The next day the three children met up again, as usual. They were on their holidays, and every morning at ten o’clock they would meet at the edge of the forest on the border of their little town.
Greg was there first, looking nervous beneath his curly hair and slightly grubby-looking face. Richard arrived next, and Greg said, “What do you reckon then? Should we go in and look for him? Should we stay out? My dad told me that I was just imagining things, that there was no such thing as a tree man. He got annoyed with me by dinner-time. He wouldn’t even let me show him.”
“I don’t know,” Richard said. He felt nervous as well, as if there was no doubt about what they had seen, but he was not sure what to think of it.
“Maybe…maybe Amanda will be too scared,” Greg said, slightly hopefully. “After all, she is a girl…”
“So what if I’m a girl?” Amanda appeared next to Greg, and Greg now looked even more uncomfortable.
“Um…no…I was just saying,” said Greg, shifting on the spot and looking down at the ground. “You might not want to go in there again in case we see that weird tree man thing again, that’s all…”
“Well I want to go in,” Amanda said. “Are you scared, Greg?”
“No,” Greg said, in a quick and cutting manner. “‘Course not.”
“Are you, Richard?” she asked. Richard had nothing to hide.
“Yes I’m scared, who on earth was he? What was it? What if it tries to hurt us or something?”
“Look,” Amanda said. “After we saw him yesterday, I went to the library and I found this.” She pulled out a book from her rucksack, and walked inside the forest, just inside so she could lean up against a tree. “Look,” she said, beckoning the two to come closer. “Look at this.”
The two boys came forward and sat either side of Amanda. She opened the page to where her bookmark was, and just before she did, Richard noticed the title said “Mythical Creatures Of The Forest.” The book was old and yellow, with dirty-looking pages and worn-away edges.
“This book tells you everything about mythical creatures,” she said.
“What’s a myfical creature?” Greg said, wiping his nose with his sleeve.
“Mythical,” Amanda said, correcting him. “It means creatures that were spoken about in stories that most people think is just something made up, or something to represent something else. Like dragons,” she said. “Dragons are a mythical creature. People tell stories about them, but not many believe they are real. They are more like magic stories.”
“Dragons are real though aren’t they?” Greg said, “My Dad has shown me pictures of fossils…”
“No, that’s dinosaurs,” Amanda interrupted. But then all three children wondered, for a moment, whether this was an absolute certainty.
“Anyway, look at this,” Amanda pointed to a page that began with a sketch of a strongly-built muscular man, with no hair and bright eyes, with another eye in his forehead which looked different to the other two.
This chapter was titled “The Earthman”.
Amanda began to read the words out loud to the other two, who were very intrigued. The two boys were leaning in to read along as well.
“The Earthman is a breed of man that emerged prior to the modern human being.” She sounded enthused. “They began to die out hundreds of years ago from a disease of feeling separated from the Earth, and as they began to lose their roots, they lost their abilities, which now seem supernatural, and gradually their species changed into what we now call human beings. At the time of completing this book, I’m not sure if any remain. I have only met one, who claimed to be the final one of his kind, and a few weeks ago he told me he would be dissolving back into the Earth. I have not seen him since.”
There was more writing, but Amanda skipped to the very back page of the book.
She put her fingers on the final page and started reading. Richard was reading along, and the page read:
“A Note From The Author
Although mythical creatures are supposed to be make-believe, unreal animals that humans use to tell stories, it is my firm conviction that many of these beasts I have seen for myself whilst carrying out my research for this book. Many years of work have gone into it, and whilst I realise I will be ostracised for saying this, I know for a fact that many of these creatures are real. I have seen them in the flesh, communicated with many of them, and have seen how they operate in nature. The only one I have not seen is the Helper Fish, who acts to save drowning people in the ocean, lakes and rivers; but I believe this is purely because of my life-long fear of water, which prevented me from diving into water to find it. Perhaps if I one day happen to find myself dumped in the sea, it may just come to my rescue.
