Existential Terror and Breakfast: Tree

Epiphanies taste better with toast.

 

The forest is never quiet. Birds only stop chirping when there is danger.

The amount of time that had gone by since the tree was just a sapling to what it was now, was almost immeasurably long. The sun had chased the moon so many times in the tree’s life it was hard to say that anything had changed at all. When it was a seed, it was so minuscule, so vulnerable. There were so many creatures, each infinitely more capable of movement and speed than the seed, and each of them could have collected it up and eaten it. Its life could have ended there, before the moon had a chance to reign the sky. But it didn’t. The seed went unnoticed, and the seed gave root.

So slow was the process. To say that the root had “inched” out was inaccurate because that was too quick. The root’s speed was painfully slow for any of the creatures above to notice, nor would they have had the time to watch. So short, so brief would they exist, by the time the seed would become a sapling most of them would cease to be. When it broke out of the ground, when it was free to see the sun again, it noticed how lonely it was. There was not another tree here. It was the only one. So it came up with a plan. It would change that.

First, it needed to grow. So, it grew.

The tree began to stretch. Still, it went unnoticed. Creatures that would have eaten it when it was just a seed ignored it now, it had no value to them. So it soaked up the warmth of the sun, gathered and collected its light no matter the weather. The infinite vastness of the sky changed more often and so much more rabidly than the tree. Still it grew.

To the creatures around the tree, it was always there, no more moveable and just as ancient as the mountains. They had no idea that it was once so tiny, so minuscule, but now it was a tower. The tree had finally, after stretching for longer than anything around it had ever lived, become useful to the creatures again. It was noticed. Noticed, but still alone. Birds had nested in the tree, taking refuge in its massive branches. So small were they, so fragile and vulnerable. Like the seed. They were protected in the tree, away from harm and danger. The sound of birds was now constant, and they sang endlessly. Yet the tree was not done growing.

It shed its own seeds now. Most were collected, most were eaten, most did not make it. A few did though. A few started to stretch just like the tree, and they grew into saplings. With time, as the sun chased away the moon again and again, they too became trees, and they too shed seeds.

Still it grew.

A fungus had grown between the tree’s roots and reached out to the roots of other trees. A complex hyphal network created by the mycorrhizal fungi connected the tree to what used to be its seeds and it was no longer alone. It could transfer nitrogen, carbon, and even water to its saplings if they suffered. The tree took care of the others, let them grow to be their full potential. No creature above had any idea just how closely the trees were connected, how active they were. The ground had grown darker now as the tree and its brood shadowed it with their great mass. There were so many now. Yet the tree was not done growing.

The forest was so loud now, there was always birds singing. The tree’s brood had birds of their own. There was so much life now, yet so much of it was brief. The lives of the creatures around the tree were so infinitesimal. Compared to them, the tree was a god, a creature of massive stature and potential, a being that lived for so long it could be said to have existed forever. This god had given shelter to endless generations of creatures, and even the “waste” of this being created life as it turned carbon into oxygen. It was mighty and it was seemingly endless.

And then the forest was silent. The birds had stopped chirping.

A man cut into the tree, and in no time at all, had cut it down. The tree fell. The god was dead. Its corpse was carried away to a mill. Its brood followed.

Malcolm Steadman held what was now left of the tree, of the old god that once housed more birds in its lifetime than Malcolm had lived in days. The history of it had just occurred to him. It was in Malcolm’s hand now, a tiny square of toilet paper, and he wiped his ass with it.

Then he flushed it.

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Rev. Fitz
Michael Fitzgerald (Rev. Fitz) is a writer, illustrator, and amateur Electrical Engineer who lives in Seattle.

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