*Wordcount: 494 words.

The old pine still stands in the clearing, a solitary sentinel secure in the secret moon-light; the kind of like that only ever seems to touch places like this. The kind of light that brings an unearthly calm and makes time seem to be a simple illusion that exists only outside the clearing. The kind of light that makes even the car crash beautiful.

A light snow had fallen earlier, and now glowed with ethereal beauty in the moon-light. It was steaming where the car had come to rest after rolling through the surrounding woods. How the car had come this far from the elevated road was a mystery, but it had; and it served to interrupt the serene scene of the clearing, but only barely and only briefly. The birds had taken flight, startled; and many small creatures scattered, leaving light footprints in the snow. It had made a noise, of course, but even that seemed muffled; and was soon reduced to the gentle hum of the laboured engine. The car had come to rest just on the tree line, lying on a dented roof and shining light from the one working headlight towards the woods. That soon vanished, along with the sound of the engine, and the solitary survivor slid from the steaming wreckage.

The solitary survivor stood staring ahead, dazed. Realisation came to him slowly, his mind scrambled from the accident; and perhaps the clearing’s unnatural influence. He looked around the clearing and at the wreckage beside him, and a kind of subdued panic gripped him. He stumbled around to the passenger’s door, unaware of the pain in his leg or the blood dripping from his head. He fumbled with the handle and opened the door.

He had tried to wake his wife, until he saw the angle of her neck and the blood seeping from her mouth. He couldn’t even let her down from her hanging seat, as the seatbelt was stuck and the floor and seat had twisted around her legs in such… He sat back in the snow, and started at her; her arms hanging against the grounded roof, her long hair lying across her features…
He crawled to the door behind the passenger’s, and opened it.

It had been much the same with his daughter, but he had tried longer. He was able to loose her from her seat, and bring her gently to the ground. He could feel broken bones and see the blood on her young face, but it took a long time before he gave her up. He laid her down gently besides the car, but could do no more for his wife. He stepped back and spared one last look.
He seemed to notice the pine for the first time.

He stumbled over to the pine and sat down, leaning his back against it. The moon hung heavy and quiet over the solitary survivor beneath the solitary sentinel, and snow began to fall.


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