My thoughts are interrupted by a dull thud from deep within the forest, as they continue to slice through me with a rhythm that only an axe can produce. The sound is unmistakable. Nothing else creates such an echo as does sharp steel striking a hard tree trunk, yet it is absurd to even think that someone is doing this in the age of chainsaws.
Through quick reasoning, I come to a realization that sends shivers down my spine. The only path leading to that forest passes through where I currently stand, and that path has been buried under snow drifts for days. There are no tracks, and it’s impossible to traverse the waist-deep snow.
Nevertheless, someone, or something, is chopping down a tree deep within the dense woods. Soon, the sound of branches snapping and the powerful thud of a massive trunk hitting the frozen ground reverberates through the dead hollow and shakes my bones.
I have no choice but to head there immediately. Unanswered curiosity would otherwise utterly consume my mind.
Arriving finally at the scene, I come across a fresh stump of substantial girth protruding from the ground. There are very few such massive specimens left in this forest, and now there is one less. The tree has been felled by an axe, if this I harbor no doubts. Sharp splinters of wood are torn and scattered across the snow around the stump. It’s unclear where the tracks came from or where they went. The only way out of here is the one I just took, and anyone who passed through here had to cross paths with me. The snow in all other directions remains undisturbed.
However, that’s not what troubles me the most. The main complication is that there is no trace of the log anywhere. Nor could a log of that size have been felled without damaging the surrounding trees. It’s as if the entire tree was airlifted out before it had a chance to fall. I laugh aloud at the absurdity of the situation, but the density of the forest swallows my voice. Empty-handed, I retrace my steps back to where I entered this eerie woods.
When I saw the house, it was already too late. Something had changed.
I continue to tread the same steps I took when leaving to the forest, but now I wrestle with memories from the past. Massive trees I planted long ago peek through the snow here and there, next to dilapidated structures that I built, it seems, in a previous life. I can’t determine if the trees are alive or dead, but now I see that there is at least one Raven perched on each tree. They all stare at me, through me, pervading me and piercing me with their icy gazes. I continue on to the warm shelter. My brain will start working once I warm up. The dark red tiles on the roof of our house pull me like a magnet.
Leaning against the house’s door, an old forestry axe awaited me. Sharpened. Preserved. Ready. It’s the first time I’ve seen it, but as soon as it settled into my hands, I began to drown in memories. I remembered how to carve an Ash handle. I remembered guiding the steel with a massive hammer. I remembered the stone I used to sharpen the blade. Through the haze, I recalled everything I had never done. With the axe in my hand, I open the door, step inside the house, and give my senses time to reach my brain.
I sit on the edge of the hearth, placing the axe beside me and leaning its handle against my leg. Heat and fatigue immediately seize me, drawing me into their chambers. Everything is different next to the fire. With the steady rhythm of my fingers, I tap the end of its handle while allowing the rest of my body to melt away.
My last thoughts, before dreams catch me and carry me away from here, are dedicated to my predecessors. It is a certainty that they were more capable and far more resilient than us, those who were born and died here in the past. I sink into slumber while contemplating how life used to be, without all the comforts and tools we have today.
Without the warm hearth.
Without sheep’s wool.
Without an axe.