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> > > As the Crow Flies - a novella for younger readers by Peter Street

1 February 2007

Chapter One: Destruction

photo of Peter Street Peter Street

Photo of author Peter Street

Image: Peter Street

The rain had eased in a coppice in middle England. The animals were moving out along the branches towards their feeding grounds. The trees were beginning to shake their leaves dry.

Suddenly the ground started shaking as if a thousand rhinos were charging. A machine the size of a house with a huge steel claw grabbed a big old oak around its waist and with one massive tug ripped it clean out of the ground, leaving a hole the size of a bus. Three other machines were ripping and tearing through everything. It was done before anyone knew what was happening. Only a few of the birds escaped. The insects, squirrels, rabbits and foxes were lost! So too were the daffodils, bluebells and the white beds of wild garlic. The iron tracks of the machines just pulverised them.

Humans in yellow hats were following behind the machines like soldiers behind a tank. Then they were slicing up the oak with their chainsaws. The trees brown innards were being sprayed over the forest floor. Their arms were cut off, then thrown into another machine which powdered them into a following wagon.

A similar machine was moving towards the big poplar that was right in the middle of the coppice where two young red squirrels had been cheering and whooping about getting to the top. They were now shaking with fear.

Bogarth the crow and a few of the pigeons were in full flight when they saw the squirrels waving for help. They tucked in their wings and dive-bombed towards the top of the poplar. Their claws were outstretched.

“Quick, don't be frightened, grab hold of my feet!” shouted one of the pigeons.

Nothing.

“Let me try!” Bogarth shouted. “I promise I won't drop you!”

“We can't! We're too frightened,” they squealed.

Bogarth was circling again, ready to go in closer. He knew he wouldn't get another chance. This was it. He tucked his black wings tight into his chest, head down, beak out, pointed like a jet plane zooming down, down towards the top of the trees. He instinctively knew he wouldn't get there in time, but he had to try. He felt a sudden gust of wind. It was an eagle, passing him at twice the speed he could go, its claws outstretched. “No!” Bogarth shouted. “Leave them alone!”

The talons of the eagle stretched outwards, wide. Talons strong and wide enough to lift a child or a young sheep.

On the ground the machine was grabbing the poplar by the waist. The squirrels were being tossed about as the machine tugged at the tree.

“Hurry!” shouted the Poplar. “I can't hold them back much longer!”

It was only the huge network of roots which had prevented the machine from pulling the poplar out. The squirrels were holding on for dear life. The machines were growling louder than ever, angry. Smoke bellowed as the machine moved in for the kill. There was a sudden jerk. The mighty tree was moving upwards. Suddenly the tree lost its grip with the soil. It knew it was going to die. But it had to grip onto to whatever earth it could, to give the squirrels time. It was hopeless. The tree was being lifted clean out.

“No!” screamed the crow as the tree began to move.

Nests with newly hatched eggs were falling to the ground below. The thousands of insects who depended on that tree for their food and survival were dropping to the floor.

Smoke belched out of the machines; their growling was deafening. The big tree was falling… The squirrels were screaming. Suddenly out of nowhere came the eagle, its talons stretched as wide as they could be stretched. His wings were slanted back. The eagle was going to overshoot, it was going to miss the squirrels. Suddenly its brown wings flapped, stretched out to two meters wide catching the wind. Its talons went down, wide. The great bird was slowing. The squirrels were about to fall out of the tree when the eagle plucked them to safety and then swooped upwards then down towards the ground where they were safe.

The eagle said nothing as it swooped away out of sight.

The survivors gathered on the ground in the other field. All that was left was a magpie, a crow and the two red squirrels.

“Who was that?” asked the magpie.

“I don't know”, said Bogarth, the crow. “There are no eagles around here!”

“Anyway, who are you?” asked Bogarth. “I've seen you around but I don't know your name.”

“I'm Coy of the north field magpies!”

“It looks to me like you're the only magpie, are you OK?”

Coy nodded. “These two squirrels don't look so good, though. Look at them. They can't stop shaking!”

“They'll be alright in a while.” Bogarth said.

“What are your names?” Coy asked the squirrels.

“I'm Ben,” said the bigger of the two “and this is Mildred. We'd just got it together, you know, we were thinking of starting a family and things. You know what I mean?”

“I'm sorry,” said Coy.

“It'll happen” said Ben. “We just want to be happy! That's all; why don't they leave us all alone?”

“I don't know” said Bogarth. “I'll tell you something. It's not going to happen again. They have to be stopped!”

“Adam needs to know all about this!” said Ben.

Bogarth was too busy looking out towards the coppice.

“What are you looking for?” asked Coy

“Surely there's more of us than this?” asked Bogarth.

“You need,” shouted the squirrel. “To go and tell Adam!”

There was a long silence before Coy, the magpie said, “No!” hopping around everyone.

“Am I talking to myself or what?” asked Ben.

“What are you chattering on about?” asked Coy.

“Adam will know what to do. He knows everything!”

“Adam!” said Coy. “My mother used to tell me stories about Adam the great oak tree. That can't be him. He must be dead by now!”

“Oh, he's old alright. But he's still very much alive.”

“He is," said Mildred, the other squirrel. “We get lots of acorns from him. He lets us all play on his arms. It's like, well, I was going to say it used to be like one big family? It's all going to go isn't it. I can feel it in the wind.”

“Take it easy,” said Bogarth. “Our day will come. They cannot keep doing this! Come on, we have got to go over and warn Borsdane. They may be next!”

“We live in Borsdane Woods. That's where Adam lives. You have to speak to Adam. He knows everything. He'll know what to do.”

“Come on, then, hurry!” shouted Bogarth. “We haven't much time!”

“Wait for us,” shouted the squirrels.

