Evergreen

 

It is night in the forest. The stars admire their reflections in countless frozen mirrors. It is a long night. We hardly see the Sun now.

We raise our arms to the sky, awaiting her return. Some of us cast off our cloaks and slumber through the dark months. Some of us stand in silence, catching snow flakes with our fingers.

Here comes a creature. It walks on four trunks, branches growing from its crown. The clack of wood as it walks.

Another creature climbs my leg to find shelter in my shoulder. I feel its bark on my cheek.

A light comes dancing through the forest. Is it the Sun?

No. It is a wan light, held aloft by a creature with iron claws.

The creature gnaws at the ankles of one of us. With a sigh, he falls. The creature spins a web around him and drags him away.

A smaller creature, walking on two trunks like the other, stands beneath my mane. She reaches up and spins a coloured web about my fingers. I feel them pulled down by the weight of something in the web. A little sun, but glass and cold to the touch. No light comes from this sun.

By the time I look down the creature has gone.

How long has it been?

I can hear the others breathing around me.

All is still. No creature goes about tonight.

And yet, there one is. Not like the others. More like one of us than one of them.

Is it? Could it be this night?

The creature picks its way between us, visiting all things in the forest in turn. He is old. The oldest I’ve ever seen him. His mantle is the deep red of the million tiny coats that rest on the Earth.

Almost as soon as I see him, I feel the World turn beneath my feet. My toes, reaching deep into the soil where it is still warm.

He is old. Spent from his strife with the dark, but again victorious. His bark is gnarled and cracked from the effort.

All things in the forest lean towards him as he comes, leaving no trail to follow.

At last he comes rest at my feet. He places his hand on my knee and reaches up to the creature at my shoulder, touches it and sighs to the ground.

He sits with his back to my shins, still.

I feel the sap in him slow and stop.

It is silent in the forest now. All things holding their breath.

A light is growing beneath the arch of the World. The Old Man lies on his side. A whisper of wind strips him of his mantle.

No one makes a sound.

The light is gathering pace. I reach my arms higher into the air. I see the stars step back as she approaches.

Then I feel it. The warmth on my fingertips as she peers over the edge of the World. She is too bright. I cannot look at her directly.

There is a song. I look down. In the Old Man’s cloak is a sapling, its trunks and branches waving. He has grown young again.

It will be my job to shelter him until he is strong.

At the sapling’s song, the other creatures sing in harmony.

A creature with eight trunks climbs from between my toes. She carefully weaves a coat of branches about the sapling, keeping out the chill of the wind.

In time these branches will burst with flowers, as the sapling grows, then countless little green coats. Though he will grow old and die on the longest night, I feel no sorrow.

For he, like me, will be ever green.

Written by Samuel Marlow from the keyword Evergreen

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