The forest is a living thing. It breathes. It breathes out. It stretches. It grows. It sleeps.
It has slept for a long time. Now for the first time in ages it awakens in pain, pain such as it has never known. The air is hot and thick, strangely invigorating but unfamiliar. The beetles which live on the forest’s trees, thinning them at a reasonable level and then dying in the winter, have not been dying, and so the trees are in agony. The forest is not the trees, but the trees are of the forest and it feels their pain. It acts. Taking in a deep breath of the newly vitalizing atmosphere, the forest acts. It adjusts its trees, changing their sap to be thicker and more abundant, better suited to repelling the insects.
It’s a start, but a slow one.
I can do better, the forest thinks, taking in another mammoth breath.
It reaches out and it awakens some of its children. There are spiders in the forest, and insects that hunt, and birds with long, clever beaks. They can be adjusted, too. Made cleverer, made hungrier, made more numerous. The forest is alive with activity now, fully awake and alert It reaches out within itself. The wolf packs that once roamed it are all but gone. The great bears are dwindling in number and lazy. Long paths have been cut through the forest’s body, and in some cases covered over with rocky earth and barriers of metal. Its boundaries have retreated inward upon themselves.
The forest exerts itself like it is giving a great shrug. Roots extend towards roadways, seeds find their way into cracks. The effects of this are not immediately apparent. The plant parts of the forest are not as quick as the animal parts, even with the refreshing effects of the altered air.
The forest touches the bears and the wolves, along with the bats and the owls and the blackbirds and the raptors and the raccoons and the badgers in their dens. It reaches out to all of them, along with the deer and the rabbits and the squirrels and the mice. All the hunters, all the scavengers, all the foragers. They are all awake now, attent and waiting for the forest to act.
I can do better than this, the forest thinks again, and it adjusts them all. They remember when they were larger, when they were wilder and fiercer, stronger and smarter. They remember when the forest they were a part of was a thing of greatness and they themselves become greater.
There are men in the forest. It didn’t notice them at first, because there have always been men in the forest, though they stopped being part of the forest long before they adjusted to their present shapes. Its attention is on them now that the initial shock of pain that jolted it to consciousness has subsided. Some of the men are felling trees, not with stone and fire or even with iron but with strange metal implements that shriek and spin. Trees are being dragged off by great mindless metal beasts that belch out precious carbon and toxic-flavored fumes. Elsewhere, the forest’s insects are being killed by poison, the forest’s birds are being frightened back into their accustomed timidity by the roar of men’s strange devices, and the forest’s beasts are being hunted with things it can’t even begin to describe.
Shocked, the forest reaches out… and receives yet another shock. Across the world, its brethren have all been similarly penned in, reduced, or even destroyed. Their cousins, as well. The wetlands: drained and built over, or starved, or poisoned. The undulating prairies: fenced in, ripped apart, made to bear tamer seeds from other places. Rivers channeled and dammed, and everywhere men have laid their rocky paths and spun webs of metal carrying lighting and water, built their odd angular lodges, and constructed their roaring engines.
We can do better, the forest says, and it starts to wake the others up.