In the distance they could see a huge mixed woodland, where beech and elm pricked holes in the sky. There was another huge poplar, and hundreds of pine trees. He'd only heard about this wood from some of the other crows. He'd been told this was the wood where anyone could get up at the monthly Council and say what ever they wanted. They could talk about anything. Each and everyone could have their say. It didn't matter if you were a centipede, or a fox. You were given five minutes to say whatever you wanted. Bogarth knew he had to get to them to Borsdane Wood. He knew he had to warn them.

He turned for a final glimpse. The machines had taken over. Not one tree was standing. Smoke was rising from what had been their home.

Chapter Two: Dumb Insolence



Bogarth and Coy were tired after carrying the two squirrels. They needed to rest.

They were halfway through their journey when they came to another coppice. Bogarth decided to try there for some food and drink. A family of crows welcomed him and his friends.

Later, after Bogarth had rested. The crows circled him in a nearby field where he told them everything. There was an intensity on their faces as they moved around the two birds. Suddenly one of the crows hopped around the outside of the circle as though he was whispering something to the other crows.

There were moments of silence while they took in everything which had been said. Then, “I see!” said the leader as he walked with his wings behind his back. “I think we will be alright. We are grateful to you for warning us but the humans will not come this far. They do not need this land. It is only fields and swamp!” he chuckled. “They cannot do anything with it. It is useless!”

He gave Bogarth a knowing look. “Yes, we have a good life. Why don't you stay and enjoy it with us? We have as much food as we need. The trees are good to us, they let us shelter when ever we want. We have everything.”

All the crows were glaring at Bogarth as if he'd done something seriously wrong. They leaned forward for his answer.

“We've got to go and tell Borsdane Wood on the far side,” Bogarth said. “That is where all the animals and trees are! If they are destroyed then there is nothing. If the humans take it. We are all lost. No-one will have a home, they will have won. The humans have to be stopped!”

“Why bother going? Would they do the same for you?” the elder of the crows asked.

“That doesn't matter, I have to.”

“We have survived everything else. ”The crow said. “You could make a family of your own here. It's perfect for crows, it's got everything we want. This is going to be the best crow land of anywhere!”

“That's selfish!” Bogarth said. “We can't be like that!”

The crows started to move forward.

“Selfish!” Shouted the crow. “We just want a place we can call home and you call that selfish!”

“I didn't mean it like that. You can't settle anywhere while the humans are being humans!”

The biggest of the crows looked sideways at them. “You really want to stay here, don't you?” he said menacingly. “You could help us, you are a crow, Crows help crows. It's in our creed. That is until you stop being a crow! Have you stopped being a crow?”

“Don't be silly!” Bogarth said nervously. “I'm a crow. I will always be a crow.”

Coy leapt between them, “We have to go, sorry!”

“Stay out of this!” shouted the crow. “You are only a magpie!”

“Please,” Bogarth said. “I don't want any trouble. We have to warn Borsdane!”

There was a rush of wind, a loud flapping noise like something going through a wind tunnel. It became so quiet you could have heard a mouse from hundred yards away. The crows were turning their necks slow, eyes flicking left to right. There was a squawk.

Suddenly there she was, looking down at them from an elm tree. It was the golden eagle. It wasn't saying or doing anything except being an eagle and preening itself.

Nervously the crows stepped back away from Bogarth and Coy. Then the eagle lifted off with a great whoosh as it flew away. The elm branch it had been sitting on was still twanging, a single golden feather landed in the middle of the crows… They stepped even further back and let Bogarth and his friends go on their way! The two squirrels were whooping and punching the air. Bogarth and Coy had only gone a few yards from the crows. When Coy stopped, “Phew! Thank goodness for that eagle.”

Later they came across a nearby field where two willow trees were looking into a pond. A frog to the left of the trees was lying under the shade of a large toadstool. Some insects were skating across the water, then they sped round some rushes, showing off, leaping over a Lilly leaf to the astonishment of a party of young wild iris in yellow sun hats.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” shouted the frog to the water skaters. “Could we relax, please? It's too hot for all that sort of thing!”

Seeing Bogarth and Coy, the frog made an effort to welcome them, But then he changed his mind. He placed his hands behind his head, crossed his legs, leaned back then asked, “What's happening, lads? You look stressed?”

“You need to come with us, now!” Bogarth said.

“Are you crazy? I've got everything a frog needs, look around you, look at all the flies and the insects, the pond gives me just what I need!”

Mildred butted in with, “You're no going to have it much longer if you don't come with us. “

“So, what can a few birds and two noisy squirrels do? Nothing. So I might as well stay here!”

“You could come and find some thing like it in Borsdane Woods, that's where we're heading, we have to warn them, the humans are coming” Coy said.

“Like I said, What can you do? No. You go on. I'll catch you later,” said the frog.

“Did you hear what I said? The humans are coming. They'll take everything you have. You'll have nothing!”

“It's just a dirty old pond, look at it. They want speed, and dashing around. The fastest thing around here is the water skater. Nah, they wouldn't want this. They want towns and stuff. That's why they're crazy!”

“They're taking everything whether they need it or not!” Coy shouted.

“No species does that!” said the frog. He searched the ground on both sides of him before asking, “Has anybody seen my shades?”

“But the humans!” Coy stressed.

Bogarth interrupted, “Come on, we've got to get to Borsdane Woods. They'll listen to us. ” he said. “you'll get no where with this frog!”

“See you guys,” shouted the frog.

With that the two birds lifted off carrying the squirrels with them.

Chapter Three: The Big Push



In the distance Bogarth and Coy could see a wall of green pines which seemed to go on for ever. Every so often, a tall broad-leaf tree would break the line of green.

There was a broad-leafed tree near to where they landed. A poplar. But it was a different kind of poplar from the one in their coppice. This wasn't narrow, like a giant needle. This was big! Big arms, big body, big crown. It was twice the height of a house. It was one of those trees nobody ever fooled with. This was a tree's tree! It was a Manchester Poplar.

