Seedling, Sapling, Tree: a Story in a Few Parts
By Beth Hopkins
For my friends
Part One: Seedling
Seedling was somewhere dark and damp. She had been there for quite a while when she felt something brush past her.
“Hello!” she called out “Who is there?”
“I am Worm,” came the voice from somewhere very near Seedling. She nearly yelped in surprise, but contained herself.
“I see,” she began, “Well, to be precise, I understand. I don’t see you a bit. It is difficult to see much of anything around here.”
“That it is, Miss,” Worm answered.
“I am Seedling Sapling Tree,” she said. She was a bit embarrassed she had forgotten to introduce herself, “Can you tell me where exactly we find ourselves?” Seedling asked Worm about this with as much politeness as she could. She was rather uncomfortable in the dark, but very grateful to have someone to talk to in such a place.
“We are Underground, Miss,” replied Worm matter-of-factly.
“Oh,” Seedling tried to sound satisfied with Worm’s answer. But she was no more enlightened than before their conversation began.
“You sure have got a lot of names, if you don’t mind my saying so, Miss,” Worm observed.
“I do indeed have a lot of names,” Seedling replied, “And I do not mind you saying so. I have wondered about it myself.”
“Well,” said Worm thoughtfully, “Perhaps you were meant to be several different things.”
Seedling laughed aloud, “Forgive me, Worm. I do not mean to laugh. But whoever heard of being more than one thing at once?”
“I’ve heard tell of it,” Worm said.
Seedling did not know what to make of this.
“Will we stay here forever, Worm?” she asked, more than a little worried about this prospect.
Worm chuckled, “Certainly not, Miss. You won’t, anyway. I’ll wager you’ll be on your way Outside before you know it.”
“Outside?” Seedling’s small voice quivered, “I’ve only just heard of Underground. I am not sure I will be ready for this Outside when it comes.”
“You will be,” Worm assured her, “You’ll be there only when you are ready, and not a day before.”
“You have a very odd way of speaking, Worm,” Seedling told him, “I have never met anyone like you.”
“And I have never met anyone with three names,” said Worm kindly.
Seedling thought for a while as Worm rustled around in what Seedling now understood to be something called Dirt. Worm had explained this to her, and he would occasionally munch on bits of the stuff as they spoke.
“Worm,” Seedling asked after a few moments, “have you been Outside?”
“Every now and again, I venture Out; when it Rains,” he said proudly.
Seedling wondered at him in silence. Worm coughed.
“Tell me about Outside, “ she asked Worm, “Tell me everything there is to know about it, if you please. I must be ready.”
“Oh, dear,” Worm replied, “I could not possibly do that.”
“And why not?” Seedling was all at once incredulous and a bit hurt.
“I am afraid no one can tell you everything there is to know,” Worm continued calmly.
“This is terrible news,” Seedling declared.
“It is not terrible, or awful, or any such word,” Worm said, in an attempt to comfort her, “It would only be terrible if everyone else except you knew everything about it there is to know. But no one seems to know very much about anything at all, from what I can tell.”
Seedling began to feel a bit better about the whole thing, and she thanked Worm. He busied himself with Dirt for several minutes as Seedling lost herself in thought.
Suddenly, something large and wet burst right on top of her. Seedling cried out, horrified. She hoped it wouldn’t happen again. But then came another of the bursts, and another, and another.
“Worm!” Seedling shouted “Help! Worm! What is going on?”
“Calm yourself, Seedling,” Worm was gliding around her with great speed. Seedling could feel him moving the Dirt, and she knew he had not left her.
“It is just a bit of Rain,” Worm said, “I think you will find it beneficial.”
“How do you know that?” Seedling shrieked as more of the droplets burst around her, “How do you know this-this rain-won’t kill me?”
“I sincerely doubt that it will,” said Worm, “In fact, you might find you like it if you relax a bit. It might help you.”
Seedling, infuriated that she was getting soaked in what seemed to be a series of very unpredictable explosions, wanted to protest this notion with all her might. She began to doubt very much that Worm had ever been correct about anything. But she could not seem to move herself from where she sat, and Worm was so busy he had no time for chatter. Seedling had no choice but to sit, and to wait, and to die in the Rain.
But she did no such thing. She instead became used to the feel of the droplets, and how they made the Dirt soft. Seedling stilled her mind and, before she knew it, she began to reach. She reached and reached and reached, until she felt she would burst. Dirt was moving around her, and she felt the very tip top of her begin to push back against it.
“Bravo, Seedling!” she heard Worm shout, as he slid through a clod of wet Dirt before coming to a stop next to her.
“What is happening, Worm?” the frightened Seedling asked, “What have I done?”
“You are growing!” exclaimed Worm, positively delighted, “Somehow I knew that Rain would do the trick.”
“I’m beginning to think you know more than you let on,” Seedling said.
“I know some of what I see, a bit of what I hear, and a little of what I feel,” Worm replied, “And that about covers it.”
“You are a fascinating creature, Worm,” Seedling declared.
“Aren’t we all?” Worm answered.
Seedling was so content in the Dirt with Worm, she wasn’t sure Outside could be much better. Out of nowhere, an unwelcome thought began to steal away her joy until she finally gave it voice, sadly.
“Worm, whatever will I do Outside, without you to comfort me?”
Very gently, Worm stretched himself around Seedling.
“We will have one another nearby in stories and thoughts,” he told her.
Worm uncurled then, and Seedling said, “If that is so, I must have plenty more of your stories before I go.”
“But of course,” Worm said.
In the weeks that followed, Worm told Seedling of Rain, of Light and Sun, and the buzzing of Bees. All the while, Seedling spread out and grew and reached up through the Dirt.
One day, after the passing of a great storm, Seedling felt warmth. She discovered she could look and see bits of colors and shapes; and she began to discern the Worm and the Dirt and the Underground. She started to realize that-almost without her deciding to do so- she was moving faster and faster above worm through the Underground.
“It is time, Dear Seedling!” Worm exclaimed “Time for the Outside! Farewell!”
“Goodbye, Worm! My first and dearest friend! I will hold tight to your stories!” she shouted as loud as she could, full of fear and promise and uncertainty.
In a single moment, Seedling burst from the dark. Once again, she could see nothing: she was blinded this time by light, but only for a moment.
“Good gracious!” she heard someone say, “It couldn’t be! A real live Sapling!”
At that, she blinked and flailed and gasped. All the while, she was waiting for the World to come into focus.