Inspired by reblololo (photographer’s details could not be found)

On a lump of land, far from any kind of civilisation, trade route or thought, stood a giant of an oak tree. Left alone for all its life by any force that could do it harm, the tree was free to grow to its heart’s desire. It was so enormous that when the sun was low, its shadow would stretch for a mile across the bare terrain.

The tree’s only visitors were feathered, on their way south to breed. Countless numbers of birds would find rest in its branches, recuperating before their next long haul. For many generations, they were the only ones to ever lay eyes on its existence.

It was a lost, lone traveller that saw the tree with blue irises for the first time. He was the youngest son of a carpenter who had followed the wrong star on his way to a new life. From the distance he imagined the shape to be a trick of the eye, but the closer he got, the quicker his heart beat. How much money his family could make!

The young man ran his quivering fingers along the giant’s bark before he ran in the direction he came from. It would take days for him to reach home again, but the welcoming he would get! The excitement carried him and his tired feet.

The tree knew his intentions. It felt the greed and the agony that greed would cause. So it was without hesitation when the sky turned heavy and grey that the tree offered itself to the heavens. Storm clouds grew, gathering as much electricity as they could hold. They rolled in from all directions, kneading the blow that would bring an end to this Goliath. When the tension couldn’t be contained any longer, the tree stretched out its branches and met the silver-white flash from above.

The tree let out a deafening creak. The bolt struck through its core. It set the tree alight. The clouds then dried to let the tree burn and the stars came out to watch. It was a bitter-sweet spectacle.

The tree burned willingly through the night. There was no other option. It let the flames envelop it, from the tips of its young branches, to its ancient marrow inside. By the time the first light arrived, the fire had done its work. The tree let out a final sigh.

The mass of ash stood as tall and broad as the tree once did, but it was just barely held together in the shape of an oak. A breeze came up and swept through its charcoal branches. First only a few flakes of ash lifted from its confined form, but something extraordinary was about to happen.

The gust gained momentum and the enormous shape burst into a swarm of black specks. Every flake of ash became a bird, flying not falling in the wind. They were sparrows and ravens and every kind that once took refuge in the tree. They flew as one dark mass, connected by an invisible net of life force and universal understanding. They flew far and south to a fertile plain, where they filled their bellies with seeds and nuts and bugs and weeds. The rest was needed.

A gust came up again and lifted the cloud of birds to the sky. It only took another day for them to reach civilisation. It was a city of self-absorbed, money-grabbing mongers, who wouldn’t think twice about destroying the earth to satisfy their own desires. Their urge to consume more, own more, eat more, compete more was as natural to them as breathing.

Together, at once, the birds came down like hard, black rain over the city and all its industry. They fell deep into the dirt, their bodies returning from where they came. There the birds and their bellies would wait for the next rainfall, for the next trees to spring.

The End