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Mushishi - A Tree In Its Infinite Slumber

By Sailesh Gopalan

Fantasy

Chapter 1

Footsteps. Resonating through the forest, the alien sound engaged the attention of every living being in the vicinity. An uncommon presence. A silence breaker. Feet, dragging through the soil, leaving a thick trail as they advanced. An indistinct human figure trudging along towards the heart of the forest, grazing past the trees that he perceived to be obstacles. Clinging on to his own strength, the man staggered through the coarse soil, almost as if he was being followed by a vicious predator. Running from the unknown. The voices of the forest died down, accentuating the sound of the footsteps. Much to the man's oblivion, the eyes and ears of every sentient being residing in the forest were focused on his movements. He was exhausted, made clear by his heavy panting. Every breath seemed to have enough strength to blow down a tree, but his faltering vigour would soon mark the end of his mobility. The man had physically reached his limits, but his mind refused to let him stop. He had to run. Not from any man or beast, nor from any calamity. He was in a state of mind where running was the only apparent solution. Running from himself. He dragged his feet further, reeling aimlessly, deeper into the thick forest following a small path that seemed naturally made. Every time he lost his strength and lowered his head, he averted his gaze from his own feet, as if they were a despicable sight to behold. His vision was fading, and his breath had gone silent. He took a few more steps and collapsed on a bed of dried leaves, making a rustling and crackling noise. A couple of leaves hovered for a few seconds before they gently caressed the ground, contrary to the preceding ungraceful thud. He had no more strength to move, but he lifted his head, struggling to continue running from the indiscernible 'danger'. He swayed his head desperately, trying to use up the last drop of energy he had to cover a little more ground, trivial as it may be. Unwillingly, he accepted his incompetence and resigned to his fate. He had lost complete control over all his senses. His world went silent and blank. As his eyes shut, he caught a momentary glimpse of an approaching figure with white hair and a large backpack.

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