The Golden Leaf: Autumn Reborn – Part IV
Margaret woke up, covered in a pile of leaves. This left her in a state of bewilderment. There was not a single tree anywhere in the city, except for the Forest Sanctuary, which she visited yesterday.
When she saw the bright light emanating from the golden leaf that she was holding, it made sense. It was her. The one who called herself Autumn that was doing this. Margaret, with the strongest conviction inside of her, knew that this was true.
Margaret went to the window and opened it. Right after she did this, the golden leaf became brighter and created a strong gale that blew all the leaves out of her room, save the mysteriously enchanted leaf. When all the leaves were gone, she closed the window.
Her next trip was to the bathroom. She grabbed her clothes for the day and set them in the bathroom, placing the golden leaf on top of them. Upon looking at the mirror, something puzzled her. “My hair!” she gasped. “Why is it all gold and orange? It’s also longer than what I had it! Is this the kind of hair that Autumn prefers?”
Margaret stared at the mirror with a sly look. “Two can play that game,” she said quietly. “Using her same powers. I’ll turn it back.” And with the power of her will, her hair shortened to its normal length and changed back to brown.
Margaret showered, humming a happy tune as she usually did. After she showered and clothed herself, she began thinking about Autumn. “That leaf gave me weird dreams last night,” she said to herself. “I also feel different. I can’t let her control me….”
Margaret picked up the golden leaf and placed it in her white dress. “You are going back to the Forest Sanctuary,” she told it.
After getting her hair in a ponytail, Margaret was all ready. She walked downstairs and approached the door. Her mother was sitting on the couch, organizing her to-do list on her Multitasker.
“Mother,” she announced, “I’m going back to the Forest Sanctuary to return the leaf.”
Her mother smiled, giving her a nod of approval. “Okay honey. Get rid of that leaf, okay?”
Margaret nodded. “Okay mother!”
Saying goodbye, Margaret left the house and went back to the Forest Sanctuary, taking the same way as yesterday. After entering, she went to the same place where she found the golden leaf – underneath the tall tree with gnarled roots and branches.
Margaret reached into her dress and pulled out the golden leaf. As she tried to release it, the leaf stuck to her hand. She then put the leaf into her other hand and tried thrusting it as hard as she could. The leaf remained on her hand. It would not part from it, no matter how hard she tried.
At that point, she heard a voice that sounded like the wind. You silly girl…. Autumn whispered. Do you think that I would actually change my mind? I have made my decision. You are the next one that I will use. Being a descendant from your great-grandmother, you are like family to me, and the most suitable place to live. Be a nice girl for me, okay? Your great-grandmother was….
“My great-grandmother had no choice!” Margaret shouted. “You took that choice away from her!” Her anger began to intensify, but when she saw the golden leaf, it all seemed to vanish, like a distant memory. “This leaf is too beautiful for me to part with. What was I thinking?” Margaret gently lifted the leaf up, and placed it back inside her dress.
Margaret, disappointed, went back home. Autumn was happy that Margaret had the leaf in her possession. Margaret, however, wasn’t.
As Margaret entered the door, her mother stood up. “So, did you get rid of it?” she asked her.
Margaret was worried. But that worry immediately transformed into a joyous passion. Margaret eagerly took the golden leaf out of her dress, proudly displaying it to her mother. “No mother,” she said. “I couldn’t. This leaf is far too precious for me to part with.”
Lily, her mother, shook her head. “Far too precious for Autumn, right?” she said, raising her voice.
Fighting back, Margaret broke down. “Yes mother,” she sadly admitted. “This Autumn is starting to get to my mind. I am not feeling myself. Really! I’m not!”
Her mother nodded, looking increasingly worried. “I can see that, honey. Read those diaries while you can. There may be hope for you. Hope for a better future. Hurry!”
Margaret nodded, fighting Autumn as much as she could. “Right away mother! I will read them right away!”
The conversation abruptly ended after that. Margaret sprinted upstairs. She still had her wits about her, but knew that this was only borrowed time. Time that would not be wasted.
