Flash story: Willow’s Heart

Antilived, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

I wrote this story in 2019 as part of a personal challenge; Ray Bradbury said that if you write a short story a week for a year, it’s impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row. My friend Kat Bradbury took this up in her podcast last year as well.

This story came about because I read in a scientific article that trees have a heartbeat. This led me to speculate that trees might perceive the world at a very different rate than we humans do.

I’m sharing this (until now) unpublished story with you because I saw some time-lapse photos of trees with fireflies surrounding them at night, and it reawakened my sense of wonder the idea of what it’s like to be a tree.

Willow’s Heart 

By E. Chris Garrison 

The rhythmic buzzing of locusts lulled River into a half doze. She sat up against her favorite willow tree, beside her favorite creek in her favorite woods. The humid summer heat covered her like a thick blanket. She’d come here to read, but reading often gave way to naps on lazy summer afternoons. 

In fact, that was kind of the point. Especially since this was River’s last fully free summer before her senior year and college and what lay beyond. She was nearly grown up, and grownups didn’t get whole summers to do as they please. She savored the afternoon even as this last free summer slipped away. 

And so, River let the locusts’ song pull her into a thick, sweet dream. 

She had been coming to this particular tree since she was first allowed into the woods on her own, as a little girl. She’d named the tree “Willard” back then, but had since nicknamed the grand old thing “Mister Weepy”. Under this tree, she’d written countless super-secret diary entries, read bookcases full of books, and even kissed the occasional boy, or girl, depending on her fancy. 

This nap was different. Since it was one of the last times River would nap here, it was a special and magical occasion. And sure enough, something special and magical happened. 

In her sleep, River stood tall, her many arms reaching and drooping about her. Her feet plunged deep into the ground, where the soothing and delicious waters flowed up into her body. The sun was like a lover’s touch, all over her body, and for a long moment, she just existed this way, not questioning her many arms or tangled toes or great heavy trunk in any way.  

And then her thoughts rolled around in her—well, she didn’t have a head—mind and it came to her: I am Mister Weepy.  

Except, things around her were different. She would say “looked” but she had no eyes. She did have a sense of the world, or rather many senses, most of which she couldn’t have described or mapped to her own five human senses in the waking world. Her toes tasted the nutrients in the water, and she could tell it had rained recently. She could certainly feel, and even taste, world. Breezes and winds passed intimately through her branches and leaves. She adored the warm sunlight filling her with such delicious energy. She felt the sun rise, pink and orange, building to a wonderful nourishing yellow, and then fading gently into pinks and purples and inky cold night.  

She could not see the stars, but she felt their presence calling from the sky like old friends. 

The creek rushed past her like a raging torrent, barely confined within its banks. This seemed strange to River, who only thought of it as a lazy babbling sort of thing, not this roaring cascade of water that rushed by in an incredible firehose hurry. 

Everything sped by so fast. She didn’t expect a heartbeat, but she (or rather, Mister Weepy) had something like one, as her skin expanded and contracted to move sap up from her roots and down from her branches. Lub dub. Lub dub. Lub dub. 

Her skin tingled with furious activity as animals blurred up and down and around her trunk too fast to perceive a single one. She found it more comforting to just ignore them, otherwise the idea of being crawled upon by so many speedy little things gave her the heebie-jeebies. 

Day followed night, and night followed day, in what seemed like rapid succession to her new senses. A full day seemed to go by several times a minute, though really time seemed to be a confusing and muddy concept from the heart of a tree. Certainly, time moved forward at a terrific rate, all the same. 

Lub dub. Lub dub. She fancied that each heartbeat must take an hour or two, though it seemed only seconds to her. 

After a while, she noticed large animal in particular acted differently than the smaller ones; it sat still for several of what passed for heartbeats for Mister Weepy. As the hot days sped by, the thing came to sit under her arms more times than it didn’t. She found the pressure pleasant for the moments the creature leaned on her.  

Oh, it’s me! Her perceptions told her the animal was a smaller version of her, back when she was just a girl. River-girl stayed for a heartbeat or two every day. The visits brought her joy, and she looked forward to the next one almost immediately after the girl left for home. She could sense the girl’s approach a long way off, by some sort of scent or vibration in the air.  

She wondered if what she experienced were her own feelings, or if Mister Weepy had felt this way about her all those years ago. 

