May 29, 2016

The red pestilence

The legend

A year-end party was pushing four friends into a corner looking at the rest of the class. It was the end of the school year and the four friends were smiling at each other knowingly. It was the last day before the summer break and they knew they had to do something memorable, some shenanigans that would last them all summer.

They set their eyes on the secluded girl sitting on a chair at the edge of the dance hall. And as boys are sometimes cruel for no reason they picked her, but they still didn't know how they wanted to tease her.
- We should prank her.
- Ok, but how?
- Who can convince her of the most ridiculous thing wins.
- What's wrong with you? she doesn't talk to anybody.
- Exactly.
The four elbowed each other and eventually one took towards the girl.

The girl was sitting quietly waiting for a good time to go home, when a kid with combed hair and two antennas sprouting on top of his head sat beside her. The boy bit his tongue to find some courage, and began to speak.
- How are you? Why are you sitting all alone?
- I'm not alone, I just wanted to sit down for a bit.
- I want to tell you something but you have to promise not to laugh.
- Well ok, she replied curiously.
- You see the boys over there? They told me they like you. They'll come to talk to you one by one.
- And they sent you to tell me?
- No, I told them they don't have the nerve to talk to you... and I just came over.
- Well, what should I do?
- Nothing... they'll come to you, just hear them out and remember what I said.
The boy stood up and the girl approved  somewhat confused.

The second boy, slightly hunched with a scar in his right eyebrow approached the girl. He looked back at the others and sat next to her not knowing what to say.
- Hey ... you want a soda? he finally asked.
- No thanks, I have one here.
After a few moments he looked up and she was smiling at him.
- See that elderflower lemonade? he tried again.
- Yes, didn't you bring it?
- Yea you know how we had to bring something, soda or snacks. My parents make elderflower cordial. Dad usually makes it. This time he made two, one for me and one for him. But I brought his to school.
- Is his better?
- It has alcohol in it. You should look at anybody who drinks it, they'll get red in the face and who knows maybe will see them do something stupid. I can't wait to see them get drunk.
-  But, why did you tell me?
The boy lifted a corner of his mouth.
- I had to tell someone, and I couldn't tell those three, I want to laugh at them.
The boy left and the girl poured herself half a glass of  elderflower cordial.

The third boy, a slightly nearsighted kid, approached her.
- I'll tell you something but I don't know if you're gonna believe me.
- Sure, she giggled at the boy.
- I think some of us are dead.
- What? and seeing his reddened face continued. Did you drink lemonade?
- What lemonade? no. I was thinking, we can be alive or dead but what if some of us are already dead and we don't know it.
- And who would be dead?
- It could be anyone, but think about it who looks like they might be dead? she has lots of wrinkles and she's dry as a mummy.
- Definitely the math teacher.
- Yes, the math teacher is dead and I don't think any of these skinny evil old people are still alive, it's just that nobody told them they died. It's harder to figure out who's dead from the others though.
- How can you even tell if you're dead?
- Simple, look in a mirror, I think you can see it in your reflection.
- That's for vampires... I think.
The boy shrugged.
- Don't be so sure, and walked away leaving her once again alone.
She took out a mirror and examined herself.

The fourth boy was a beautiful youngster who promised to be one of those boys that girls fall in love with quickly.
- You look like you need some air. Want to go outside?
The girl was expecting him to ask her for a dance and thus answered more that question then his.
- Yes... ok.
And so they went outside behind the school, where there were a few oak trees and a cobbled alley in the grass.
- My grandfather tells me that all men are like trees. What tree would you be? the boy asked.
- A maple with red autumn leafs, she answered.
The boy opened his shoes and stepped on the grass barefoot.
- I wish I could be a poplar sitting high, offered in return the boy.
- To catch roots and see only the sun and the earth, contemplated the girl.
- No more lessons, no more parents, no more school just sit outside and sway in the lazy wind.
- It would be nice.
- Want to try? We can take roots and stay here forever.
- Ok let's try.
The girl took off her shoes and they both stood barefoot in the grass.
- We must put our hands up in the air they'll be our branches, the boy convinced her.
And the girl stretched her hands up.
- Close your eyes and stay still, we must feel the air with our fingers and the ground with our toes, he continued.
The girl froze and the boy came close and kissed her.

