Read Charlie's Dream Online

Authors: Jamie Rowboat

Tags: #Fiction Young Adults

Charlie's Dream (7 page)

BOOK: Charlie's Dream
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"Can you help me carry these seedlings out to the garden?" asked Shamir, turning round with a tray of lettuce in his hands. "It's time to take them for a trip outside to see if they're ready for transplanting," he continued.

"Sure," said Charlie, being snapped out of his little daydream. They loaded a few trays onto two wheelbarrows and headed through the labyrinth of paths that zigzagged across the two acres of garden that lay within the high stone walls.

"How many elves help you maintain this place?" asked Charlie.

"Well, there are four or five elves who work on it permanently with me, but then we have periods of harvesting and planting when many others are involved. Do you like it here?"

"Mmm, yes, I do. There's something about this place that is very comforting. Maybe it's just more familiar and an easier scale to deal with. I don't know, it just feels gentle here, the rest of the valley is just too much to take in at the moment. It's like my dad reckons, if you go to a new city, find a small orbit of friends and shops, or the complexity and size of the city will overwhelm you."

"Ah yes, I think I'd like your dad, he sounds interesting. Do you know, it's been years since I visited a city. The last time was nearly a hundred years ago, when I visited Gemma in Paris. What a time we had for those few years, and what a city. We danced and partied, created and loved, the whole place was absolutely electric for years."

"I didn't know you had travelled in the outside world," said Charlie.

"Most certainly, yes, I have travelled there many times. I have visited most of the major continents over the years. But it has always been a dangerous process to enter or leave the valley, so I curtailed my expeditions just before the First World War."

"Uhuh, I see," said Charlie, struggling to lift a huge pumpkin onto Shamir's wheelbarrow. "What type of fertiliser do you use on all of these plants?"

"I recycle the scraps from the house as compost, but what they react to best is a lot of love and attention. Just like us, they don't like being taken for granted. If they feel that someone is listening to them and hearing their needs, they are only too happy to produce lots of beautiful fruit. It's easy, really," said Shamir, with a cheeky grin.

"You make everything sound so simple," said Charlie.

"With awareness, everything is simple. Instead of trying to work out everything for yourself, by listening, you are putting yourself in touch with the universal power that creates and maintains it all. Provided you are then willing to listen to its advice, you have a lot more freedom and power than someone who tries to struggle along using only their own will as guidance."

"Mm, that all sounds fine in theory, but how do you make it work?"

"Okay, well let me show you something simple that might help," said Shamir. With that, he picked up a small tray of lettuce seedlings and handed them to Charlie.

"Now, sit down with the tray on your lap."

Charlie did as he was asked and, when he was comfortable, Shamir stood behind him and gently put his hands on his shoulders.

"Close your eyes, Charlie, and release all of your thoughts by focusing your mind on the breath that is going in and out of your body. Don't worry if your brain fights you for a while, just keep letting go of your thoughts and see what replaces them."

Charlie sat totally still for quite a few minutes and let his thoughts go as best he could. There was a brief moment of peace amongst the trying and, suddenly, an answer came out of the stillness. When he opened his eyes again, Shamir was sitting cross-legged in front of him.

"They don't want to be planted today," said Charlie, with a smile. "They'd prefer to wait for the full moon next week. But they're grateful to be considered and are looking forward to their time in your garden. Amazing, is it really that easy?" asked Charlie.

"It is, my friend, it is," said Shamir nodding.

By the time they finished in the garden that evening, they were both exhausted, yet satisfied. Charlie had practised talking to a whole range of plants, with varying degrees of success. As Shamir pointed out, he was probably a little bit too excited to listen all the time.

"Strange as it may seem, it takes time to develop the skills needed to listen consistently," said Shamir, as they cleaned their hands in the tiny stream that ran through the centre of the garden. "But to succeed at your first attempt is a very promising sign."

