Canopy | Teen Ink


May 31, 2022
By mwesley, Hailey, Idaho
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mwesley, Hailey, Idaho
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Author's note:

I am a ninth grader that wrote this for a creative writing class.

The author's comments:

not a chapter book - nothing else.


She looked at the paper in her hand again to make sure it wasn’t actually blank. To make sure she had read it right. But the black ink, the fancy names, the official stamp, they were not figments of her imagination. She ripped the paper. Didn’t give a thought to how it slowly reassembled; to how she had ripped up the paper five times now and yet it lay in her hands always reconstructing. That was not normal, even for an Aminarh, the only intelligent life on the planet. 

Arika had had the ability since the day she was born. It was her parents' proudest moment to see she was he one. To her, it was infuriating. They only cared for her because they had to, because she was the one. Sure all her friends had an ability, but they didn't have hers. Hers was unique. This power she had came about every thousand years, so, you know, it was kind of a big deal. To make things clear, the person with that power did not choose to be born like that. Why couldn't she have a regular power like talking with animals, flight, speech, or, her favorite, thinking in the abstract? Her friend Kilery had that power. 

Top of her section, Kilery had the mind for solving just about any problem that included words and numbers. Quite helpful in these times. But hers? Well to be honest she didn't really understand it herself. And here was the paper. Stupid thing. Couldn't even stay ripped. She put the paper in a puddle of water and ripped it till it was a mushy pulp. She pushed it to the bottom. As soon as it left her fingertips it floated into the air, reassembled, dried, and lay there on the branch in front of her, waiting; till she signed it, sent it back, told them with a smile, “Yes I will. Even though I don’t want to, even though my life will change forever. Yes. I will.” And then it would happen. Her family gone she would step onto the stage, above not only her section but all the sections. Would demonstrate her talent like everyone else. Fear and anxiety crept to the edge of her thoughts. Her heart raced and she started to teter, flailing her arms and whipping out her tail to stay on the branch. She grasped the trunk of the great tree on which she sat to steady herself. Her tail automatically wrapped around the thick branch, her hands’ padding stuck to the bark of the great tree. She brushed the long dark hair out of her eyes and stared at her fingers. Made herself think of nothing but the birds chirping overhead. Then, to think through the rest of that dreadful day. 

Unlike everyone else, as soon as she revealed to them that she was the one, she would disappear into the forest to the address on the page. For her training, of course. Everyone else would be simply named a learner, someone who was not yet a teacher, not yet old, but was no longer a firstling. When she went into that forest, she would emerge a truly different person, with a truly different destiny. However, that was all she knew. That was all anyone knew. It annoyed her that her own people were hiding information from her. A question pressed against her mind and she hid it from those around her. What is the change? What is the training? She was careful not to allow those standing just inside the tree to hear her thoughts. They were loud. As she suppressed the question, she allowed her mind to open. Her mother called.

You finished griping yet?


Well then hurry up. It’s almost night and I need help in here.

With what?

Oh shut up. You know exactly what.


Stop. Before you come in, you just concealed something in your heart.

It’s nothing.

Her mothers remark was not a question. None of the old asked questions. The young always did, but they hid them from any but their teachers. Not the old. They had asked them all long before, had since learned all they needed to know about every plant, animal, particle, that made their world and the worlds beyond. Arika wandered into her tree dwelling. Before closing the door she took one last look at the city. It took a trained eye to truly understand that what you were looking at was actually a city. It blended with the complex canopy of the Azizi jungle. The rope bridges looked more like the moss that hung from the trees and the homes themselves looked like a particularly thick bundle of woven branches. Each was different, unique, and beautiful. The paper lay, blending into the green, murky, darkening landscape, almost invisible; except for the black ink and that official stamp. Snatching it up, she pocketed it and ducked inside. Her mother was preparing for the star meal, the meal her whole people would eat when they spotted the first star of the night. 

The evening star rose above the horizon and pierced the sky with its soft glow. The image of her soon-to-be performance sent a chill down her spine. She blocked her mind. She knew what she had to do.

On the morning of the day of talents she woke up early. Before the rest of her family had even begun their day and while the majority of her community lay in quiet sleep, she slunk quietly out of her dwelling. Judging by the light that was shifting through the trees, she had only a few hours till the city would be awake. She lept out of the tree. In her instant of free fall her fear rushed to meet her. Then, at the last second, she landed on a sturdy branch. Guilt crept onto the fringes of her consciousness. No one skipped the day of talents. It simply wasn’t done. And yet here she was, doing it. She leaped again, falling down towards the next branch of the tree. The trees here were so large that it took her whole city, holding hands, to wrap around the trunk. Every branch was many paces apart and the closer she got to the ground the longer the distance between each branch became. When she was as close to the ground as she could be without leaving the branches, she paused. Not only had she skipped the day of the talents but she had left her tree. Her people never descended to the ground below unless it was absolutely necessary. Unknown dangers lurked on the floor and without the protection of the trees, her people were close to helpless. And here she was, about to set foot on the ground in the night. Grasping the trunk of the great tree she inched her way closer to the rocks below. When she was close enough to the ground that she could jump, she let go and prepared for impact. 