May this book act as a resource for all those hungry for the truth.
Dr. Bernard J. Hoothfellow”
“I’ve heard of him!” Greg said suddenly. “My dad told me about him. They used to be friends back in school, really good friends, and then Dad told me he went crazy, let his work get the better of him or something, and now they don’t see each other.”
Amanda flicked back to the Earthman chapter, and showed the two boys all the extra information there was – the history of the Earthmen, what they could do, and that they never harmed people unless they were forced to protect the land. The final sentence said:
“If you love the forest, you will always be safe around the Earthman.”
That settled it. All three children were now excited and ready to go and find this Earthman. All three of them loved the forest, how it seemed to be like an old friend that would look after them, and so up they stood, the book went back in Amanda’s backpack, and off they marched, back to where they had met the Earthman yesterday afternoon.
It didn’t take them long to find the circle of trees where they had fled from yesterday, and they felt as if they were walking quicker than they ever had done. Amanda nearly burst into a run, but felt she wouldn’t want to come charging in on a mythical creature.
They arrived at the circle of small trees, and the tree that had turned into the man was not there.
“The tree’s gone!” Greg said, looking stunned. “It was right there wasn’t it? Now there’s just a gap.”
Greg went over to the spot that was now empty, and sat down.
“Greg,” Amanda said. “Be careful.”
Greg shot back up into a standing position after only having sat down for two seconds. “Gosh!” he said. “That was weird. It felt like electricity going up my legs just then, and I felt my bum was being gripped by the ground!”
The three were looking at the spot, the bare, blank patch of ground, and then they heard a deep and powerful voice come from behind them.
“Try again,” the voice said.
The children quickly looked round, and standing a few feet from them was the same man they had seen yesterday, huge and muscled, towering over them with a deep smile that seemed like it was coming out of his core, rather than just a contraction on his face.
Richard took a step back.
“It’s you!” Amanda said, “You’re who we saw yesterday, you’re an Earthman, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” replied the Earthman. “We all are actually, but yes, humans refer to my kind as Earthmen.”
“It says in this book you died out!” Amanda got out her book from her backpack, and found the page she was looking for. Greg felt like he was rooted to the spot. He was sure he had never seen something so beautiful. He felt like when his father had taken him out on a field trip, and he had seen some wild horses standing in the sunlight. There was something magical about them, something majestic, and he could feel, even from this distance, that this creature had a power about him that was quite unfathomable.
Amanda showed the Earthman the words on the pages saying that his kind had likely died out, and handed the book to him. He read for a moment, his bright eyes scanning the words in a very calm, unhurried manner.
“Ah yes. Well, this book was written, still with some misunderstandings,” the Earthman said, handing the girl back her book. “It is good but not fully informed.” He walked through the children and sat back down in his spot in the circle of trees.
“What do you mean?” Amanda asked, following at his heels.
“The author of that book thought that the Earthman had died out, and human beings had evolved, or perhaps de-evolved out of them, after a disease of separation had befallen the Earthman. Really the human being and the Earthman are no different, except the Earthman knows his oneness with the Earth, and the human being does not. That is the only difference. We are not different species, you and I.”
The children heard a kind of wrapping and gripping noise, and they saw huge strong roots growing out of the Earthman’s big legs, and going deep down into the ground. After a few seconds it looked like he didn’t even have legs anymore, he was just a body with roots attached.
“So did you ever meet Dr Hoothfellow, the one who wrote this book?”
“Yes, I used to know him,” the Earthman said. “He was a good man, loved the forest. Loved the forest very much, actually.”
Richard came tentatively to sit down next to Amanda, Greg had still not yet moved. He wasn’t frightened, but had just completely forgotten about himself. This was an incredible sight. His dad would probably faint if he were to see this!
Amanda was reading some of the words about the Earthman.
“I was reading this yesterday after we saw you,” she said, flicking through the pages. “Is it true you don’t have to eat or drink?”