Once they had finished clearing up, neither of them had enough energy to bother about supper, or any more talking for that matter. So after a couple of pieces of cheese on toast and a mug of hot chocolate in front of the fire, they were very happy to get to bed. As they lay in the darkness awaiting the touch of sleep, Charlie turned onto his side and whispered across the room in the direction of Shamir's bed.

"I'm pleased I came to the valley, Shamir, even if I don't really understand what's going on."

"Thank you, Charlie, thank you," came the faint reply.

Chapter 8

 

 

 

When Gemma woke, the warmth from the young woman next to her was like a hot water bottle. The first glimmers of light were appearing in the fig tree's uppermost leaves and the birds were singing madly to celebrate the end of the nightlong downpour. For a while she thought about an early morning stroll, but she was planning quite an expedition for them that day, so she allowed the comfort of sleep to beckon to her again. When she woke up, her hot water bottle was gone and there was the unmistakable smell of toast and coffee in the air. Gemma loved the smell of fresh coffee being made. It reminded her of living in France when she studied Art in Paris before the First World War. She had lived on the West Bank for ten glorious years in a large three-storeyed townhouse that she shared with a succession of artist lovers, friends and, of course, her beloved brother Shamir. As the war became inevitable, she travelled South with a small group of brilliant young painters to live in a tiny village called Nanserre.

"Hello sleepyhead," said a voice, pulling her out of her daydream. It was Marie, and she was crouching down beside the bed with a small wooden tray in her hands.

"I wondered how long it had been since anyone gave you toast and coffee in bed," said Marie, as Gemma propped herself up on an extra pillow.

"My darling girl, you are a marvel." she said with a grin.

"I'm sorry about the quality of the china, but it was all I could find," said Marie.

"I know, there's very little in the cottage any more. I tend to camp here nowadays. The time when I lived here on a regular basis has long since gone and now it's somewhat run down. When my friend George Colney died some years ago, I retreated here to grieve. Since then, it's always been associated with that period to me and I've pretty much stopped coming here."

"I know that name, Charlie's parents bought the Croft from him just before he died. I remember them mentioning him."

"Yes, that's right, he was tremendously kind to them about that. He was under a lot of pressure from his sons to take a higher offer for the land, made by a developer who wanted to subdivide it. He was offering almost double what they could afford, but George could see how much the old barn meant to your parents. His sons have never forgiven me, they were convinced I turned George against them in the matter."

"And did you?" asked Marie, timidly.

"No, I didn't need to. George was very much his own man, he made a fortune by his relaxed attitude towards money and by always doing what made him feel good. He was amazing in so many ways, although his family could never see it. They were too consumed by their greedy anticipation of what they would inherit when he died. At one stage, they tried to have him declared unfit to control the family fortune, in an attempt to stop his philanthropy. Even though he was the one who had created all of their wealth."

"So, what happened?" asked Marie, incredulously.

"Hah, in the end, he asked the whole family quite innocently to meet him at their solicitor's office one morning in June. Then, with the lawyer adjudicating, he challenged them all to an IQ test, which he won with a score that registered him as a near genius. After that, he gave them all a piece of his mind about their intentions and signed his entire estate over to the local orphanage right in front of them. His family were horrified, I'll never forget it."

"So you were there, but why?"

"Moral support."

"So, what happened next?"

"Humph," said Gemma, before going quiet for a second. "He died the next day. We'd gone to dinner at his favourite seafood restaurant in London to celebrate his eighty-second birthday. It was a tiny place, called Manzies, with sawdust on the ground and amazing fresh fish from the markets. It was hidden down a laneway behind Leicester Square, George just loved the place. He finished his meal, gave me an eternity ring that he'd found in an antique store in Covent Garden, signed the cheque and dropped stone dead from a heart attack right in the middle of the restaurant. His sons were utterly outraged. They tried to contest the will of course, but in the end they were left with their homes and nothing else, and the local orphanage will never have to look for patrons ever again."

"It sounds like he really loved you," said Marie tenderly.

"Yes, he did and I loved him a great deal too. You know, we were lovers and friends for nearly thirty years, but he never knew the truth about me."