Once upstairs, Margaret ran to the end of the hallway. From being up there with her mother in the past, she knew how to get up to the attic. She pressed a button, that was hidden behind an old portrait. This activated a compartment, which opened up to reveal a ladder. The ladder folded downward until it reached the floor. Margaret then climbed the ladder and entered the attic.
Sitting in the corner of the attic was an old desk. The old desk was a mess, with diaries laying all over the place. There were diaries on the desk and diaries on the floor, all caked with dust.
With so many diaries to leaf through, Margaret didn’t know where to begin. For her, it would make the most sense to start where the earliest year was. She quickly arranged the diaries into small stacks, from earliest to most recent. She began with the earliest one, titled “Maple’s Diary – 2048”.
Margaret leafed through every page, trying to find a date that dealt with her great-grandmother. She came across a page dated “March 22, 2048”. Margaret read:
March 22, 2048
My mother has just awakened from her long winter nap. My father just got back from the forest and told me this. Why is her naps so long? When I used to take naps, they were never that long. When I asked my father about this, he told me that she needs naps like this because she’s special.
My mother spends half of the year living in the forest. Why does she live in the forest? I know that other mothers don’t live in the forest. I told my other friends about this and they said that their mother lives with them. They’re lucky to have normal mothers because I don’t feel like my mother is normal.
My father said that we will be visiting my mother tomorrow. I am so excited to see her. He also said that she will be staying with us until late September, when autumn begins.
I miss mother, and I have a lot of questions for her when she comes to stay with me and father.
That’s all I have to say for today. Until tomorrow, my dear diary!
Margaret read on, leafing through the pages quickly. She found another page that stood out. She read again:
April 3, 2048
I am right. My mother is not normal. I am starting to get tired of asking all the questions. Whenever I ask her about living in the forest or her long naps, she gives me the same answer as my father. She’s special. But what makes her so special?
I also asked her about her name. When I asked her, she said that her name was Autumn. It’s really a strange name, since none of the girls that I know at school have that name.
Well, my not normal mother is calling me again. Don’t worry, diary. We will meet again.
Margaret leafed through the rest of the diary, and leafed through a few more. She then came across a page dated “June 15, 2055”. Margaret read:
June 15, 2055
The journey continues in learning the truth about my mother. But I’m happy to say that I found someone who will help me a lot in that journey. It’s an older woman named Jaime. She’s the same age as my mother and she knows a lot about what happened to her. Hopefully, things will make sense after I talk to her again. She lives down the street from me, in the same house as my mother. Well, my mother and father are on a date, and Jaime is coming over here. Be back later, diary!
Well, I talked to Jaime. I’m totally blown away with what she told me. My mother’s real name is actually Jill, and she found this golden leaf when both her and Jaime were nine. Since she had it, Jaime said that it transformed her into this mysterious woman named Autumn. Everything that she told me makes sense now.
Well, sort of. I’m still trying to sort it all out in my head. I wish that there was something that I could do to help my mother.
I gotta go now, diary! My mother’s calling me. I can’t tell her about “the meeting”. We will meet again tomorrow!
On and on Margaret read. After a few more diaries, she came across something totally shocking. The page was dated “January 21, 2059”. Margaret read:
January 21, 2059
It is now the middle of the night, and I just had this really strange dream. In this dream, a voice was telling me to build a strange device. The voice said that this device would help my mother, and that one of my ancestors would be the one to save her.
I found it quite strange to have this dream tonight. It has been exactly one month since my mother began her winter nap. I am guessing that I had the dream now so that my mother doesn’t know.
After thinking about it, I know that this dream is definitely from God. I have been praying and praying for a way to save my mother. Tonight, I can say that my prayers have been answered.
Starting tomorrow, I will begin on this strange device. From the blueprint that the voice explained to me, this is going to take a very long time to finish. I will work on it during the fall and winter months, when mother is not living here.
