“View from Treetop”
Each morning Daisy woke first. Even before the cockaroos crowed, startled awake by the rising dawn. This morning was no except. She could feel the sun peeking up over the horizon, yawning with warm colors to drive away the night’s cold.
Daisy’s eyes fluttered open like a butterfly’s wing shaking away dew. A smile creased her mouth. She drew in a deep breath. Stretched like limber longtail, willing her body to shrug off the sleep.
Then she sat up.
She enjoyed the night chill and the coolness of morning, so she kept her bedroom window open. She also did this because she wanted to make sure she was the first person the sun said “howdey” to as it did its own stretches. Other mornings, when she could catch the sun still sleeping, Daisy’s impishness took over and she wanted to be the one to do the initial greeting.
Looking out the window, still in the bed with the sheets pulled over her, Daisy saw the sky remained dark, only the barest hint of day blue brushing the canvous.
She hopped out of bed, swung her legs over the side, and was in full motion before her feet hit the ground.
From the floor she grabbed and pulled on a yellow-green tunic and a pair of cut off pants. In the trunk at the foot of her bed was a pair of boots, which her mother had insisted on making for her but that Daisy had never worn. Even to this day. Her toes were made for gripping. Why bound them up, suffocate them?
On her way through the kitchen she grabbed a couple pieces of fruit for breakfast and shoved them in a sack, slinging the sack’s vine-woven strap over one shoulder.
The living space she shared with her two brothers and father was quiet, except for the subtle sawing of her father’s sleeping. He had a late shift directing birds in, couriers coming in from evening runs. So he slept most of the day, chasing the sun and always losing.
Nearly out the door, Daisy took a piece of leather from around her wrist and bound back her blonde hair in to a tail and shouldered her way out the front door.
She padded out on bare feet to the bridge connecting the cluster of dwellings where her home lay to an intersection of bisected bridges that led to other housing clusters in other trees. When she was girl she never feared the bridges, even when looking over the side and into the gaping maw of the darkness below, to a world unseen at the roots of Treeborn.
She looked up. Inhaled through her nose noisily. Stretched out her arms. And the she spun herself in a circle. All the while she kept her eyes turned high.
The final flickering of starlight could be seen through the canopy above, a world away it seemed from deep down her. Wind whistled like a babe deeply pleased with dreamy slumber, shaking the trees gently, setting the leaves to shudder but not break off.
It was a quiet time now. So much so, Daisy felt even a noisy exhale might break the magic of the early morning. So when she exhaled she did so softly, a long stream of air from her lips.
Her family’s cluster was several levels below the connecting canopies of dozens of trees that made up Treeborn. Their level was darker. Stuffier with humidity. Hollowed from such a slender tree toward the outside it was barely more than a sapling.
That’s why she climbed every morning. To feel the sun on her skin. The full force of a breeze.
Daisy took off over the bridges connecting the trees around the old, wide grandfather tree at the center of Treeborn. She sprinted around trunks that grew wider, fatter as she moved inward. Eventually she grabbed on to latters, scaling the levels carefully, moving silently passed windows shuttered or with curtains drawn, dark inside with sleeping tiniputains. Eventually the latters stopped. Only lifts operated by servants took people to the higher boughs.
One of those lifts was not far from where Daisy climbed over a railing artfully carved by some lower bough artisan. She bounded over the railing and crouched low, looking left and right, trying to peer around the curve of the tree for the sentries that patrolled these higher levels.
Daisy licked her lips. She was not supposed to be here. Not this high up. Although that restriction never stopped her. They’d ask for her leafs, she’d stick out her wrist, show the sentry the bracelet at her wrist and be kicked back down the boughs. The fear of discover never stopped either. Discovery only fueled her!
Something bothered her. She had the distinct feeling of someone following her. A tickle between her shoulder blades where a pair of eyes might be focused.
But there was no one. No clumping boots. No long yawn from a sentry near to end of a long shift.
Leaves rustled from behind.
Daisy’s head whipped around to the noise.
Nothing. Just the wind. Leaves from low hanging branches shook and cooed.
She closed her eyes and exhaled a long held breath. Her heart was beating fast. When she opened her eyes again, she spied the first hints of dawn as the light around her began to turn gold.
