On a cold October day, the first October day, little Enzo was celebrating his birthday.
Autumn had turned the leaves on the trees into a kaleidoscope of colours. They were yellow and brown and orange and a wonderful shade of red like a burning fire. Many had fallen to the ground to make a crispy and crackly carpet that crunched when you walked on it.
It was too cold to play outside so Enzo stayed in the house and played party games with his mummy and daddy and big sister Romina. After they had all eaten a special tea and a scrumptious piece of birthday cake each, Enzo ran upstairs to his bedroom to play with his new toys.
When he got to his room he realised that among his presents there was a package he hadn’t seen before, but instead of the usual shiny paper and fancy bows it was wrapped in brown paper and masking tape with shipping labels on it from a country he’d never heard of. ‘Perhaps it was there by accident?’ he thought, but no, there was his name on the top, it was for him. He carefully peeled off the masking tape and pulled off the many layers of thick brown paper and eventually uncovered… a little brown wooden box on little brown wooden legs. It didn’t look very interesting. Maybe there would be something good inside?
He lifted the lid slowly, it was heavier than it looked and it creaked like something very old. He felt a cold breeze blow across his face and turned to see if the window was open, he didn’t know why it would be open on such a cold October day. As he turned to look, a blustery gust of wild wind whipped up around him and lifted him off his feet. He tried to grab hold of his bedpost but it was just out of his reach and he could only stare longingly at his little bed as the wind sucked him backwards into the little brown wooden box and the lid loudly slammed shut.
For what seemed like forever, Enzo hurtled down a dark and woody tunnel, caught in a current of air that pulled him towards a strange light. Then, with a sudden thud he landed hard on a bed of dry and scratchy leaves. He dragged himself up and crawled through a little hole in the darkness towards the eerie light he had seen before.
Enzo couldn’t believe what he saw! Bark, branches, leaves, it was true, he was kneeling on a branch of a very tall tree surrounded by many more tall trees, he must have just crawled out of a tree-trunk. The eerie light was the sun shining through autumn coloured leaves, making it shimmer and change from yellow to brown to orange to red.
The wind was much calmer up here and Enzo thought it sounded like someone whispering. ‘Welcome Enzo, welcome to the Kingdom of the Trees.’ ‘No’ he told himself, “I didn’t hear that, I’m imagining.’ ‘Welcome Enzo’ it whispered again ‘and Happy Birthday.’ Enzo shuffled around in a circle but couldn’t see anyone. ‘You can’t see what’s in front of your eyes’ the voice whispered again. Enzo stared into the trees around him and for a moment he thought he saw a face staring back. He looked again and there it was, two tired eyes, a gnarly old nose and a sappy smile. There was a face… in the tree! As he gawped in amazement, all of the trees began to shuffle and he realised there were lots of faces. He felt a rumble and turned to see that the branch he was crouching on was attached to a particularly old and weather-beaten face. ‘I hope you’re comfortable’ it groaned. Enzo froze in fear. ‘Don’t be frightened,’ the tree murmured ‘we won’t harm you, we brought you here to give you a gift, your final birthday present.’ ‘Yes’ agreed the other trees, all humming in unison, ‘a gift, a gift.’
Enzo sat still in silent shock and listened as the trees all spoke together in creaking whispers. ‘We are the Kismet, the trees of destiny. We gave one branch to a woodsman to make the little brown box that was given to you today. The box is a part of us, and so it returns to us and that is how you travelled here. We are very old Enzo and we know many things. We want to share our knowledge with a boy, who will grow into a man who will use it wisely. Will you use our knowledge wisely Enzo?’ ‘Yes’ gasped Enzo ‘I will, I promise.’ ‘Promise’ echoed the trees ‘good, then we shall tell you, but we can only share one secret each year, it is the way. You must return each year, on the day of your birth to the Kingdom of the Trees, so that you can learn from us and you must keep the box safe, it is the doorway. Do you agree to it?’ ‘I do, I do’ replied Enzo. ‘Then it is done’ the trees rustled ‘the boy is the Keeper of the Doorway to the Kingdom of the Trees.’
