead leaves on the left. And the end of
that piece of stick at the side. Join up the corners! Connect the
points! Can't you see the pattern?'
mental lines between the corners and points, from the leaves to
the bark to the stick. 'Mmmm. I think I see it now. Like an arrangement.'
me-eee! That's how I exist!'
'That's how we
'In the patterns.'
'So you mustn't
ever break the patterns.'
'We get dislodged
when you knock things out of position.'
'Then we drift
around in the air.'
'For days and
'All we want
is a place to settle.'
'All we want
is rest and pee-eace.'
felt like crying, they sounded so sad and hopeless. But instead
'Does all this
forest belong to you?'
'Yes. The Forest
of the Morphs.'
'We are the Morphs.'
thousands of us.'
'Souls of the
dead with nowhere to go-ooo.'
'I get it.' Ferren
scratched his head. 'And where do you want to go?'
'But they won't
let us in.'
'You mean, because of the War?'
'The Gates of
Heaven are locked and shut. I went up there.'
'We had to come
back to Earth again.'
'Oh! Oh! We don't
want to live like this!'
'But we haven't
got a home!'
They were all
grieving pitifully now. And more and more voices were joining in.
From every angle and intersection they wailed:
stand it. It reminded him that he too didn't have a home. He turned
away and started to run, back in the direction of the overbridge.
The tears were streaming down over his face.