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The Voice of the Trees

Creative Writing Submission

By Autumn Antonson

Image: Jennifer C. on flickr

If you drive north along the coast from my home in California for exactly thirty-two minutes, there is a place where the trees speak. 

The parking lot there is large, dusty. It’s usually empty, of course, so you’ll have plenty of space to park. 

Look for a dirt path to the right of the parking lot with a wooden arch across it. Once you pass beneath, remember: stay quiet. That is the most important thing. 

During the daytime, the whole world stays silent. Even the air you breathe rests. Birds don't chirp here, and the ferns never rustle. They've learned to stay quiet beneath the trees. 

The trunks themselves are giants, but don’t be intimidated. During the day, you have nothing to fear.

Once you are in the forest, your skin will chill and freeze. Your fingers will turn red and bitter, and you’ll have to clamp your teeth together to stop them chattering. Remember to wear a coat. 

Find a place to sit staying quiet of course and then you will remain here, amongst the needles and moss. The day will pass in silence as the ancient creatures sleep, and you will watch birds fly overhead. If you look at them for long enough, you’ll see them open their beaks to sing nothing at all. 

When the sun finally sinks away, sliding red stripes of light between the trunks, you will hear the trees sigh. At first, perhaps you’ll think it’s the wind, but even the wind knows not to blow here. 

When darkness falls, the trees wake up. 

As you sit, hidden away, you will hear them. They will murmur amongst themselves, sighing and creaking, and at first you won’t be able to catch their words. But as the night goes on, they will get louder. They will hiss and cry, using voice after voice, tangling together like the branches overhead. It will be monstrous and terrifying, but if you listen closely, you will hear what they have to say. 

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they will move. They will pull their roots from the dark earth and move beneath the blackness. 

But remember, no matter what you hear, no matter what you see, do not make a sound. 

If you do, the trees will hear you. They will surround you, dark trunks the bars of a cell, and they will cut away your voice. They will steal it. They will swallow it whole, gnawing it to shreds with razor teeth. 

And then the silence will bury you six feet beneath the earth. 

While you gasp for air, screaming for help while only silence falls from between your teeth, you will hear a new voice begin to call from deep within the forest. It is familiar, oh so precious. 

It is your own, stolen from your throat forever. It will join the voices of the other creatures that dared to whisper beneath the trees, mingling with the birdsongs and wailing and wind. Your voice will echo amongst the shadows and cold endlessly, never to return to you. 

So whatever you do, stay quiet.


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