Long ago there was a village in the deepest heart of a forest. Villagers lived in wooden homes shaped like cubes rising from the earth to the inner sanctum of the treetops. They painted their houses in bright oranges and pinks, or any bright colour they could create. They did not camouflage themselves with the forest but stood out like a splash of rainbow paint against a sea of green.
There was one little boy that did not like his village. He would slip away into the forest whenever he could.
He liked to visit a particular group of trees, untouched by paint, ordinary and simple. Browns and greens a comfort from the wildness of his community.
One day while sitting at the roots of a large tree the boy heard noises deeper in the forest. It sounded like a massive fire. He looked up at the sky but saw no smoke but the same vibrant red and blue hue of the clouds.
The boy worried it may spread to his village, followed the sound and found himself soon in a clearing.
An old man covered in multiple strips of cloth in different colours was dancing and chanting.
In his hand, he held a bright green crystal stone held above his head. Lightening cracked out of it, and wherever the lightning hit, bursts of colours began to spread.
The boy panicked, “Stop stop stop! You are destroying the trees!” the boy yelled.
The old man stopped and looked at the boy with his beady eyes.
“Destroying? What do you mean you silly boy?” he asked.
Anger flared in the boy. He could feel it boiling to the tips of his ears. His fist clenched he marched up to the old man who was no taller than him.
“I like the trees to remain brown and green. If you like colours go visit my village!” He growled.
The old man laughed and gave the boy his magic stone. “Here, why don’t you try, you might like it.”
The little boy was surprised, he took the stone but was unsure what to do with it; he looked up into the sky and saw the same clouds passing by.
“I wish there were no colours in the sky.” He murmured.
The old man quickly snatched the stone from the boy’s hands, but it was too late.
The clouds in the sky grew white and dull, the colours trickling down into the corners of the world, disappearing like paint down a river.
“Now the sky will be forever white and dull.” The old man stated sadly.
The boy fell to the ground and cried, “Please don’t hurt my family. I didn’t know that was going to happen!” He sobbed, but the old man shook his head.
“I can return the colours in the sky but they can only appear in the morning, and just before night, once something is removed with colour and life, it takes more than a wish to fix it again. Great magic comes with a mighty price and yours was a big demand.”
The boy lost in his tears did not see the old man leave, when he realized how quiet it became he looked around and found no old man but the green stone.
The boy suddenly grew excited and mischievous, jumping up and down and shouting into the woods that he had the stone. Maybe he could make a few small changes at his village he thought.
He ran home and hid in his parent’s house and looked out the window. The streets of his village were below, and it ran with rivers of colourful sand. In the trees, the homes were decorated with bright flowers in every shade.
At the sight of it all he groaned, but he had a way to fix it.
“I wish for the paint on the houses to disappear.” He wished.
In an instant, every house in the village suddenly became grey. Shouts rang from every tree and the boy laughed crouching under the window.
His mother appears worried that something had happened to him, but he shook his head.
“I am ok. The colours are gone. I like it, don’t you mother?” He asked.
The mother shook her head, “My boy, you must understand that the colours are more than just colours. It is the sign of life that flows through our village.”
However, the boy was not listening and was scrutinizing the stone he held ignoring her. He was lost in his head full of naughty ideas.
The mother sighed, “Come, my boy, you will help repaint our house, perhaps with some work you will see.”
The boy helped repaint, but as soon as he got back by the window, he giggled and made a similar wish to remove the colours. Everyone including his parents repainted their homes again.
Stubborn and mischievous, the boy made his final wish.
“I wish for all the colours in the village to disappear!” and in an instant, a strong wind gushed through the village blowing all the colours away turning into to dust. People screamed, and children began to cry.
The boy did not understand why anyone would scream; they would paint it all over again anyway. He looked out the window and noticed splotches of darkness scattered all over the village.
In the trees, on the ground, shadows began to form, blacker than black. They came up from under the trees and in the corners of homes. They were swirling up into elongated figures, but instead of hands and feet, they had claws. They had no faces but a swirling vortex of grey. They were sucking the colours from a villagers skin. His people began running for their lives into the forest. Screams tortured the air, and the sky darkened as a rumbling sound echoed through the village.
The boy quickly sunk back into his house under his window and held the stone.
“I wish for the colours to come back!” He screamed repeatedly but the boy knew it would not work.
He quickly ran out of his house heading for the forest calling for the old man.
