A Short Story… from the thoughts of ~burning woman~
That was a long time ago, in those mythical times when there were trees. Yes, trees. Wooden things that grew tall and proud, so many of them, waving their branches and shaking their leaves in the winds of summer. They were beautiful, so say the tales, but the problem was, they grew taller than men and this made men feel small and insignificant.
Men do not appreciate being made to feel small and insignificant. Nature, and anything else not man-made, should have learned that lesson, but of course it didn’t and men grew to be more and more angry at not being recognized for their skills and strength. All was not well on the world and a reckoning was in the making.
I need to remind you, once again, that this is but a tale I learned from my own grandmother so I don’t want you to take it to heart. There never were any such things as trees, of course, but it is a good story. Since your ‘breather’ isn’t working and you have to remain in this oxygen balanced room and you’re not allowed your devices, I though you’d like a story, even if I make some of it up as there is nothing to read such imaginary tales from. I’m trusting my memory here. When you feel tired and want to sleep again I’ll stop.
“I’m OK grandma. I’d love a story.”
Good. So, as the story went, men decided, not altogether mind, but bit by bit and here and there that trees had to go: they were a constant reminder that a man soon stopped growing whereas trees continued long after a man died, adding insult to injury. It seemed to man that trees spent their entire long lives inventing ways to belittle humanity. Other forms of life had done so too, like those tales of man-eating predators but these had long ago been eradicated. There were stories of rocky outcroppings, hills, canyons, mountains even, and these too had been filled and flattened and anything of value found within had been extracted to build man’s new world: the endless city.
But the trees, they insisted on growing, even upon rocky plateaus that had been flattened down. They just would not stop. Men gritted their teeth at these and vowed to put an end to their insolence. The trees, like dinosaurs, unicorns, buffaloes, tigers, lions, bears, moose, well, anything growing or standing that surpassed man’s height, would be eradicated.
There was really nothing formally said about it, it was just a sense of what’s right. Trees were wrong, man was right and right makes might, so your great-great grandma put it. Man was the Mighty, nothing else would be permitted to challenge that.
It happened one day, globally, that men went out and attacked all the trees, felling and felling. Years passed and trees disappeared with each until only shrubs remained and these were given to the children to destroy by cutting, hacking and pulling up of roots. Seeds were collected in big sacks, stacked up in open fields and burned. Such a burning there was, year after year, and the smoke covered the entire world. Grandma said that many people got sick from the smoke and died. That’s why we all wear the ‘breathers’ now even though there is no longer any smoke.
“I thought you said this was only a tale. How can a make-believe story make the world bad for us that we have to wear ‘breathers’ to stay alive, grandma?”
I will explain, don’t interrupt or it makes no sense anymore. Follow the images, don’t question any of it, not yet. At the end of the story and over the next days there will be time for questions and explanations. You’re old enough to understand that, boy.
So they killed all the trees; they hacked away all the shrubs and they burned all the seeds. Man was pleased with the results because the trees had been home to much other life that preyed upon man’s fields and crops. Without the trees to shelter birds and rodents, these mostly died off and crops were no longer molested except by insects which the Global Environmental Protection Agencies took care of with a multitude of ever-more potent insecticides. Other pests, like weeds, were controlled by herbicides and food became plentiful again thanks to our genetically modified seeds. Without competition for space and food, people were once again able to reproduce at will thus providing much labour for the City Builders.
Now you can live on a clean world, not polluted by natural events, or messy things that refuse to conform to our ways. Buildings are air-conditioned and filtered. When you are a bit older you will be trained to work in the city and you will be guaranteed space to sleep in, and food will be available to you as long as you work hard, which is only to be expected. Do you know how lucky your are for the great vision that built this world?
“What does ‘rationing’ mean, grandma?”
That is a word you must forget. It is enemies of our system that invented the idea there isn’t enough food to go around and the Government has to ration, or limit, how much each person gets. None of that, of course, is true but it confuses people. Do not get confused. Things are as you see them and you see them as our leaders tell you to see them. Simple and no confusion because it cannot be otherwise. Do you understand me?
“I am not sure grandma. In school, away from the monitors, kids talk. Some of the sicker kids have died because their water was not clean; they call it pollution. What about that?”
Listen to me, boy. That word, ‘pollution’ is a dangerous word. Nature pollutes the world. It is man’s task to make sure it remains clean from natural pollution. So you be careful how you learn to understand that word. Kids like to spread gossip against leaders and that is a bad thing. Leaders become so because they know more than anyone else. When we disagree with them we weaken the entire system and that’s when problems start. Don’t be a destroyer, boy. Be a believer and you will have a good place in the System. Destroyers are the enemies and they have to be reported to thought police agents, the TP.
Now then, try to imagine this: there is one lone tree growing on a plain somewhere and it is so strong that nothing man does can stop it. Soon it begins to shed leaves, making a mess on the ground. Mice and other things begin to feed and multiply from there. Then it grows seeds, the winds come and the seeds are spread far and wide so that it becomes impossible to get them all. Within a few years new indestructible trees are born and they grow and grow. Remnants of predatory birds and other animals return to the trees and there are forays into our crop fields. Yields go down and then, yes, you can use the term ‘rationing’ because there will no longer be enough food to feed everybody. Nature, you see, is a thief and it takes without giving anything back. It is the enemy, make no mistake. We need to be constantly vigilant to ensure that our way of life remains safe and unpolluted.
“Grandma, where do people go when they die?”
Why would you ask such a silly question, boy?
“My best friend, her name is Sally, her little sister died last week. Sally was crying and she asked me where her little sister went. I didn’t know what to say. Where did she go, Grandma?”
You really are a stupid boy, aren’t you. When you die, you die, what do you think? Have you met anyone who’d died and come back? Let’s have no more of this superstitious nonsense, you’re much too old for that. Besides, that’s just the kind of thinking the TP would be interested in. Do the right thing: report your friend. She’s an enemy and needs reprogramming. That’s not the sort of thing you want to happen to you boy. Survival of the fittest, that’s our motto, right? Remember that tree: that’s the symbol of man’s greatest enemy. If that tree finds a foothold in the world, we are doomed. Be vigilant.
As the old lady stands and wraps her shawl around skinny shoulders and pulls back her thinning grey hair, the boy asks, “You’re going now, grandma?”
Yes, I have to meet with a TP agent regarding our neighbour Raoul Janzik. He’s been spreading rumours about just the sort of thing I warned you about. He’s been saying there is a Tree, boy. Imagine the gall to claim such lies as truth. He must, he will, be silenced.