La Cigale de Rêves (The Dream Cicada)
By: Gerard Valencia (originally written November, 2008)
Amber was collecting acorns, eggshells, and small plants. She was confident letting time go in the forest could take away her sadness. Duke, as Amber called her father, was everything to her.
They lived together in a small log near the village of Umbra, which at the time was threatened by the flames of war. But despite Amber’s young age, she was conscious about what happened around her. She feared the worst, as Duke, like most males in the village had to defend its inhabitants.
Amber placed her forest treasures in the satchel she knitted with the housemaid Rita on a Sunday. And then, she spotted a sparkling bead on the ground and upon picking it up she saw even more around the mossy forest going in a trail. Collecting every single one she saw, Amber eventually realized she was lost.
As she walked through the forest a strong gust flowed against her. But as she turned around to look upon the towering pine trees above, a flock of crows rose as a black mist from the leafy roof of the woods. She walked faster, despite not knowing where to go. And as if somebody from beyond had noticed her dilemma; Amber found a rotting fallen trunk on top of some somber boulders. As she sat underneath, she hoped to figure out what to do. The sun eventually rose, signifying she had been there for some hours.
To keep herself busy, she decided to look through her earnings from nature. She carefully observed the pastel colors of the eggshells, praised the top hats of the acorns, and enjoyed the sweet scent of the small flowers.
Suddenly, a soft musical chirp was heard leaping towards her. Amber saw a grasshopper gazing at her like some exotic curiosity. She patiently observed the grasshopper as it bathed and waved its antennae. Then she had an idea. She took out some bark from her cloth bag, along with some loose string from her dress, and crafted a figure with six feet and flowers for eyes.
Amber noticed how different her creation looked from the grasshopper, and also noted the insect had wings. The grasshopper hopped away, and she collected some leaves to add to her bug. And when done, she held it carefully in both of her palms.
The sun was then covered by a large cloud. Amber then felt a sprinkle in her small white cheek. And soon more of these fell from the sky.
She then looked at the soil as it turned dark, the emerald leaves glittering silver, and the moss around her releasing a soothing crisp scent. Amber looked down at her creation and told it,
“I wish my dad would not fight, but I know he has to.”
Moments later the rain stopped and the peeking sun turned everything gold. Amber realized she had dozed off while the rain ceased. And she also realized her twig-bug was gone from her sight.
She looked for it when she heard a tymbal sound. With a jolt she rose to her feet, dusted off her dress, and gazed above the fallen, where her merry twig-bug (now with the flowers in its eyes replaced by two crimson orbs) rested still.
The girl was marveled at how it had moved on its own. The twig-bug was curious about the world around it, and it decided to try out its clear wings. However, the twig-bug did not know how to use them and fell, to hopefully be caught by the palms of Amber.
Twig-bug was curious about what Amber was; so it attempted to crawl up to her shoulder, but the feeling of its tiny feet tickled the girl, and so it had to remain in her hands.
Amber told twig-bug that she was lost in the forest, and twig-bug seemed to respond to this with a chorus. Twig-bug attempted to jump out of her palms, and when it managed to do so at last, twig-bug flapped its clear wings to make a buzz loud enough for her to hear. Twig-bug then began hopping through the ground as Amber followed it, realizing that twig-bug somehow knew the land due to its various materials coming from different parts of the forest.
She then found herself where she found the first sparkling bead that led her to becoming lost in the first place. She picked up twig-bug and placed it inside her satchel, and then the forest winds moaned upon the sight of the girl leaving.
Amber with twig-bug (peeking with excitement from her bag) passed a wooden crossing with a brook underneath. The next landmark of their journey was just ahead, past the nest of finches and the menhir, where the greatest of battles was yet to be fought.
Rita had been screaming from deep within her gut for Duke’s daughter to come for supper, and at the sight of the girl with curly ginger hair, a ragged cloth bag, boots, and a filthy dress, Rita immediately spanked her on their way to the log.
That night, Amber saw Rita coming out of the kitchen to open the door for her dad. Amber, who as usual refused to go to sleep until she saw him arrive safely, was peeping through a crack from her bedroom. Rita had long been aware of this, but to avoid the trouble decided to keep the secret like all good friends did.
To her dismay, Amber saw Duke covered in dirt and blood, sitting in his exclusive seat at the dinner table. But this time, she could not stay to watch like his shadow. She went back to her bedroom and crawled underneath the bed, where in her cloth satchel, twig-bug ate a small flower pedal, much to the surprise of Amber, who did not know twigs could feel hunger.