I’m far enough in, Daisy told herself and she skirted across the circular pathway to the inner trunk.
She cracked her knuckles. Shook out her shoulders. Unlimbered her back with a deep arching stretch. She even curled and wiggled her toes.
Then she reached out and up and found the grooves in the trunk’s dark flesh. She dug her fingers in and pulled herself up. Her toes felt around, found purchase, and again she raised her body up, higher, above a leafy overhang covering a doorway. She pressed her body close to the scratchy, rough bark of the tree and stretched her arms high over her head. Her fingers found more grooves. She did this over and over, slowly making her way up the tree, deep into the canopy, past more clusters, jagged knife-like leave sliding over her flesh and cutting with pain. Still she moved. She was like some multi-legged insect, traversing silky webs with a feather-light grace.
Just before she thought her arms might soon start aching, she reached the place where the canopy began to thin, where the clusters seemed miles apart from their neighbors.
Daisy found a branch thick enough for her to sit on and swung up. She planted her behind down, leaned back, relaxed, and inhaled quick breathes to greedy lungs. The branch bobbed under her weight but she was sure footed and fearless. She smiled with satisfaction and looked out over the other end of the branch.
Stretching out from the leafy tip of the branch from which she sat was an open sky of delicate blue, its virgin edges bruised purple and deep orange from the peeking sun streaking the overall blue with a wealth of gold. Clouds dusted the sky with a thin powder. Wind kissed Daisy’s skin, hugged her, told her, hello there, welcome to the show.
Another gust tossed Daisy’s tail of hair across her face.
As she brushed the hair away, the branch underneath her buckled. The wind was becoming playful with early morning energy.
Pulling her hair hack over one shoulder, Daisy found staring at her a orange-gold longtail gripping her perch. The creature was pressed low to the branch, white gloved paws grasping the branch which became more slender the further it stretched to the horizon, back arched so its hind legs were ready to bound it away. Its signature appendage was curled curiously, a tail as long as any woman’s arm, more flexible.
The longtail regarded Daisy with beady red eyes. Its nose twitched, tasting the air.
Slowly. Carefully. Daisy reached behind her to the sack slung there. She pulled the bag around, set it in her lap, shoved a hand in, and brought out two pieces of fruit.
Daisy learned forward and stuck out her hand, offering one of the fruit to the longtail.
The longtail suddenly sat back on its hind legs, arms clutched protectively to its furry chest, half-circle ears at the side of its head tucked close to its skull. Still its nose sniffed the air, attention concentrated around Daisy, on the fruit.
She insisted gently, offering a side smile to the creature’s breakfast.
Out of nowhere the longtail’s tail shot out, curled around the fruit in Daisy’s hand and pitched the round piece of fruit toward the waiting creature. The longtail caught the fruit with its front paws and scuttled back to nearly the tip of the branch with the utter most confidence it would not fall.
Taking a bite of her own fruit, Daisy leaned back without a care, focusing instead not on the longtail but on the blooming dawn. Juice dribbled down Daisy’s chin as she took another bite. Sticky and sweet.
Out of the corner of her vision she watched the longtail roll the fruit around in its hands, run its nose across the fruit’s flesh. A little pink tongue slid across its black lips at the same time its eyes grew so wide, wide as saucers. Daisy placed an arm across her mouth to stifle a giggle.
The longtail bit into the fruit. After chewing for a couple of moments, the creature decided it liked the fruit. Like Daisy, to a degree. It moved forward a bit, sat back on its rearend, and wrapped its tail whip against the branch for further security.
Daisy raised her fruit to the creature but it was too busy devouring its treat, purple juice matting its chest fur as stickiness slipped from its chin and down its front.
Out across the sky, the first few courier birds took off in the morning air carrying messages and parcels to the outlying villages and other grandfather trees Treeborn allied with. Daisy saw a sunny yellow bird that just barely kept from blending into the golden rays of the sun, a tuft of red on its back. She smirked knowingly.
Five more minutes and she’d climb down, ahead off to work.
One of the couriers skimmed a cloud, a wing tip gliding across the delicate surface, leaving a shallow cut like broken mist parted by heat.
Daisy dangled one leg and took another bite of her fruit.
Maybe ten minutes.