Disclaimer: I don't own the Once-ler or the Lorax or any of that awesome stuff.
Thank you, Once-ler fandom for pulling me out of my writer's block! Seriously, guys, it's been like two years since I really wrote anything. That being the case I'm a little nervous about posting these. I like them, though, and I hope everyone else will too.
Chapter lengths will vary, as will the mood in each. Everything's better with a little variety, right?
The Once-ler had never been an early riser. Most mornings he was awoken by the sun in his face or the ruckus of birds drifting in through his open windows. He also slept quite heavily. It was a surprise to him, then, when he sat up one morning to find his room dark and silent.
He glanced around the room, wondering what it was that could have roused him. Pipsqueak was wedged into his side, fast asleep as were all the other creatures scattered throughout the cottage. None stirred. No one tossed in their sleep or twitched an ear, nothing that might have woken him. He rubbed his fingers through his black hair, puzzled and a little groggy. Was something missing?
Ah, that's it. The obnoxious snores that usually emanated from the Lorax were conspicuously absent. The side of the bed he had claimed was empty, a few strands of orange fur the only evidence anyone had been there. Once-ler hmphed to himself. Where had the thing gone?
His curiosity picked at him. He could wait until the Lorax came back, but judging by the faint, blue light spilling through his window, it would soon be morning anyway. It could be hours until he decided to come back. He was not usually the nosy type, but Once-ler knew it would bother him all day if he just left it now.
Careful not to wake the tiny Bar-ba-loot snoring into his stomach, Once-ler scooted away from Pipsqueak and climbed out the other side of the bed. Both of his shoes has been tossed toward the foot of the bed by some creature or other. It took a few seconds of swatting around in the darkness before his fingers brushed against laces. Shoving his feet into them as he went, he hopped to the door, opening it quietly to see the Lorax slowly making his way through the grass. Once-ler closed the door behind him and he stopped. Slowly, he turned and studied the young man.
"You up for a walk, beanpole?" The Lorax asked. Once-ler wordlessly strode out to join him. The ground was dewy and even with shoes on the cuffs of his pants grew wet and cold after a few feet. He hiked his pant legs up a little and they stuck to his ankles. The two of them set off down the path that led toward Greenville. They went slowly and aimlessly, the Lorax moving whichever way he felt he should. Once-ler glanced around.
"So...where are we going?" He asked the Lorax, noting the familiar path. "Town?"
"Nowhere, really." He trotted alongside Once-ler, his eyes flickering from tree to tree. He was watchful, which wasn't surprising with the way he was always going on about being a guardian.
They continued in silence down the path, going slowly and stopping occasionally to listen to the silence of the Truffula trees. At each of these stops, the Lorax would turn his face toward the tufts and stroke his mustache intently. At times, Once-ler felt a sort of rustling at the edge of his mind, like he was hearing something he couldn't quite process. It annoyed him. Every time the Lorax stopped, the Once-ler would spend several minutes listening hard and trying to decide what his ears were doing. Eventually they left the road, moving uphill through one of the thicker parts of the forest.
He was becoming quite frustrated by the fourth time they'd stopped. He was twisting his pinky into his right ear when he realized that the Lorax was staring at him. "My ears are buzzing," he explained. The Lorax regarded him with what looked to the Once-ler to be pity.
"Your ears ain't buzzin', kid." He led him away from the trees he'd been considering. Though they had been climbing higher, the Once-ler hadn't given their destination much thought. He'd assumed the Lorax was just doing some routine check-up or something. The trees thinned out again and the ground sloped sharply downward. They stood atop one of the highest hills in the valley. Mist still blanketed the ground, but the lightening sky in the east had thinned it a little. Everywhere they looked the colorful tufts of Truffula trees floated above the fog, their bright puffs becoming more brilliant by the minute. At the very bottom of the valley, looking quite small from where they stood, sat Once-ler's little cottage. Its roof was barely visible.
"What do you mean, it isn't my ears?" Once-ler asked quietly. The Lorax didn't look at him. His own voice was soft as he gazed over the valley.
"It's the trees."
"What? You mean like an allergy?"
"Nah, I mean you're hearing them."
Unexpected, it took several seconds for the answer to sink in. Once-ler laughed, incredulous as he turned to look down at the creature next to him. "The trees? That doesn't make any sense! The trees don't even make noise, how could I hear them?"
"The trees don't have tongues, but that doesn't mean that they don't have voices, beanpole." The Lorax's mustache bristled a little and he waved a a small hand at the trees around them as he spoke. "Just listen. What do you hear?"
Once-ler did listen, though he made a face as he did so. Unsurprisingly it was the same. "Nothing...just, kind of a rustling sound?" He listened harder, his brow furrowing slightly as he puzzled over it. "Not rustling, no...something that hums?" He glanced around, half-expecting to find a pool of water nearby. The Lorax watched, waiting for him to finish. After a moment, Once-ler shrugged. "I don't know. I'm not even sure if I'm actually hearing what I think I hear. It's not...it's not like it's a real sound. At least, not one that I can really describe."
"It's real all right. You just can't hear it because you're a human." The Lorax patted his knee, a gesture Once-ler suspected was meant to console him. "Even if you could hear it properly, you wouldn't understand any of it anyway."
"And you do?" he asked. The idea of talking to trees, really talking and understanding them, made Once-ler a little uneasy for some reason. It was weird.
"I do. I speak for them, after all."
"What do they say?" Once-ler asked, finding that he was genuinely curious. He still had trouble believing that anybody could communicate with plants, but then he was also taking a walk with the Lorax, of whom he wasn't sure what to make.
The mist below had nearly dissipated. Streaks of gold slowly bled through the clouds overhead, casting a warm glow over the valley. Once-ler didn't notice. Waiting for an answer, he stared down at his hands as a dozen what-ifs hovered on the edge of his mind. Several silent moments passed and the Lorax seemed to be thinking. Finally, he sighed and drew the gaze of his companion. "It's not something you would understand, kid. Not yet."
This didn't go at all like I had planned it. I'm really happy with it, but it sort of wrote itself for me. Love when that happens! This is also available on my deviantArt account. Look for another chapter in just a few days. ^_^