THE LAST AUTUMN

Disclaimer: This is a story written by Elena Larsen, the owner of Bless the Outdoors. Do not copy or use it without permission!


The crowns of the trees were fading into an orange colour. Leaves were falling down from the branches and sailing through the air like small boats. They covered the ground and painted it a mix between brown and red. The last apples shined on the naked branches, still holding onto them while the others were lying underneath the tree. A small breeze blew through the bushes and ruffled them up in round forms. It hit the dark lake on which the leaves have fallen as well and made small ripples which made the leaf boats cradle on the surface of the water. Some could not hold themselves up and sunk into the mysterious depths of the small forest lake.

A faint smell of wood smoke from the nearest small town spread gently in the forest and could be recognised as someone burning the leaves from their garden. However as the smell appeared, it got carried away by the autumn breeze – all together with the dark birds that were flying above the tree tops. They were so high up and by the look of their arrow formation; I knew that they were heading south.

A rowan tree was lowering its heavy deep green branches from being crowned with ripe red berries. Its branches almost touched the tall brown ferns that unfolded underneath the small tree. I stopped for a while to look at it, and also to enjoy the scent of wet forest floor that reached my nostrils. I inhaled it deeply and could even distinguish every single scent that was mixed with it. There was even some sweetness from the rotten apples not that far away.

It was a good day today. Not as warm like it had been the last couple of days. It was a bit humid, but since we have had frost in the night, one could still sense it in the air. I was walking through the peaceful forest all alone one late autumn afternoon. There was nothing to be heard other than the quiet sum from the fading leaves and perhaps some silent footsteps that sounded on the ground. It was probably another habitant of the forest.

From afar the king of the forest suddenly appeared between the trees and he stopped to take notice of me. His large crown was praising on his head, and first and foremost he looked like a god more than anything else. The sun was shining behind him – making him glow in a surrealistic way. For a moment I was unaware whether he could see me or not, but it did not matter. He could hear me moving through the leaves which made him lift his head and sniff the air, hoping to catch my scent.

When I continued walking, he turned around and disappeared behind the hill. The other habitants were rarely nervous around me. Most of the time they did not even notice me. They were used to seeing me in the forest, and as long as I did not disturb them, they did not disturb me. I liked being in the forest. There was so much more there, so many tall trees, so many leaves, plants, lives, scents, sounds… The fields on which I have wandered as well were not as nice as I would like them to be. Even though they could be vast and green, there was always something that disturbed me: Cars on a distant road, a tractor that was running over the rural fields, houses and people.

I have always felt isolated and alone from others. And I liked it. I like the calm loneliness of my being, and I liked it when no one was taking notice of me; when the world was moving in its fast pace – not carrying me with it. I was moving in my own speed, and I did not mind it at all.

As I pushed away some leaves that were blocking my road, my brown eyes that were just as dark as the earth fell on a small forest lake. It was surrounded by yellow trees, and the shine from the sun sparkled on the water. The wet smell that came from the dark water reached me, and I stepped backwards. The ground under my feet felt rather wet, and I did not want to move any closer, fearing that it will get muddy and swampy, when I reached the lake.

Therefore I let lake be lake and turned around, heading towards the large oak tree that was characteristic for where my house was. On the way home, I found some food which made the walk less tiring. I was always very tired at this time of year, and I looked very much forward to come home, lie down in my warm soft “nest” and close my eyes. I have prepared my home for a cosy winter, and from my last year’s experience, I have made it even better. The isolation was thick and did not let a single cold wind slip in.

On my way, I passed by a good friend of mine. I called him Slowpoke, because he was always moving very slowly. He did not mind the name though, and was usually in the mood for telling stories from his many travels. You see, Slowpoke lived a nomadic life. He had his whole house on his back, and he never really settled for one place.

I did not stop to talk with him though. Just a quick greeting and a kind remark from his side as he said that he was heading south, and that I should hurry home, because it was going to rain tonight. Slowpoke loved rain, and he was always out when it was raining. He was indeed an odd fellow. I let him pass by and said goodbye to him for the winter – hoping to see him again next year.

Then I finally reached the large oak that was standing on top of Mrs. Lisa’s house. She was an angry red haired lady that was my neighbour. I’ve never liked her. She was large and mischievous. She always came out at night, barked loudly when she was fighting with her many boyfriends, and even her children were loud when they were playing near the oak like they had done this spring. Luckily they have moved out, and she was now an old lonely lady.

For a moment I thought I heard her moving round inside her house, and I stopped taking hiding behind a bush hoping that she wouldn’t notice me. She was always curious to come out and talk with me, whenever she saw me. Unfortunately she just managed to see me the moment I stepped behind the bush and agilely she ran out from her house.

Good afternoon Mr. Stingington.” She said with her cunning voice as she walked soundlessly towards me and lowered her head with her long nose to greet me.

My heart hammered quickly in my chest, and I could feel how my hair rose as she came closer. I have never liked this lady.

Afternoon…” I grunted back and hoped that she would walk away. Her dark eyes that were always looking hungrily at me. They made me very uncomfortable, and I decided to stand very still.

You have put on some weight this autumn.” She giggled and showed me her sharp fangs as she opened her mouth. “Have you noticed my new coat? Isn’t it beautiful?

I tried not to look at her, but when she asked me I felt forced to answer and I nodded quietly.

Very…

I have never looked this good before.” She said and pranced around before turning back to look at me.

I stood very still and did not know what else to say.

Finally Mrs. Lisa lost interest in me and wished me a good afternoon before heading up the hill towards the big oak. She could perhaps feel that I was not in the mood for talking, and just as she turned her back to me I calmed down and continued my walk towards my home.

My house was small. Far from the majestic underground house Mrs. Lisa had, but more comfortable than Slowpoke’s. I did not have to carry around with my house. I could not imagine how uncomfortable that must be. I did not like to travel much, and a nomadic life sounded too stressful for me. Sometimes I moved into a better house, but I have not moved for almost two years now. I really liked this forest, and I therefore intended to stay.

The roof of my house was low, and there was only one entrance. But it was humble and cosy. And when I entered it, I felt safe, calm and at home. The brown features my home had was my favourite thing about it. I loved earthly colours! I also loved warm and dry places, which was why I did not like rain or winter – it usually made me uncomfortable.

Just as I entered my home, the sun disappeared from the sky and was now hiding behind thick grey clouds. From the entrance I noticed Mrs. Lisa slip back into her own home right before heavy drops of rain and snow started to fall down from above. They landed on the leaves and drummed against the roof of my small humble home. But knowing that I would stay dry, I closed my eyes and began my yearly sleep through the winter.

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