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She sat underneath the tree like a fallen apple. Shards of light flickered on the insides of her eyelids. What sun escaped through the gaps in the leaves did not disturb her sleep, for if such intrusion woke her, she would never sleep. Above her arms holding her knees, a dream took place.
The stretch of oval shadows and cornered slices of light seemed to contact every blade of grass. Her closed eyes looked upwards at the massive span of branch and leaf. The veined undersides of green denied the full force of the wind, wavering only slightly throughout the day. They were her faulty roof shingles, connected like a frustrated jigsaw.
If her body hadn’t been left under the tree for so long, she probably would have noticed that she could have leaned against the trunk.
“Georgette,” a murky voice said. “Georgette.”
Her mind was racing so quickly to rationalize the origin of the sound that her body could not move.
Timidly she asked, “Hello?”
“How did you know I was here?” responded her friend Laurel. Her hair was so red that at first glance, Georgette always thought she was on fire.
“Well you said - ...never mind.”
She was embarrassed that she did not know if the words existed in any space other than her own ears. Could the unclaimed echo belong to her? She continued to ask herself such questions as Laurel talked to her. The act of listening to Laurel was comforting. Georgette was never fully in the conversation but comfortably ambled along the outskirts of attentiveness.
"And so I just don't really want to go to school anymore," concluded her fire-haired friend.
"Why do you think that is?" It was always a safe question, no matter what preceded it.
"I don't know... I just feel like there's no point. I'm not getting anything out of it. Maybe I'll quit and we can go do something with our lives. Like invent paper that changes colors and erases itself so you can use it forever... or... or do a documentary on some unheard-of society or species. Or open our own school that's at least somewhat competent."
Her eyes, at Laurel’s knee level, watched her feet mush the grass into the dirt. If any beetles lied between the two halves of earth, they now lied on their backs.
For a while, Georgette continued going from bus stop to bus stop of thought with her friend with the red hair.
"It was an odd film. Good cinematography, but a little heavy and overdone."
A few more words fell, pierced by the grass blades, and then Laurel left. Hours swept through the green leaves past her eyes, now closed again.
The murky voice trickled into her ears again. She did not respond to it because she did not want to find out it was a figment.
“Please water me.” The sound was gurgling and rushing, bullying Georgette. “Please, Georgette, please.”
Her mind did not react; her hand moved towards the watering can, took the handle, and flooded the ground around the tree.
She opened her eyes. The tree sagged and swelled like a puffy eye. Each leaf drooped and faded to black at the ends, seemingly weighed down. Georgette was pointed at accusatorially, so she focused on the shards of light turning slowly on the insides of her eyelids. She forgot to remember if she was reminiscing or seeing.
For six days the murky voice demanded water, and for six days the voice was fulfilled, and for six days Georgette drowned in the overflowing blame.
At some point on the seventh day, she opened her eyes and realized that it was not raining, but her chest was bleeding. Her dream had stolen away her logic and she did not know how long it had been missing. She should have remembered that the trees’ dilated leaves held the majority of the clouds’ drops. Under her leafy umbrella, furrows of missing flesh revealed her bone.
Was something trying to carve out her ribs? One of her six senses responded. Her fingernails were stinking; the bark was stinking. Laurel came to visit her, but Georgette’s voice was clogged and she could not speak. After a while Laurel got bored of receiving no response and was also deterred by the rotten stench.
Georgette felt as if something was stuck in her lungs. A clutching pain sucked deeper into her thorax every time she breathed. She developed a gurgling cough that reaped murky sour mucus she spat out onto the grass blades. Her spine and appendages became rigid and heavy. Georgette often wondered if they were growing grey on the inside. Eight days had filled her ears with nothing but the sound of creeping – the sound slow snakes make in thick mud.
The tree was addicted to a cycle of demand and blame to which Georgette could not touch her thoughts. Her stunted tendrils of curiosity curled up on themselves. If she pretended she was a child’s cotton-filled rag doll, she would not have to be present for the mechanical rounds of pleading and accusation. Georgette did not know whether flickering shards of light were a memory, but she saw them.
One hour on one day, she looked down at the grass, and mixed with her cough’s mucilaginous outpouring was one small green leaf. It was so innocent and deceiving that she saw it smile at the contradiction.
After a long while, Laurel came to visit Georgette. She saw the large tree withered and a mass of contorted leaves. As she stared, the wind blew a few loose strands of her fiery hair towards the tree, which began to burn.