It shuffles to the end of the limb.


Scans the forest beneath.

Comes to a pause in its routine sweep.

Cocks its head.

Its round eye rotates.

Focuses in.

Click. Click. Click.

It caws alarmingly.

Others near and far.

Step away from blackened bark.

Betray their camouflage.

Echo its caw.

Launch into flight.

Wheel in the sky.


Dock on the caller of the caw’s tree top.

Hop down its branches.

Drop to the ground.

Make way.

More keep pouring down.

They circle what’s beneath.

A single wisp of green.


Pace back and forth.

No one is sure who should go first.

One steps forward.

Enters the ring.

Uses it claw.

Scratches at the wisp of green.

A second follows.

Uses its beak.

Spears at it.

A third, and a fourth and a fifth converge.

It is only through numbers that the flock finds courage.

He races towards them.

Somersaults into the ring.

Straddles the wisp of green.

Unsheathes his spade.

Slowly spins.

Aims it at each of them.

Not to hurt them.

To warn them.

He needs them.

Eyes the sky for them.

It is they who find the wisps of green for him.

They shake their tails.

Flap their wings.

Caw angrily.

Surface tunnels rise beneath their feet.


They scatter.


Whistle warnings with the flap of their wings.

He falls to his knees.

Digs as fast as he can.

Bores his fingers underneath the wisp of green.

Rips its free.

He holds its roots at his eye height.

Strings of gland worms slither in and out.

He grabs their tails ends.

Yanks them out.

Glands detonate.

Words escape.

Hiss a chorus.

“You should be dead.”

Spittle lands on his face.



Pockmarks burrow.

He wipes it away.

The wisp of green lies bare root in his hands.

He wraps it in burlap.

Packs it away.

Sheaths his spade.

He knows it is there.

He can feel its stare.


It lumbers in.

It has grown accustomed to seeing him.

The first time they met he hid.

He did not step in.

He watched as it killed a wisp of green that day.

Ran back to his cave.

Promised himself.

He would never let that happen again.

But, he did.

So many times.

He stopped counting.

He still carries the shame.

Wisps of green are weeds to it.

It rids the land of them.

He sees things differently.

Every rupture.

Every crack.

Every bit of the forest floor peeled back.

Inklings once long buried.

Now feel the sky.

It tells them to sprout.

His task is to find them.

Collect them.

Protect them.

He failed them.

Again and again.

But, the tree encouraged him.

Keep trying.

So, he did.

He kept arriving.

He’d lose.


Use clay to cover his wounds.

Go back out.

Do it again.

Hold his ground a little longer each time.

Today is the furthest along he has ever gotten.

Indeed, he is not sure what to do next.

Neither does it.

It grabs two boulders.

Rocks them back and forth.

Unsticks them from the forest floor.

Knocks them together.

Sparks ignite.

It hurls them at him.

One at a time.

He raises his arm.

Shields his face.

A Buckeye tree springs forth from his root sleeve.

Catches each boulder with its canopy.

Absorbs their momentum.

Flings them back.

Then retracts.

He had no idea his root sleeve could do that.

Adrenaline drenched.

He stares at it.

Opens his mouth.

Teeth baring.

He lets out.

A primordial scream.

It cracks at first.

Then it deepens.

Into an elongated.



Taken aback.

It steps back.

He takes the opportunity.

Runs away.

It clenches its fists.

Punches the ground.

Dead blackened trees blast off.

Fail on lift off.

Fall all kinds of sideways across his path.

He zigs.

He zags.

He grins.



He knows.

Is just the beginning.

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