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The Forest of Ex.

(from We enter the Forest and there we are both Lost and Found, by Oscar Alabaster. Oscar was one of the Forty Foolish Travellers who founded Ex.)

"As we entered the forest my fear set great agitation battering at my breast. Now we were true runaways with no home. Forever after would we choose to keep company with this pale mass of trees. Their smooth trunks were as grey as smoke and their tassled heads towered extremely high above our own. Below our feet we did tread upon plants very like cold, green juice-worms that did crackle and spit at us as we did step upon them as if the blood of a living thing ran through them and made them to feel pain.

Farther in we found deep, plummetting and damp places in the earth where there stood many instances of a tree with a soft trunk and leaves that grew directly from the top of the trunk. These leaves came out to a length well longer than my arm and each one formed a canopy under which we sat while the sky made rain.

I did while away my time in examination of these leaves and found that each one was fringed with tiny curls, as you might find on a person's head. Each one of these curls was rimm'd in turn with dark hairs. The small wonders of this place grew larger to infinity as I looked more carefully at them. See, here was an insect crawling in this hair. No doubt the insect has insects of its own and perhaps they feel that they are being carried through a dark jungle as surely as we were being carried through a pale jungle. At this thought I did take my eyes away from the intricacies of the leaf and look at Sarah. She was our carrier, and where she stopped we would stop, even as the beetles on the hind end of this insect started and stopped, moved and stood still at the mercy of their larger colleague. When the rain ceased she stepped ahead of us and kept a lively pace.

It was our intention to follow the river while towing our goods alongside us upon a raft. This had not been impossible so far, but now we found ourselves affronted by trees of enormous stature that did grow a-straddle with roots buried in the river and half on land and thereby blocked us from our towing. There was no question of tearing the tree down as we might have done with lesser trunks. "Are we to stand here until it falls?" exclaimed Sarah as we stood staring with our eyes a-start. "Come, let us make sense of this natural riddle! We know do we not that there are connections between this and that and all other things in the world?"

"O yes," we said to her.

"Why then, there is a connection between our towing and the presence of this tree." We did laugh at this and the problem was solved in at atmosphere of chaff and merriment.

The whole of the Forest is a maze through which we passed through only after much struggling. She raised our spirits with speeches concerning the revenge we would have upon these plants when it came time to build our city. Then she grew sober and said, "But this is our element now and we must live in it as fish do water. It will be our difference and our strength and one day our children will return to Gum Gooloo and show them how strange and strong we have grown.

Despite her words I knew that there were those among us who longed for the kinder plants of the south yet not one among them would ever choose to turn back."