“I really wish somebody would stop him from going to fight,” Amber whispered to twig-bug, “I do not want him to die.”
Twig-bug began to tymbal once more, making a sound so loud Amber had to put it under her pillow when Duke and Rita came looking into her room for the noise.
Amber whispered twig-bug to be silent or else Rita might kill it with her sole. Late that night, she found twig-bug staring out the window as if mesmerized by the bright pair of moons, Luna and Concordia.
Twig-bug then flapped its wings and managed to ride the secret winds in the house. Amber was amazed at this and asked it to fly to her shoulder, which it did pretty well.
But as soon as it was close to Amber’s ear, the faint whispers of the twig-bug were finally heard,
“I can help you, Amber,” and getting her full attention proceeded, “You made me for that reason, and I must help you.”
As the sun brought the twilight of dawn, Amber was eager to enjoy another meal with her father. However, this did not last because of the arrival of the person she despised most.
When Rita heard the wooden door bang repeatedly, she found Henry, Duke’s war comrade, wheezing and whimpering desperately. Seeing the alarmed man, Duke went to talk to him and immediately took off without saying another word.
Just when she thought she could spend time with Duke, the moron Henry ruined their moment. Despite this, Rita told Amber to pray with her so that the guardian of the heavens would protect both of them.
When Amber got her satchel (with twig-bug inside) and ran outside to the withered meadow, she asked the twig-bug to make sure the guardian of the heavens protected her father from harm. And at that moment the twig-bug flew out of a small hole in the bag (that it nibbled) and disappeared as a black dot into the stormy sky.
The twig-bug blew away the smoke pillars with its wings, and scouted ground zero for Duke.
For the next few weeks, Amber stayed with Rita and together pleaded the guardian spirit for help. And when the time came, they had to run in order to escape the flames of the demon called War.
Meanwhile, Twig-bug had survived the threat of the flame by drinking the golden sap from trees, which gave it strength to find Duke lying motionless against a tree. His eyes clouded by violence and dread, his stiff hands gripping onto his riffle. Still dazed, the soldier awoke to the chorus of the Twig-bug.
“Amber will always wait for you by the fallen trunk in the mossy forest, past the withered meadow,” but Duke was clueless, “The guardian will lead your way. Follow the sparkling trail of tears from the fallen innocents.”
Duke then stood up, and listening to where the twig-bug called with its tymbal. For some odd reason, he noticed through the hollow land nobody fired again. Everything was eerily quiet.
He followed the twig-bug until it collapsed on the ground, unable to fly as too much smoke had asphyxiated it. Duke then held the poor twig-bug in his hands and looked for the sparkling trail of tears.
The saddened sun, Lucifer, managed to peek through the clouds, but it could not manage to tuck the earth under its golden warmth. However, Duke did manage to catch a glimpse of the sparks that decorated the dark ground. They were small sparkling bullets (like the ones he used in his riffle) and as he followed them he found a small flower waiting for him.
“Daddy?” asked Amber, who could not help to smile upon seeing his face once more.
Her own tears revealed how Rita and she had managed to escape the fiery path of War, and find shelter underneath the carcass of a fallen tree. Her tears also revealed the efforts of somebody who wanted her father back, even if it was just for a few moments, before the wind revealed its truths. She then saw Duke holding the lifeless body of the twig-bug who had brought him back from the dead. When Rita returned from the river, she found Amber burying something.
“You shall sleep now,” more tears rolled down her cheeks, “Thank you.”
Amber then felt the hand of Duke against her chin.
“You will always be my princess,” and with that he returned to the battlefield, vanishing from her sight into wisps of dark smoke and golden mist.
A score and fourteen years passed. With them, and the flame demon long gone, the village of Umbra molted its bed of ash. Children ran happily through the village, determined to get to the woods. Amber, no longer a child, took her own and an elder Rita to the woods as well.
Everyone was excited for what was coming, as it happened once before. The ground was covered in small holes and the clouds where of a goldenrod color. Suddenly, the trees began to sing a chorus only believers could tolerate. Then countless magicicadas left the trees and flew around the planet. And for those who contemplated their love song, they got to see the trees covered in wingless golden nymph shells.
Only Amber knew where they came from and why. It was her sign of hope. And all had started when she was only a child with a wish, long ago, and the earth was withered and dark in the village of Umbra.