The forest is quiet now. The breeze is gentle, stirring the fine, grey dust that coats the earth. Pine trunks stand sentry, their gloomy corpses like an army of the dead. Stripped of bark and branches, black as night, the few still standing creak in the wind. Their fallen brothers, dry and crumbling, pile up at their roots.

No birds sing. No squirrels scamper through this lonely copse. Devoid of life, the woods stand in shock in the dry, desolate earth.

The sun beats down mercilessly onto blistered soil; wispy clouds float carelessly by. These few tufts and tendrils of white in the sky are mere memories, empty spirits of the billowing monsters that had once filled the air. They are the innocent, white-faced children of grey-hearted beasts. Beasts who were born in a fit of white-hot rage that split the night in two, a rage that ate the forest whole.

Now there is only the scar. Every rock, every tree, every inch of dirt aches with the memory. The forest has been tarred and feathered, dipped in night and thrust into blinding UV rays. At midday, the silent screams of the woods-that-were are deafening. Sunlight sears the blackened wood and earth.

And now the smoky darkness fills the air, kicked up by an errant breeze. Beneath the dusty residue, the hardness of the earth reveals itself. All is cracked and barren, lifeless as a distant planet.

But soon the green will return. Tiny shoots will reclaim the ground. They will grow, fervently reaching toward the sky. Hesitantly, the deer will tiptoe back through the dark soldiers, drawn forward by the sprawling green carpet.

For now though, stillness pervades. Permeates. Chokes. The only motion is the dusk swirling in the breeze. The forest must wait, only time will make the phoenix rise.

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