Wouldn’t it be weird if we lived in a world where – instead of growing leaves – trees grew tiny heads that could talk? But the heads had the same life cycle as leaves? So, at first, the trees sprout tiny baby heads and those heads just cry all the time. So, if you leave your window open on a warm spring night – instead of hearing the rustle of the leaves – you hear thousands of softly crying baby heads.
In the summer, when the leaf heads are fully mature, you hear them all talking to each other. They say things like, “How did we get here?” or “What is going on?” or “Why are we so high up?” or “Why don’t I have a body?!”
As fall sets in, the leaf heads start aging and changing colors and shriveling up and dying. So if you are out for an evening stroll you hear a cacophony of shrieks and groans and, “Oh god, oh god! I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die! Please help me!” And as the weather grows colder and the leaves fall, the ground covers in a brown festering layer of dead, rotting heads.
The winter descends and there is only one sad, lonely leaf head hanging on the branch outside your window. And at night, when you crawl into bed, you see its face lit up in the pale moonlight. You see its putrefying eyes looking in at you. You look back at it and you are struck by the sadness you see in its disfigured, but still human-looking, face. You realize how lucky you are. And how warm you are. And you stare at that leaf face and you want to say something. But you aren’t able to think of anything to say. And you feel a real sympathy and a kind of sadness so deep that it makes you uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that – even though it makes you feel awful – you get up and close the curtains so that it can’t look at you anymore. Then you go back to bed and you lie with your back facing the window.
When you wake up the next day and look outside, you see that the face is gone. That it broke loose sometime in the night, and you look down and see it lying there on top of a fresh layer of white snow. You see how black and misshapen and alone it is. And you feel guilty again for not having done anything to help, even though you still don’t know what you could have done.
James Bezerra is a grad student in creative writing at CSU Northridge. His work has been published in Prick of the Spindle, Blood Lotus, The Blueprint Review, The Northridge Review, and The American Drivel Review. He is a recipient of The Northridge Review Fiction Award, The Oliver W. Evans Writing Prize, and the San Diego Playwrights’ Project Award.
Lead image: “Doll Head Tree” (via Flickr user Jim Flanagan)