Fall came all too soon, and her leaves dropped off her branches, the ground and air chilled, and worst of all, her younger self stopped visiting. She felt the sorrow of this loss, and couldn’t even find comfort in her own memories, knowing she’d be back to visit Mister Weepy next Spring and especially Summer. 

Winter set in, bringing despair and pain along with it. The cold seeped deep into her, and her heartbeat slowed, almost to a stop. It was a bitter thing to be a tree in winter, and if she could have, she would have cried.  

Spring took forever to thaw the world, but when it finally came, it brought hope and warmth and excitement as she budded and grew.  

Summer followed spring, and River-girl returned almost daily, and the world became a wonderful place again. 

The years flowed past like hours on a clock. Fall, winter, spring, and glorious summer, over and over. Winters became easier to bear, with promise of spring growth and comforting summer companionship. 

After a dozen such hour-year cycles, River became more aware of her own sleeping self, separate from Mister Weepy, as she slipped back from the Willow world. I have caught up to now. 

Was only a breeze that brought a slender willow branch down to brush her face? Could a breeze imitate such a loving touch? 

River opened her eyes and peered up at Mister Weepy and said, “I love you too, old friend.” 

She vowed to always return here when she could, no matter what grownup things waited for her in the future. 

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Alien Beer – Rosedale Pub – Tall Tale

In this episode of Rosedale Pub, Alyssa meets True Colorado, a regular, who tells a rather tall tale.

https://alienbeer.podbean.com/e/rosedale-pub-tall-tale

I wrote this story in a café in Broad Ripple, a pretty part of my city. I was drawn to the cafe when I spotted a trans flag hanging from a balcony nearby. The café was open air, since one side of the building opened with garage doors. I sat at a table by myself with my laptop, tarot cards, and my coffee, and came up with “Tall Tale”, set in my new Rosedale Pub series.

I can’t stress enough how much I’ve missed writing somewhere other than my home office. Sure, my home office is comfortable and has everything I need. But a change of scenery provides a sense of being away from household worries and work, and that gave my creativity a big boost. And I daresay the sense of freedom that came with my away mission was good for the soul.

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Trans Witch is now an AUDIOBOOK!!!!

I am full of squee and excitement this morning, because the audiobook for Trans Witch appeared on Audible a few weeks earlier than expected! I’d been trying to keep my cool, despite being absolutely thrilled with the job Danielle Muething did with my novel.

I met Danielle through my buddy R.J. Sullivan. R.J. and I have borrowed each others’ characters over the years, and now I’m stealing borrowing his spectacular voice talent. It might have been her rendition of the ole Transit King that convinced me that she was the best person for the job.

Listen to a sample of Trans Witch, as read by Danielle Muething!

Born out of the author’s frustration with a certain magical school author, Trans Witch is the story of a magical college for the rest of us.

Professor Lily Shelley is frantic to find her wife, Penny, who vanished two weeks ago. No one else seems to be looking very hard, not the police or even Penny’s family. As Lily refuses to give up hope, she continues searching for clues, even as she teaches English at Moraine University. In her search, she stumbles into a magical world: a college for wizards hidden in forgotten places at the university. Her favorite students come to her aid, helping her retrace Penny’s steps to learn the secrets of the School of Applied Metaphysics – as well as her newfound powers – in hopes of rescuing her wife.

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My appearance on the Mando Method Podcast

I meant to post this much sooner, but I was pleased to be a guest on the Mando Method Podcast. Armand Rosamilia and his co-host Chuck Buda and my fellow guest author L.M. Archer were fun to talk with about writing methods, routines, plotting, and marketing fiction. I’ve included links to both the video and audio/podcast versions below.

Along with my Alien Beer Podcast, the Mando Method Podcast is a member of the Project Entertainment Network.

http://mandomethod.projectentertainment.libsynpro.com/the-mando-method-podcast-episode-242-roundtable-1-2021

http://projectentertainmentnetwork.com/
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The Multiverse Blues is now a BOOK!

The Multiverse Blues ended yesterday; the last episode aired on the Alien Beer Podcast. But now it can be yours, as a paperback book (Amazon and Barnes & Noble) or ebook in Kindle format!

