‘A Tree on the Path’

17:14 Sat 23 Dec 2006
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You see the tree as dusk is taking the light from the sky. It is the only tree you have seen for days. No others are visible in any direction.

As you get closer, you see it has no leaves, only skeletal limbs reaching desultorily for the sky. It is by the road you are walking on, you cannot avoid passing near to it. By the time you do, the light has faded further. The moon is still very bright, as it has been every night of your journey, so you can continue onward if you wish. You have walked through to dawn most times.

But you stop at the tree. It looks untouched by human hands. You cannot see any scratches, or evidence of cuts, and its branches look unpruned. It cannot be that old, else it would be taller. Perhaps. In this place, who knows?

The tree is smooth, very smooth, like a sea-worn rock. The green hue almost, you think, emanates from it, in some trick of the moonlight. You reach out a hand to touch the bark, putting your hand against its coolness.

You cannot take your hand away, and the tree touches you in return. Something comes out of it, through your hand, your arm, and your perspective shifts sickeningly. You sweep down your arm as the something rushes past in the other direction.

With a snap, you are blind. And deaf, and you cannot smell or taste anything. Touch is utterly alien. But there is awareness, awareness of your surroundings unlike any you have had before. You feel the hand separate from the tree, and sense the body, what was your body, stagger away and start down the path.

You are panicked and shocked, but also preternaturally calm. Your sap flows tranquilly. The old patterns of anxiety and fear are hard to sustain. You sense the land around you, desolate and intricate, and begin to explore it with your new senses. One day another traveller will come, and lay their hand upon you, and when they do, you will resume your quest for meaning.

(350 words)

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