"a new dawn to restore the forest"

by C. Ikpoh

As I walk through the forest, I am confronted with the sight of visions lost. Lives dangling in the tilted balance give way to the weight of branches strong enough to bear their manifested fruits. Gently, I move the fruit to the side as I maneuver amongst those low enough to pluck at eye level. None are sweet. Bitter is the only quality. As I proceed, the forest releases crimson leaves to dance amidst the trees, creating a flurry of waltzing partners making their way beneath my soles. Watching the performance flashes sunlight in my eyes as their fluid movement disrupts the flow of rays. Accompanying their dance is a rustling noise of Fall seasons passed generations ago, telling the life stories of the fruit before me. Whispers of despair, depression, loneliness, guilt and confusion riddle my ears. The music being played for the leaves is remorseful. That is until...​

Night befalls the forest. A screeching melody of string instruments bursts from the moon. It is rapid, quickening the pace of all waltzing. The fruit is disturbed, leaking truths through their skin, bleeding juice onto the hollowed ground beneath them. The earth gags from choking on the bitter taste. It weeps, not wanting to accept the unrighteous emotion shared by the fruit. In turn, the fruit weeps at being shunned once more. Just the aroma of such things makes me nauseous. I can feel a pressure in the back of my throat while my stomach becomes unsettled. Acid washes my esophagus. The fruit begins to rot, oozing pestilence and black water. They move about the air still attached to the branches by weathered ropes, knocking me from side-to-side. I throw my hands up to shield myself from the impact. As I do, the slime from the fruit smears on my palms. An immediate repulsion occurs. I become dizzy from the mere sensation of a singular slime stream coursing down my skin. Simultaneously, the fruit wale cries of agony. No one loved them enough to keep them from being harvested. No one was there to tend to their needs as the parasites fed off their nutrients. Rage and regret fill the atmosphere, and as it shines, the moon antagonizes the fruit. The forest is alive with death.

I cannot escape. I am swarmed by the trees and the fruit they possess. I collapse to my knees and feel the dance partners wither upon my touch; the leaves are no more. Ash fills my fingertips while I desperately reach for a way out. The twilight sky burns my back with its malevolent glow. Yearning for an end to the suffering, for an escape, I contemplate planting roots to produce fruit of my own. One-by-one, I plunge each ash covered finger into the soil. Bark begins to engulf my hands, firmly grasping me with a mortal intention. The end is present. I am becoming one with the forest, that is until...