Saturday, April 14, 2012

357/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Wonderful Night" by Fatboy Slim

Seldom does anything dead grow but occasionally something does and the most notable case is a tree in a bog not far from here. It did not grow green again, but continued in its rotting form, throwing out new creaky roots, splashing against the water and doing so with animated violence. In the space of half an hour it shoved itself up out of the fetid water an additional fifty feet, sucking in all the dead things that had died beneath it through all those long generations previous.

There were few animal witnesses that saw it, and those that did quickly forgot the matter and continued in their foraging and skittering. Night came and the ribbed half moon fungus that ringed the tree grew in volume as well, ballooning outward to near bursting, filling their cells with water and air. Before dawn arrived,  a novel chemical process switched on and the fungus glowed.

Over the next few days the tree grew more, fifty or sixty feet in a day, expanding its girth even faster, eating up the swampland around it. After a month, it could be seen from the nearest access road three miles away, a big black mass, veiny against the sky. An intrepid group of men tramped through the swamp in hipwaders and with guns to find out what it was, thinking it might be some old soviet experiment--an odd hypothesis given that the soviets had never been in the region, but they were older men with comfortable with their old biases and fears.

They arrived at the base of the tree and gawped. It rested on a large hump of peat gathered up with slow moving roots that constantly dipped back into the swamp and scraped up slimy material. It felled other live trees and reeled them in under it in jerky inches. The tree creaked and gave off gasses as it moved. The men retreated to their SUVs back on the access road. They sat awhile, chatting and wondering, then drove off back to town to tell their tale.

The story got out quickly, and people came from around the world to observe the tree and measure its daily growth spurts. Some people even began worshiping the tree, plastering themselves with the 'healing' peat from beneath the roots until they shivered, but then the local government fenced off the bog and everyone had to observe it from a distance.

Within months it could be seen by satellites, a large tendriled blob reaching perilously into the stratosphere. Scientists took samples and squabbled online over the ambiguous results of testing that showed that the tree was made of completely dead matter. The nearby towns were evacuated. All the members of a cult killed themselves by ingesting a slurry of rotted wood pulp as an offering to the tree. Finally an international coalition decided to blow the tree up with a nuclear device.

The tree incinerated over the course of twelve days, and still burned from deep within its trunk when teams of military personnel in protective suits clambered over the hot roots to finish it off with primitive axes. The charred remains were pulled out and shipped off to be further burned and the ashes were buried in casks in an old salt mine.

The tree was mourned by some and quickly forgotten by others, and became nothing more than a strange footnote in history. Which is sad because the glowing fungus held the universal cure for cancer.

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