Saturday Short: The Bamboo

photograph of bamboo forest with bamboo hanging over the path

The bamboo had stood at the edge of the village for as long as anyone could remember. No one could recall when it emerged, fully formed, in the morning. Stories from the oldest members of the village recalled that when the people went to bed there was nothing but ferns and trees and wildflowers edging the path, but they awoke to the sight and sound of a stand of bamboo swaying in the morning breeze.

No one ever went into the stand to harvest the bamboo. The villagers only used what stalks fell over when the high winds blew down through the valley and caused everything to bend and snap–even the bamboo. Some whispered that the bamboo was enchanted and told stories to keep the children away. Others paid it no heed, though they walked more quickly when they had to travel through it to carry goods to the next village.

Callie couldn’t care less about the bamboo as she sat, hidden behind a scraggly bush waiting for the sun to go down. She had a dare to win and all she had to do was cut off a shoot from one of the tall, waving stalks. Easiest dare she’d ever win. But as the sun set, casting its red light through the stand and causing lines to cover her arms like scars, Callie’s heart beat faster. And as the breeze from the sea caused the bamboo to sway and sound like hundreds of the largest windchimes that chased away demons she’d ever heard, her hands began to shake. When night finally settled like a dark blanket over the forest and the last noises of the village died behind her, Callie didn’t move.

When she finally moved towards the bamboo as the moon cast a long shadow behind her, Callie tried to convince herself she didn’t hear voices in the bamboo. She had a dare to win.