It was as he was running that he could feel the shadow creatures coming after him in the forest. They must have heard him or finished all his people.
He had nowhere to go; he didn’t know where he was running. He could feel his lungs burning in his chest, but it felt like it was his heart was going to explode.
The creatures ravaged the trees as they moved towards the boy, killing people or anything in their way and sucking out all colours with greed.
The little boy soon lost the monsters, but he had gone too far into the forest.
He then heard a familiar crackling sound, and soon enough he found the old man.
The little boy rushed to the old man and pulled at his bright garments. He threw the green stone at the old man’s feet. He had never been so happy to see colours as he did at that moment.
He begged the old man to help him, recounting what happened.
The old man’s face reddened, brighter than the red in his robes.
“You silly blinded fool, you had the stone of wishes!”
The boy suddenly felt foolish. He could save his people!
“So I can wish away those creatures chasing me away?” he asked the old man. “Or turn back time?” he continued as he took the stone out of his pockets.
The old man looked into the distance and shook his head. He sighed.
“It is too late. The creatures you have seen now have the Akamari from your people and the forest. When they consume such energies, they become of this world.”
The boy felt his heart turn cold with dread.
The boy screamed in a fury, “You shouldn’t have given me the stone, now you have killed my people!”
The old man stood up suddenly and began to walk away.
“Where are you going?! You must help me!” the boy shouted.
The old man turned and squinted at the boy. There was a wicked glint in his eyes.
“You should have been careful with the magic of the stone. It has killed kingdoms across Elodare.” He growled, “but since I am kind, I ask you this, would you do anything, sacrifice anything for your people’s safety?” The old man asked.
“Like what?” The boy asked suspiciously.
“It can be anything boy, your soul, your body, anything! Would you be able to let it go to save your people?” the old man asked again.
He walked back to the boy, moving so close they were nose to nose. The boy could smell the old man’s foul breath.
“Well?” the old man whispered treacherously.
The boy knew what he had to do, but he didn’t want to do it. It wasn’t his fault. Now that he truly looked at the old man, he seemed to feel like he was part of the darkness he had seen.
The boy sighed; all he had wanted was some peace from the colours.
“You made me do this you disgusting, evil old man. Why?” he sobbed dejectedly.
The old man shrugged and walked away, playing with the stone in his hand.
He turned and leered at the boy with his mad eyes glinting.
“Time will tell boy, so? I need your answer.” He says.
The boy sighs in defeat, knowing what he had to do, “I would do anything.” He answered, and it was true he could feel it in his heart. He loved his mother, his father and the people of his village. It was his home.
It was also the right thing to do. He had stolen the colours and played with magic that was surely forbidden. The evil shadow creatures had to be stopped. If he had to lose a limb, a nose or an ear he would do it.
The old man smiled, “Not so silly a boy then eh?”
The old man suddenly opened an invisible door.
The boy looked panicked, “You said you would help my people, where are you going?”
The old man shrugged, “It is done. Go home boy.”
“How do I know you’re not just going to leave me here to the monsters?”
The old man shrugged, “You don’t.” Then the old man was gone.
The boy listened and heard no sound, not a single scream. His people could all be dead, but he had hope. He ran to his people.
He passed by his group of favourite trees and noticed they had turned entirely grey. The shadow creatures had stolen their life.
As he reached his village, everything seemed normal. The colourful houses were back, the vibrant array of sand on the streets and his people with paint all over their faces.
It was like nothing had happened. Only his favourite group of trees remained as a reminder of his horrid deeds.
He went home and spent time with his family, for the first time happy to see colours everywhere, even in his food.
He slept that night with a smile on his face and planned to visit his trees and for the first time, to paint them with some colours.
The next morning, the boy woke up to the everyday sounds of the other children playing downstairs on the streets. He could hear the voice of his mother singing in the kitchen and his father building something outside by the tree bridges.
He opened his eyes and screamed his lungs out in panic. All he could see was darkness and a mirage of colours shifting whichever way he turned.
He could no longer see.
He felt around him and sensed everything was there. He was not dreaming.
It then dawned on him; the deal he made with the old man. The old man had taken his eyes.
The boy cried curled up in his bed. While in the forest, his group of favourite trees was noticeably different.
They had every colour the boy had ever seen snaking across its bark and branches in thin like threads. The leaves of the trees were in different colours too. The oddest of all was at the middle each tree’s bark; there was a black swirl that looked like an eye.
Photo by Lily Adamczyk’s.