Merlin's Tree -- Part 5
As the evening grew dark, Merlin squinted to make out the strange objects on the branches. There were giant sea shells, stars and moons of various colours, pictures of ogres, goblins, gnomes, fairies… on the treetop there was a nesting stork. As Merlin observed the objects, the moon projected its silver light beam; a heart-shaped object glistened in the liquid light. Merlin held his breath. It was colder and the first snowflakes floated in the air.
When he lowered his eyes, Merlin was startled by the shadowy outline of somebody squatting at the feet of that strange tree.
“Hail, Merlin. I have been waiting for you.”
“Who is it? How do you know my name?”
A little man in green attire and a green pointed hat stood up, holding out his sinewy hands. Merlin took them. They were warm and gentle. They sat on a golden carpet in front of each other. The man said:
“I am the Keeper of Dreams. I am the one who sends dreams to humans, when they are asleep and when they dream wide awake.”
“And why have you been waiting for me? I hardly know what I have been dreaming of,” said Merlin.
The man nodded. Then, he said:
“There are different kinds of dreams. There are well-known dreams and dreams of the heart. Often the heart knows what you have forgotten and its dreams move mysteriously in your hushed souls. Humans have a peculiar way of forgetting what really matters.”
He smiled with irony. “Your brain, Merlin, needs some rest. You have been trying to remember so hard. Yet, in the silences of your heart lies the answer you seek. Your heart is faithful and won’t fail you.”
“What are the strange objects hanging from this peculiar tree?”
“The tree is different for everyone; yet, it is the tree of destiny, where those who have courage can see the possibilities open to them. This is your tree, Merlin, and you are here to choose.”
Merlin shivered. “How can I choose, if I don’t know what I am choosing?”
The man smiled again. “Your heart knows. Your soul remembers. Observe the fruits of the tree and choose carefully, for you are picking your destiny.”
As he uttered the last word, the man grew smaller, and his shape changed, till a stone lay where he had been sitting.
Merlin rose to his feet, uncertain and baffled. He stared at the stone for some time. Then, he walked around the tree. The full moon shone brighter now. He reviewed the unique fruits of the tree. Again, a beam of light built a bridge from the moon to the amber stone at the centre of the heart-shaped talisman, hanging from the third to last branch.
Merlin climbed the trunk and the branches, till he could stretch his arm and pick the talisman.
The wind was howling now. The leaves sounded like angry cobras.
Merlin saw that the talisman was intricately wrought with foliage and abstract patterns. The round amber stone at its centre was as polished as a mirror. Merlin saw his face in it: he was much older and had a long white beard. He sat next to a great king.
He held the talisman in his left hand and climbed down.