Fiction: The Forester

By Felix Anker

If a tree dies in the forest I’m around to hear it. I always have been. I’ve listened to their tales—the mournful sigh of the pine, the agonizing groan of the oak, the last farewell of the fir. It took years to learn their language but now I can sense their impending death long before they do. I feel the melancholic murmur creeping through their leaves, it’s not curiosity anymore, not like the brisk breath of a seedling. I can hear the crackle of their aging skin, the constant squeak, years before they finally fall far down into their graves. As they surrender, they creak louder and harsher, their bones snap until they collapse into the dark embrace of the soil, finding peace in the light they had blocked for so many years.
They tell stories as they die.
Right here, in the very spot where I stand now, if you look carefully between the moss that carpets my feet, you can see where an old willow tree has been uprooted from life, downrooted he remained there for years, three winters fed upon his timber. I was there when he passed away, tracing the youthful tattoo on his bark with my finger. Two young lovers left it many years ago, their names have faded from our memory. Yet, the wound they left in his flesh endured throughout his life, it read:
H + L
H visited the willow frequently, L only was with him two more times. But H kept coming back until his skin turned ashen, and barkish creases ran across his face. He came less frequently then, but I remember one visit: He sought refuge beneath the willow during a storm, his hand protecting the tattooed 'L'. After that he returned only one last time, the willow had grown older, it must have been at least two decades. When I arrived on that morning the willow groaned under H’s weight, but the agony became less as H’s body became less.
He nurtured the old willow.
He kept the tattoo alive.
I cut him down a year later and buried him aside the willow’s seedling. The old willow passed away many years later, now he’s gone, consumed by the flames of three cold winters. All that is left is the rope. I tied it to the sturdiest branch of an old oak three days ago. Now, I wait.

Felix Anker, born and raised and based in Germany, is a linguist working on the languages of the Caucasus. While most of his publications are scientific, he also writes about things that are not entirely true. Humour, Science-Fiction, and other weird stuff in German and English magazines (State of Matter, Don't Submit!, Podyssey, Johnny, Veilchen, UND).