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Humans interrupt a peaceful day in the forest

The forest had always been peaceful.

The forest was where you would stand still and feel the earth beneath your feet. It was where you would inhale the sweet forest air that was full of the invigorating scent of tree bark and green leaves and fresh earth. The forest had that unmistakable feel of authenticity: it made you feel alive.

It was where you would hear the gentle cooing of birds from their perches in the trees, where you would hear the crackle of leaves and the occasional sound of a single leaf softly falling from its branch. You would hear the mellifluous echo of the flowing river as the water coursed smoothly down, making small white waves.

You would see fluffy little rabbits hopping to and fro, and you would see busy squirrels scampering up the sturdy trunks of leafy oaks. You would see birds with wings outstretched circling high above the topmost branches of tall pines. You would see wood ducks splashing through the river and turtles basking on the rocks beside it. And if you went deeper in, you would see the small circular pond, sheltered by slender white birches, reflecting its surroundings in the clear, unbroken mirror of its water. You might even glimpse the antlers of a stag. Or you might see a bushy red tail just before its owner scrambled off into the depths of the woods . . .

*          *          *

A thirsty fox makes his way toward the pond for a drink of water. The soft flutter of wings as a wood thrush hurriedly takes flight reaches his ears, and he looks up, flicking his tail. Seeing the rustling of bushes as two rabbits scamper out of his way, he pauses a moment, then turns and resumes his way.

(Swish, crackle, flutter)

Loping through the tangled undergrowth that carpets the floor of the forest, the fox reaches the pond, where he crouches and drinks thirstily. The water shifts and ripples, creating a distorted image of the fox. A moment later, he tenses and leaps up, ears twitching upright, alert black eyes soundlessly darting back and forth among the trees.

(Crack, scrape, snap)

Human footsteps: crushing leaves, snapping twigs. Human voices: shrill laughter, giggling, whispering.

(Thud, whiz—)

The fox throws himself to one side just as a smooth stone cuts sharply through the air in a high arc. It passes directly above the spot the fox has just vacated and splashes, hissing and singing, into the center of the smooth, glass-like surface of the pond. The surface shatters and the stone disappears.

The fox, as silent and unmoving as the trees, gazes fixedly into the dense woods.

(Ripples . . .)

The human forms saunter away, leaving behind them harsh, echoing laughter that rings mockingly in his ears. Their dark shadows are momentarily reflected in his eyes, and the eyes darken, growing blacker than ever, before he turns away.

Karen Susanto
Karen Susanto, 13
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Grace Gorzelany
Grace Gorzelany, 10
Glen Ridge, NJ