I stand within a lush temperate rain forest, heavy with varied shades of green. Everywhere I turn — truly massive trees, their roots snaking through loamy soil and their rough trunks softened with layers of moss. Tall ferns bend beneath their weight of dew. The forest floor rises and falls in tiers. Humid air thickens in my lungs. This landscape persists as far as I can see, and despite its primeval beauty, I find myself nearly overwhelmed by claustrophobia.
The “enemy” approaches. There is no possible way we can engage them and win, so we must find someplace within this green jungle to hide. I scout for just such a place — skirting huge trees, climbing over root and rock, parting leafy undergrowth — when I find a tree trunk sheared off cleanly and close to the ground. It must be thirty feet across. Its roots still wind into the earth, and under one, I find a partly concealed tunnel. Pushing aside curtains of moss and rootlike tendrils, I duck my head to enter the tunnel’s mouth and begin a slow, short descent. At the bottom, I enter a vast, dry, open space — a sandy-floored cave beneath the tree itself.
There is a woman here, standing within the cave’s center. She is unlike any one I have ever seen before. Small tusks protrude from her bottom jaw, her forehead is deeply furrowed, and her hair is thick as the tree’s tendrilled roots. Layers of robes and skirts swath her body, and she stands fiercely erect. We do not speak, but I understand that I, and those I seek to conceal from harm, are welcome and will be safely sheltered here.
Leaving the cave, I share my discovery with the other scouts, and we rush to gather as many people as we can find to direct them to safety before the enemy arrives. This is no easy task. I search the open hollows and niche-like shelters created by the massive trees’ trunks and rootworks. When I find someone, they are invariably asleep beneath piles of ragged quilts and blankets. I must listen for sounds of their snores and labored breathing. Each time I think I have found the last person, I hear a faint noise, and after pulling away heaps of blankets, find another sleeper beneath them, curled up and oblivious to the approaching danger.
As I struggle to rouse yet one more sleeper, I have a vision — though they are yet some distance away, I can see the enemy massing at a narrow pass, preparing to cross a slender rope bridge that spans a chasm. I am surprised to see the strong resemblance they bear to the woman in the cave beneath the shorn tree. But I know that the woman below is no friend to them and is no threat to us, and we will be safe under the tree within her protection.