The Last Tree

As I haven’t posted any fiction before – here goes. A short I wrote for a writing course.

The Last Tree

TheLastTree

I hadn’t even wanted to go see this tree, but Brad was into all that stuff and thought it would be good for Lucy. So I said okay and the three of us sat on the Skyline going North.

“The…last…tree…in Britain,” I read to Lucy, tracing my finger under the words on the brochure. She smiled and kicked one leg.

“Tree,” she echoed softly and gazed out at the tropolis speeding past the window, sunlight glancing off the glass and metal of the buildings.

Brad had reassured me that trees didn’t carry diseases, saying the holo headlines were a load of old rubbish. I knew he wouldn’t put Lucy in any danger, but I still had my doubts. Some academics suggested that trees may have released chemicals into the air, creating an almost religious fervour among humans. People had even chained themselves to trees to prevent them being chopped down. They wanted to stop progress and hamper the expansion of the tropolis to save a tree. It was bizarre, like something out of a film.

We piled off the Skyline when it pulled into port and clipped on our respirators as we stepped outside. Following the signs saying ‘To The Last Tree’, even I was beginning to feel something, but I couldn’t decide if it was excitement or trepidation.

My heart sank at the long queue, but the ticket booth girl with the green metallic eye shadow proved to be efficient and it was only twenty minutes or so until she ushered us through. Brad had insisted that we get the ‘Hug a Tree Experience’ ticket, allowing us to go inside and touch it. What if we got a tree rash or Lucy was allergic? But Brad would have none of it.

We wandered through all the tree-themed activities and exhibits, which finally lead us to a huge glass dome in the centre of the venue. Standing in another queue, even I became curious. I didn’t have to wait much longer as a bored attendant took our tickets and we went in with about six other people.

It was like a gnarled giant’s foot had come down out of the sky, splitting the ground where it stood. We all edged around the tree nervously, our necks craning up to see its branches snaking their way out, as if trying to break free of its crystal cage. Brad grabbed me by the hand and pulled me towards it with a grin. I hesitated and then followed him, reaching out towards the cracked, dark bark. It wasn’t hot or cold, just rough and bits came away in my hands like crumbs off a piece of bread. Nothing like the Synth Corp objects that furnished our home – clean and smooth and functional.

I leaned against the tree, taking care only to touch it with my hands. I could wash them later. Looking up into the knot of branches, the leaves whispered to each other in a synthetic breeze. I was lost in it for a moment.

“Mummy, look.”

I turned to see Lucy squatting, her hands gripping her pink pillowy knees. Smiling, I walked over.

“What is it Lucy?”

Silently she pulled a soggy finger out of her mouth and pointed, gently reaching out to one of the little, perfectly formed leaves. She gazed as the tiny sapling bobbed under her touch. Keeping her eyes firmly on the tree, she slowly stood up, raising a sandaled foot and bringing it down on the plant with a crunch.

I laughed and called out to Brad, “I knew we should have brought the camera.”

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4 thoughts on “The Last Tree

  1. I agree with Martine’s analysis – you create a convincing future dystopia in very few words and the idea of how ‘some academics suggesting’ something causes a neurosis towards a such basic element is worryingly believable! I also like the idea of a ‘Hug a Tree Experience’ – this too rings very true – I went out the other day in search of a pub – lunch –and instead found a ‘Traditional Dining Experience’! Interesting stuff here about what is normal and what is exceptional and how the two things seem increasingly confused!

    If I had any criticism at all it is just that the sentence about the camera jolts me slightly back into present times or further back. Most people these days always have a camera with them in the form of a phone, it’s part of the everything being an experience to record thing. In fact the commercialised attraction you describe would probably have some sort of opportunity to record and purchase that crucial moment – so maybe something could be done with that? Just an idea.

    Great thought-provoking piece. Post more!

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    • Ah, Jenny, you’re so right about the camera! I wrote this before the age of smartphones and made a decision not to tinker with it before I posted it up.

      That’s the trouble with near future sci-fi. I’ll have a think about tweaks.
      Thanks.

      Like

  2. Great stuff, as always. You managed to portray a grim future world within the first couple of paragraphs. Even in such a short piece we get a good idea of the main character and can understand, her (to us irrational) fear of one of the most benign life forces on this planet. I could certainly see this as a longer piece, but it also works as it stands – the final reaction from the MC is so damning it’s almost shocking.

    The description of the tree’s roots, as a giant’s foot stamping on concrete, was very effective and I loved the idea that we’d all have to wear respirators to step out into the fresh air.

    In the final paragraph, maybe you could describe what Lucy is pointing at a little more, as I wasn’t sure if it was a new shoot or a branch off the main tree. Until she stomped on it.

    Brilliant stuff. And about time you put some of your work up here!

    Like

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