Some of the trees of White Peak stand tall and proud like sentinels of the sun. A white veil swirls about their steady frames, moisture gathers and drips from the canopy down to the mass of trunks and smaller trees. Most of the life happens below, smaller trees dwarfed by their older brothers. Their wiry, netted hair dangling to the forest floor, swaying as they gossip among themselves. The more talkative of them whisper and crackle into the heavy air. Little leaves ejected like spittle.
Fingers trail cracking skin. A solitary figure cuts through the thick mist. Lean meat and awkward limbs push forward, click-click-clicking his tongue, drowning out the beckoning of home with each tick. Every step, a step away from his little village, away from the noisy adults and idle children. His blood hums with a primal thrill too ancient for the child to understand. The hooded trees hiss, little hard leaves showering the boy.
Kiko chuckles as he hoists himself up, greedy hands latch on to a hanging lattice. With an angered snap, the tree yields and the game is on. Little limbs land with a muted thud on the carpeted floor. One foot scrambles in front of the other, hands gripping onto whatever it can.
A boisterous arm strikes at each crooked pillar of wood only to be whipped in the face by hanging flora. Echoing rustle and laughter fill the forest. The saplings of the wood twist and grapple. Rough bark scratch soft skin raw. The sentinels pay no mind to the young ones, preoccupied with the warmth that is washing them. They, who are old enough to know of Kiko’s people, pay him no mind.
The forest in the clouds is overgrown, and each bedded life that dwells in it fights hard for their piece of the sun. Knobbed trunks mangled like a web of living wood, tentacles that dig into the ground. Every surface carpeted by soft, green moss. When a tree succumbs to the darkness and mist, toppling to the hungry earth it does not take long until it is devoured, but the forest does not easily forget. Old scars heal with new life. On the carcass of the fallen grow mushrooms and fungi, little vines with pitchers catching water for prey. Tent-like bulbs with dainty petticoats, green carpets emerge from the fallen and the forest’s song goes on.
So Kiko keeps running. A boy too young to understand, a clouded forest too old to forget.