The Great Tree’s Last Thoughts
by F. Hampton Carmine
Alone! I am alone. My brothers, my cousins, even those who had been pests to me are gone like chaff in the wind. Oh, how shall I spend the rest of my days?
The Great One, a gnarled bristlecone pine, now stood alone on the high, windswept mountains of what had been western North America. Long and slow were the thoughts of the great trees. They concerned themselves little with the other life that flittered here and there in incessant motion and mental chatter. Each thought of the great trees was a momentous thing.
Whole forests of lesser trees could rise and fall before the Great One finished one good thought, and he had finally been ready with his greatest thought, his life’s work. He had projected the product of his centuries-long meditation to the world. “We great trees can no longer remain silent about the destruction of the natural world by the humans. We must intervene. What say you, my friends, my brothers?”
He had been rewarded with nothing, a void that had once been filled with thousands, millions of minds. He quested far and wide, feeling for another mind, but he was truly alone with his long thoughts. The others had not just been silent, had not just been meditating, had not just been ignoring him; the others were gone from the world. The animals, the great forests, the lesser forests, the sea animals, the bugs, all gone.
Even the few scattered great bristlecone pines, and their cousins the giant redwoods were gone from the world, swept away by the ceaseless winds and inexorable time. He had outlived all trees, all lesser plants, all animals; all life on earth, and he was now alone. The only things older than he were the rocks of Mother Earth surrounded him, and they held no concern for him, the living.
He scanned the memories of his senses that had continued to operate during his last meditation and viewed the humans leaving in great metal ships, escaping the bonds of gravity and disappearing into the black ether of the beyond. The humans were gone but they did not go extinct.
During his nine thousand or more years, he had heard only two beings other than his fellow trees with enough power to allow mental exchanges, two humans. But their lives moved so fast, they were gone before a decent conversation could be completed. But how he had cherished those conversations. They had been beings with the capacity to understand the profound nature of the constructs he had grown to understand about the world.
Now, his only companions were the rocks, whose thoughts were even slower than his own, and they were not concerned with life. They thought only of structure, of weight, and the glorious opportunities to transform into a higher form whenever mother nature provided the vulcanism they needed.
He was alone on a lifeless world, and he began the long meditation that would determine his next course of action or consume the remainder of his existence.
Five Hundred Years Later
“Hey Smitty, get over here and look at these readings. They can’t be right.” Jeff turned away from his life-form scanner and looked toward his fellow life-science tech. “It’s showing a life-form down there.”
“Can’t be,” Smitty said as he walked over to the scanner monitor. “When humans left Earth, there was almost nothing left, and that was eight hundred years ago.”
“Yeah, that‘s what I thought too, but look at this screen.”
They both leaned close to the screen and examined the little red blinking light and the text beside it saying “Tree.”
“I don’t believe it, got to be a glitch,” Smitty said, even as he flipped the microphone switch on his uniform lapel. “Captain, this is Smitty. We found something on the surface.”
“Found what?” came the immediate response. “Don’t waste my time with—”
Smitty gulped and continued. “The life-form scanner has identified a tree in the western portion of North America.”
“Can’t be. Trees all died off before we left. The big ones and then even the little ones. All forests were gone years before humans abandoned the Earth. Then the grasses and bushes could not make it, and the wind scoured everything away.”
“I only know what the scanner’s telling me, Captain,” Smitty said into his lapel mike.
“Check out the system.”
“We did that first, Captain. We need to check this out. Could be important.”
“OK. Prepare one of the unmanned probes. I’m not diverting our mission until we know for sure.”
Four Months Later
Almost before the Great One fully settled his mind for the long, slow meditation on his future, he heard thoughts in his mind. Another life form. He was not alone. But those mental voices were so rapid that he barely understood them. It took all his power to focus on the tiny ribbon of speeding thought streaming above him from space.
Humans, he thought. Where? He focused his mind on the stream and began to pick up bits and pieces of information.
“Sir, it’s confirmed. It’s a tree.”
“Quick, get the plant psychic. Tell him we may have found a tree.”
“Are you sure? He doubts...”
“Tell him ... his ass up ... now!”
Then he perceived a powerful and slower mental voice projecting, “I sense you. Can you understand me?”
“Yes, I thought you had all gone.” The Great One thought as fast as he was able.
“We had. It has been eight hundred years. We have come back only to recover human technology before the earth reclaims it. We did not anticipate finding life.”
“I miss my tree friends, someone to share long, slow thoughts with. The rocks are too slow and are unconcerned with the living.”
“We managed to save a few tree species. The oldest are now about five hundred years old.”
The human laughed. “How old are you?”
“Over nine thousand years old. I was the oldest of my kind, of any kind, on the Earth. I saw the rise of human culture from barbarism to space travel. I could have foretold of your destruction of the Earth and your subsequent downfall, but no one asked.”
“No one could speak to you. I am one of but two even now. I will age a month during this conversation as will you, and it is a measurable percentage of my life span. Not so for you.”
The great one noticed a tiny pause in the human’s speech pattern before the human re-established communications. “I was talking to my ship. Can we transplant you to the new world?”
“Thank you for asking, but I am too old to survive the procedure. My roots are far too spread out in the cracks to be preserved.”
Now the great one had a truly great thought. “I have not produced a seed cone in a thousand years, but my seeds may still be around me, dormant. Find them and take them to the new world, that I am not the last of my kind, my line.”
“Yes, we will preserve your species and your specific lineage.”
“Will you commit a year of your life so I can give you my last thoughts on how the Earth was destroyed?”
“Yes, oh Great One.”
The Great One and the Tree Talker settled into the tree’s last thoughts on this earth, and the profound and salient wisdom of nine thousand years of contemplation and observation was not lost to the universe when the great tree’s last thoughts finally stilled and the earth became void as in the beginning.
Copyright © 2014 by F. Hampton Carmine