The epidemic

Legend has it that four boys convinced a girl that she was a tree. As a joke, one night they wanted to see if they could make her stand like a tree. And allegedly they succeeded, she stuck her toes into the earth, and that was that, she caught roots. This girl was the first, the red pestilence had begun.
The boys left her there that night, with her hands towards the sky and her feet in the ground. They found her in the exact same position the next day. Do you know how much strength you need to keep your hands above your head for 10-12 hours? Obviously the boys got scared and vowed never to say anything to anyone.
After a while her parents found her behind the school pretending to be a tree. At first they were glad their daughter was all right, but it wasn't quite so, and when they tried to move her they realized something was wrong. She was stuck in the ground with thin veins growing like roots under her feet, her hands were stiff, but her heart continued to beat. A doctor came and decided not to move her so she wouldn't get harmed.
The four boys were the first to get infected. They hid their symptoms as long as they could, one of them had to tear something like a beanstalk each morning from his ear. Something terrible was growing inside them and it wanted earth and sunlight. While the girl was studied there in the ground the boys arrived in hospitals with the pain of sprouts poking through them searching for dirt and light. They all died one by one in horrible pain as no one dared to "plant" them.
The girl was instead left alone to become the first red tree, the first blood tree, a tree with a heart. People at that time were more curious than frightened, maybe it was a curse, perhaps a virus, something that turned you into a tree seemed like a joke.
It didn't take long and the tree became a forest. Her parents stood by her and then their acquaintances after that, thousands of people became trees, then hundreds of thousands, then millions. We know now it was because of those spores. The plant reaches a certain cycle and releases those filthy spores, and that's how we infect each other.
However I don't think it's that simple, there has to be something else, I say it's a "choice". There are as many spores in the air as dust particles and yet we aren't all trees, why? I don't think you become infected unless you really want to, just like that girl, she wanted to be a tree. It's a choice like any other, only now if you want to "kill yourself", "move on", "escape", "give up" you just plant your feet in the garden and stay there.
Some are drawn to the idea of immortality. They say they're immortal, I say they're firewood. Immortal til the first forest fire, immortal til your neighbor puts you in the stove.
People have this romantic notion about trees. But have you really looked at a tree? it's a parasitic form of life gripping the ground, just a big weed. Roots which worm themselves towards resources and branches that suffocate with darkness all things trying to grow beneath them. There is no nobility in trees it's just a bitter struggle for light.
I say we burn them.


- What's that on your finger?
- It's somewhat the reason I called. It's something in me, something deeply rooted.
- Fuck me, you're sick, you have the tree pestilence.
- Yes.
- How did you get it?
- I made love on the black grass and drank the sap of the red tree, how else?
- Are you crazy? You're making jokes now? people flee from the red trees like it's the black plague.
- I want it to grow in me. Today this little leaf sprouted from behind my finger nail. Look at it, it can't be eradicated by any herbicide, no animal can eat it. I share my body with it, it bears my DNA and it will make me immortal. I will become a red tree.
- It's that chick isn't it, she convinced you.
- Yes, she got infected first, and now she has white flowers on her breasts, they budded at her nipples. Thick roots flow through her hands, wood instead of muscle. And when I kiss her I can taste the spores from her mouth.
- Should I stay away from you?
- No, rest assured, spores are everywhere, I didn't get infected like that. I wanted to say her breath has a fragrance, it's sweet. Ahh ... it HURTS.
- What?
- Some roots are digging in me, looking for the ground. I called you because I can't really see, my eyes are fuzzy. That's the only thing that really scares me, that I'll probably go mad traped inside the bark: blind, deaf and dumb.
- There are pills, a treatment, you can stop this madness.
- I just called you to get me next to her. I took her somewhere nice, we used to spend our weekends there, it's not that far.
- You're crazy you planted her, you know there's no chance now. She's dead.
- She's not dead, just the opposite, she's eternal. Yesterday I sat next to her and heard her last heartbeat. I thought I had some time left, otherwise I wouldn't have come back, but as you can see I'm kinda stuck here, please help me out, I have to get there.
- I can't... even if you don't infect me, she will.
- Please, I need your help there's no one else.
- Don't you understand? even your breath can kill me. I have to go ... I'm sorry.
- We're all cursed my friend, we're already dead, nobody will escape this plague. Please, I can't leave her alone. I promised. I'm begging you.

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