At first his sleep was sweet, filled with the songs of birds and the scent of blossom and new grass and clean soil. He dreamed of green glades and dappled sun shimmering through fresh spring foliage. Warm and comfortable, his stiff limbs and sore shoulders relaxed in delicious contentment. Hours passed. The sun sailed west and tints of pink stained the small, fluffy clouds and turquoise graduating to purple streaked the sky.
The dreams began to darken with the coming twilight. He shivered as the first twinkling star appeared in the deep silky blue. Peace and content and the rustle of leaves in the swelling breeze had given rise to dreams of dancing in the waning afternoon. There was soft, slow music, so quiet that, at first, he had to strain to hear it. The haunting sound of flutes was rising and falling, surging and ebbing, until all but his physical body was swaying and cavorting with the irresistible pull of the music. He could sense the dancers swirling round him and wanted to join in but couldn't move his limbs. A shadow of fear gathered at the edges of his mind - and he groaned in his sleep. The dance got faster and faster. The dancers were a blur of magical, rhythmic motion. As the ferocity of the dance increased, the sweet sound of the flutes was drowned in a rising howl.
He awoke suddenly, sitting up with a gasp. Dreaming and waking merged into a single, continuous impression. The forest seemed alive with a sort of fugue too complex for his senses to comprehend. In some indescribable way the dancers - that he could not really see, hard as he tried to focus on them - the pipers, the wild wind swaying the branches, the eddies in the leaf-litter, the endless variety of shades of green and brown, formed an energy and a pattern and a language that he could almost understand. And it was immensely hostile to him. Some elemental force was surging towards him with a horrible sense of purpose. The tatters of his awful dream echoed through his mind as he sat blinking, digging his fingers into the bracken.
The wind had risen while he slept and was now roaring through the trees behind him. He turned in alarm, feeling something malignant approaching from the forest. The wind tore at his shirt and sucked the lazy spring warmth from his body. A swirl of detritus plucked from the forest floor dashed itself against him so that he had to close his eyes and raise his hands to protect his face. The vortex passed but the wind continued to blow with lively force, vigorously stirring the new green leaves in the deepening twilight.
As he gazed apprehensively at the swaying foliage, the leaves and branches in his line of vision seemed to slow their thrashing motion and resolve themselves into the image of a face - a face of leaves. The eyes in the dark green, shifting face were glowering at him. The expression was full of malice and accusation. The man was held, frozen by the elemental will behind those eyes. His heart thundered so that he felt his chest would burst and his head explode. He wanted to run but he couldn't move. An incomprehensible power had him riveted to the spot while it examined him like a bug. It was cold and unsympathetic. It was judging him and finding him guilty. But guilty of what? The man didn't understand what he could have done to warrant this harsh treatment.
As he stood before his accuser, a great gust brought down a heavy bough that could have killed him. His terror was complete - the sentence carried out.
The appalling intensity of the animosity beating down upon him abated. Then, at last, he understood and repented his thoughtless acts of destruction - of desecration. He felt the vastness and majesty of the great forest that was and mourned its passing. Without any conscious change taking place within him, he had been recruited by the ancient spirit of the forest - The Green Man - call him what you will. The man had a vision of trees.
Simultaneously the wind and the spell that bound and supported him dropped away. He fell to his knees breathing heavily. Sharp, knobbly lumps dug into his hands as he pressed them into the leaf mold. It was too dark to see, but examining the scratchy material with his finger tips he concluded that he'd found a squirrel cache of last year's beech nuts. In a few minutes he'd found enough to fill his pockets. A few of them already had small roots. Tomorrow he would pot them. Next year he would have a small forest of saplings. He was going to plant.