For Part I, click here!
My plastic feet had trouble maintaining balance in the Forest of Labor. The contrast of experiencing the ground’s texture was either smooth soil or kicking against dirt clots. A wide veil of mist made the trek a very tricky one, knowing the right path could dictate a short or long journey. These vague-coded deities and their annoying signs, I blame the water givers just as much as the deity the sunflowers worship for such a blighted day. My delusional mind had believed there was a devious plot against me to have the most aggravating expedition in recent memory.
Luckily I was led to the right path which was a red road with hard and minuscule bumps. Taking this path meant scabs on my feet, but I could at least tell where I was going due to the welcoming red hue in this thick mist. Shortly I witnessed a band of strange beings huddling against an encased torch-light. The torch itself had thick brown wrapping, a shell that prevented its flames from lashing out.
Near the torch was a tall pink-faced orb with a red pointy hat, a four-pronged metal object attached to a carved stick, and a flat-faced iron plate. I calmly approach them and ask, “Greetings, I’m new to the Forest of Labor and need information. I heard some problems needed to be sorted out.” The three of them gave me a blank stare, so I quickly introduce myself, “Funny how I forgot, my name is Tap. I was sent by Frogyo to, let’s say, bury some issues into the deepest holes possible in hopes they do not sprout again.”
The pink-faced orb spoke as dirt fluttered from its ceramic whiskers, “We have received aid? My name is Mogen.” Slowly, Mogen points at the four-pronged metal figure, “this is Sifter,” then at the flat-faced iron plate, “and that is Fossils.”
I say to this band of awkward strangers, “I would say it’s a pleasure to meet you all, but it seems the feeling might not be mutual for specific reasons. Perhaps I’m reading too deeply into your…faces?”
Sifter utters in a mildly aggressive tone, “My friend, you have no idea…”
Mogen moves his massive pink face in front of my view as he says with a curious tone, “You mentioned Frogyo, correct?”
I hesitated for a second to reply, “Yes, do you know Frogyo?”
“Yes, Frogyo used to work with us in the forest. A guardian to keep the pest away from the laborers.”
“You mean the winged beads?”
“Winged…beads? I’m referring to flies.”
I was annoyed, “Ah, the name given by the titans.”
Fossils peaks its flat-face at me and says, “Do you abide by common terminology? You must have been around for quite a while to understand that Titan terminology is the superior terminology.”
I attempted to wave off the nonsense but frustratingly retort with, “A language used by those that refute our presence is a language I’m fine with abandoning. Anyway, why did Frogyo leave?”
Sifter answers, “Frogyo bailed on us after the revolt for selfish reasons.”
Displeased, Mogen says to Sifter, “After I offered a choice.”
Fossils adds on to Mogen’s comment, “Statistically speaking, we knew we weren’t going to stand a chance winning during the revolt. Frogyo was smart and left before trouble happened.”
The confusion was culminating inside my head, so I ask, “There is something crucially important that I’m missing with this story.”
Mogen humbly faces the forest and mentions, “The laborers of the forest were fed up one day with being overworked. Eventually, the laborers conspired with the watchers and our guardian to push against our superiors.”
“Superiors? Is this a group of high intellectual beings doing this or a god pretending to be something it isn’t?”
Fossils moved closer to me as it says, “We do not know. All we can assess is that our orders were given to us by an entity speaking through the trees. We never questioned the entity since we didn’t know what it was.”
“So none of you pursued this entity to find out what it actually was?”
Sifter kicks the dirt as it says, “Have you ever felt something ingrained into your thoughts? Every decision made under harsh supervision? Great punishment that awaited those who questioned something they could not see? One thing I do not regret is pursuing that entity to know why it thinks the way it does.”
Fossils then adds on, “So our superiors, or superior, reconfigured the laborer’s priorities. Instead of functioning as souls with tools, they now function primarily as tools with no souls to keep this forest in perfect balance. Just like the water givers, no rationale, and no intellect.”
Sifter exclaims, “Our brethren were turned to husks with no will of their own. That is all you need to know, stranger.”
Fossils questioned Sifter’s outlook on the matter, “Do you believe that whatever this entity is could punish the laborers that severely? What reason would there be, logic has to be taken into account!”
