As the forest collapsed into a bed of its own leaves and bark, xylem, cambium, phloem and heartwood, as each tree dissolved, outside-in, from a whole to a scattering of its parts, it spilled slowly down onto the earth, where so many of its predecessors had come to rest before this forest fell as well. The trees fell, but the undergrowth did as well, dissolving in much the same way its huge, swaying companions had disgorged themselves, onto and through the leaves into the soil beneath, which was, after all, nothing more than its parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, going back so many thousands of years. But today this forest fell apart, along with all the other forests falling into the grave in which their silent ancestors had slept, yet provided nutrition and comfort for their offspring as they grew.
But beneath it all, countless tendrils and capillaries of the ever-present, always-invisible fungus sprang into action, mycelia spreading quickly and creating new branches and regions of an already enormous network of life, a life that welcomed the inevitable death of its neighbors, the penthouse-dwellers up there in the top leaves that wiggled seductively in the sunlight, their offspring, who hoped to reach the sky someday, but for now were stunted, tiny parodies of their parents and ancestors, those who had towered so mightily for so long. The mycelium web grew and spread and found every crevice into which a particle of the forest fell and sopped up its delicacies, droplet by precious droplet, eking out every nutrient it could find, but somehow repeating its past feasts, course-by-course, appetizer, palate-cleanser, entrée, dessert, aperitif, repeated, a million times a second by the famished phantasmal fingers groping through the ground, poking towards yesterday’s leaves and bark and decay.
But someday, after this meal was done and the forest was gone forever and all of the creatures that it had supported, right down to the creatures that skittered through the earth around the mycelia and budded and popped into more and more cells in a ratcheted-up carousel of living things that seemed impossibly busy some days, after all this was done, the mycelia would lie there, still, shrinking, evaporating into a shadow of what once was, coming to rest because there was no more life that died and fed it. And there would be no more life. Forever.