Reading in her tree

~ a short story

The story she was reading had a kind of twisty turning to it. Cyclical, violent, endearing. Wishing to know the end, she forged ahead, in spite of the chaos. The more words gathered before He started talking off her ear again, the better.

She turned the page. Its parchment felt ‘right’ across her fingers. A thing of the world, bound into this strange function. Words upon the thin wood designed to hold them, and for her waiting hands when she beckoned. A treat in her tree. A whole world of words dallied over the space of her focus. In the crook of her favorite tree’s winding branch, molded by light and wind in the form of a heart, she laid. Her barren body folded itself warmly and justly into this loft for this day’s passage. A breeze carried leaves from her towering evergreen’s foliage into her emerald hair, where they stayed and melded. Their material comforted her. High above the long grassy pitch covering the whole the surface world, she read the day away.

~

An afternoon ray punched into her purview, forcing a pause into the dream she was weaving in mind. It was here that the voice from the sky finally broke in to reflect upon her.

“You read of the world before,” the voice boomed down to her and all around, washing over the land of trees with aural imports from everywhere and nowhere. She’d never seen Him, only heard. He must be strong because his voice carried everywhere she went. But He was so utterly undefinable and never before seen, so He must also be limited in some fashion. Perhaps he only wields an ego, and its resulting vanities. She could not yet discern His intentions, though they certainly concerned her. No matter what she did, He couldn’t keep away. For now, she ignored Him.

“It is all true. The Story of the World is a story of the past. Here.” His voiced showed age and patience. And He so clearly wanted very badly for her to respond. Eventually, after finishing the latest chapter of the book so titled, she did.

“Who wrote it?” she asked.

“I did.”

“It’s pretty good.”

“You think so?” He asked expectantly.

“Yeah. But it can’t really be non-fiction though. ‘True’ true. Not entirely. I was reading it more like a fantasy, far away and wondrous, something impossible but something good too.”

“And why must it be fiction?”

She was confused at the game he played. Why would he insist on such a ridiculous premise as the content of this tome being non-fiction? Writers should not lie about their own works. Does he think making her believe it is “true” will endear her more to him and his book and his writing? Why lie? He has already done enough lying in this book. The good kind of lying. He wasn’t going to leave her alone until they addressed it, so she did.

“Well… other than the fact that it presents this world as one peopled with ‘Men’ and machines and wars and parties and something called ’the economy,’ the storylines following all of these folk are absurd and hardly make sense, all in spite of being quite entertaining. I just don’t believe any of this. Of course, that is what makes it good fiction. It’s excellent fantasy.”

“Where do you think this world came from, my child, the one we are in?”

“I don’t know. No one does.”

“I do.”

“And how is that?” She closed the book and looked up into the sky, squinting against the rays.

“Because I created it.”

He was delusional. The voice in the sky was still writing fiction, right in the middle of this conversation.

“You sit in a tree right now that is miles above the steel and concrete of what used to be called a ‘city.’ It was built by Men.”

“What is miles?” she asked.

“A long way. And this tree is only so high in these miles, and the expanses of steel below so thoroughly covered by the greenery of root and thorn and vine because one day all of the Men went away.”

“And I surmise, you … made them go away?”

“Yes. You now reside in the remnants of a world broken by their machinations. Broken,” he repeated with emphasis, “yet recovering now in their long absence. They left and the world thrives. You do too. Breathe it all in and know that you read the last book.”

She did not know what to make of it. Remnants of a former world. Men and machines. She leaned and glanced over her shoulder, down to the green hills below, where the steel stayed under all of the growth. Steel there for thousands and thousands of seasons, then? The book recounted the death of this old world, and the birth of her new one.

“Why?” she asked, at length. Why did you do it? the implicit question.

“Because of you.”

She looked to the sky again.

“The world required a cleansing of its viruses in order for your return to last this time. One of these viruses, the worst of the lot, was Man.”

“So this world was made for me?”

“Exactly.”

“Then why didn’t I have a say in the matter, in its creation?” She asked, frustration evident in her voice. The realization that the lives of all these beautiful, dangerous, wonderful and foolish people were alive and well one moment, and then vanquished into the void the next … it made her despair at the thought of such an act being done for her sake.

“Why didn’t I have a choice over such a dreadful ending to the world from before? If I am so important to you, what I wanted should have mattered. And I don’t think I would ever desire such a thing.”

The voice from the sky sighed. Winds from elsewhere washed over her and her tree. More leaves fell atop her. She was bewildered, upset.

“Because you were facing extinction at their hands. You had no choice simply because you had no choice. Mankind didn’t give you one.”

“So you intervened,” she said, her demeanor still dour, the sudden understanding of her position in this world still part of a growing devastation within her. How can I ever recover from the words the voice is speaking to me?

“I intervened,” the voice confirmed simply.

Right beside her, the young woman toyed with a flower sprout emerging from the trunk of her enveloping seat. Pink and pleasant, the sweet-smelling little thing gifted her a smile, the troubling conversation momentarily forgotten. But was it enough?

“For a world so cleanly, it may be pleasant … but why does it feel so dead?”

The voice didn’t respond for a moment, and then, “It is more alive currently that the world ever was before. Just take a moment to breathe in your reality.”

Staring out over the city from her canopied position, She did her best to do so. The vast expanses of growth became felt. She sensed the bloom of every flower on the globe, and then the ones after that, and the ones after those. Drip by drip, time’s work became something she could comprehend. Greenery as a God, the world opened up to her in all of its life-giving vivacity. Among the evergreens reaching into the sky, some would make their mark while others would collapse back into the folds of brush below, becoming seeds for future tries. In the condensing cycles of the azuring rains’ soak, all of the potentiality — all of her own — became irreversibly known. Her green skin became peopled with spriting goosebumps, each a uniquely glorifying touchpoint for some new kind of life somewhere in the kingdom.

She didn’t see it before, didn’t feel it, because it was all a part of her. All the green.

“Man is not dead,” she said up to Him, finally coming to conclude her reading.

He only listened to her now.

“The life of a thing is in a memory. As long as we can remember, it lives on. Death is being forgotten. I am still here. Before, during, after. And I … will never forget them. I simply cannot.”

The voice in the sky went silent as Gaia began to her climb down to the earth, to live and to grow alongside her realm anew. With her steps, she begins to write a new chapter on parchment of her own, its ending unknown but expansive, flourishing, thriving, animating new life for new books with lengths unknown, and ancestors known. ~