“These men have clearly been trampled,” said the investigator.

“No,” said Detective Foster. “Look at the splinters, the root marks. They’ve been trunkled. Our perp is a middle aged maple tree, maybe 12’2″.”

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Strange creatures wandered about in the dark. Through tunnels and off ledges, the bird creatures walked, trying to escape the sacred geometry.

Sometimes things swam up out of the darkness at them at the ends of the ledges. Whales and drowned men who claimed to have been sent by God and swallowed by a fish floated up and all the creatures could do was watch, faces upturned for one brief moment before looking back at the ground and continuing their path. Sometimes, if they stood still too long, roots began growing from them, pulling them into the walls, peeling forth from their flesh like curling pages.

And there were eyes, watching from the dark, though they could not tell if they were their own. And one of these creatures was named Mona.

Mona was one of those always at risk of growing roots. She loved the thought of the surface too much to remember to keep moving. Every day as she trudged along in line with her fellow birds, she imagined what the lives of those holy men must have been like before they were swallowed. Their clothes were always white, she noticed. Somewhere, then, there was no such thing as algae, or as dirt. What it might be like to never have to clean her feathers!

Mona dipped down to the surface, telling herself it was just for a moment. Only one moment, and then I’m on my way, she thought. Mona leaned way down toward the surface, her beak swaying just at the hem and horizon of the other world. Dipping millimeters more, she peered into that world, her eyes less than a foot from the divide. There were fish, and men, but of unsettling shape and character. What a strange place! she cooed. Her back shot up as she sensed something moving behind her.

The air from Gerard’s wings pounded against her back.

“If you love the humans so much, grow your roots already and save us some trouble,” he squawked at her. “Either touch the earth, or get back in line!”

Silently, she flew back toward the heavens, wings outstretched and silent tears in her eyes. There was a time and a place to grow roots, to finally become one of the beings she had always dreamed about, but she wasn’t ready to say goodbye, to this life or her family. She had no idea what would become of her once she was swallowed up. And there was really only one way to find out, but that was a one way trip she just wasn’t willing to take yet.

So she kept flying, thinking maybe, eventually, she would be able instead to touch the sun.

Uncounteable hours later, exhausted and the sun no closer, she sank to the ground, defeated, amid a small grove of her kind that had also tried for the sun and failed. She could feel her roots beginning to work their way into the soft soil and wept miserably at her failure.

One of the others bird-bushes in the grove was of a curious motley pattern Mona had never seen before. He asked her, in calm but erratic tones, if she would prefer a free-flying life to the rooted existence that so clearly vexed her. It could all be hers, he said, for but a little price.

“Okay,” Mona said. “I’ll do it. I’ll do anything.”

No sooner had the last syllable gasped out when she awoke. No longer a bush-bird, as if awakening from a dream. She was the lone volunteer, the sole occupant of the suicidal Daedalus mission to re-ignite the sun, and her freedom and quest for the sun were both about to be fulfilled.

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And then Man said to Tree “But trees have not culture and they build not cities. A tree leaves nothing when it dies.”

Tree responded to Man: “Culture has in every instance led to death and misery, its achievements dwarfed by its toll. In no sense have trees culture, and for us that means we fell not our fellows.”

But then Man said: “What about the stranglers, the figs who creep and grow upon other trees, being parasites who kill?”

Replied Tree: “You speak of the process of intertwining another, of enveloping them as you grow together, and eventually, when they die, finding that they have left a hollow inside you? We count that as love, not murder.”

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In time, the waters rose. In time, much of the land was borne away on watery hands, silting off into the deep which never gives up that which it has taken. In time, only a handful of trees remained above the ripples to show that the water had ever been held at bay, that hills low and forested had ever existed.

Nourished by lenses of fresh water that ebbed with each passing year, the great gnarled trees kept their silent vigil over glassy waters. An epitaph for an island, a mausoleum for a mound.

One day, it is to be hoped, someone will look across the expanse and see them. One day, it is to be hoped, they will wonder how a tree ever came to grow under such conditions. They, whoever they are, will see and wonder. And in that way, in only that way, the island-that-was will be remembered.

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