Follow jack-of-all-trades Jules Martin as they run away to join the crew of an inter-dimensional rock/blues band. Hope’s Tour travels from world to world through the Arch Gates, a network of portals that connect parallel universes. The band’s leader is a charismatic, mysterious, delphine alien diva named Hope. Her transcendent voice draws in crowds of fans, and charms nearly everyone who hears her sing.

Random, violent attacks on Hope’s Tour begin almost as soon as Jules gets on board, and the crew has to think on their feet. Can they figure out the source of the attacks before they reach an untimely end of the tour?

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Alien Beer – Ch 26 – The Multiverse Blues – Rambling on My Mind

In the final episode of The Multiverse Blues, Jules faces down two armies which threaten the lives of the refugee Tristellians, and the Theta Earth concert crowd that might get caught in the crossfire. How can Jules stop the oncoming slaughter?

https://alienbeer.podbean.com/e/ch-26-the-multiverse-blues-rambling-on-my-mind

Well, dear listeners, this is it, the last episode of The Multiverse Blues. It’s been an amazing ride for me. I hope it’s been as much fun for you, since you’re still here listening to this. I’ll go on the record as saying that I don’t have plans for a sequel to this story, but you never know. I’m sure some of these characters will show up in the next project, “Rosedale Pub”, which will also be about wayfarers travelling between the worlds.

Have you enjoyed the story? The Multiverse Blues is now a BOOK. Check out Amazon for ebook and paperback versions, with more availability coming soon.

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This Thursday: The Multiverse Blues release!

It’s here! The only copy of The Multiverse Blues in existence is in my hands! This Thursday, the last episode airs on my Alien Beer Podcast; on the same day, the paperback and Kindle editions drop as well. Click the image to pre-order the Kindle version right now, if you want!

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Alien Beer – Rosedale Pub – Genius Loci

Rosedale is a pub between the worlds, a liminal place where travelers from anywhere in the multiverse may rest and mingle. The Road outside, as Bilbo Baggins knows, can go anywhere, and you have to be careful when you set your feet upon it, because who knows where you’ll end up. Only thing for sure is, at the Rosedale Pub, you’ll hear travelers’ tales.  This first episode is an introduction to that place. So pull up a barstool and have a drink. All are welcome at the Rosedale!

https://alienbeer.podbean.com/e/rosedale-pub-genius-loci/

Surprise! This isn’t a bonus episode, but this is usually an off week for the Alien Beer Podcast. Next week, on May 15th, 2021, the last episode of The Multiverse Blues will air. On that same day, the paperback and ebook versions of that saga will be released on Amazon! So, to get you ready for the transition to a new story, I thought I’d air this, the first episode of Rosedale Pub.

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Alien Beer – Ch 25 – The Multiverse Blues – Come On In My Kitchen

Pre-order The Multiverse Blues for Kindle!


This is the second to last chapter of The Multiverse Blues. The heat is on, and Jules and their friends are going to have to think fast and use their heads and hearts to figure it all out.

In the penultimate chapter of The Multiverse Blues, Dionne and Lee help Jules rescue Tristellians enslaved by the Arch Authority, using a method unique to Hope’s Tour.

https://alienbeer.podbean.com/e/ch-25-the-multiverse-blues-come-on-in-my-kitchen

I began The Multiverse Blues as a serial, with only a vague notion of where it would end up. I can own up to not being much of a planner when it comes to writing novellas and novels. I come up with a concept, some characters, a goal, and just start writing. After awhile, patterns emerge, and I’ll come up with plot points that definitely need to happen before the end of the story. Often, I’ll arrange these in order and end up with a more organized plan, and that plan becomes more and more like an outline the closer I get to the end of the story.

This was my method with The Multiverse Blues as well, but I played it a lot looser than usual until the very end. Writing this story has been exciting for me, because I often didn’t know how things would turn out until I wrote them. And sometimes I left myself really tough situations to work out for next time. But one advantage of taking a year to write this story, one chapter every couple of weeks, is that I had a lot of time to think about what came next.

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Pre-order The Multiverse Blues for Kindle!

Reserve your copy today! I’ve been telling the story of The Multiverse Blues science fiction serial on my podcast for over a year, and now you can own the whole thing on your Kindle! The ebook will release on the same day the very last episode airs on the Alien Beer Podcast, May 13, 2021.

There will also be a paperback book, but it’s still being laid out in preparation for printing. I hope to have it release the same day, but I have no way to take pre-orders for physical books.

Click the cover to go to Amazon!
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