A short story inspired by the Aokigahara Jukai "Sea Of Trees" forest in Japan. Also known as the "suicide forest", something about this place beckons to people who are ready to give up. This story is about one such person.
A stranger walked into the woods and away from his life. He had given up on the world of the living. He walked with an empty heart, deeper and deeper into the forest, paying no attention to any compass; there was no reason to go back the way he had come.
He walked until the sounds of the city fell away; until the sun faded and the moon shone with a fierce white light. Wolves howled and night birds screeched. The sounds of water could be heard, madness descended on the land and into the stranger’s mind. He found a place to sit and wait for the forces of nature to take him to another plane.
The stranger sat on the damp ground with the tendrils of a vining weed curling around his boots. Footsteps of nocturnal predators surrounded him and bats flew silently overhead. He sat and waited, knowing that the claws and teeth of a hungry beast would be upon him soon enough. A tri-colored snake sat coiled on a branch above his head. He beckoned to it with his broken thoughts. A lightening fast strike from the serpent would be followed by an eternity of peace. He waited.
The stranger waited for death to find to him but on this night he would not be found. He laid down and did not object when spiders crawled onto his face. Sleep came over him and when the first rays of morning sun touched his eyes he was startled by the presence of a tiny rose. An unlikely plant to be growing there, it was barely alive from being choked by the vines but, even so, had managed to send up one tiny bloom that glowed red in the sunlight.
The stranger stared at the tiny flower, his face reflected in a single dew drop clinging to it’s petals. He sat up and cleared away the vines so that the little plant could get more light and air. It rained often in the forest and all green things grew very rapidly, especially the vining weeds. By the time the sun was setting in the west, the tiny rose had become more robust and vines were once again curled around it’s base.
The next morning, and for countless mornings, the stranger awoke on the ground next to the rose. He would tear the vines away to give it room to grow. With the help of the stranger, the rose flourished; turning it’s velvet blossoms towards the warm rays of sun.
The stranger no longer waited for death to find him and he became intent on serving the rose. Though it never thanked him, the stranger desired only to sleep under the stars looking forward to watching the rose unfold in the morning light.
The rose did only as it’s nature intended it to do. It fed on the sun and the rain; growing stalks of deep green leaves and razor sharp thorns, topped by silky red flowers. The rose never knew the perilous nature of it’s existence nor did it give any thought to the assistance that made it’s life possible. It did not feel for other living things, it knew only warmth and growth, it did what roses do.
Seasons passed and the stranger grew old. But even in the autumn of his life, with gnarled hands and bent knees, he fought the strangling vines; tearing them from the ground so that the rose may live.
One morning the sun burst over the horizon, illuminating the rose and filling all the dew drops with rainbows of refracted light. The forest shone like a cathedral but the stranger did not stir. Light fell on his face but his eyes did not open. His chest did not rise and fall. He did not wake from his slumber and clear away the vines.
As the sun moved across the sky, the vining weeds wrapped their tendrils around anything they could reach. By noon the stranger’s face was obscured and his arms bound securely to the ground. Carnivorous insects marched to him in straight lines. The rose continued to flourish and bloom even as the vines began to curl around it’s thorny stalks. It did not know to be afraid or to mourn for what had been lost to it. It knew only to grow in the sunlight and so it carried on. By the following day the strangling vines had wrapped themselves through every stalk of the beautiful bush yet the rose felt no sadness. The great stalks began to wither, leaves turning brown and perfect red flowers falling to the ground as the vines choked the life from the rose.
The rose did not grow angry at it’s fate. It simply was and then it was not. It did what roses do; returning to the forest floor with all the living things that had gone before.
Story by DeAnna Vincent. November 2011
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.