June 22, 2012
Two years ago, while sitting in an upstairs office in Ray Bradbury’s west Los Angeles home, I began writing a short story. Ray was asleep. He was always a morning writer and with a nap, as he said, he “had two mornings.” I typed the title of the short story, “The Shadows Behind the Trees,” and wrote the first page.
I had recently dreamed about going on a vacation with my wife and young daughters and a little ghost girl came from the woods and wanted us to take her home. As a dad, this dream affected me deeply. And while I rarely get story ideas from dreams, I knew I had to write this one.
And so I did. I started the story in the magician’s lair. A house where so much was written over the decades, from sections of Something Wicked This Way Comes, to Green Shadows White Whale, to From the Dust Returned.
It took me two years to finish the story. I read parts of it to Ray and his eyes welled with tears.
“I command you to finish it!” he said.
With his death on June 5th, late at night, in my own home, I followed his orders.
I present it here, for the first time, as a free PDF download. The story is dedicated to Ray, and is a small gesture of thanks to all of the wonderful, compassionate, kind people who have expressed their condolences to me in the last few weeks. I cannot thank you enough.
I mourn for the Bradbury daughters and the Bradbury grandchildren. But I also feel like one of them. A member of the family. They always welcomed me to their homecomings. I love them all, truly. Through all of this, writing has been the one thing that has given me some comfort. Ray lives on in me. He stirs me creatively and always will.
The amazing linocut artist, Katarzyna Cyganik, graciously allowed me to use her beautiful rendering to accompany “The Shadows Behind the Trees.” Just as Ray often asked his own friend, Joseph Mugnaini, to do single illustrations for his stories, I wanted that component here as well.
“The Shadows Behind the Trees” is a tribute in many ways to one of my all-time favorite Bradbury stories, “The Lake.”
Ray thought “The Shadows Behind the Trees” was a deeply sad tale.
And I have been deeply sad since he passed.
But here it is, Ray. I followed through.