“Well, sort of,” the Earthman replied. He closed his eyes for a while. “I still eat and drink, but not in the way you do. I eat and drink like a plant or a tree, I get my nutrients from the sun, and the water from the rain and the ground. Since I know that I’m one with the Earth, she takes care of all my needs, and I don’t often have to consume food through the mouth.”
Amanda was quiet.
“Solid food is still good though,” he reassured her, “and if you notice that it is a gift of the Earth, then it will have even better effects for you. It is all Earth, it is all Nature.”
“So you live here in the forest?” Richard asked.
“Yes,” the Earthman replied. “I tend to rest here, right here in this spot, but I walk around and enjoy the forest when I feel to. I don’t often go into town, because people tend to think I am a monster. I tried once and scared people away, and then they came back in a big group and tried to harm me with big forks and fire.”
“Did they hurt you?” Amanda asked.
“Oh, goodness, no,” the Earthman said. “The wind blew out the fire on their torches, and when they went to stab at me with their forks, the metal blunted itself. This body is quite tough, so I didn’t feel much, and then I just came back here, to the forest.”
Greg came and sat down, and the Earthman looked directly at him. Greg felt his insides shake a little.
“You got scared just now when you sat here, didn’t you?” the Earthman asked him.
“No,” Greg replied, with his arms folded.
“Don’t worry, it’s normal,” the Earthman said. “If you think you are separate from the Earth, to feel connected to it again can feel scary, like you’re losing your identity. Humans think there is the Earth, and then there is them, like they are separate because they can walk around on the Earth. But you are the Earth. You are like a piece of the Earth that can get up and walk around, and that’s what the Earthman is.”
Richard gently took the book from Amanda and pointed to the sketch that the author had drawn.
“Have you got a third eye?” Richard asked, tapping the picture.
“Yes,” replied the Earthman. “So have you, but it is not as obvious as the other two. It helps you see things, extra things, things that the other two eyes can’t perceive, but not many people know about it, and when you watch your televisions, it’s like sticking a knife in your third eye, and it may take a while to heal itself.”
A brown bird came and landed on the roots of the Earthman. It started to hop and tweet loudly.
“Ok, ok,” the Earthman said, stroking its head. “I’ll fix it.
“This bird’s nest has fallen from the tree, I have to go.”
“Well, can we come?” Amanda said, putting her book back in her bag.
“Yes,” the Earthman replied. “It’s not far from here. We can walk.”
The three children nodded in the same, almost hurried way due to their enthusiasm, and the Earthman rose up to his feet and began to move along the forest floor. He was majestic, like a god, and as the Earth came into contact with his feet, Amanda noticed that the grass and the leaves seemed to come slightly together, almost as if they were supporting and responding to his touch.
Greg could see all of the muscles in his back as he walked behind the Earthman, and he began to wonder at how strong this creature was.
Richard was watching as the bird danced and fluttered around the Earthman, occasionally calling and landing on the Earthman’s shoulder.
“Ok, ok,” the Earthman would say, as if everything was taken care of.
They soon arrived at a small nest of twigs lying at the foot of a big and powerful, almost deep red tree. The Earthman bent down and very gently picked up the nest. It looked extremely fragile in his hands at first, but as he held it for a while, whilst its size did not change, it began to look slightly thicker and stronger.
“Baltdu Mora Keendo,” the Earthman said, as he placed his hand on the bark of the tree that looked like it had been aged and made wise by the years.
The tree made a very strange sound, almost like a groan, like someone not wanting to be woken up, then the Earthman whispered something closely to the tree, with his mouth nearly touching the bark.
“What’s he saying?” whispered Greg to the other two, but never taking his eyes off the Earthman.
“I wish to climb the tree,” said the Earthman, hearing Greg’s question. “I always ask the tree for permission first. No one wants to be climbed on without notice.”
