Time required: 25 minutes
Johnny was ready with his pocketknife. The tree before him had the largest circumference than all the other trees nearby. He knew because had been visiting this part of the wood for a year now. When the atmosphere at home became too unbearable, the noises of his parents shouting match raised to a decible his own radio couldn’t match, he would leave and take to the woods. All around him cicadas, the only insects he could name, were singing in cadences and unseen creatures were screeching in resounding chorus, impervious to his presence.
It was summer and the atmosphere was muggy. Mosquitoes had homed in on him, and he smacked at them from time to time. The bugs were relentless. He decided to do what he wanted to do quickly and be out of there sooner. What he intended to do was to carve. He touched the knife’s edge to the spot on the tree at his eye level. He contemplated for a moment. He had planned to create an image that was strong, and can be seen from afar. It would be visible against the tree’s ragged texture. All he could think of was a silhouette of him and his parents in the sunset at the beach. It was from a picture of them taken a long time ago. It was his first time carving and he wanted to do it right. It was his first step in becoming a tattoo artist. And carving was a good way to start. What better way to do it than on an object that cannot feel?
Johnny pressed the knife in, and started to carve down. He wanted to write his name first. He was curving the letter J, when he spotted a grey patch beside the letter. “I didn’t notice that before…” He said. He stopped for a while to think. The patch was the size of his face. It was smoother than the rest of the bark and the colour was grey, almost cement-like. He touched it and jumped, turning quickly to his side. He distinctly felt someone had touched him.
He scanned the woods. Aside from the surrounding pine trees, a canopy of green and a carpet of dead leaves beneath his feet, there was no one there. He faced the odd patch again. He touched it, and immediately felt his arm being touched. Johnny could not hide his astonishment. He poked the grey patch and the sighted sensation translated into a feeling on his arm. Quickly, Johnny removed his Jacket and watched his left arm where he felt it. He poked the tree again. But this time, the skin of his stomach felt it. He raised his shirt and started to stroke the bark. This time he felt it on his back. Johnny grew excited, and he almost leapt from the spot. He couldn’t see how it was possible but clearly, the tree was transmitting the feeling to his body, but not at the same area twice.
He was brushing the surface it, taking in the coarseness of the surface and felt the comforting sensation on his shoulder. He imagined it was his mother stroking him, like she always did whenever he was frightened before a soccer game. He imagined it was his dad, patting him proudly after winning game. The image of them fell apart, replaced with hideous face hurling words of abuse from their mouths, which Johnny now tried to silence in his mind. The thoughts disappeared. With a smile on his face, he raised his pocketknife and guided the tip to the grey patch.