"Really? That's incredible, but what about his wife, wasn't she around?"

"No, she died giving birth to his second son, an occurrence which was a lot more common in those days."

"Did he really know nothing about your life? Didn't you find it hard to keep it from him for all those years?"

"Hmm, you really ask the most piercing questions. But that's okay, I like it, it keeps things moving. We all have a past and George knew that mine was lurid and extensive. Without actually lying to him, I was able to share pretty much everything about myself,without the need for specific dates. The way I'm talking to you is a unique experience for me. When you have lived for as long as I have, you explain things in ways that people can put in context with their own view of life. How could I have said to George that he meant the world to me, but so did the lovers that I had met in the previous two centuries?"

"Now that you put it like that, I can see your point," laughed Marie. "But all the same, it sounds very lonely," she added.

"In a way, it is and there have been times where I longed for a normal life. But there are a few of us who have been chosen to illustrate the delusion of mortal thinking. We all reincarnate, Marie. We all die, we rest for a while in the perfect state of bliss that exists beyond death. We then reflect on our actions in our previous lives and then, based on that, we are given a variety of options for our next life. That's what happens and our misunderstanding in this area is as real as the delusion of believing that the world is flat."

"My God, that coffee's really got you jabbering. I think I'd better take the pot away before you have another cup," said Marie.

"You leave the pot alone," said Gemma, with a smile. With that, she jumped out of bed and quickly threw on some clothes she had already prepared, in between slurps of coffee.

"So, what now?" asked Marie, finishing off her last bite of toast.

"There's an ancient tree at the middle of my land that I would like to show you. I know that probably sounds a bit lame, but the centre of these woodlands has remained untouched for centuries and I want to show you the mother tree to them all," said Gemma, grabbing their rucksack from the kitchen table.

"Okay, that sounds intriguing," said Marie.

"I think you'll like it. I always find it powerful there, but we'll need to take a snack because it's quite a walk," said Gemma, stuffing two apples into the bag. She added a few other yummy items in with them and then handed Marie a walking stick.

"We'll clean up the breakfast stuff when we get back. I want to get going now, while the weather is good," she said, striding towards the front door.

"You don't hang around once you decide to do something, do you," laughed Marie, grabbing her coat and chasing Gemma out of the front door.

Gemma led the way down the drive, but just before reaching the main gate she headed down a path that led into the depths of the forest. The beech trees that dominated the area were still laden with rain from the previous night and it splattered down loudly around them as the morning breeze dislodged it from the high foliage. The path was sodden under foot and Marie was pleased she had taken Gemma's advice in borrowing a pair of decent hiking boots from her collection. They walked for well over an hour through the forest, with Gemma leading the way and only the endless birdsong for company.

"I love this forest, it reminds me of the elfin valley," said Gemma, breaking the quiet between them.

"Are there beech trees there as well?" asked Marie.

"Beech trees and every other species you could name and many you couldn't. When the valley was planted we wanted it to be like a huge botanical garden. Just talking about it again makes me wonder what it's like after all these years. I'm sure Shamir and the elves have it looking amazing now."

As Gemma finished speaking, they rounded a slight bend in the path and about a hundred metres in front of them was an enormous beech tree that was considerably bigger than any of the others. Marie reckoned that it would take at least three people to stretch arm-to-arm around her girth.

"Isn't she beautiful?" whispered Marie, as though she had just entered a church.

"My word, she is, and a friend who I haven't visited for far too long," said Gemma, with a sigh.

The sun was slightly higher in the sky now and, as they approached the beech down a corridor of trees that lined the path like sentinels, the sunlight streamed through their branches in the most dramatic fashion. Gemma walked up to the tree first and gently rested her palms on the trunk, then leant in to do the same with her cheek. She beckoned to Marie to copy her actions and, as her hands touched the moist bark, a warm tingle ran through Marie's body from the very tips of her toes to the hairs on her head. Neither of them moved or said anything for quite a while, until finally a slight breeze touched their faces and their reverie was gently broken.

