By: Dean Lappi
Fran was a bright gold maple leaf, and she trembled in fear.
She hung from her mother’s highest branch, the last of her brothers and sisters to remain.
She clung to her mother with all her might.
As the weather had turned colder, and the darkness of night lasted longer, she had felt her strength leaving her a little more each day. Now, her strength was almost gone.
She didn’t have much time left.
The wind gusted mightily, trying to pull her from her mother’s embrace, and Fran violently twisted and turned.
But she held on.
She must not let go. Letting go was certain death.
“Fran, it is time to fly, dearest one.” Her mother’s voice, quiet and tired, reached through Fran’s fear, calming her down as the wind abated.
“Mother, I am afraid.”
“Oh, dearest one, there is nothing to fear. You have lived a beautiful life.”
Fran shook as she cried. “No, I have only lived this one season. I don’t want to die.”
Her mother gently sighed, “You felt the joy of rain falling upon you. You rustled in the breezes better than anyone else. You pulled in the sun’s energy for me like a shining star in the heavens. You did this all in a season of wonder. And you will be back again next spring, sprouting a new body even better than the one you have now.”
“But will I remember who I am?”
Her mother shook softly, “You won’t remember everything, but you’ll know you are you.”
Fran looked down at the ground, clinging even tighter to her mother’s branch. Below, the street lamp came on, lighting the area in a soft yellow glow, illuminating all of her dead brothers and sisters, who were scattered everywhere.
A group of children approached, and Fran smiled. She loved children and their carefree nature.
She unfurled herself a little to get a better view, which was difficult because she had dried up and curled inward as age had overtaken her youthful green body. When Fran could finally see the children clearly, she gasped.
They weren’t children.
She whimpered when she saw a blood-covered werewolf with a hairy snout striding in the lead. A vampire with sharp teeth was a step behind, bounding up and down energetically. And trailing behind, a small wizard stumbled, walking slowly. A tall, pointy hat tilted forward, covering its face. A small hand reached up and pushed the hat back, and Fran saw a young girl child with sad eyes underneath it.
The werewolf yelled back, “Hurry up, Trinity. You are slowing us down. I told mom you were too young to go with us.”
The vampire turned and took a step back toward Trinity, but the werewolf grabbed his arm, “Leave her. She will find her way back home. Come on, let’s get to the Johnson’s house. They always give out full-sized candy bars.”
Trinity whimpered as the werewolf and vampire sprinted away, then slumped to the leaf-covered ground. The pointy wizard’s hat fell over her face again, but she didn’t bother to pull it back this time.
Fran whispered to her mother, “Why are those children dressed up like that? And why are they so mean to that little girl?”
“It is Halloween. The kids all dress up as monsters, wizards, princesses, ghouls—anything they like. They go door to door and ask for candy. It is a wonderful night.”
Fran bristled in a gust of wind. “But what about that little girl? She is so sad.”
Her mother sighed, “Sometimes, humans can be cruel to each other.” Her voice quieted, “Sometimes, all they need is a friend.”
Fran pondered this for some time, her body rustling in another gust of wind. Finally, she understood.
She was tired, and she was ready. “Goodbye, mother. I will miss you.”
“As I will miss you, dearest one. But we will see each other again in the spring.”
Fran looked down, barely hearing her mother’s voice.
She relaxed and let go. And then she was flying!
Joy filled her as she caught the breeze, twisting and turning, weightless and free. She saw the girl not far away, so she curled her left edges and the wind pushed her in the girl’s direction.
Trinity lifted her head and pushed the wizard’s hat up. Tears ran down her rosy cheeks. When she saw Fran falling toward her, she shrieked with joy and excitedly reached out, cupping her hands.
Fran twisted in the wind and gave every ounce of her energy to move a little to the left, gently landing in the girl’s outstretched hands.
Trinity laughed, her voice pure and light as she peered closely at Fran. Then she smoothed out Fran’s curled edges and lightly kissed her. “I will name you Goldy, and we will be best friends.”
Trinity got to her feet, then turned and ran back home, gently cradling Fran in a protective embrace from the wind.
Fran nestled into her warm hands, feeling safe and secure.
Trinity soon arrived home and opened the door, kicking off her shoes in a smooth, practiced motion.
Her mother came around the corner, “Trinity, why are you home so early? And where is your brother?”
“He and Donny are still trick-or-treating.”
Her mother’s face darkened, “They left you, didn’t they?”
Trinity smiled, “That’s ok.” She held out her hands and opened them to show her mom what she had found. “She fell from the sky right into my hand. I’m calling her Goldy. Can I go to my room?”
Her mother smiled and nodded.
Trinity turned and ran up the stairs and into her room, pushing the door closed behind her with a foot. She climbed onto her bed and sat cross-legged, then gently set Fran onto her Harley Quinn blanket and smoothed her edges a little more. “Thank you for choosing me, Goldy. You will stay nice and warm here in my room this winter.”
Fran felt the warmth of the room and the love in Trinity’s voice, and she nestled deeper into the blanket.
She was home.
Dean Frank Lappi is the author of The Aleph Null Chronicles dark fantasy series that blends sexuality, science, and horror into the traditional fantasy genre. He created a world populated with characters that live and breathe, and love and hurt. They face trials anyone can understand but in a fantastical world of mathematics-based magic, monsters out of your worst nightmares, sword masters who aren’t human, giants, and a race of people that can affect time itself.
Dean was born on the Minnesota Iron Range, which is located far to the north and is the source of one of the largest iron ore deposits in the country. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English and has worked for some of the largest corporations in the world.
Listen to Dean being interviewed by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network on February 1, 2016.http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair/2016/02/02/fantasy-author-book-reviewer-dean-lappi-live-on-authors-on-the-air
Follow Dean on Twitter: @DeanLappi