I was born in a tree, I’ve lived my entire life in the trees, and I always expected I would die in a tree as well. Back when I was young you could look out above the canopy and see nothing but an ocean of treetops, all the way to the horizon. Those days are long gone, of course. Nowadays, those of us that are left are squished into living in the little patch of forest that’s left. Once you get past the homes on the outer edges, you can see the edge of the trees. And beneath--nothing. Dirt and cows don’t count.
Though I personally have never climbed down to the ground, plenty of us have. I just never had the inclination. This is the most beautiful place in the world; nothing could be better, so why would I ever want to leave it? We have everything we need up here--food, shelter--don’t think we just sleep on branches, we have homes, or did, before the trees supporting them were felled, clothing, medicine, entertainment, and of course, anything we don’t have--metal and such--can always be brought up.
Even most of us who do leave the trees agree that it’s much better up here. The first time people I knew went was when I was a teenager, and a few of my friends went for a short vacation. They tried to convince me to come, but I wouldn’t, and when they returned, they told me I hadn’t missed out on much. Sure, it was different, and there were some interesting things, like how the ground doesn’t move at all beneath your feet--but there general conclusion was that though it might be an okay place to visit, you wouldn’t want to live there.
It was my sister, Maerilla, who said that. She lives down there now, married to some farmer who bought land that was once part of the forest. She says its all for the best, for her, since if she hadn’t been driven down she’d never have met the love of her life and given birth to her three beautiful children. I say that if they really were fated to be together, he could have climbed up here. Nothing, nothing is worth this destruction.
We didn’t even notice, at first. When the forest is so thick you can walk across the canopy, what’s a few trees here and there? Then it wasn’t a few trees, but it was still far off, the edge of the forest. It was only the edge of our world that was crumbling. The edge moved inwards. And it will continue to move inwards, and even the tiny remnant of my home will be gone.
The people below tell us to just come down. They say they’re being reasonable, that they’ll give us land, or pay us a portion of the filthy blood money they get from their damned lumber. Many of us, I’m sad to say, have. And I expect most of the rest will, eventually. Or all of us, even--if the trees are brought down, we will be brought down with them.
I think most of the people will leave, before that point. I won’t. I will stay here until I am clinging to the branches of the very last tree, and when the tree falls, I will still be in it. Perhaps they will think my death unfortunate. Perhaps they won’t care. I will be dead, it will hardly matter to me.
Maerilla comes up to visit me. She tells me that I will of course be welcome to live with her, that they have an extra room. She says they are planting an orchard. I just barely resist pushing her down to the ground. An orchard. “Why the hell do you need an orchard?” I demand, screaming. “There are already real trees right here!”
“But they’re not fruit trees; they’re not profitable,” she fumbles to explain.
“If they’re not fruit trees, then what did you eat for the twenty-four years you lived in them?” I lower my voice and try to be reasonable. “Look, Maerilla, the edge of the forest borders your home. You could stop this; just buy a little more of the land and use the trees that are already growing as your orchard.”
“I’ll talk to Doyn about it,” Maerilla promises, and I know that’s the most she’ll agree to.
She leaves, and I sit there imagining the conversation. “I know she’s crazy, but she’s my sister, and it’s important to her,” Maerilla says. I don’t know Doyn well enough to guess his reply, but I know enough about people to know it will be negative.
So I’m not surprised when, the next time Maerilla visits me, she tells me it’s not going to happen. And since by this point, there’s only me and a few other families still up here, I’m not any more surprised at the news that what’s left of the forest is to be razed. “I love you,” I tell Maerilla, and cry, because I don’t actually want to die.
“Why can’t you just come live with us?” Maerilla begs. “You’ve never even been there; you can’t know you won’t like it!”
But I do, so I prepare to die with my home.
And I would have, if I hadn’t came up with the plan. It’s less than a week before the inferno, and of the few of us left up here, I‘m the only one who doesn‘t plan to leave. Maerilla comes up one last time to plead with me, and that’s when I see it.
“Buy the land,” I tell her, “And I’ll work for you until it’s paid back.”
She doesn’t think much of the idea, but she knows it’s the only possibility of preventing my death, so she goes home excitedly, and comes back the next day waving a land deed. The agreement is, I owe them five years work, or the equivalent in money, and then the deed will be transferred to me and I’m free to return to the trees.
So, for the first time ever, I climb down. It’s as horrible as I expected, life on the ground--no, worse. But I keep up my part of the deal, working the miserable dirt, sustained only by the knowledge that at least a bit of my forest is still there, and I will return to it.