They were about hundred yards from a big poplar where hundreds of pine trees were looking down at them. Then there was the big poplar with its arms stretched out as though it was trying to grab them.

“I don't like the look of this!” Bogarth said. “How do we know it's Borsdane Wood?”

“Where else can it be?” Coy asked

“I don't know but I still don't like the look of it!”

“Don't worry about it,” said Ben. “I know these trees!!”

They turned away from the tree, hoping it wouldn't hear what they were saying.

“How do you know these trees?” Bogarth asked.

“Not that particular one! Ours was a big family until the greys moved in. We had to out. I was only a baby!” He pointed to the poplar. “I have heard stories them. Stories like nobody fools with them! They're harder than hard. Have you seen the size of their arms! Why do you think they're on the outside? They are the protectors!”

“I don't care what they are. I still don't like the look of it!” Bogarth snapped.

“It's alright,” said Coy. “They will not hurt us!”

Suddenly they heard a creaking and a groaning. The big tree was leaning down towards them like a grown-up looking down at a baby.

“What's up, lad?” asked the tree.

The two birds stepped back, the tree was so tall. They shaded their eyes against the sun.

“Is this Borsdane Wood?” Bogarth asked nervously.

“Aye, lad, who are you looking for?”

“At last!” Coy said.

“We've got to speak to Adam the great oak!”

The tree started laughing.

The two squirrels stepped forward, “Listen to me!” shouted Mildred. “You have to listen to these birds. They're our only hope!”

Bogarth lifted off and flew opposite the top branches of the poplar. “This is important!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You and a few thousand birds, trees, insects, all want to speak to Adam. Why are you so special?”

“Listen, you stupid tree!” shouted Bogarth. “The humans are coming. They've destroyed our coppice. And they're heading this way!”

The tree stood upright. “Humans!” he shouted. “Coming this way! Why didn't you say that before?”

A flock of rooks, each one of them twice, maybe three times the size of Bogarth and Coy came out from the trees to escort them to Adam. “Climb on to my back,” shouted Bogarth to Ben. The squirrels shook their heads. “No,” said Mildred. “We will only slow you down. Go, now!”

The two birds waved and watched the squirrels dart into the woods.

Bogarth and Coy then lifted off. The rooks were escorting them deeper into the woods, past trees with orange barks, trees which had been hit with lighting, trees with nest and eggs. They saw an army of ants marching smartly in lines. Other squirrels were tumbling some nuts down a hill. Foxes where chasing a rabbit. There was a strong smell of fungus.

There were trees as far as the eye could see. But directly in front of them in the centre of the woods were some other Manchester poplars. Behind them were twelve huge hawthorns who were sharpening their thorns. Their trunks were twisted, hard, like armour plating. In a tiny opening in between the hawthorns and the poplars was an old oak tree. Its long arms were almost touching the floor. Its back was hunched over.

“Is that Adam?” Bogarth asked one of the rooks.

There was no reply.

“I said, is that Adam?”

Again nothing.

“What's up with you lot? Not speaking?”

“Can you be quiet?” Coy whispered.

The rooks left them in front of the poplars. There was a strange rippling sound as they vanished back into the trees.

“What do we do?” asked Coy.

“Don't bother your head over it,” said the Manchester poplar. “When he's ready I'll take you through. You do exactly as the hawthorns tell you. Don't step out of line, if they think Adam is in trouble they will slash you to pieces. You have to take them seriously!”

They could hear voices, but couldn't make out what was being said. Suddenly it went quiet, dead quiet. All the trees were trying to listen in to what was being said. The big poplar leaned into another poplar and whispered something to him. And on it went like a chain reaction Until it finally reached Adam. “What!” he boomed. “The humans have done what?”

All the trees turned, looking at the two birds. “Bring those two birds to me!” .

Bogarth didn't wait. He lifted off, flapping his black wings. “Wait for me!” Coy shouted.

“Good luck,” said the big poplar.

On each side of them were huge trees, looking at them suspiciously. They flew past huge dark arms, massive trunks, and thousands of green leaves.

Bogarth was admiring the view when Coy shouted, “Watch out!”

The crow tipped his wings just in time, missing a set of spikes. They were now in the hawthorn section. They slowed down. In front of them was more hawthorn in which they saw the feathers of young birds, there was also some sheep's wool down near ground level.

“How on earth are we going to get through that lot?” Coy asked

The golden eagle was hovering a few feet above their heads. Bogarth waved.

“Where does she keep coming from?” asked Coy.

“I don't know. I'm glad she's here. Look at the size of her. It's the biggest eagle I've ever seen.”

“I wonder what she's called?” asked Coy.

“Let's have a minute and think about this,” Bogarth said. “This is silly! You know we haven't a clue who we're dealing with. She could be the devil for all we know!”

“No,” said Coy. “it's not the devil. Us magpies have a thing about feelings, we are sensitive birds. That's how I know. I can't explain it any other way.”

“Coy!” shouted Bogarth. “Watch out!”

Coy tipped his wings just missing a hawthorn, but he landed awkwardly.

“Are you alright?” Bogarth asked.

They were in a no-man's land between the rows of hawthorns. The floor was covered with thorns. There were groups of puffballs fungus. Next to those was a clump of ferns.

“Coy!” Bogarth asked. “Are you alright?”

“No, she's not the devil,” Coy answered.

“How do you know?” the crow asked.

“I just know.”

“Well, why is the eagle here?”

“Your guess is as good as mine! I'm not complaining,” said Coy.

“She always appears when we're in trouble.”

“But where does she come from?”

“Who cares? She can… Look out!”

Suddenly the hawthorns opened up. There in front of them was Adam. There were two red squirrels resting on his great shoulders.

“There's Ben and Mildred again” Coy shouted. “How is it they're with him?”

