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Everything on Earth is dead, no oxygen. Humans who survived live inside a huge building for their whole life and no one ever leaves. One day a person accidentally opens a window and sees a forest.
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The bunker is always silent.
Mum would disagree with me. She would point out the ever-present humming of our recyclers, how we overhear our neighbor argue with his wife every Friday night, that even our breath comes back to haunt us, reflected off the half-plastic walls and poor sound design. Mum is dead.
She couldn't take the silence.
It comes from our empty world outside, still painted in rust browns and almost-blue grays. Hanging over us, it pants like a dying dog in our ears-- day in, day out. Manifests in reddish lines of dust under our fingernails and worn clothing as even recycling fails. It dwells in the pauses between our words when we come too close to an unwanted topic.
I like to sit by the plexiglass windows, watching gales sweep over our empty world. Silence is only frightening when you hide it in the back of your mind, like a monster under your bed. At a window, face to face with it, I cannot help but think it beautiful. The hypnotic eyes of silence always draw me back.
Which is why only I saw the beginning of it all.
A single tree, bursting out of nothing. The greenery of its boughs bit into the reddish landscape, dancing in our turbulent winds. It glowed with life-- sparking fast-growing saplings around it. They shot upwards and outwards, eating up the land, unfolding into forest. Everything was so quick, I almost missed the original tree turning to me.
The younger trees were starting to hide it from me. I leaned close to the glass, enraptured by its fierce attention.
Tugged at my soul.
And a sound broke our unholy silence.
"Come to me," the whole forest spoke, "And we will be whole."
As more of the city's inhabitants left in search of fresh air, the situation in the forest soon changed. The trees, endowed with their own wills and desires, wanted to be left alone and free to grow and thrive. But soon, a population of squirrels began to arise, somersaulting through the branches in defiance. As the trees began to protest, a strange, almost comical battle broke out between the two forces, each side determined to have their way.
As the humans settled in the trees, it became apparent that the conflict would not be easily solved, and that their presence in the forest would have significant implications. They soon found themselves caught up in the struggle between the trees and the squirrels, and it became increasingly clear that the side they chose to support might well mean the victor in this strange, yet somehow familiar battle. Despite their involvement, the humans found a new home in this ancient place. They soon weighed their loyalty and commitment to each as they helped to navigate a future with both the trees and squirrels in harmony.
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