From Dryad Ch5 ...

A small excerpt from Dryad chapter 5, something a little lighter than the dark beginnings of the book that you may have read in previews on retailer websites.

“I’m looking for Asha,” John said.

“Yes.” The boy responded as if John had said something obvious.

“Can you help me?”

The boy’s face turned serious for the first time since John had met him. “Does she want you to find her?”

John considered this. It was rather more up front and direct than he wanted. He knew he should have asked himself this question, but he was not certain that he would like the answer so he had avoided it.

“I’m … not certain,” John said, equivocating. “I miss her. I want to learn more from her. I want her to feel that she can return to her trees … but I think I have made things difficult for her.”

The boy had retained his serious expression, he did not appear to have made any particular judgement yet, so John pushed on.

“The thing is …” John hesitated. Was there a way to say this that would not gain the same response from this boy as he had from Asha? He’d gone over their conversations in his head and could find no good way to put it.

“The thing is … I think I am broken. That my mind is broken. I think that you and Asha are products of my imagination. I don’t believe you actually exist, but I don’t want you to go away.”

The boy stared at him for a moment and then rolled over backwards, laughing loudly. He kept rolling, over and over, his body shrinking as he rolled, until he disappeared – without a splash – into the stream. He stepped out further downstream still laughing. He sat back down in front of John and tried to pull himself together, his body growing again to match John.

“You really know how to flatter a girl,” he said, and then burst out laughing again.

John stared at him, not amused. “It’s not a laughing matter.”

“Yes, it is,” the boy choked trying to settle himself back down. “You sit there, in all seriousness, speaking to me – but you don’t believe I actually exist – asking me to help you find the girl who also – according to you – doesn’t exist. And you seem mystified as to why the girl in question may find your attentions … undesirable. It is funny, it is!” and he was off again, tears streaming from his eyes.

“At least you’ve come to the right person. Imagine that!” he spluttered out, enjoying his pun. “Can you do me an imaginary bloodhound too?” he slapped his knees, laughing even louder.

John sat waiting. He supposed he could see what the boy was laughing at, but he was still unable to find it funny. At least the boy was not upset by the idea that John did not think he was real. Eventually the boy quietened down.

“Will you help me?” John asked again.

“Yes,” said the boy, serious again, and John breathed a sigh of relief.

“Of course, I am not certain that I should. It seems likely that Asha may not thank me for it, but …” here he started to choke again, “I absolutely must find out what you plan to do for an encore,” and he was off again, his laughter filling the forest.

(Back to the Dryad book page.)