I spoke to the young man and his dad as they raked leaves into a multicolored pile on their corner lawn property. I thanked them for pointing me to the nearly invisible path that led into a dark patch of forest. I had a meeting to get to. Somewhere in there.
The darkness deepened into the appearance of evening as I walked down the middle of the dirt path. I reached a semblance of a crossroads: to the left, there was still light dappling in through the leaves and thick trunks; ahead, the gloom deepened and I could see movement. I watched as thick, reddish-brown trees walked on their roots. The ones with leaves on high branches waved them in warning as others, bare of foliage, frowned angrily. I stepped into the gloom, arms open in supplication, hoping to ask the residents of the forest where to go. They seemed not to care, seemed hungry to destroy me.
Before they could rip me apart, a larger tree approached and the others backed away. This one was regal in countenance and the others bowed to it. The leaves at its crown were just that: a crown. It — he — was a king.
This one, you shall not harm.
His voice resonated through the wood, through the ground, and through me as the others backed away. He pointed toward the path to the left as its light glistened with hope and looked down at me, a slight kindness glowing in his deep-set eyes.
You will not be harmed whenever you come here. Keep the promise and help the trees. We are strong, but true help we will not refuse.
And then I woke up.