“I don't know!” answered Bogarth. “But there's something about this, that isn't quite right. I don't know what it is!”

“Like what?”

“For a start,” said Coy “I never seen or heard about a tree having body guards, have you?”

“It's because there are no other trees like him!” said Bogarth. “Look at him, have you ever seen a body as wide and rough like that? Look at his crown. It's greener than green. His leaves are like jewels. There must also be at least a hundred acorns!”

“Come on, in, gentlemen,” Adam said with a soft voice. “I'm glad you made it!”

“It's okay. No one will hurt you, come on!”

They were cautious as they flew across to the great oak.

“Now what's all this about?” asked Adam

Bogarth told him everything. He even told him of the crow coppice and how the humans would probably attack there first before coming across the fields to Borsdane.

“We have to stop them!” boomed Adam. “This cannot go on! They have had their warnings! We are sick of giving them warnings! Our brave cousins, the elms, even cut off their water supply in protest. The humans called it elm disease. Elm disease my foot They are the ones who are diseased!”

There was a hush in the woods while everyone listened. Flies could be heard twenty meters away. Bogarth could hear the popping and swishing of the clouds as they passed over head

“We have to hold a Council Meeting. That is the proper way.” Adam said.

His arms lifted, he straightened, and boomed, “We have witnessed their wars. We have died in their wars. Let's see how they like it!”

Other trees were leaned into each other whispering. The two red squirrels were chattering. Adams voice became softer, “All you trees out there. Yes, I am talking to you. You will change, you will experience something that no other tree has experienced before! You will have powers you never knew existed! You have to believe in me.”

A moment of silence could be heard throughout the wood.

“I want you to lift your arms as high as you can.” He said to the hawthorns and the poplars. “I want you to be fingertip touching, we have to be like their telegraph poles, we have to be able to communicate. Lift your arms I say. You can do it. You are different now from any tree before you. Your finger tips will be touching your neighbour's fingertips. You have to forget you differences. We all have to be one. We are trees. Be proud to be trees. Don't forget, we can live without the humans, but they cannot live without us!”

Bogarth watched the big poplar shrug his shoulders, then there was a creaking that would have been heard across the wood. Bogarth's jaw dropped as the tree's huge arms started inching upwards. The other trees looked on in amazement. It was their turn next. They couldn't wait. At first they got in each others way. Clumsy. Some thorns pricked some of the poplars arms But it wasn't anything serious. They said sorry. That was it. Then it happened. It just came together, all the arms were lifting up together, like some great curtain. The leaves were rustling as though in a storm, but there was no storm. All the trees as far as the eye could see were fingertip-touching each other like some huge telegraph network. Poplar trees were touching hawthorn, hawthorn were touching silver birch. The prickly holly tree was touching the smooth fingers of the ash trees. And on and on it went.

“That's it, my brothers and sisters,” shouted Adam, “Lift up your arms for everyone to see. We are more than just trees. In the eyes of God we are equal to anything or anyone. I have watched humans for almost a thousand of their years. My father and his father watched them before me We cannot sit back anymore. They will kill us all. Their nature is to kill! I ask you, my brothers and sisters to follow me into battle. We cannot wait any longer!”

“I've never seen anything like this!” Bogarth whispered to Coy. “Look at that, I never thought I'd see a rabbit sit on a fox's shoulder, whooping like that. Coy look at it. Look at Ben and Mildred have you ever seen squirrels dancing like that! Look at them. That's wild! Have you heard what the rabbits are singing? They're rabbits! Rabbits don't sing. They don't sit on a fox's shoulder. What's happening Coy?”

The magpie shrugged his shoulders.

“Coy! Have you heard what they're singing? It certainly is our turn. Listen to that, come on, Coy, join in. Run! Humans! Run! Humans! Run, run, run!”

It was night time when word got out to the rest of the wild life that war had been declared on the humans. Glow worms had lit up the clearing like some huge stage set. Out of season daffodils had pushed their way up like periscopes for the underneath world so they could see the action, live. Snakes were whispering to each other. The trees were jiggling their arms, their leaves rustling. Borsdane Wood had never witnessed this amount of excitement. Pigeons were taking messages to each other. Woodpeckers were tapping out coded messages. Borsdane Wood had gone wild.

Chapter Four: Discovery



Most of the trees had been too excited to sleep or even close their eyes. All night they'd been chatting to friends. Holly trees were talking to ash trees. Beech trees were touching Scot's pines. The atmosphere was good. It was better than good. It was electrifying.

Bogarth nudged Coy. “Are you going to wake Adam?”

“I'm not asleep!” Adam said in a low voice. “I never go to sleep. I just rest my eyes.” His head lifted.

“You there,” Adam said to Bogarth. “I need a favour?”

The crow blushed. “Me! Just ask. It'll be an honour.!”

“I'll leave it till after. Perhaps it is too much to ask but we need a distraction if we're going to beat the humans. Don't look so worried. It's not that bad! He turned to the magpie. Coy, will you go with him, please?”

Coy nodded his head.

“I'll speak to you later. We have to be organised, otherwise we will beaten before we start. I have to leave you now. We have to get moving.”

The two birds looked nervously at each other… Then they heard Adam raise his voice, “My brothers and sisters,” he said to the hundreds of trees and other inhabitants of woodlands. “Today you will meet trees you have never met before. They are coming from all parts of the woods. We are one. Now it is your turn to move!”

Bogarth and Coy flew on to the shoulders of the big poplar. “What's all that about doing a favour?” asked Coy.

“I don't know. I'm not sure if I want to know!”

They saw Adam bend down and force his fingers into the soil. “You my friends are free. You will be free for as long as you need to! Until we have beaten the humans all animals and plants will be one. There will be no fighting, everyone is equal. This is the only way.”

