This story is placed here by permission of the author.
by Shirley Ouw
On the shore of a violent ocean was the Tree.
Beneath a sky thick with toxic gas, on lands still fuming in the throes of birth.
Yet, promise the Tree saw and seeds of promise it cast into the pitching sea.
The tree is alone in a world still blind.
Till noon it waits for the corrosive clouds on the crags to thin, for its clearing mind to throw a distant gaze, for the soil to take a deeper breath and the water a smoother flow.
Moss is creeping over the slags.
Creatures emerge from the greener sea, webbed limbs gesturing wildly at the sights their lidless eyes take in.
The roiling sky echoes with chatter, strange and shrill, blending with the ruckus of an awakening earth.
Clans of new creatures say farewell to sea and welcome to land, leaving behind kinship who dive deeper into ocean, into oblivion.
By late afternoon the land clans stand upright, their fingers flexing to hunt and work the soil.
Spiroid markings around their throats testify to their oceanic origins, or are they symbols of a far-flung world?
A man robed in feathers and skins leads a tribe of his people back to the seaside.
Lightning strikes through the branches of the tree, igniting a message that the startled man absorbs.
In his guttural speech the man proclaims a new era though he tremblingly shies away from the susurrations of the tree.
In succeeding hours hamlets spread from shore to shore.
Still early days; I shall hibernate.
On the dawn of the next era ships sail from harbours and caravans ply their trade between brick-laid cities.
From hour to hour fierce tribes, raging across land and sea, attack and plunder any living hub they encounter. When one city is sacked, within a couple of hours another city rises from the ashes and rubble.
By mid-afternoon metals supplant wood and stone.
A stripling with the spiroid markings of his forefathers approaches the shore and swears an oath by the name of some ancient power he conjures from his past consciousness.
With sword and bow his offspring carves out an empire. Hours of peace and hours of turmoil follow, during which time Ocean, Mountains, Plains and Caves wage war for territory.
The tree whispers a message across the lands but people only hear it as the murmurs of a wind.
Shall I abort or shall I wait? I shall wait.
At dawn the empire is in ruins.
Fierce warriors in iron-plated garb, riding horned steeds sweep the lands and scourge everything in sight.
Bedeck the tree with their victims they might, but the branches snap and shake off their ghastly burden.
The warriors throw their captives into the sea and light a fire around the tree but its leaves curl like fingers and douse the flames in their liquid embrace.
They call the tree the Evil One and build a tower of black stone around it.
They declare a new religion demanding obedience to the very letter of their religious laws by which spiroid markings are decreed to be signs of the Devil.
Before the day ends gunpowder is discovered and legions of long-limbed soldiers lay waste to the Avian Kingdom.
The stones of the wall around the tree have crumbled. A metropolis stands on the tiers of cities and disparate governments dot the world. Gleaming cars rush along the network of highways. A girl, bearing vague throat markings, leads a troop of children to the ocean shore and, as they play, the children demolish the entire wall around the tree.
In gratitude it sprays a rain of dew saturated with hints and messages. The children stop and stare at the tree in wonder. They listen and their children listen.
They took to heart the stories the tree has told them of far worlds and of the First Ocean Tribe, stories which they spread around by word of mouth, by prose and by song.
Though the true meaning of the stories escapes them.
Within two hours their children�s children take over and establish a new rule. By midnight, a new hegemony has risen.
Craft streak across the sky and shopping malls straddle the wide beaches of the ocean. Tourists haunt the shore and buy as souvenirs "The Myth of the Arboreal Tales".
Within the next hour an underwater expedition discovers the ruins of a forgotten city on the bottom of the sea.
Acolytes of a new faith roam the lands in their hovercars and spread anarchy. The tree tales are rejected as absurdity in some parts of the globe and hailed as lore in others.
Small conflicts flame here and there. Definitions of right and wrong shift like sand in the tide. The tree tries to tell them through the rustle of wind and the roar of hurricane that only one thing is right, only one thing. The message fades in the boom of rockets soaring into the sky.
Shall I abort or shall I wait? I shall wait.
Satellites orbit the earth. In one hemisphere shuttles thunder to and fro, in the other missiles web the sky.
Search and rescue is a war in itself.
By midday a damaged rescue craft glides to a stop on the shore. A young astropilot looking for shelter stumbles to the shade of the tree.
The tree recognizes the pilot by the throat markings as a descendant of the First Ocean Tribe. Out of sheer exhaustion the pilot crawls into the hollow of the tree and here he begins to dream and in the dream he begins to hear.
He listens and understands and he dares to capture the meaning of the dispatch.
Enter me and I shall change you in the Image of the Ziggurat.
His daring act to broadcast the message to the whole wide world split the world into two. The very earth shakes to its core in the consequent conflagration.
This earth is breaking up. Shall I abort or shall I wait a little longer? I shall wait.
At dusk a handful of survivors, the pilot's descendants, shrugging off ridicule, defying vengeance, interface with the tree�s machinery.
Veiled by battle fumes, the sun hung like a bloodied giant orb.
The tree was now the nerve centre of a great ark.
It was a race against time, a race between the True Faithful and the False Believers, builders of the Ark of Falsehood.
In the morning at 8:00:01 Roots were reshaped into tunnels and corridors
8:00:03 From branches came the promenades and skyways.
8:00:04 The sinews within bark and leaves relooped, reprogrammed and reexecuted.
8:00:05 Sapling coppices germinated around the perimeters of the ark.
8:00:07 The pilot's descendants, barely human, contacted all who may follow.
Inside the ark, engines throbbed with a soothing hum; outside the perimeters, the earth lay scorched.
Armies of the Faithful gather with all destructive forces they could muster, from greybeards festooned with their victims' skulls to children clutching bombs.
But--the cosmic cycle is complete.
In the centre hall of the ark the tree vibrated with delight, with the power of past eons and with a roar the ark, a blue-green Ziggurat, lifted into the cooling fabric of deep space. Just a moment lapsed before streaks of fire, one after the other, followed the contrail of the Progenitor.
© 2005 Araiused