The Hushing Forest
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If a tree falls in a forest, and no sentient being is there to hear it, does it make any sound at all?

Once there was an ordinary forest full of ordinary trees. A village of people lived on its edge. The people foraged under its branches and would sometimes take a trunk or two to build a house. But the forest grew more trees and replenished its berries every year, so the people and the woods coexisted. Stories were whispered by parents to young children, of monsters that roamed the darkness and the shadows just over the hill, but they weren't true. No families disappeared. No horrors came creeping into the streets at night to find prey.

But one day, disaster struck, and not from within the forest. An invisible thing came from the sky and snatched up the people, all at once. It gobbled up their bodies, drank their blood, and consumed their minds. It feasted on their souls. When that was not enough, it feasted on the shadows and holes in space where their souls used to be. When even from this it was not satiated, it ate the very idea that they had ever existed in the first place. And then it left to find a new world to feast on. Humans were really not very nourishing at all.

If a tree falls in a forest, and there had been no one to hear anything in the forest since before the tree existed, does it bother to make a sound?

Once there was a silent forest full of silent trees. A world full of people lived far away from its edge, who knew not that the forest existed, or that it grew more trees and more berries every year in the vain hope for someone to coexist with. No stories were told of monsters in its depths, though they would have been true if they were. Silent, stalking creatures, colonies of plants possessed and made animate by opportunistic spirits, or the idea of them. They wouldn't be able to meaningfully exist in the shadow of such a self-consistent context as that of humanity. Aside from this benign infection of nothing, the forest was alone, and had long since grown quiet, for with no one to hear their rustling and heavy presence, what would be the point?

But one day, a miracle struck, from outside the forest once again. A human being, possessed of such tranquility and distain for life's trodden path as to wander in a direction no one else had thought to for a thousand years. As they walked across grassy hills, towards the green mass in the distance, they imagined that this would be a great place for a town to exist, full of simple people that coexisted with the forest.

As the human drew closer to the forest, their footsteps began to grow quieter, slowly enough to be hard to notice. The human mind still registers the impact of each step, and subconsciously fills in the sound. Even closer, and the human became unusually aware of their own heartbeat. By the time they had reached the edge of the forest, they had actively realized that this was an area where sound simply was not a permeable property. Continuing to walk, the human registered a twig snapping underfoot, but it was through their kinesthetic rather than aural sense. Hearing no greeting from the forest, and feeling no need to speak in return, they continued on.

The spirit-plant hybrids had developed a privative imitation of arrogance over the many years that they had been enjoying reality, and sensing movement, grew excited at the idea of the idea of prey. As the human strode onward through the trees, the stalkers approached. Each one in turn, upon catching sight of the powerfully real being they were hunting, immediately died with less than a whisper. They left behind piles of moss and adolescent shrubbery, which had of course been in exactly those spots since they were clouds of seeds blown there by the wind. The last of the spirits to die this way was therefore also the first, but then again, death is a high honor to be affording to something which in the first place lacks life. Unaware of the tumultuous nothing happening around them, the human continued on.

It began to get dark, beneath the canopy. The sun itself had just barely begun to approach the horizon, casting the first few red rays north and south, but at this angle the trunks began to assist the leaves in catching most of the light. By this time, the human had started walking along the shore of an unnervingly quiet line of water, somewhere between a creek and a river, thinking it wise to stay near for both direction and sustenance. They were startled by a fish, in the corner of their eye, leaping to catch an insect, for of course they had not heard it leave the water. Chuckling slightly at their own skittishness, they continued on.

The forest awoke.

It watched them as they settled into the hollow base of a tree to eat and sleep. It was a colossally old tree. It had been there, small enough to nearly knock over, back when the most adventurous of children played along the river and those in hiding passed over it in search of better trunks to use for shelter building. The ring that it had been working on forming when the Disaster struck no longer existed for about six feet from the ground to the ceiling of the hollow. The human curled up to sleep, enjoying the pure silence, and the tree in its turn soaked up their presence. So familiar, and yet so alien. The tree, and its forest, began to remember.

It watched them as they awoke, hungry, and went in search of berries to eat. There was a bush of poisonous ones very near to where they had elected to shelter, but it was somehow always hidden from view no matter where they ranged in search. Eventually they found a different bush, practically bursting with safe, juicy, red, berries. It was a bit of a walk from the hollow tree, and from the river, but they knew the way, and walk was what they were here to do anyway. They ate right there next to the bushes, not having brought anything with which to carry any significant amount back. The plants, and their forest, remembered some more.

It watched them as they collected dry wood and kindling from around their shelter. As the sky was darkening again, they built a small fire just outside the entrance to the Hollow Tree. Completely silent, of course. They sat in what they now considered to be their doorway, with a wrapped shirt full of berries from the Bush, and enjoyed the warmth while they ate. The previous night had been rather cold, and as disinterested as they were in living all that much longer, such discomfort was something best experienced only once. The leaves and their forest felt the heat and the smoke and the movement of the air, and remembered.

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