"I have missed your touch so much, I'm sorry it's been so long since I last visited you," said Gemma, quietly.

"You really can talk to trees, can't you?" said Marie, quietly.

"Yes, I can," answered Gemma, wiping her nose.

"Can anyone understand them?"

"With time and patience, they can. Trees speak a very subtle language that is more about feelings than words. Have you ever sat still beside a large tree and, after a while, felt a gentle breeze on your face, which seems to enliven your body and freshen your thoughts? It's like a gentle caress, which answers questions without giving words."

"I suppose so, maybe when I was a kid," said Marie, tentatively.

"Well, that is the language of trees. But now, I think we should collect what dry wood we can for a fire because you are looking blue with cold."

"Okay," said Marie, shivering her approval.

They set about making a small fire at the foot of the tree. All the wood they found was soaking wet but, fortunately, Marie found some dry kindling in the crevice of a dead tree. Those few dry twigs were enough to get a bright little fire spluttering into life and it was soon strong enough to burn through the dampness and boil a nice billy of tea. Marie sat huddled in front of the fire and soon its warmth lifted her mood considerably. Gemma had gone in search of more dry wood, so Marie sat watching the flames' mesmeric dance, wrapped in her woollen blanket. As she did so, the light changed around them and she was no longer cold. In fact, she could feel a warm glow starting to emanate from her stomach. After a while, there was nothing in focus other than the fire — the rest of her surroundings were blurred. Out of some space deep within her, came an almost imperceptible, humming sound, that became so strong that it seemed to fill her whole being. It felt like electricity charging through her body, then out of her lower torso into the earth. The energy anchored her so powerfully, it took all of her concentration not to panic as it happened. After a while, she became accustomed to the feelings and relaxed into the space. As she did so, she could hear the sound of what seemed like distant singing, rising up from the heart of Mother Earth. It carried a sense of age and wisdom that moved her heart. As the emotional intensity increased, Marie seemed to be released from her human frame to fly high above the land in the body of a bird of prey, all the while hearing the ageless narrative in her ears. She crossed landscapes that changed from the lush, cultured slopes of English fields, to the rugged frontier lands of Southern France and the endless Southern ocean. Up, up, up she flew across the spires of mountains that reached for the heavens in their humble grandness. Finally, she flew over the border into a rugged new land that was surrounded by sea. She began to gently descend from the mastery of the clouds, until she felt the impulse to lift her feet to stop them from hitting the treetops. Suddenly, she was amongst them, flying through the upper most branches of exquisite, silver trees, eventually coming to rest on the branch of a particularly large one. From there, she could see a small cottage in a clearing down below, but before she had time to do more than register its presence, she was swooping down for a closer look.

Marie landed on a small flowering Magnolia tree next to the house. It was early morning and the dew was thick on the windowpane, which made it difficult to see anything on the other side. Then it happened, a sleeping figure in a bed beside the window, rolled over and faced towards her.

"Charlie," gasped Marie, recognising him through the misty pane of glass. She could almost touch him, he was so close. But before she had time to think more than this, her focus was wrenched away to the front door just beside her, that was opening. The figure of an old man stood silhouetted in the doorway and, as he glanced up in the direction of the tree, she felt an overwhelming compulsion to fly away. The figure seemed to gesture in her direction, but it was all too much for her, she flew rapidly back to the safety of the clouds as the picture began to lose its balance. The vision swirled out of focus like a bad funfair ride, until she collapsed into deathly blackness.

"Marie," said a voice from somewhere near, "Marie, are you okay?"

It was Gemma and she was crouching over her. She was back, wrapped in her blanket in front of the fire again. She couldn't say anything for a while and her body felt strange, like a sailor who has been at sea for too long and whose legs don't trust the firmness of the ground yet. She lay there, enjoying the gentle warmth of the fire until she felt some strength returning to her body.

"Here, have some tea," said Gemma, emerging from the shadows with a steaming mug in her hands. "It'll make you feel a bit normal again," she said, bending down.

BOOK: Charlie's Dream
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