Suddenly the ground started vibrating. Soil was flying everywhere. Bogarth and Coy cuddled each other. “Look above us,” shouted Bogarth to Coy. “The eagle! It's hovering above us!” A shadow from its wings covered the two birds like a huge canopy.

Suddenly there was a loud snacking sound. One of the hawthorns leaned to one side and tugged. All the trees were leaning over, their arms were out like circus performers balancing. Some were tugging more than others. Then it happened. One of the trees broke loose. At first there was a mound of roots, like giant strands of spaghetti, fastened to the bottom of the tree. The tree didn't seem to be in pain.

Then those large strands started moving into each other. The thin end slotting into the strand above it. On and on it went slotting into each other like some huge magic trick until there were no strands at all. Gone.

Bogarth and Coy couldn't believe what they had seen. Then they felt a rocking, It was the big poplars turn. The giant roots were moving towards them just under the surface like torpedoes shot from a submarine. There was no explosion just a gentle rocking as the roots again slotted into each other.

“Albert!” Adam shouted. “You are the first! Walk! I say walk!” shouted Adam to the big poplar. Bogarth and Coy gripped the branch they were on.

“Albert!” He shouted again.

The big poplars arms stretched out as far as they could. Then it went more than quiet. There was no noise from anywhere. Even the clouds were on tip toe.

Every flower, insect, tree, bird, animal that was in the forest was watching. The eagle was still hovering.

“Don't be frightened!” shouted Albert to the two birds. “You are safe. The eagle will see to that!”

Then it happened. His body lunged to one side, as he lifted up the other side. His first step was noisy, like he had stepped on a bag of thunder. Then another bag of thunder burst as he took his second step. Bogarth and Coy were swaying like sailors on a rough sea.

From behind the two birds came a sound like distant rain. The sycamores were clapping.

“It's the sycamores! How did they get here?” Bogarth asked.

“What's wrong?” Coy asked.

“Do you not remember? The sycamores are the ones which tried making friends with the humans. All they wanted to do was shake hands. Not one human reached up and shook their hand. That was so wrong!”

“Is there something wrong with the sycamores.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well which tree in their right mind would try such a thing?”

“Some trees are like that. It's the way they are. Alright they might be too trusting. But that's not a bad thing.”

Bogarth and Coy watched in amazement as the trees below them started walking. OK they weren't very fast. They weren't fast at all, in fact they were walking more like penguins in slow motion than anything else.

It was wildest thing Bogarth and Coy had ever seen. It was the wildest thing anyone had ever seen. The trees couldn't stop walking round each other. One of the hawthorns lost its balance and fell over. There were spikes everywhere.

Everyone started laughing. Even the hawthorn started laughing for they are the serious trees.

Then they heard Adam shout, “This calls for a party!”

Chapter Five: The Beginning



It was the best tree party ever. Adam made it official when he said, “Listen everyone. This has come as a big shock!” He shuffled forward. “I never realised you would like partying so much!” Adam looked round at everyone. “It's never been done before, But from now on. This day will be known as Party Day. No matter what our future is, the trees, birds, insect, plants will take time out to have a party. We have got to be happy. We are happy. That's why we will beat the humans! They are never happy! They never know what they want. We only want to be trees, and when all this is over, we will go back to being ordinary down to earth trees.”

There was more cheering and whooping. OK, not like the night before., even so, it could still be heard on the other side of the woods.

Adam beckoned the two birds over to him. “Listen, it's time for that favour he said to Bogarth and Coy.”

Coy was looking nervous.

“I want you both to go to…” He looked at Bogarth. “is it called The Mill?”

“The Mill!” Bogarth gasped. “I've never been there. Just because I'm a crow doesn't mean they'll let me in.”

“You know where it is don't you?” Adam asked.

“Well, yes, every crow knows where The Mill is. But only a few ever get to see it. Some of the crows who live there are stranger than strange. That's why they live in a place like that. They can't mix, can't settle down to anything. I tell you, some of those crows you don't want to meet!”

“Tell them I sent you,” Adam said. “Tell them I need their help. Tell them we are going to attack the humans!”

“Attack the humans!” Coy repeated.

“Come on,” said Coy. “Let's get going! The Mill is going to take some time finding.”

“I know where it is!” exclaimed Bogarth. “Every crow knows where it is. But I don't want to go there. I don't know any crow who has been there! The Mill is when everything else has failed!”

“So what happens?” Coy asked.

“I don't know. No one knows.”

“That's silly, how do you know it exist then?”

“Because we do. A crow knows these things.”

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” interrupted Adam. “We need help now, not next year. This is important, now come on, we have to be organised!”

“Right,” said Bogarth. “Let's go find The Mill.”

“How will we know the crows are coming?” Adam asked Bogarth.

“You'll know!” Bogarth lifted off. Coy followed. Adam and the other trees were waving to them.

“Have you seen whose behind us?” said Bogarth .

“The eagle!” exclaimed Coy. “Who is she?”

“I don't know, but she can't come with us!”

“Are you going to tell her?” Coy said.

“On second thoughts….” said Bogarth.

“Where do you think she's come from?”

“Again, I don't know, Coy,” said Bogarth. “I'm glad she's on our side just look at the size of her. She's bigger than any eagle I've ever seen! ”

Coy waved to the eagle. There was no response.

“Look down below!” shouted Bogarth.

Humans in yellow overalls were ripping out more trees, then they headed into a pond. Panic stricken frogs and newts were scrambling out of the water into the field. They were hiding behind bails of hay, they were jumping down rabbit holes, behind stones, rocks, anywhere that seemed safe. All their efforts were in vain. There was no stopping the machines, they carried on pulverising everything in their path. Two silver birch trees stood defiantly in their path. The machines showed no mercy. For a second there was a resistance, the big engine stalled. Smoke belched out of the machine, its tracts spun round in the mud. The trees were winning. The machine backed off. The two birch trees hugged. The was a moment of silence. Bogarth and Coy could hear the machine grumbling. Then it roared. The two trees faced each other, they held hands.

