A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Dead Inside" in Mirror Shards:
“I look at the trees, green and growing, and I see a ruin of skeletal limbs, black bark against a stark white sky. Winter, forever. Or, worse, just a stump. Nothing left at all.” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “It’s the same… with everything. Inside, there’s a death, clawing its way to the surface. Inevitable.” His hands wrung each other, pale fish writhing in a sunless well.
“Look deeper,” she said. She held out the bit of spongy wood she’d taken from the trunk. The soft white bulb of a mushroom clung to its surface. “Just a little deeper inside.”
Deeper, he thought, his skin crawled with a scratchy film of talcum. He felt like he was losing himself, the atoms of his soul dispersing across the forest. His only tie to his body a thin thread of a line stretched taut like a bit of spiderweb just before it was pulled too far and the silk ripped asunder.
He was frustrated and knew that Moonwalker Alicia had interrupted her work to spend the afternoon training him. How could one find life in this maelstrom of wind that buffeted him like a pebble falling off a cliff.
"You are almost there," said her voice a thrumming in his mind. He saw her wide shunt throbbing with the tree's energy but felt his own grasp slip as he was torn away and slammed into his body which rocked back against the ground. "Perhaps, you are growing tired. You can do this. You are almost there and tomorrow you shall succeed."
Or die, if he couldn't attach his life's thread to something live.