I started off by laying out, as plainly as I could, what had happened. “We thought it odd that the forest was so unique. The trees there, the plants…like nothing else on the face of the earth. And that’s to say nothing of all the animals, all unique forms of what you might find elsewhere. It made no sense for there to be this much diversity in a place that wasn’t an island or a tepui or otherwise isolated.”

There was no response.

Taking this as an encouraging sign, I continued: “There were legends about the woods, of course, as there always are. Mostly in the form of people and things going in and never coming out. The few records I’ve been able to find have been quite strange. People found wrapped up in thorny vines, choked on thousands of flies that occur nowhere else, or with tooth marks from a dozen different species on them. And that’s when I began, you know. To suspect.”

This time, I felt a faint breeze kicking up. “To suspect what?” The words were a whisper on the wind, syllables howling across the open and rotted stumps.

“People say the forest is full of beasts,” I said. “But now I know that the forest is the beast.”

“Oh?”

“Every tree and branch, every unique animal inside…is part of a single organism. Great, powerful, and wise.”

“And?”

“And I’ve come to join it.”

A pause, and then a single, drawn out word, echoing from every quarter of the living forest. “Welcome.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!