“Come on,” Coy shouted. “They need our help!”

He tucked his wings in. He was ready to zoom down when the eagle appeared in front of him.

“What you doing?” Coy shouted to the eagle.

There was no response.

“Forget it!” Bogarth said. “There's nothing we can do!”

“We can try!”

“And if anything happens to us, who will get the crows?”

“Well you stay here!” shouted Coy. “I'm going down there!”

The eagle came close to Coy. Its huge golden wings were almost touching Coy's body.

“Who do you think you are?” shouted Coy. “You can't stop me.”

There was still no response.

“Are you saying I can't go?” Coy shouted to the eagle.

Again no response.

“Forget it,” shouted Bogarth. “We have to get to The Mill!”

“What about…”

“It can't be helped. They are only the few. We have to think of the millions we're are going to help.”

Coy was now flying next to Bogarth. The eagle was behind them.

Bogarth and coy had flown over too many fields to even think about counting them. Over and over they had seen trails of destruction left by the humans. They had seen half built roads, roads that were just being started and roads that were being opened. They saw tree roots piled as high as houses. They had seen the arms and legs of trees sticking out from mounds of earth. There were carcasses of rabbits, fox and deer. They had heard distressed woodpeckers tapping out S.O.S messages. They had seen thousands of displaced animals and insects looking for a home and all they found were chimneys, roads, more cars, and more roads.

The two birds were getting tired when Coy asked, “Is that a black cloud in front of us?”

“That is not a black cloud,” warned Bogarth. “That's crows! In a second you'll see The Mill!”

The eagle changed position and moved along side Coy and Bogarth. In the distance they saw a broken down building about the size of Wembley football stadium. They were flying deeper into the black. Into a place that was blacker than black.

“Coy, I want you, to say here,” said Bogarth. “You cannot come in!”

“We stay together!” the magpie shouted back.

The eagle changed places again. She was now leading with Coy and Bogarth on either side in the shape of a triangle.

“Go back!” Bogarth shouted to Coy.

There was no response.

“And you go back,” Bogarth shouted to the eagle.

Again there was no response.

Hundreds of crows had spread out their wings and were next to each other fluttering in a black wall of feather, beaks stuck like spikes, and claws that could rip open a Coke can.

A huge shadow crept over them. Everywhere they looked there were crows.

Bogarth, Coy and the eagle, slowed down for the wall, they started treading air, wings fluttering.

“Wait,” Bogarth shouted to the wall. “I am a crow. You have to let me in! Those are the rules of sky and earth!”

There was no response.

Bogarth could hear his own heart beat. In fact he could hear Coy's and the eagles heart beat.

“Any crow, who needs help, you have to give help. That is our rule!”

Suddenly a chink of light appeared in the wall. It became bigger, there was a huge rippling sound as the hundreds of crows that made up the wall disappeared. Soon there was no trace of them. Coy, Bogarth and the eagle were looking round aware that the crows had not disappeared completely!

Staying as close as they could, the three birds entered The Mill.

Chapter Six: Trust



Albert the Manchester poplar was standing next to Adam when he asked, “How long are we going to wait for the crows? You know you can't rely on a crow!”

Adam looked over to a silver birch standing to his left, “What do you think Cynthia?”

“I think we should wait, maybe till the end of the day, anything could have happened! Bogarth knew what he was doing. He is an Ok bird.”

“Ok, is no good.” said Cynthia “He has to be committed!”

“He is committed. Don't forget he and that other bird… what's his name were the ones who brought us the news in the first place. If it can be done Bogarth will do it!”

“I hope you are right for all our sakes,” said the silver birch. “But how will we know. Will he be carrying a big sign saying I've done it and can I go home now?”

“Why are you talking like that?” asked Albert. “He's done you no harm!”

“Crows are not to be trusted. And as for that magpie… well the better said about him the better. But I wouldn't leave anything lying about especially shiny things… I knew a silver birch once…”

“Excuse me,” said Adam. “This is getting us nowhere!”

“What about Roland?” asked Albert.

“He's a London Plane!” Adam said. “he's been trained for such situations ! A camouflage expert like that will have no problems whatsoever.”

“I still don't like it! How do we know they'll come?” Albert asked.

No one answered.

Albert, Cynthia and Adam were now standing alone.

The hawthorns were in a group of their own a few yards away. They knew Adam was safe, nevertheless one of them kept on eye on him. The other hawthorns decided to make a night of it. They started talking about old times and how some of the hawthorns they knew were in the middle of a field somewhere, helping to shelter the various sheep and cattle from the winds. They were hawthorns that were still working even though the humans had hammered six inch nails through their armour-like bark so they could dry their bed sheets and clothes on botched up washing lines. Or for what ever reason they wanted to hammer nails in for? The hawthorns talked about how hard a species they were. Yet sometimes those humans… Well, they leaned in to each other and comforted each other, while they remembered those relatives that were still out there being abused!

“What about,” Cynthia said to Adam. “If we go half way, say, into the fields near to the coppice. We could keep an eye on the humans and we'd also be able to strike at a moments notice!”

“Brilliant!” said Adam.

“Just a minute,” Albert said. “What do you mean, If we go halfway?

“You don't think I'm staying here, do you?” said Cynthia.

“If I was hundred years younger I'd be there!” proclaimed Adam . “But I'm not, so I won't be!”

“A silver birch can't go into places like that!” Albert said.

“Why not?” asked Cynthia.

“What do silver birches know about fighting?”

“What do you know about fighting?” asked Adam. “What does any tree know about fighting?”

Adam nodded at Cynthia. “The silver birch is coming!”

Adam turned to the hawthorns, “Where is Billy?”