The three felt slightly guilty for all the times they had climbed trees without even letting the tree know about it first.
The big reddish tree then made a kind of soft, whispering sound that seemed to relax the surrounding area, and immediately the Earthman began to climb upwards.
He had no branches to grab on to, he was just climbing, his hands and feet seeming to stick to the ancient tree that now seemed happy to let him climb up it.
The Earthman moved so smoothly and fluidly, until soon he was like a blurry speck high up above the children, and Amanda, who had the keenest eyes, was looking up and could see the Earthman reaching out to put the nest back where it had fallen from, this time with a more secure and firm connection to the branches.
They heard the bird singing extremely loudly, the chirpy song was echoing out to the neighbouring trees, and it was obvious to all three that the bird was delightedly grateful.
Then the Earthman released his grip from where he was holding on to, and he began to rapidly fall down towards the Earth, where the children all backed away to clear a space for who they thought was about to crash into the ground, either making a hole, or hurting himself.
And as the form of the Earthman quickly got bigger as he fell through the air towards them, just before impact with the ground, it was like an invisible buffer absorbed all of his falling force, distributed it evenly and quickly to spread out over the Earth, and the Earthman’s feet ever so gently touched back into the ground after hovering above for half a second.
Greg felt his jaw hanging open, and shut it abruptly.
Without saying anything the Earthman began walking back to where they had all met, in the circle of the trees.
The children didn’t say anything, they just followed in a line, feeling like he knew what he was doing. They got back to the circle of trees, and the Earthman sat back down in his usual position, reconnecting his roots again.
The three sat down next to each other, on the ground that they were now extremely aware of.
Amanda felt questions beginning to burn inside her again.
“What about women or girls? Why aren’t they in my book?” She got it out of her bag again and started checking through it. The Earthman looked at her with half-open eyes. “We don’t have a gender,” he said. “We are neither man or woman, but because we look more like a human man than a woman, we are called Earthmen. It is easier for you to understand like that.”
“How do you have babies then?” Amanda asked, no stranger to the science behind birth.
“The Earthman never gives birth, the Earthman is born straight out of the ground. When the Earth wanted to extend herself, she would give birth to an Earthman, and he would jump straight out of the ground.”
“Why aren’t there more of you then?” Amanda asked, confused about it all.
The Earthman closed his eyes. “Because there is a sickness, Earth is sick, and she does not want any more of her children to risk becoming sick. When the Earthman was high in number, all over the Earth, we lived very wonderful lives. All our needs were met by the Earth, and she would take care of us while we enjoyed walking around and being in the forest together. We had such good lives, but we became lost in it, and we began to think that we had done it all, produced it all, like all was from our own power, as if all was our responsibility, and we started to imagine we were separate from the Earth.
“We started giving ourselves names, and we started to think we were all like separate people, rather than all part of one living being. Then this sickness spread, and the Earthman began to die out. We would usually live many hundreds of years, until the Earth would call us back to rest, but we started becoming weaker, smaller and less powerful, until we became as human beings have become now. Have you seen how they act? They have no idea that they are part of the Earth. So it is not just that the Earthman became sick. The Earth became sick. The two are one thing, and since Earth is sick, she can give no more life.”
The three children sat there, feeling quite sad for themselves and the others, and the Earth.
“When human beings realise they are not separate from Earth, then the Earthman will come back to prosperity. She does not want to just create more Earthmen in the ground, she wants the human beings to come home to her, and realise who they are. More Earthmen being born may mean more become sick.”
“Well you could help though, you could help tell them and bring them back!” Richard said, enthusiastically.
“No, I have said, they are too afraid. Many do not even enter the forest. They fear me when they see me, and if they feel themselves merging back with the Earth, they feel like they are dying. But it is really the other way round. If they do not come back soon, all of them will die, in pain.”
“Well what about us?” Greg said, feeling a surge of confidence inside him. “What can we do then? We always come into the forest and we love it, how can we help?”
