by Phillip Leon
Dampness. Darkness. Silence. Silence most, above anything else. The great tree rose above Leo, tall and strong, silence radiating from it. Towering above him as though threatening to squash him with its might. A long, broken branch leaned close to the ground. With a deep breath, Leo slowly climbed up the branch.
He grabbed a nearby branch and pulled himself up to a growth on the tree. Spotting a rope he had tied to another limb, he grabbed it and swung up to a higher place on the unbelievably tall tree.
“Huh? Leo, is that you? Oh, hi!” a small, strong voice said.
“Hey Rocko!” Leo hated to use his full name, Rockobockotolo.
“Wactha here for today, Leo?”
“Oh, just the view,” Leo said as he fingered the smooth, red amulet around his neck.
With a flutter of wings, Rocko landed on Leo’s shoulder. “Yeah, its pretty nice up here.”
Leo rubbed the hoktie’s tiny head as he purred softly. But he was interrupted as from behind him came a cry of “Leo!” and five small, extremely agile black shapes pounced on his head.
“What the- jeez, you little kitterkies! You guys are crazy!” said Leo, more than a little bit shocked at being more than a little bit surprised.
“Yeah, we are!” yelled Lekoo.
“Its fun! You should try it sometime!” shouted Coosh.
“Being crazy!” giggled Klopper.
“Try it!” the Snapuss quintuplets cried.
All were quiet in a humored silence. Leo thought a moment, just for a moment, but it felt like an eternity. He thought of his only real friends, a flame-yellow and blue bird and five tiny kitten-like creatures, his only connection to them a small amulet he found lying on the river-bank, beautiful and yet sadly abandoned. The golden frame, a lovely circle engraved with wings, monsters of the sea and burrowing animals and such. The emerald gems that were spaced around the circle sparkled in the sun, odd symbols carved into them like runes. And finally, the shining red stone in the center, light glaring off in a fiery reflection. Leo looked out, over the forest, past it, at the land of Nythos. Nythos at night, one of the most awesome sights Leo had ever seen. He wished sunrise would never come, so that he could stay with his friends, with the forest. But the day, or lack of it, would never stop, it would never wait for anyone.
“Hey, Snapusses, how about you come into my lap? You know, off of my head?” Leo said, and they all jumped off his head into his lap and started playing there.
Suddenly, a bird flew past, and it stopped and turned around as if forgetting something. It skidded to a halt, if that is even possible while flying, right in front of Leo’s face. They faced each other for a moment, Leo in utter confusion and the bird, a flaming jay, in curiosity, until Leo spoke.
“Uh, hi. How are you?”
“Thanks hello I’m fine how are you?” Came the reply at a breakneck speed.
“Umm...I’m okay, thank you,” Leo cautiously said.
“Why do you speak so slow? you have no need to speak so slow,” the flaming jay responded at a rapid-fire pace. “Oh by the way I’m Ik.”
“Well, Ik,” Leo said, unsure of himself, “I don’t think I can talk that fast.”
“Oh well that's too bad too bad too bad...” Ik trailed off, staring into space as, unconsciously, he landed on Leo’s other shoulder.
“Owww!” Leo cried as he tried to brush the poor bird off of his shoulder, only with the effect of more burns from Ik’s wing’s friction.
“What did I do what did I do what did I do what did I do?!” Ik shouted in guilt.
“You burned his shoulder, you dumb bird! You flapped so fast that you made heat! And a lot of it!” Rocko yelled at Ik.
“Oh I’m sorry I guess I’ll leave now,” said lk quickly and sadly.
“No, wait, don’t go,” said Leo. “Just... just land over here.” Leo patted a nearby branch and Ik landed on his single foot next to Leo’s hand.
“Are you sure you’re okay are you sure you’re okay?” Ik demanded.
“I’m fine. Nothing more than the equivalent of a sunburn.” Leo grinned.
But, then, he heard a noise. A familiar noise, yet strange at the same time. A kind of low buzzing mixed with the high note of a bird call.
“The cry of the buzzer-birds,” Leo said. “Sorry, guys, I gotta go.”
“Noooooooo!!!” The Snapusses said simultaneously.
“No, please!?!?” Rocko whined.
“Already?” Ik said.
“I’m really sorry guys, but I have to go.” And with that, Leo was climbing down the tree.
He started the trek back home, and after the strange, pleasant sound of the buzzer-birds died away, the silence pressed on Leo, making him scared, the quiet too much to bear. However, he kept going, he had to get home. He arrived at the house and he climbed the wall of the two-story wooden house, crawled into his window, and got into bed. There he slept an unrestful sleep.
Phillip Leon began his writing career at age 10. It was an accident. The career, not the writing. He thought he was just taking a creative writing class that was being taught by his father, also a writer, at his school, but his father recognized the talent and has not allowed that class to be the end of it. Frequently, he can be found staring at a computer monitor putting in his daily writing time. He's not quite sure how he feels about this since he is currently in the "I hate writing, but I love having written" stage.