On another note, finishing my psychology degree will not be necessary anymore, since I just met this lovely man who is pursuing his Ph.D. in psychology. He is very bright and seems to like me a lot. More on all this tomorrow. Love ya, diary!
Margaret leafed through the diaries. Most of them had to do with her progress on the device and her conversations with her mother. Over time, she learned that Maple’s mother was getting more and more suspicious, forcing Maple to be more and more cautious on the device that she was working on.
She then came across another entry that sent chills down her spine. The date read “October 24, 2085”. Margaret read:
October 24, 2085
It just happened. My mother is gone. After she died, her body went into the golden leaf. The golden leaf then vanished, materializing into traces of golden light. From all the information I’ve gathered over the years, it has been 73 years since that leaf appeared. The next one will appear in 27 more years, at the very spot I’m standing.
Right now, my daughter Lily is in bed. I will not tell her about this until I am ready to.
As I am writing this, I am starting to worry. When my mother was alive, I called her Jill ever since I found out her real name. Before she died, she cast a spell on me. It was a spell to turn me into a leaf. She didn’t say when the spell would happen. All she said was that one day, I would be turned into a leaf.
Well, I’m not going to let this bother me. I will continue working on the egg. Well, that’s what the device is starting to look like, at least. I am almost done with it. There are just some hard to find materials. Once I find them, I can finish this egg.
My mother has lived a long hopeless life as Autumn’s puppet. 82 years have been lived, with 73 of them being stolen from her. I am hoping that either Lily or her child can send this egg back to the past. Only then will my mother have a better future.
It is too much for me, diary. Goodnight!
Tearfully always yours,
Margaret began to tear up, as she read through the remaining diaries. She finally came to the last one. The date read “September 30, 2103”. Full of tears, Margaret read:
September 30, 2103
I have finally done it. The egg is finished. I will tell Lily when I return from the forest. I go here everyday to visit my mother. While her body may not be here, I can feel her presence. It is not Autumn, but her. I know it.
Now, it is very important that either she or her daughter send it back to the past. Lily told me that she was pregnant, and was ready to have her daughter. When she is ready to have her, I will visit. I look forward to hearing the g
And that was the last thing that Maple wrote. The entry was not even finished, something that really troubled Margaret.
The one thing that troubled Margaret even more was the date. After studying the date, it hit her. September 30, 2103 was the exact date that she was born.
Margaret frantically looked around in the attic for the egg. Hopefully, it would be here, considering her current house was different than Maple’s. In the far end of the attic by the window, Margaret found something that was covered in a large sheet of plastic. Margaret removed the plastic. There the egg sat. On its interior, it looked like some kind of cockpit. The egg was translucent on the inside with a polished white sheen on the outside.
Upon touching the egg, it lit up, like some sophisticated machine. A holographic display then came out of the egg, displaying some words and numbers.
“Please enter date, time and location?” Margaret read. “October 21, 2012. 5:47 p.m.” Margaret than entered the exact coordinates for the tall tree as it was listed on her Multiasker.
After entering the coordinates, one more message appeared. It read “Record your message. Say ‘begin recording’ when you are ready.”
Knowing that she was running out of time, Margaret quickly thought about her message. While she did this, she reached into her white dress and pulled out the golden leaf. Finally, she was ready. “Record message.” Margaret ordered.
“To the one originally called Jill,” Margaret began. “This message is for you. From researching my ancestors, I have found that you are my great-grandmother. In looking at your history, I have found that we share the same fate. Autumn has already tainted you, and she is beginning to do the same with me. I have found this golden leaf, and I wish that I never had. It is her vessel. This is what she told me.”
“Now I know that your name is not Jill anymore since she renamed you with her name. She has not done this with me yet, which is why I am acting quickly. While I am still in my right mind, I am executing a last-ditch effort to change history. That sphere that you see before you is an egg. Now I need you to enter that egg. It is the only way that you can kill Autumn. Your body, however will die with her.”