“Yes!” shouted Billy. “I'm here, sir!” He wasn't that much bigger than the other hawthorns. But there was something about him which made him seem different.

Maybe it was the word hard that had been scored across his chest. Or it may be it had something to do with him having fewer thorns, making him faster. Some trees thought it was his huge arms. They were nearly as thick as Albert's, the Manchester poplar. Boy his arms are big! The biggest thing about Billy is that everyone likes him. Besides being a gentle giant. He is the life and soul of any party. He lumbered over to Adam. The other hawthorns were nudging each other thinking, yeah, he's going to the front line. They were right!

“Are you ready?” Adam asked Billy. “I want you to go with Albert and Cynthia. You'll meet Roland on the edge of the woods. He'll probably find you before you find him!”

Adam stepped closer to Billy. “Don't do anything until the crows come. The humans will hear you. They're not that stupid to think it's thunder when you are walking. It is best if you don't let them see you. Could you imagine what they would say?” Adam lowered his voice to a whisper, “They'd be after capturing and then cutting you up in some strange room somewhere. Then after that they'd put you in display cabinets somewhere for people to gawk at.”

Billy looked at him in amazement. “You cannot imagine what they are like. They'd put a big tag on you (they like tagging every thing). But with us, it would be special, we'd be the freaky trees. The trees that can walk and talk, and they'd let small humans grope us, that's if we were still alive. No, don't do anything until the crows come.”

“But, what if they don't come?” asked Billy.

“We have been alone before. But I have every confidence in them.”

“You know something don't you? That's why you don't look all that worried.”

“Look after them for me.” said Adam. “They are good trees.”

“How do you know the crows are coming?”

Adam trudged away from Billy. He was moving slower than normal. Yet there was something odd about him. Billy thought he could see him struggling. All the trees struggled to walk. But this was more than that. Adams arms seemed to be lower than they were before. His roots were getting tangled in the soil. He was almost next to Cynthia, when suddenly he seized up. His body was halfway through a next step. Half the roots were a few inches off the ground. There was no groaning, no whimper. Adam came to a full stop. That was it.

Billy hurried over to Adam as best as he could. He placed his strong arms around Adam and squeezed, not too hard, but it was his way of trying to revive him. It was useless. Yet, Adams body was still covered in green leaves, the acorns still adorned his head. Billy could see there was life. He scratched through Adams body. Under the bark was still green, the water from the leaves down to the roots was still flowing. Food on the other side of the green was still being shoved up from the ground towards the leaves. Billy looked over to the others. “I don't understand. He looks dead, but he isn't!”

“What are we to do?” asked Albert in a panic.

“We,” said Billy to Albert and Cynthia. “Are going on a mission to the edge of the woods and maybe beyond that!”

“But!” said Albert

“But nothing,” Interrupted Billy. “You have to be a believer!”

All the other trees were now standing around Adam. Some were leaving acorns, and leaves. A pine tree opened a cone and sprinkled all its seeds around Adams feet. They all waited for him to do something. Say something. There was no response.

“Come on,” Billy said, “We've a job to do!” With that Albert and Cynthia led by Billy, started on their journey.

Chapter Seven: Surprise! Surprise!



Billy was still leading the other two when they lumbered down alongside the stream where a couple of willows knee deep in water, waved. Later, they passed George, an old beech who'd had his arm blown off by lighting. Bert, an old lime, waved and wished them luck. They passed some wild rhododendrons, clumps of puffballs and beefsteak fungus and some other kind of wild mushrooms that were red with white markings. Wood lice were crawling over a rotted tree stump. They passed a clump of ferns, green skeletons that kept peeping round the base of an elm tree.

They were now feeling a draft of fresh air on their bodies. The three of them went through beams of sun. They halted. About fifty yards in front of them was a huge rock. Billy noticed human-prints in the mud. They hid round the back of the rock until a woodpecker gave the all clear.

It took all afternoon to get the couple of hundred or yards down to the edge of the wood.

“By heck,” said Albert, “it's some time since I was here!” He looked around.

“I think they brought me in from there. Yes, over there! Through that wooden gate. That was in 1973. They had a ditty back then; plant a tree in 73. We had great hopes for that one, but as usual, it was a fad thing! The humans have these things that come in and out of fashion. Back then, us trees were in fashion. twelve months later. Most humans were asking, What was that about a tree?

They could now see more clouds and sky than they had ever seen. To their far right some humans were sitting down on the grass. One of them started scoring a tree with something sharp. And that tree just stood there and took it.

Billy went to move but Albert held him back.

Older humans were sitting there watching the younger one scoring the tree. “What is it with humans?” Billy asked. “Why do they always want to leave their mark?”

Cynthia shrugged.

“They wouldn't like someone cutting them open,” Billy said angrily.

“They might do!” Cynthia said. “You know how strange they are. Perhaps that's why they do it to us, it's their way?”

There was no response.

They were peering across the fields until Albert asked, “Can you see Roland?”

“He'll find us,” answered Billy.

“Ssh!” said Cynthia. “I thought I heard something!”

“You'll not hear Roland!” Albert quipped.

“It's that over there, look what they are doing to that poor Beech tree!”

The older humans were knocking in a firework…

“What are they doing?” Cynthia asked. “They are striking fire! They are going to burn it! Its bark is very thin. We've got to do something!”

“We can't!” said Albert. “We have to get to the coppice! The humans cannot see or hear us. We have to do our job.”

The firework was spinning round, sparks were shooting. The small humans were excited, they were dancing and jumping about. There was a circular burn mark on the tree. How it must have hurt!

Albert, Cynthia and Billy could here the Beech tree screaming The humans were oblivious. One of the older humans went to knock another firework into the tree, when suddenly without any warning a large branch fell crushing the humans. They were screaming and crying for someone to help them.

