The scratchy rope ladder scrapped against the tree trunk as Rob, Alex and I climbed up. As every afternoon since the beginning of the summer holiday, our little trio had met up to spend some time together; today it was at Alex’s house, more precisely in his garden, where we had built a spacious and imposing tree house three months ago.
The wooden planks creaked as we stepped onto the crumbling carpet covering the floor. We were very excited about spending this afternoon in our little lair, and the three of us were shouting and laughing loudly; but when we saw the chaotic state in which was the room, our enthusiasm quickly died out… We hadn’t cleaned this place for almost two weeks, and junk food wrappers, ripped books and magazines, leaves and branches were covering the floor. We could barely see the color of the scarlet red carpet beneath our feet, and the few books and games we had brought seemed to have disappeared in the mass of garbage.
‘We’ve got some serious cleaning to do…’ announced Rob. Alex returned to his house and got us some brooms, and we started cleaning. As the place got tidier, I started to feel home again. I picked up a poster on the floor: it was covered in blue painting. This reminded me of the day we had built the tree house: after we had finished nailing the rough wooden planks together in an approximate quadrate, we had started painting it with an azure blue painting, and had stained everything around us. Today the painting had tarnished, but the milky white sofa in the corner of the room still had some blue spots all over its fabric.
I looked around to see what Alex and Rob were doing: Alex was replacing the white t-shirts we used as curtains by an emerald green tablecloth (which looked more like a real curtain), and Rob was throwing darts scavenged from the dump at a target drawn on the wall with a sharpie pen. I smiled and went to look through the window. The view was beautiful from here… We could see the entire neighborhood! I closed my eyes and took a deep breath… The smell of the nearby flowers and the fresh-mowed grass submerged me.
But more than the magnificent sight and the heavenly smells, there was something I enjoyed even more when I came here: the music. The birds singing, the scrabbles of lizards on wood, the insect buzzing, the squirrels chattering, the wind in the leaves and the branches creaking, the distant voice from the nearby houses, the rhythmic patter of the automated sprinklers… All these sounds scored a peaceful melody you could listen forever. There was really no place like our tree house.
The garden’s gate produced a light creak that made my blood run cold. I walked into the neglected garden, and stopped in front of the tree house. Since I had got out of hospital, I had felt the need to come back here, where I had spent some of the happiest moment of my life… But my heart sank when I saw how the tree house, that had once been so beautiful, was now old and decrepit. I took the rotten rope ladder in my hands and started climbing up in the ghostly moonlight, afraid by the idea that the ladder could break at any moment.
Once I was inside the room, I was terribly surprised at how it felt so small… I couldn’t move freely in it like before, and I had to almost crawl to move around. I felt oppressed and enclosed. The inside hadn’t changed that much, apart from the gaps in the floorboards, and the sofa which had been ripped to pieces. I went by the window and looked outside… The leafless trees- illuminated by the light of the full moon- appeared like monsters looking over their prey… I looked around the room once more… I could not feel its ‘soul’ anymore… Something was missing terribly… But what?
Suddenly, it started raining. The heavy rain drops on the roof made a loud and unbearable sound, and I heard a mouse squeak and run away. In the storm, branches battered against the walls like zombies trying to get out of their tombs, and the tree swayed with the strong wind.
I huddled up and looked at the floor… and there I saw, just next to my feet, the names ‘Alex, Rob and Sam’ carved into the wood. My hearts sank into despair. That was what was missing… I burst into tears… Why? Why did I survive to the accident, and not them? They deserved it so much more… And they would never come back… I laid down and could feel the hard floor beneath my back… Blue water drops fell over my head… The painting had come off with the rain. This tree house was in a very pitiful state. It did not feel the same anymore… and it would never feel the same ever again.