The people seemed to be in some sort of harmony. They were still a small bunch
of men in the courtyard, but it was not as much to them that he and his pack
had brought a sudden silence. They had seen the small group of men moving
about, and it took them a moment to realize exactly what they were. They
were the ones who had been chasing them from the courtyard.
“What of them,” one of the men said to his fellows. “Do they not know what
they are facing? To flee from them would be a coward’s act.”
“I do not fear being killed,” a man said. His voice was quiet, but there was
some of the same anger there, the anger that had seen them outrun the
“Well, they are doing it now,” a woman said. “They do not want to die.”
But he was glad to hear that. He would not feel the pain of dying as much. He
would not be so angry at the forest.
As the group continued to talk amongst themselves, one of them broke the
silence. The man was a little older than the rest of them, but still only a
child. Like the woman who was with him, he was tall and slender. But he
wore a short, heavy robe. It had the feel of a blanket, and the man had it
folded about him. But it could not hide the muscles beneath the cloth, and
the movement was quite noticeable. They were not, however, of his own making.
“The forest could not make them go,” he said. “They are of the forest. The
forest speaks to them. They do not speak to one another. And yet they are in
solitary strength, and all is silent and still within the forest. I wonder,
“It is the law,” one of the others said. “They are not to run from the forest
because the forest is in fear of them.”
“Do you not have laws that are not in fear?” the man asked.
“I have no fear,” the man said. “I do not believe in fear, as a rule. I do
not need laws to tell me what is right or wrong. What one man does to another
I do not care. What is right for me is right for me.”
“But there are laws that are in fear,” the man asked. “It is in fear that
the forest speaks to them. The forest is still. Only the leaves sway. And
the moon smiles. It speaks to them because the forest is still.”
“So it is,” the man said. “I do not see the point in your argument, though
it is a strong one.” But he was not really arguing. He was simply expressing
his thoughts aloud.
A strange thing, he suddenly realized. Their thoughts were all different
thoughts, he noted. None of them had the same thoughts. It was like looking
at the world from different perspectives. But then, he reminded himself, it
was like looking at a world of trees from different perspectives. He felt a
sort of satisfaction. He could not see the forest in its entirety, but in
the end, after all, he was still within it.
“And yet I feel,” the man said, “that the forest is not afraid of them. We
are in a place of silence, and for a moment they felt as though they did not
have anyone to talk to.”
“The forest is still,” another man said.
“Yes, but they were not even in the forest,” the man said. “Even if the
forest wanted to speak to them, they did not have the time. I do not know
why they are so quiet.”
“They are quiet because they cannot be seen,” the man said. “It is as if
they are sleeping, but they are not.” He put his arm around the woman
supporting him and leaned in close to her. “I have no use for words,” he said
quietly. “No one should know what is true or false. I did not need someone
to tell me that the forest is still. But I believe it is true. The words you
use and the things you do do not need to tell me. What is right or wrong
is clear to me.”
A third man said, “And yet the forest is quiet, is it not?”
“For the time being,” the man said. “What is true for me is true for me. I
do not need to explain myself to you. I would not trust you.” But he knew
that he wanted the man to trust him. If the man did not trust him, perhaps he
would not be able to use what he had to say.
And so the group continued the argument about law and fear, and what one man
had learned was more interesting. It had not been the forest that had kept
them safe when they had fled the courtyard, it had been the group of men. But
the group of men was not as easily killed, as the man had hoped.
He had not known that. He supposed that he should have known. But he
thought that he did not. He only knew that there were no words to explain
the experience. He had not found the words to express it.
He considered it an event. An event had occurred, and it would not be repeated.
But he did not understand it. And so, he felt, it would not be repeated. In
the end, it made no sense to him. But it made his skin crawl. He thought it
was his skin being crawled.
“I do not know what fear is,” the man said. “I never knew what fear was.
But I do not believe that you need fear. Fear is not a good word. If it is
a good word, I would have said that the forest is afraid, but one does not
need fear to be afraid. Fear is only a sign of ignorance. I do not understand
that. I do not understand how fear and ignorance and silence are related.
I have never understood it, but I do not think the connection is necessary.”
“I do not know,” the man said.
“It was not the forest that kept us safe,” another man said.