The Earthman’s roots untied from the Earth beneath him again, and he stood up from his sacred spot. He walked two large paces forwards, and sat back down again, facing where he had just been.
“For you, young man,” the Earthman said, looking at Greg, “you just need to sit quiet in this spot. Earth will do the rest. Just sit quiet. Don’t try to be something, don’t try to help yourself, just sit quiet and relax into Nature. Go. Sit.” He pointed to the sacred spot, and Greg marched over to it, beginning to feel touched by his memories of yesterday.
“But, last time,” Greg said, now feeling hesitant, “last time it felt like if I stayed there I would disappear, like the Earth was going to swallow me up or something.”
“Yes, good,” the Earthman said, nodding. “That is right. You lose yourself, the self that your parents and teachers told you that you were, and you fall back into what you really are, one with Nature itself. Sit. Trust. Earth will not forsake you when you surrender to her.”
Greg, despite his hesitations, wanted to be like the Earthman, he was so impressive, and seemed to be like a real life super hero. So Greg sat, and waited until he turned into an Earthman.
“No,” the Earthman said. “Don’t try to be an Earthman. If you try to be an Earthman, you are saying to Earth that you are not an Earthman. Give your desires to Earth, say that you are hers, and then keep quiet.”
So, Greg relaxed himself into the ground, followed the Earthman’s instructions, and the same sensation came over him again, the electricity, the sinking into the Earth, and his heart started to beat as if it had been woken up suddenly.
“Now, just relax,” the Earthman said, just before Greg felt himself about to tense and stand up again.
Amanda and Richard looked on, as they saw living roots shoot out of Greg’s legs and down into the ground.
“Woah!” Greg yelled, and although his eyes were closed he looked like he was having some wild dream. He sat bolt upright, and his body began to glow with a gold haze that was emanating out of him. He exhaled deeply and he had a slight smile on his face.
“Woah!” he said again. The Earthman watched, as if nothing was happening.
Amanda and Richard were raring to have a go. After a few minutes, Greg slowly got up, and his roots gently released him from the ground.
Richard went to have a go, then saw Amanda move to go as well. Amanda stopped as she noticed Richard was ahead of her, and after Richard saw her look slightly disappointed that she could not go next, he sat back down and gave her space to go and sit down on the blank space of land. She smiled and said thanks, and as soon as she sat down, she entered a trance. She was not aware of anything. Nothing. She opened her eyes after what seemed like a few seconds, and the evening sun was setting.
“Twenty minutes,” Richard said, looking slightly bored. Greg was sat next to the Earthman, looking like he was meditating, with his legs crossed, and when Richard looked closely he could see a single root connecting Greg’s lower back to the ground.
Now it was Richard’s turn. Amanda went to sit next to Greg, and before she closed her eyes again, she was looking around at the forest, now fully aware that it was all one thing, one big living thing that no-one was separate from.
Richard walked over and sat down, wondering what might happen. Nothing happened. He waited, he opened his eyes and saw that the Earthman was watching him, quietly.
“You want power don’t you?” the Earthman asked, looking deeply into Richard. “Yes,” Richard said, “I want powers like yours. I want to be strong and be able to talk to birds and…”
“No,” the Earthman interrupted. “I am not strong. Earth is strong, Nature is strong. That is how we became sick in the first place. We wanted all of Nature’s power for ourselves, to act like it was our own, our own individual merit. But all is from your source. All is from Nature. Give up your power to her, she will use you, and then her power flows through your body. You are nothing, just a vehicle for Nature.”
Richard felt his mind empty of all of its content, and he felt like his mind was being sucked into his core, somewhere in his chest or stomach. Then he heard someone speaking from overhead…
“Look, Earthmen are coming back!” He looked up and it was a bird, calling to his friends. Richard did not hear it as tweets, but as actual words.
“You can hear me can’t you?” the bird asked. Richard nodded, and the bird flew off.