With hope crumbling through my fingers into disappointment, and my ribcage crushed under the weight of solitude, I stumble out into the damp grey of a denuded winter landscape.
I walk along muddy tracks through leaf-strewn woods, summer canopy now gone, skeletal trees exposed to the featureless sky. Fungi feed voraciously on the body of one fallen sentinel; elsewhere, different species of moss compete to draw succour on the bole of an uprooted comrade.
Then, at the end of the path, I find him beside a shallow pool, contorted branches frozen in agony. At night, his suffering becomes animate, and he bellows with rage and pain, hammering a lignum fist into the stagnant water. The others look away, and quake as his dying anger throbs inconsolably.