Three children—two girls and a boy—make their way along a dirt path. The path is clear, well-maintained, and surrounded by small trees. The children move at a reasonable pace, they are not frightened nor in a hurry.
The boy clutches a picture frame to his chest. We can only see the back, and the frame looks old. A rusted metal wire dangles on the back of the frame and the boy fidgets with it.
The girls each hold a small container. One looks like a miniature-sized cauldron, the other one is a sauce pan with the lid taped on.
All three children are smiling. None of them are talking. They continue to walk.
If you look closely—why don’t you lean in and look a little closer?—you can see sweat beading up on each of the children’s foreheads. What do you make of this? To me—and let’s be clear here, I don’t know a thing—it looks like they’re worried about something. Sure, they have these cool exteriors, holding their mystery pots and secret picture frames, but when you look up close, you can see they’re frightened. Why don’t you just take a look? They can’t see you, don’t worry, and you can move as closely as you like. Here, take my hand, I’ll guide you there. Do you see? The sweat? It’s a dead giveaway, if you ask me, but nobody really asks me anything.
The three continue to walk, resolute, with clear direction. Where do you think they’re heading? My guess is we’ll find out soon enough, but if you look at the title of this story we can surmise they’re heading to meet the large figure in the tree. That’s how titles work, you know. It’s not like titles come out of the air. They’re purposeful. They’re meaningful. They’re… well, let’s just get back to the kids, I think they’re getting close.
The children begin to slow down as they approach a large tree. The largest tree we’ve seen yet. It towers over the rest of the trees alongside the path, which are tiny and weak compared to this tree. To be clear, the small trees are large enough to block our view of what’s outside the trees—that way I don’t have to describe what’s beyond the trees—but they’re small compared to this one big tree, which is very large!
In the tree is, you guessed it, a large figure. It’s human-shaped, all black, but, well, that’s interesting, it’s not holding a portrait. I suppose we can surmise what’s in the boys hand, but what’s the deal with the cauldron and the sauce pan? Let’s watch and find out.
The girl with the cauldron steps forward first. She bows to the figure, then gets on her knees. She prostrates in front of him, then takes the lid off the cauldron. Inside is a stick of butter. She waits in this position.
The second girl does the same as the first, stepping forward, bowing, kneeling, prostrating, then she removes the tape from the sauce pan to reveal another stick of butter.
The boy follows the same motions. He ends his routine by turning the picture out so the figure in the trees can see it. It’s a portrait of butter, painted in oils, looking as majestic as the type of painted portrait you’d find in a bank owner’s office.
The figure smiles a big smile, then turns into a cloud. It flies through the two sticks of butter, evaporating them, before returning to its human shape and picking up the butter portrait. It smiles again at the children, butter glistening off its skin, dripping from its mouth like an oily sweat. It nods to the children, then floats back to its spot in the tree.
The children stand, the girls gather their now-empty containers, and they turn on their heels to leave.
The figure smiles wide again, then roars—like a lion? Do you think that sounds more like a lion or a bear? I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s certainly not the sound I’d expect from looking at the thing though.
Whatever, so after the roar, the children’s shoulders pitch up and they freeze. The roar continues, and the children’s heads continue to shrink down, like a turtle trying to cower deeper into its shell. We see the figure drop the portrait—the children just hear that part, since they’re looking the other way—and in an instant, the figure is gone, the portrait broken in half on the ground. The children run.