“But don’t think this is the end. In place of your old body, the egg will hatch and your new body will be born. It will be just like your old body, only you won’t have Autumn inside you anymore.”
“Please take heed, Jill. Autumn will not stand anywhere near that egg, for she fears its power. But you must fight her. Fight like you’ve never fought before. I know you can win.”
“Well, my mind is beginning to fail me. I am beginning to feel her influence even stronger now as I’m recording this. I hope that this egg and this message gets to your time period. I love you very much and I hope that this ripple that I’m creating is enough to effect time. Your great-granddaughter, Margaret.”
Just as the last word left her mouth, the egg immediately vanished.
“Where is that wretched egg?” Margaret screamed. “I need to destroy it!”
Margaret then shook her head. “No Autumn!” she shouted. “I did the right thing, and history is going to be changed because of it!”
Once again, Margaret continued fighting Autumn. “No! I will not….let you….con…trol…..m….eee……”
And just like that, Margaret transformed. Her hair extended and became orange and gold. Her body shrunk a few inches and her white dress was now full of autumn colors. The golden leaf was now grafted to her body, with a network of barely visable roots branching out in every direction.
Margaret’s countenance changed. Instead of looking stubborn, she now wore a pleasant expression on her face. “My new form suits me well….” she said, smiling.
She then heard someone climbing the stairs. It was her mother.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” she said, gasping. “I heard you scream. Is there anything….” Her mother glanced at Margaret. “Oh my goodness! Margaret honey! Autumn is starting to control you!”
“Mother,” Margaret told her. “My name is not Margaret anymore. I don’t like that name. I hate it. I really do, mother. Do you know what name I like?”
Her mother shook her head in disbelief. “No, honey….”
Her daughter stared at her with a smile on her face. “Do you?”
Lily was now crying. “No! No Margaret dear! No!”
The daughter nodded. “Yes mother. I will tell you, since you don’t want to say it. I like the name Autumn. This is my name now, and what you will call me from now on…..”
Her mother sighed, still upset. “Autumn?”
“Yes,” Autumn said, nodding. “You will learn to love this name, like my great-grandmother did.”
Her mother was now angry. “But you’re Margaret!” she shouted. “I will never call you Autumn!”
Autumn faked a frown. “You won’t?” she said coldly. “You will have to, or I will turn you into a leaf.”
But the mother refused. “No Margaret dear,” she argued. “You will always be my Margaret!”
Autumn grinned. “Well, let me tell you a secret then. Do you remember your mother Maple? I cast a spell on her before she died. One day, you couldn’t find her. Do you want to know why?”
“Why?” the mother shouted.
“That is because your mother turned into a leaf,” she answered. “And this happened on the very day that your daughter was born. And now, you will be joining her. Farewell, Lily….”
Before the mother could scream anymore, she became a bright orange leaf.
“A lily colored leaf,” Autumn said with a smile. “How nice. I will now return to my real home.”
Autumn became a pile of leaves, and blew herself in a strong gust of wind all the way to the Forest Sanctuary. When she got to the tall tree, she was upset.
“Too small,” Autumn said, complaining. “I can barely live in this glass spot!”
Autumn raised her hands, which caused various trees to spring out of the ground. Several of them broke through the glass dome. Around the whole perimeter, trees sprang up everywhere, breaking through the glass.
“I will not be limited to this plot of land!” Autumn shouted. “This wretched city looks ugly too!”
After a few more trees sprung up, the glass dome collapsed. Chunks of glass fell to the ground, shattering everywhere. But Autumn didn’t stop there. When the glass dome was down, more trees sprang through the skyscrapers, causing many of them to collapse. Autumn continued doing this to every city block. When she was finished, the entire city was a vast, sprawling forest.
“Now this is the way I remembered it,” Autumn said with a smile.
Autumn sat at the base of the tall tree, staring at the bright moon above her. Staring at fields and neighborhoods, it left Autumn unsatisfied. The city was only the beginning….
©2012 K. L. Walker