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The Shadows Behind the Trees

By Sam Weller at 7:35am ET





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.


Download the story here


12 Comments »

  1. ” . . . the happy, swirling, unmistakable font of Eisenhower-era America,” set me right there, Sam, and I finished it with a mournful sigh. It really is a simply wonderful story. Yes – it spoke deeply to this father of an eight-year-old daughter. I greatly appreciate the many facets of this story and especially enjoyed the characters of Thomas and of Mr. Dunn. Thank you for writing it; thank you for sharing it.

    Comment by Andy Burnside-Weaver — June 22, 2012 @ 3:59pm
  2. It is sad and reminiscent of “The Lake,” but I hopes its deep sense of loss helps you release some of your own sorrow. It certainly reflects the strong feeling of fatherly love I associate with Ray’s writing. Finishing it is a fitting tribute to a great man who loved you very much.

    Comment by Cathy Akers-Jordan — June 22, 2012 @ 5:03pm
  3. Andy, Cathy,

    As Ray would say, may God bless you both

    Comment by Sam Weller — June 22, 2012 @ 9:47pm
  4. I can only believe that he broke off pieces of his very soul and placed the glimmering shards in those he inspired, in those he loved. How else to explain the melancholy beauty that is this?

    It’s a wonderful story, Sam. A truly wonderful story.

    Comment by John J. Walsh IV — June 23, 2012 @ 2:39am
  5. Wonderful story, wonderful illustration. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Mary H — June 24, 2012 @ 2:29pm
  6. Thank you for such a wonderful story! I recently read a piece covering your call for a Ray Bradbury museum in Waukegan, perhaps in the Carnegie Library building–what a fantastic idea! Apologies for how off-topic this is, but it might be fortuitous that Woldcon is in fact taking place in Chicago late this August (Chicon 7). They’ve been known to permit certain fundraising/awareness-raising activities in the past…

    Comment by Renee — June 27, 2012 @ 11:37am
  7. Thank you so much for sharing the story, and the memories associated with it, with us.

    Comment by Peter Nel — July 1, 2012 @ 3:31pm
  8. Beautiful, heart-wrenching. I loved it. Ray must have been so proud.

    Comment by Hannah — July 10, 2012 @ 8:59pm
  9. So nice to meet you with Margaret, this sounds great….hope we can share again soon.

    Comment by Orville Stoeber — July 12, 2012 @ 7:15pm
  10. Orville!

    Loved meeting you and Phoebe! What a great night in the Marina! Please stay in touch!

    Comment by Sam Weller — July 20, 2012 @ 2:52pm
  11. Dear Orville!

    Loved meeting you and Phoebe! What a great night in the Marina! Please stay in touch!

    Comment by Sam Weller — July 20, 2012 @ 2:53pm
  12. Hannah–

    Thanks for the kind words. Ray really loved this story. It is nice to share it here.

    Comment by Sam Weller — July 20, 2012 @ 2:54pm

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