Home » Short stories » Short short story: “The Wood Nymph”

Short short story: “The Wood Nymph”

This came from…somewhere. Just a short little thing that showed up among my morning pages that I edited to a little more than two pages in length. (Honestly, I think some of these short stories are just distractions my brain throws at me so I don’t have to go off and finish some of my larger writing projects. :P)

***

“There is not much that is sadder than a wood nymph who finds herself without a forest. “

That was something her mother had once told her, as she huddled up close to her in their cozy nest, her mother blissfully ignorant of what was to become of her own offspring.

Ah, those innocent days long since passed.

Yes, she had had a forest once. It had not been very large, but it had been just the right size for her. She had had trees to live in and burrows to explore. She would climb up high in the mornings and see all of her home, greet the birds that made the tops of the trees their homes. When she was still small, the larger ones would give her rides on their backs. It had been hers and so she had treasured all of it as she soared high above it.

She had lived on what the forest grew for her, the dew and sweet sap in the spring, the fruits and berries that came during the summer and the mushrooms and roots that came in the fall. During the winter she had mostly slept, hibernating with some of her favorite woodland friends. Sometimes she slept with the hedgehogs, sometimes curling up with the squirrels in their holes and sometimes she had nested with the rabbits in their burrows or even with the kind, old badger that lived under the maple tree. Another time she had spent some time among the mice. There was something quite pleasant about being rolled up in a huge ball of wood mice; there was nothing more comforting and snug.

That had been a good life, but not completely without troubles. Though they were part of her domain and though she should view all animals equally, she still found it hard when the fox or cats came and ate some of her friends. She had accepted it though, as being part of the circle of life, but it still made her sad to see anyone die. Anyone.

When all was said and done she had also felt saddened when the fox returned one day, very sick and then eventually dying under the vast canopy of the old oak tree, the very tree she’d been born in. It was the place where her mother had been born before her and her mother before her. It had been the birthplace of generations of wood nymphs and it welcomed the body of the poor fox, it took it inside itself so that its energies would be recycled and reused in some way.

That was the proper way.

Then one day, the machines had come.

They had come suddenly, with their noise and their noxious fumes and their saws.

The trees fell, one after another and the old oak was not spared, cruelly ripped up by the roots. 

She hid herself in one of the younger maples and wept to see her home so torn asunder, to see her friends flee or become crushed under the threads and huge wheels of the machines.

Before this day she had not been familiar with man, though she had heard of him. From this day, she had always known the terror that man could inflict on his surroundings.

Her tree had been spared, some other few trees as well, but it was not much. Of the animals that used to live in the forest, only some few birds were left. They wept together for the loss of the forest.

Other machines came. For some time, in the place where the sounds of the forest had reigned supreme, the whispering of the trees, the bark of the fox, the buzzing of insects, all that had now been replaced by the roar of machinery.

She remained hidden, huddled, slowly wasting away from lack of any sustenance. It had been a prolonged and unnatural hibernation.

Then finally, one day it all ended. The machines left, but where the machines had been they’d left a huge bare mound, that rose up like a mountain where there had only been flat forest land.

She tried to make do with the few trees she’d been left, but it was no forest and she was still a wood nymph. A wood nymph without a forest.

She willed the trees that remained to be fruitful, to multiply, but she was not certain if she could survive long enough to see that happen. Yet her efforts were not completely in vain. Some seedlings spread to the mound and soon it was bare no longer.

Grasses grew and bushes and seedlings popped up, all along the sides and up on the summit, though she had to ask for a ride from some of the remaining birds to see it for herself, as weak as she had been.

That moment she had had to choose. Should she lay herself down and perish or should she try and live to see what might happen here, what would become of this large hill. Would nature be able to survive?

She chose survival.

More trees and bushes spread. The next summer, the flowers had returned, though they were not the kind of flowers she was used to. The tree seedlings that truly thrived had not been too common in her old forest home. And the birds that slowly returned were also different.

The crows and magpies were among the few she recognized, though they were not the dearest to her, but they were large enough to reliably give her rides.

This new place was alien to her, though it was no longer bare and barren. There was hope for a new beginning here, for new life.

But it was no forest.

Though she had made an effort, this was still not the forest she had used to call her home.

And what was a wood nymph without a forest?

What to do then?

 

She chose not to call herself wood nymph any longer, because when given the choice between life and death…She still had to choose life. Like the seedlings that still tried to survive this new environment. Like the flowers that would struggle up through cracks in the strange black stuff the machines had put down…She also wanted to be a survivor.

So from that moment, she renamed herself hill nymph.

She would not be the sad wood nymph her mother had once spoken of, this change of name not only reflected her change in environment, but also reflected that she herself was different. She was tougher now.

Because if there was one lesson she had learned, it was that with man around, you had to be tough to survive.

And hill nymphs were tough. This she could teach to her own daughter one day.

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