As her bare feet hit the ground they felt every leaf and twig. Her breath caught in her throat. Her legs shook and she used her tail to steady herself. There was much less light down here. The forest floor, she heard, almost never saw the moon. Perhaps I should have stayed in the trees. She thought. Then she shook her head. Her people would search the canopy as soon as they knew she had skipped the day of talents. They would only go to the ground after at least five rotations of the evening star. Still, every second was against her. She started to run. At first her legs were clumsy and she tripped on hidden logs many times. She was accustomed to running for no more than a short way, as the trees allowed very small open walkways. But as she ran farther and farther from her home and the dreadful place of ceremony, the more her legs obeyed her command. She felt the wind in her long hair and the solid earth beneath her feet and was soon running at top speed.

She was aware of time passing, but without the light of the moon she had no way of telling how long she had been running. As the night and new day wore on, her legs grew tired and her feet blistered. They were not accustomed to sharp stones and uneven ground, only the worn down, smooth bark of the canopy. Her long hair tangled in the dense underbrush and the more she ran the more she thought. Surely they have started the ceremony by now. They will call my name, look expectantly into the crowd. My mother will have assumed I was with my friends. They will not realize I am gone until I do not stand. Do not walk to the stage and display my talent and submit to the life of change. Hunger stung at her insides unlike ever before. She stopped, ducking under a rock. Catching her breath, she reached for a low-hanging branch. Pulling off a mushy fruit from the Azizi trees, she bit into it. The sweet juice ran down her face and she devoured the fruit, savoring every bite. She dared to stand straight, and for the first time look around at her surroundings. Moss, thick and green, coated the ground at her feet. The sound of water trickling down into a pool was not far away. The trunks of the great trees were close together making it hard to see very far. Birds and squirrels flitied amongst the branches. There was no Animarh in site. An unusual sound pierced her pointed ears. It sounded like music - though it did not come from the birds above her. She turned around slowly and gasped. Directly behind her was a dwelling. It was made of branches but seemed out of place here on the ground. It had a tiny window on the right side that spilled white light. Her eyes darted to the path leading from the doorway and she realized she was standing on it. The music stopped. A voice entered her head.

You are early. Did you attend the Ceremony? Arika nearly jumped out of her skin. An old one, older than her mother, her teacher, even the cities’ storyteller, stood in the doorway.

I-I- She stuttered. Could she trust this Aminarh? Her thoughts were loud and confused, surely he knew her intentions. Yet he did not show any disapproval at her questions…then she realized he had asked a question. “Who are you?” She somehow knew the answer.

“I am the old one, the healer. More formally, Qutal. The only one currently with the same power as you. The only one who can train you. Your people need you. Your training must begin as quickly as possible. But first, please demonstrate your power on the glade around you.”

Arika’s heart pounded in her ears. The very thing she was running from, her destiny, performing, demonstrating, training, she had run into. Hot anger arose in her heart. Never. She was about to run when the woman standing in the doorway of the dwelling opened her mind to Arika’s. She paused. Comfort and solace washed over her, healing her hatred. She saw the woman as a young girl, looking as defiant and scared as she felt. Compassion choked her throat. Her expression remained unchanged, hard and angry. Yet she could not ignore the woman and run. She blocked her mind from the Old one. Looking around the glade of trees for an excuse to leave, she spotted a tiny bird. Its song was long and sad and it flopped uncomfortably on the ground. Bitterness filled her mind. 

Care to demonstrate your power? She scoffed. The last time she had used her power on purpose, people had laughed. Had pointed, and scorned. Humiliated, she had never consciously used it since. She took a step toward the little bird. She placed a hand on the bird's chest. She was instantly part of the bird’s being. It was strange and she felt out of place. She was about to pull her hand away when the Quctal entered her mind. 

Give it a try. Please.

She blocked her mind from the Old one. Then, reluctantly, she replaced her hand on the bird. Instantly she felt what it felt, thought what it thought, and knew what was wrong with the little hatchling. It had fallen out of the tree and cracked its skull. Despite her bitterness she felt a wave of compassion for the bird. She allowed the Aminarh behind her to enter her thoughts. Her smile echoed through her mind.

You are a truly magnificent person with a truly magnificent mind. 

She concentrated on the well-being of the bird under her fingers and the bird’s cries stopped. It squirmed and then lay still. Looking at her with glowing eyes it got up, then flew up, and up, and up, till it disappeared in the canopy. Arika turned around. The Old one looked at her with a knowing expression.

What if I can't go back?

You can.

It was a simple response yet it was what she needed to hear. As much as she hated to admit it, she felt guilty for leaving. The ceremony was ending now. If she ran through the canopy she could make it back in time to perform. She wanted to keep running, to leave, to where exactly, she didn't know.

A silent tear rolled down her cheek. She curled her tail around her and turned to face the old one. “I’m ready,” she whispered with her mind, and lept with some effort into the trees above. Without a hesitation, or a glance in the opposite direction, she was gliding through the canopy towards her home, her stage.

The old one smiled. The girl with the paper, the magnificent mind, had been healed.

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