The wood that it was made of came from a tree that grew in the coppices that were the remains of the great forest that once covered this country from coast to coast. Its seed fell from a nearby branch, swirling in the autumnal breeze until it came to rest on the warm soil.

The graphite that was enclosed by the wood came from deep beneath the ground. Many grains of sand ago it moved through air thick with carbon. Once or twice it fed from the ancestors of the tree and it grew stronger.

The man and the woman that made the boy lived in between the tree and the graphite. In the autumn they walked hand in hand through the coppice. Once they even climbed the tree to kiss in its boughs. They never saw the graphite.

As a seedling the tree was nothing much. It grew slowly and its translucent stem paled in comparison with those around it. But then, one day, a nearby tree fell, crushing some of the saplings that grew close to it. More light fell onto it, more water soaked its roots and more soil waited ready to be colonised. Steadily it grew until it was magnificent.

The graphite had seen so much more light than it had seen dark. If it still could, it would remember the dappled light of an autumn day falling between the shafts of branches to warm it’s forehead as it gasped its last few breaths, lifeblood soaking into the soil beneath it. And yet it had still seen a lot of nothingness, deep beneath the ground. It could have been diamond but instead it became graphite.

The boy was born on a Thursday in October, the light of a distant star falling on his brow as his mother rocked him in her arms.  As he grew older he would explore the nearby coppice, gathering nuts and seeds and swiping at saplings with a stick. People said it was lucky he had been born when he had. He still had to join the army but the war had already finished.

And so, one day, the tree was cut down, the axe exposing the white of its flesh weeping into the watery sunlight. And the graphite was dug, the pick splitting it for the sun to warm its dark surface once again. And the boy joined the army, his mother shedding translucent tears even though she knew she shouldn’t.

“s’alright Dave I can manage it without one” the young man in the khaki said as he concentrated on the map in front of him. The line he was drawing was straight enough, it was a good pencil. And yet, the graphite was just a little too weak and the lead snapped. Blowing away the bits, the line was smudged slightly. ‘Should be alright’ he thought. A little while later a million people died. A few became graphite and a few became trees.


© 2012 Thomas Halvë