At this, the branch Enzo rested on began to shake and he fell, fast, down through the tall tangled tree. Just before he hit the ground a leafy limb caught him and planted him firmly in the earth below, the damp soil covering his feet and legs right up to his knees. ‘Your first lesson’ the trees sang. ‘Always remember to keep your feet firmly on the ground.’ With this a ropy root thrust up beneath his shoes and catapulted him back up through the branches and further still until he was high in the cold blue sky, looking down on the forest of amber treetops. He heard the trees beneath him calling, ‘But never forget to keep your head in the clouds, so that your imagination can soar with the birds.’ He fell down again into the tree he had started in and it quickly formed a cradle of leaves to catch him safely. As he tried to find his breath, the trees hummed again. ‘You must leave us now little Enzo, but come back next October on the day you were born and we will share another secret. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.’ The canopy of leaves above him parted and the sun shone down, lighting up the hole he had first crawled out of. ‘Goodbye then’ Enzo called to the trees ‘…and thank you I guess? I’ll come back in a year.’ He crawled back through the hole into the dark tree-trunk and the wind whipped up again and blew in after him, pushing him upwards like a jet stream through the darkness until he felt his head hit something and out he flew from the little brown box and onto his bedroom floor.
‘What on earth just happened?’ he wondered ‘and what did my lesson mean?’ Then he began to giggle, ‘I am the Keeper of the Doorway to The Kingdom of the Trees, ME! I am the Keeper of the Doorway to The Kingdom of the Trees!’ He danced around his room and jumped on his bed laughing and singing the words.
‘Enzo!’ shouted his sister from downstairs, ‘What are you doing?’ He bounced off his bed and leapt down the stairs and into the kitchen where his mummy and daddy and sister were making hot chocolate. ‘Having fun Enzo?’ his daddy laughed. ‘You’ve been very quiet up there’ his mummy added, ‘until now!’ ‘I was having an adventure’ Enzo beamed. His big sister Romina looked at him curiously. ‘What have you really been up to?’ she quizzed. ‘You wouldn’t believe me if I told you’ he whispered to her, ‘it’s a magical secret. ‘Oh I know all about magical secrets’ she replied, ‘I am the Spring Princess after all.’ Enzo’s mummy and daddy smiled and Enzo and Romina scurried upstairs.
‘You have to promise not to tell!’ Enzo warned her. ‘I promise’ she said. So Enzo showed Romina the little brown wooden box with the little brown wooden legs and they each used one hand to slowly lift the heavy, creaky lid. Enzo held his breath and waited for them both to be sucked in… but nothing happened. He peered into the box and saw only some little brown wooden trays with toy cars and marbles, playing cards and dominoes and a miniature game of ludo. ‘That’s your magical secret!’ Romina frowned, ‘great!’ With that, she turned and marched out of the room. ‘Boys don’t know anything about magical secrets!’
Enzo closed the lid and opened it again but nothing happened. It was just a normal little brown wooden box with little brown wooden legs and inside it were little brown wooden trays with toy cars and marbles, playing cards and dominoes and a miniature game of ludo. He tried it again the next day and the day after and the day after, but it was always the same. “I suppose I’ll have to wait a year’ he told himself ‘until my birthday, a whole year, that’s such a long time.’ So he put the little brown wooden box with little brown wooden legs in the bottom of his wardrobe and he checked it often to make sure it was safe. Sometimes he played with the toy cars or played Ludo with his sister, but he always put everything back exactly as it was, just in case, and he waited, a little impatiently perhaps, until his next birthday.
For only on his birthday, that one special day of the year that is his, will the box transform. Only on a cold October day, the first October day, does the box become magic and transport him to another world, to the Kingdom of the Trees. Only then can Enzo return to the Kismet, the trees of destiny and learn their secrets, as the Keeper of the Doorway to The Kingdom of the Trees. Only in October, for it’s not just any adventure, it’s an autumn adventure.