“Good grief” shouted Cynthia. “That poor tree, losing one of his arms like that. But if that's the only way… Mind you, its balance will be all wrong. I'll be dead in a couple of years. Look at it, that would have, had another fifty years.”

“All because they want to play stupid games!”

“Come on,” said Albert “We have to keep moving. We've seen enough. They'll probably come and cut it down. Again the tree will be blamed. There's nothing we can do about it now. Come on, Its going to take the rest of the day to get to the coppice!”

As they started moving away from where the tree had suffered they felt there was something eerie about the place. Cynthia first noticed it. She didn't want to say anything in case they thought her silly. By this time all the humans had gone. There was no noise, there was no movement of any kind. The Beech tree was standing alone. Its arm was still on the floor, cracked, bruised from the humans kicking it. To her left she thought she saw some movement. She looked hard, leaves in the back ground were rustling.

Albert interrupted her train of thought when he asked, “Where is that London Plane?”

Suddenly there were a flock of wood pigeons, then some woodpeckers, a deer came out, mice were there, so too was an army of insects. They all moved over to where the wooden arm was still lying on the floor. All the animals stood around it, silent. Two Starlings flew up and dropped some seeds into the crown of the Beech tree. The deer pushed the broken arm closer to the body of tree. Cynthia had heard about such things, but this was the first time she had seen it. She wanted to tell the others. Instead she watched silently as the birds, animals and the insects went about comforting the big tree. It was all done in silence.

“Where is that London Plane?” asked Albert

“Look carefully,” said Billy. “he's over near the beech tree!”

It was almost dark by the time, Roland, the London plane, met up with the rest of the team. There were no formal introductions. Roland immediately took charge. “Right,” he said. “Let's get going and God speed to us all.”

Their movement was steady, but the collective bang of bags of thunder was enough to wake the dead. They all knew it. It was Cynthia who suggested going into the nearby stream. The four trees, twisted and twirled their way through the water. Ok, instead of thunder it was noisy like a launderette.

The next day was a morning to die for. Blue skies, a warm sun, no breeze. Perfect. It was getting more to full sun when without warning Roland the London Plane dived down into the long grass. The other three trees stopped in their tracks and went back to being trees. Directly in front of them about the length of a foot ball pitch away was a farm house.

“What's happening?” Cynthia whispered to Billy.

“Stay still,” said Billy. “There's two humans hanging around a big building. Watch out they're looking over here. Be a tree,” said Billy.

Roland was almost hidden by the long grass. He peered above it.

Albert and Cynthia were now standing next to each other, Their arms were spread out.

Albert suddenly said,“It's alright, for Roland, he's had training for such things. When was the last time you saw a Manchester Poplar dive down into the grass?”

He didn't give anyone time. “Never!” said Albert. “and least of all, not with my kind of branches, they are so springy I'd bounce back up again!”

“Ssh,” said Cynthia. &ldquoStop being silly!”

“Silly!” quipped Albert. “I'm not being silly. I just can't flop down like Roland!”

“It doesn't matter,” said Cynthia. “There are humans! Over there, near the house!”

Albert stretched as best as he could, “Where? I can't see any!”

“Over near the bails of hay,” she whispered. “Don't make it obvious!”

“What are we going to do?” said Albert. “They'll hear us. We're trapped!”

“For a start,” said Roland. “We've got to be silent!”

“They're not daft you know!” Cynthia said. “Suddenly there's four trees in a field when there was none before! We're in trouble!”

The two humans were standing near each other when one of them suddenly pointed in the direction of Albert and his friends. One of them was moving his hands in the shape of trees,. Then he pointed and suddenly the humans started moving towards Albert.

“What are we going to do?” asked Albert.

“Don't panic. They're still doubtful about us. They would never expect to do anything.”

“I'm frightened!” Albert admitted .

“Albert,” whispered Billy. “You've got to stop shaking. Don't worry, we'll be alright. Just do as I do, when I do. That goes for everyone!”

“Oh, no!” screamed Cynthia, “he's carrying one of those machines they cut the trees with. I've seen them. They rip the stomach out, slow, like someone chewing you to death. That must be worst than lightening! At least that's quick.”

“Hurry!” Billy shouted to Roland “they are almost on us! What are you going to do?”

“You'll see. They'll never come close to a tree again!”

“Billy!” screamed Cynthia. “I can smell them! Do something!”

The humans were feet from Cynthia when Billy with a loud creaking and groaning sound, folded his arms into his chest, then with a great heave he flung his arms wide open as fast as he could. Suddenly hundreds of thorns were darting through the air towards the humans. It all happened too quick for the humans to react. With all the thorns sticking in their backs they looked like giant hedgehogs. The force knocked them over. Their own weight as they fell to the floor, forced the thorns even deeper into their pale flesh. There was blood everywhere. It looked far worse than it was. Not understanding any of it, frightened, the humans scrambled to their feet and ran back towards the farm buildings as best as they could.

Billy and the Roland were laughing while Cynthia and Albert looked uncomfortable with what had happened.

“Come on, you two,” said Billy. “It was the only thing I could think of, besides it was a giggle wasn't it?”

“And,” said Albert. “What will you do when they bring more humans? Tell me that!”

There was no response.

“Do you mean,” he said. “When they have gone for help and they have to somehow explain how a tree suddenly shoots them with needles. Or are they going to try and convince the other humans that we!” Albert tapped his chest.

“That we, were having a fun day from the forest!”

“I don't think they will say anything!” said Cynthia. “Humans are like that.”

Ignoring Cynthia's comment, Albert looked to the other trees. “When it's dark,” he said. “then we will start moving again.”

“We have to go past their building!” said Roland anxiously. “They'll hear us!”

“They will think it is thunder,” said Cynthia. “We'll be alright, humans don't like thunder.”

While they waited for the cover of dark, the trees behaved like trees