Forest Floor

 

Forest Floor (c) Ajit Ghai

 

He walked among the trees. They smelled good. He had rarely taken the time to notice. The smell was a counterpoint to that tendency to see only the claustrophobic solitude of boreal forests. In the winter the forests were disarmingly quiet. The silence was simply an appearance, a way to fool the naive – the ones who assumed that what they could see was what was out there. All this organic matter was smart and unsettling. It hid, played tricks on you. Even in the deep of winter, a forest like this was much more dangerous and complicated. There was the cold, yes, but also the traps. The holes in the ground covered in snow that could consume a man whole. The sheets of ice that could crack open and devour you into the ice-cold water beneath, freezing you in minutes, rendering your brain, bones and muscle too stiff to clamber out. Could you imagine? Even if you did make it out what would happen?  Wet, cold, frozen, surrounded by a freezing wind and biting snow… no shelter, no heat…

 

A pleasant forest was not possible. These were sinister places, and in the summer the clinical efficiencies of the winter were replaced by a particular all-consuming force – the carpet of organic detritus and the living things that lived there, the crawling, ticking and cooing creatures that respected no boundaries or had no sense of personal space. Mosquitos, blackflies were bad enough but the drive of all the other creatures that carved a path, despite the obstacles in front of them, was incessant and relentless. It doesn’t take too long for that wood cabin that hasn’t been maintained to be consumed by the organic matter that surrounds it. It starts with the smells and scurry of ants invading containers of sugar – ant trap here, poison there just doesn’t contain the problem. This is their world. All solutions are temporary before being overrun by the creatures that inhabit the forest floor.