A Conversation in the Woods

A Conversation in the Woods
Blas Pedro Uberuaga
October 31, 2020

“Can you feel that?”

“Hrm? Huh? Feel what?”

“I… I’m not sure… something is different. Something has changed.”

“Well, it’s getting colder, and I’m starting to turn color, if that’s what you mean.”

“Yeah, you’ll be naked soon! Tee hee!”

Lisa suggested I enter a local writing contest. I didn’t win. But, I thought I’d post my story anyways.

“No, not that. Something bigger. Something… I’ve never felt before. I don’t know what it is…”

“Will you two keep it down? I’m trying to rest over here.”

“You! You’ve been here forever. Do you know what is happening?”

“Do I know what is happening? Of course I do. The weather’s changing. It’s getting colder.”

“Sigh. It’s not that. Something else is going on. It seems more… I don’t know, peaceful, maybe?”

“Oh, that. Yeah, now that you mention it, I feel it too. It reminds me of the good old days.”

“What do you mean, old timer?”

“Well, this is a while back, before you three were even saplings. I wasn’t that old myself. Things were just different back then. The air was cleaner. The water was fresher. These stupid pests weren’t biting me all the time.”

“I don’t think they’ve been biting you, exactly.”

“Whatever the hell they are doing, it sure gets under my skin. They’re always leaving their marks. ‘B loves L.’ ‘Class of 2019.’ Don’t they have anything better to do than leave their mark all over the place? If they want to carve up their own skin, that’s one thing, but to carve up mine…”

“Anyways… you were saying, about how much better it was back then.”

“Yeah, yeah, sorry. There just weren’t so many of these things running around. They’re like a fungus, you know, spreading, finding every last nook and cranny to fill. Killing more of us than I dare remember. But the worst is the air and water. Everything got dirty when they came. Everything they do makes us sick. It used to be that you could take in the air and drink the water without thinking about it. It was always fresh and clean. But, that changed when they came.”

“I think that’s it! That’s what I’m feeling. The air is fresher. The water is cleaner. I feel better than I have since… since as far as I can remember.”

“I haven’t seen as many of those damn pests around here lately. I guess they stopped doing whatever it is they do that makes everything dirty.”

“Maybe it got too dirty even for them?”

“I doubt it. They are almost as bad as cockroaches. They find a way to live with everything. Once, I heard from a passing glider that had traveled a great distance that they live in the coldest places on the planet, on the pinnacle of the highest mountains, and even on the ocean. They are everywhere. You can’t stop them.”

“I don’t mind cockroaches. At least they help clean this place up.”

“Well, something stopped them. They aren’t coming around here anymore.”

“Whatever it was, I’m sure glad they aren’t.”

“I know! I remember a few years ago, I saw a few of them up the hill. I watched in horror as they cut one of my friends up into tiny pieces.”

“Bah! I’ve seen that happen to more of us than you can imagine. They are vicious. They have no regard for anything but themselves. Marching around, destroying everything in their path. Look around. See that stream? See all of the garbage they left behind?”

“At least the water is cleaner.”

“For now. What if they come back?”

“What do you think happened to them?”

“Who knows? Who cares? As long as they are gone.”

“Maybe something else got to them, like they get to us?”

“Like, maybe they were poisoned somehow?”

“What could hurt them? They seem to be immune to everything.”

“But, what if something did get to them? Or something at least scared them, made them stay away, made them stop making everything dirty.”

“I can’t imagine anything that would make them change. When there were just a few of them around here, they would come and go, taking some of us with them or looking for food. But, as more and more of them appeared, things just kept getting worse. None of you are nearly as big and tall as your forebears were. You’re all stunted. And I think it’s the dirty water and dirty air that did it.”

“Who are you calling stunted, you cranky old snag?”

“I don’t mean anything by it, but just look at you. Look at everything around you. It all used to be so lush, so green. We were majestic, reaching for the stars. Now, the few of you that make it past more than a few lustre don’t measure up. You simply aren’t as grand as we once were. I remember my…”

“Give it a rest boomer. We know we aren’t quite as magnificent as you old hardwoods. It’s not like it’s our fault.”

“Yeah! It’s their fault! They dirtied our water and our air.”

“I know, I know. Sorry. I just got carried away.”

“Anyways, whatever made them change, it really made a difference for us. I hope it stays this way.”

“Me too. I’ve never felt better. Just look at my colors. I’m literally glowing red, orange, and yellow. I’ve never been so vibrant!”

“I admit, I feel better too. Those creaks in my joints aren’t as sharp as they used to be. My old snags aren’t quite as brittle as they used to be either.”

“And, have you noticed, there’s a lot more of those small creatures running and flying around? I’ve sure noticed a lot more of the flying ones making their home in my branches.”

“I just love the way they fill the air with music. I think their songs have become richer too.”

“When those pests went away, the rest of the creatures started coming back. It’s almost like they were waiting for them to leave.”

“I agree. Whatever the reason, these little ones are now flourishing.”

“It makes sense. You take away the dirty ones and the rest start coming back. Everything is better with them gone.”

“I’m just scared they’ll come back and make everything dirty again.”

“And they will come back. They always do. I guarantee it.”

“Maybe they’ll change? Maybe they’ll stop making everything dirty?”

“I wish that could happen, but I’m not holding my breath.”

“You don’t actually breathe, you know.”

“Fine, I ‘respire’. It’s a figure of speech. Give me a break.”

“Do you hear that?”

“My hearing ain’t what it used to be. What is it?”

“I think…”

“No! They’re back!”

“So soon? Couldn’t they have given us a longer rest, at least?”

“What are we going to do?”

“What we always do: we endure. We will outlast them, at least some of us will.”

“Easy for you to say. You’ve already been here like forever. There is so much I haven’t seen! I can’t go now!”

“Wait! What is it doing?”

“It’s taking off that thing on its face. What is that?”

“I think it’s some kind of mask…”

“Don’t you dare drop it on my floor!”

“It seems to just be standing there, just breathing.”

“It seems so peaceful.”

“What’s it doing now? No, stay away from me!”

“It’s… it’s…”

“It’s giving you a hug! Ah, isn’t that sweet!”

“Harumph!”

“Maybe, maybe they can change.”

“I sure hope so, for all of our sakes!”

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