Taking a deep breath, Mogen explains, “Whatever the reason may be, we have been offered help from Tap.”
I crossed my arms as I state, “To be clear, Frogyo sent me to do this and I offered to help.”
“Yet despite being asked, you are still going to venture into the heart of the forest? That is quite a feat, and it tells me that Frogyo still cares about us.”
Sifter raises its right prong and says, “Or to have this stranger do the dirty work and remove the god from its throne. Leaving Frogyo to claim the forest while the seat is empty.”
Fossils thought differently, “But what would Frogyo gain from controlling the forest? Not to mention are you insinuating that Tap could exterminate this entity?”
I wave my hands up as I say, “I mean if the mailer has come to deliver letters and kill a god then so be it. The only thing I ask is that I get compensated.”
Mogen asks, “Compensated with what exactly?”
“Have any of you heard of the promised land?”
Fossils and Sifter shook their head, but Mogen says, “Only through mentions by passing travelers. If you help us free the laborers and rid this forest of whatever overbearing presence lingers here, I can assist you.”
“Sparks of hope just fluttered down my adorable face,” I say with a monotone voice.
Mogen nods as he slowly hobbles to the torch, “If you go west from here you will find the laborers working around a tree with green orbs on its branches. Find a way to free them and escort them out of the forest.”
“I would assume they would know their way around but so be it, I will hold their hands. How exactly do I free them?”
Fossils explains, “Our best guess would be to move them away from the tree.”
“That cannot be your answer, is that your best guess? Are you not the smart one of this group?”
“We have no information that tells us how this happened or what the entity’s tricks are. All we know is that the laborers are latching on to this tree, like its insides are filled with sucrose.”
Sifter speaks up, “The dirt might have something to do with it.”
Fossils shook its head, “How? There is nothing special about the dirt aside from supplying nutrients for the roots of these trees.”
“It’s just a hunch, calm down.”
I ask, “But a hunch you feel is worth bringing up?”
Sifter wanders around the torch as it explains, “When I was running away after the revolt, the dirt felt like it was trying to grab me with tiny claws. Each one slowly latching on to me like as if it…no, this is nonsense!”
“It was as if the forest was reaching out to you, wanting you back.”
Mogen spoke, “This forest may have had a solid disguise, but now it’s exposed for what it really is. A prison powered by those who were meant to be hollow to begin with. Please Tap, free our brethren.”
I ask, “What happens if I get caught?”
“We don’t know, you will probably force your body over to the entity as it uses your vessel to finish the tree.”
“At least I’d be free from this plastic carapace.”
Sifter says, “But at the expense of losing free will? Yeah, tell that to my family who had it taken away from them. Fun times.”
“Admittedly you all are a sad bunch, so I need as much positivity as I can get. Even if it means giving up.”
Mogen was saddened, “How disturbing.”
“Quite, I’m leaving to solve this issue.” I headed west from the torch-light. The soil was still as uncomfortable as before and the leaves were covered with water drops. Most likely due to condensation from the mist. Aside from drops of water trickling down and leaves brushing against metal encasements, there was this dreadful white noise.
It was a white noise that grew louder the further I traveled into the forest.
The peak of the white noise was when I finally discovered the laborers, sifting near the base of a tall thinly tree with green orbs dangling from above. They looked like Sifter, similar four-pronged metalheads but with different colored bodies — some ranging from yellow to red. Across from the laborers were the watchers that Mogen mentioned. Funny how much the watchers resembled Mogen except for the blue hue of their hats and their smaller size. What I found eerie was their stillness, no physical movement, except for when their bodies slowly rotate when I approach them.
I couldn’t see their feet, neither read their facial structures, and I could feel their ceramic eyes staring at me. My presence was known to them, but I was silent as the laborers mindlessly work around the soil — creating more moisture for the tree. The sound of water drops and bristling leaves was overtaken by the white noise.
My mind was becoming numb, the watchers moved closer.
Whatever sanity I had left was drained, the watchers moved closer.
My limbs and legs felt disembodied, the watchers moved closer.
I woke up and found my plastic body being used as storage, as a water giver was transferring its liquids to me. Each limb was inactive, I was paralyzed and my mind was spiraling away. Was this always going to be my life’s purpose? Or did I never have a choice for anything grander to begin with?
End of Part II
For part III, click here!