Note: This was written for the Review Game's February Writing Challenge Contest. The prompt was "Change something". Please tell me what you think, and check out the other entries! Also, in a perfect world I wouldn't need the . for space between sections but, alas, Fictionpress is giving me trouble with the spacing and a line seemed too drastic. If I can work out what's wrong, I'll change that.
Pinus strobus: Eastern White Pine
Strobus is the only seedling of his kind on this stretch of the shore.
His seed fell in late summer, carried first by the wind and then by a passing squirrel whose agile toes snatched him up, tested him with its quick gnashing jaws, then bounded away to bury him with its stash in the hollow heart of a driftwood log. Forgotten for a winter, Strobus took root in the fertile soil and stretched toward the sun.
For now, he is the smallest tree on the shore, beneath even the humble birch sapling that is his neighbor. Strobus is small but he is hardy. Every year he grows a little taller, a little stronger. With the driftwood log to feed and shelter him, his green rings multiply.
Soon he will be golden.
Strobus is no longer the only pine on this stretch of the shore, but he is the tallest, the tallest by far.
He was just a decade-old sapling when he crowded out his birch tree neighbor. He gobbled up its rotting frame and grew wildly in its absence. In time, Strobus stood taller than the birch, the oak, and the jack pine. He came to dominate the shore.
Now, he is surrounded by his children and grandchildren, watching over them and sheltering them from storms. Together they bask in the sun while the lake laps at the shore a stone's throw away. Each year packs on more rings and now he is golden and strong.
But he can't stay golden forever.
Strobus is weathering his last storm on this stretch of the shore.
He has lived for centuries, standing strong in the face of the wind and cold of winter, and the thrashing waves and heat of summer. Over the years, he crowded out many of his kin because he was simply the hardiest. But he was not immune to fire. It swept through the forest all the way to the shore, and left him scarred and shaken. Insects ate at his weary flesh, boring into the golden rings, tracing dark mazes into his very core.
Now the blizzard rages around him and he's shaking in the gale. Snow piles on his branches and they shatter under the weight. One last gust hits him and his trunk creaks, groans, and finally splits. Strobus falls onto the sand and the waves consume him. He plunges into the dark, icy depths of the lake.
His sodden rings turn black.
Strobus is back on land, on a different stretch of the shore.
He bobbed in the lake for several days, sinking ever lower as water infiltrated his battered remains. When the next snowstorm came, he sank completely under. For the next few months, Strobus drifted in the darkness under the ice of the lake. As the ice retreated with the coming of spring, he found himself in the shallows, snagged on a sandbar, until the next wave brought him to rest on the sandy soil.
Now he is drying out in the sun, cracking as the uneven strain rips into his rings. What remains of his bark is sloughing off in great chunks and he is jagged and twisted. His wood has turned grey now and a squirrel buries its stash beneath the last vestiges of his mighty crown. In his shadow, a pine seedling has taken root and its fragile green frame stretches eagerly toward the sun.
Soon it will be golden.