The wood is charred, covered in inky scales. New cracks ran rampant through the scars of old flames. Rumor has it, somewhere deep inside, the fire still smoulder in his blackened heart. Ghosts of smoke are sometimes seen, or dreamt, or are mistaken with fog.
The wounded tree himself grows tired of the suspicion. He survived the lightning strike by some impossible means, and now he needs to rest and to heal, not reassure his neighbors the fire is out. Besides, if he wants to keep a lick or two of the fire that forged him, what business is it of theirs?
All at once the woods fell silent. There were no planes, no sounds of traffic, just silence and the forest. Time appeared suspended. As she wandered through the forest, how tiny felt the thread that held her to her time. It seemed as possible a knight in a suit of armor might come crashing through the bush as a plane might fly overhead. She lingered there, playing with the threads of time, more than willing to believe she had a choice.
She looked out at the world with her good eye, the one that could see past illusions to all the things unsaid and unseen, and it made her sad to see that people hid the best of themselves deep inside where no one could ever harm them, and no one ever saw.
“Mommy! I think that tree is growing fairies!”
The young leaves were so busy growing they failed to notice they’d forgotten to dress in green. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it reminded the others of autumn and cast a solemn mood as they counted the days remaining in the summer and worried over a chill in the air.
After a lifetime of holding up the sky, the tree spent his retirement putting his feet up on the dunes and picking shapes out of the clouds.
The boy grabbed his sister’s shoulder and held her back. “Be careful! It’ll chomp you if you get too close!”
At long last the prophecy was coming true. All along the limbs of the wooden beasts they unfurled; the Eaters of Sunlight, Givers of Shade, and Echoes of Tranquility. Soon the forests would shiver with great green clouds of them holding back the sky and the long awaited summer would once again rule the land.
The trees were given a rare chance to glimpse themselves in their reflections, watching their likenesses ripple in the breeze and finding themselves quite handsome. The water didn’t stay long enough to cause any harm, but gave them just enough time to comb out their branches and organize their buds before summer.
Discarded by humans, the old bridge fell back under nature’s control. A brave tree or two took root in pockets of soil blown in by the wind, clinging to tiny cracks with desperate roots. Lichens feasted upon the concrete, crumbling the stonework bit by bit until the roots could grow bolder and stronger as the years went by.
Humans began to stop and look at it in wonder, thinking not of ruins but of the tenacity of nature and the power of patience.