by Abbey Schlanz

The clock struck midnight, although it was actually much later—five minutes until three to be precise. Lucy immediately woke up to the loud gonging, a noise to which she had never adjusted, despite living in her mildly senile grandmother’s house off-and-on for a year now. Her grandmother refused to set the old grandfather clock, because she had no idea how and was too stubborn to let anyone else do it for her. Lucy groaned, silently cursing the old mule, and pressed her head deep into her pillow in an attempt to muffle the clock’s vibrations.

As usual, however, by the time the twelfth gong struck, Lucy was so awake that she knew trying to sleep was futile. Also as usual, Lucy turned on her nightstand lamp and sat up, leaning against her headboard, and grabbed a book to read. The volume she had chosen for this night was Leaves of Grass, a book she had always meant to read but managed to overlook for another. Lucy yawned, skimming over a few pages without really comprehending the words

Lucy found herself more tired than usual; perhaps because too many nights in a row at her grandmother’s had taken its toll. Instead of continuing to read the words that left her mind the second she read the next, she studied the cover. Yellow letters with leaves sprouting from the ends lay overtop a mossy green background. Lucy studied the cover for a few minutes before her sleep-intoxicated mind asked a crucial question.

Why didn’t Walt Whitman name his book Blades of Grass?

Lucy pondered this for a second before she felt herself begin to nod off. Her eyes almost shut when she suddenly felt something cool sliding across her hands. Lucy opened her eyes to see the cover of her book turning to moss and growing over her hands and wrists. Lucy yelped, throwing the book on the floor. She watched in a mixture of fear and curiosity as the moss spread over the wooden flooring like a carpet. Leafy, yellow vines crept over the moss carpet and up the walls. One tendril spiraled up the grandfather clock, which had begun to sing its tenor notes again.

Suddenly, the vines burst through the walls of Lucy’s room, flinging plaster in all directions. Lucy shielded her eyes from the debris, and when she uncovered them, she found herself outside, and it was morning. All of her bedroom furniture—including, of course, the damned grandfather clock—sat in the middle of a mossy patch of earth surrounded by nothing but a field of dirt in all directions.

Lucy sucked in a breath, speechless, with no idea where she was or how she had gotten there. Afraid to move from her bed, she watched as the vines began to grow again, coiling into a golden cylinder that stretched toward the sky. Just when Lucy thought they could go no higher, the vines extended out in all directions like veins over blue skin. Lucy watched them form branches that split into smaller branches and then even smaller branches.

Then the yellow vines stopped growing and spreading. They twinkled in the morning sunlight, now resembling a gilded skeleton of a tree. Lucy had never seen anything so magnificent in her life. However, the vines had not yet finished their work. Thin leaves sprouted from the ends of the branches in short green tufts, and then all movement stopped.

The place grew silent. After a moment, Lucy tentatively stepped off her bed and onto the moss. Her toes sank into the soft vegetation as she stepped toward the tree trunk, reaching for a small, low-hanging branch. She touched one of the leaves, and it fell, fluttering like a helicopter seed before embedding itself upright into the mossy dirt below. The rest of the leaves on the branch followed suit, sinking into the ground.

A sudden wind blew through the empty field, rustling the leaves, which began to drop from the tree’s limbs, just like the others. Lucy watched as the rippling green curtain fell to the earth, and the leaves inserted themselves in the soil, sticking up as straight and orderly as soldiers. Soon, the entire soil was blanketed in green, and Lucy quickly realized that the leaves looked a lot like grass.

In fact, they were grass.

Amazed, Lucy ran her hands through the blades—no, leaves—that looked no different than the grass in her own backyard. Suddenly, Lucy again heard the grandfather clock gonging behind her. As if in response to the noise, the great golden tree trunk shuddered and withered to a dark brown and then a coal black. The wind picked up again, howling in Lucy’s ears almost loud enough to stifle the clock. Inky black swirled across the sky, quickly turning morning to deep night. Soon the field was so dark that Lucy couldn’t even see her hands in front of her face. The wind then died down, and Lucy was left with nothingness and silence once more, except for the booming of the grandfather clock.

Lucy woke up as the clock finished its hourly tune and struck one o’clock. She sat up in her bed, breathing heavily, slowly realizing that it had all been a dream. She still clutched Walt Whitman’s book tightly in her hands. Glancing at the title again, Lucy couldn’t help but smile wryly and mutter to herself.

“Perhaps that’s why Walt named it Leaves of Grass.”