The tree watches. In its branches perch a world of birds. Insects trundle and burrow beneath the ridges of its bark. Nuthatches, tits, finches creep and dig, tiny claws clinging, beaks pecking. In the forest silence, the small sounds ring out bell-clear. Sunlight filtered through its dwindling leaves falls softly golden on my face, but I am not fooled. There is no acceptance here, only dull, eternal hostility. Yet I stay because the eyes of the tree compel me.
I shrink beneath the towering silver-grey trunk, hold out my hands to show the watching eyes that they are empty. The implacable stare is unflinching. The pecking stops. Birds flutter and are lost among the dapples of sunlight and shade. Eyes, lidless, dark wounds where limbs once grew, stare at me, the intruder.
No more, the breeze murmurs. No more.
I won’t, I say. I never have done, never would.
But the breeze has flowed on and on and doesn’t listen.
Times change, whisper the last golden leaves. Trees change.
Dusk falls slowly here, dimming light, the setting sun reflected from the clouds along the horizon. Roosting birds shuffle. Yellow eyes blink. Around me, the rustling of dead things grows louder.