Chuck Wendig: Sentinel

This week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge is pretty self-explanatory:  Write About A Tree.  1,000 words, just do something concerning a tree in some way.  I thought about it, then realized I had written a story a couple of months ago called The Wind That Wasn’t that was about trees.  I decided to do a companion piece to that story.  It’s a sort of prequel.  I hope you like it.  Read the other one, too.  They’re both pretty good, I think.  Please to enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments, if you are so led.

SENTINEL

 

We stand as we have always stood.

You lie beneath our outspread branches, amongst our gathered host. You sit.  You stand.  You sleep.  You eat.  You sing.  You woo.  You read.  You draw.  You think.  You laugh.  You make love.  You cry.  Anything that humans can do, you do under our watchful gaze.  We stand sentinel over you.

At one time there were those among you who could speak to us. You could hear our words and our thoughts and you could respond in kind.  It has been many years, though, since that was possible.  Many generations of men have come and gone upon the earth and you have forgotten how to hear us.  Not so many of ours.  We are far longer-lived than you.  We remember much more than you.  We remember when men and trees worked together to make the land grow and flourish.  We stand sentinel over the memories of a better day.

Yes, you have forgotten, but in honor of our ancient partnership, we shelter you still. We provide cool shade on sunny days.  We give protection from wind and rain and snow and ice.  We provide entertainment for your children.  They climb amongst our leaves and they play innumerable games in and around us and they learn about the world and about the forest.  We stand sentinel over your dearest treasures and we watch them grow.

We also shelter nature’s other creatures. Squirrels and birds, among others, make their home in our boughs and inside our trunks.  We offer them the same protections as we offer to you.  We do not discriminate.  More than just humans are welcome in our embrace.  We stand sentinel over all.

You have always used our bodies for the betterment of your homes and your communities. Your first homes were built in the forests, underneath our eyes.  From our own bodies we provided you with wood to build walls and branches and leaves to cover your roofs and keep the elements outside.  We made certain you were warm and dry and protected.  We stood sentinel over you then, as we do even today.

As time went by you continued to harvest the forests to make wood for bigger houses and inns and taverns and carts and fires and arrows and shields. We understand.  We contribute what we can, in hopes that you will not abuse our good will.  We sacrifice our bodies willingly, in hopes that you will take enough to meet your needs and no more.  You stand sentinel over our trust.

And yet.

Yet.

You come among us now with ax and saw and you hew us with impunity, laying many of us low, more than you have ever done before. There is no town here.  There is no road.  You have no lathes and no planes and do not mill the wood.  You merely stack the logs to the side and then fell another tree.  Then another.  And another.  We stand sentinel over the death of too many of our friends and we wonder why you are doing this.  We wonder what you hope to accomplish.

You cut us down then you dig the stumps out of the ground and smooth the soil where they had been. Soon it will be difficult to tell there had ever been a forest here at all.  It will be nothing but a clear swath of land all the way to the river.  We do not understand.  There are twenty-two men bringing death to the forest and its timeless wardens.  We unexpectedly find ourselves standing sentinel over the destruction of our people and of our future.  In our shock and dismay we can only find the strength to ask a single question:

“Why?”

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