This story is by Marc E. Harris and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Days of madness and serenity blended together as the isolation continued. Many issues become apparent as the days bled into weeks and drifted into months. Dave and his trusted dog Sam were living in a secluded house deep in the woods of northern Georgia. Magnolias lined the property as the azalea bushes bloomed.
Dave had moved into the house just before the spring along with his trusted old black Labrador, Sam. He had purchased the house to start his new career. The former corporate manager was finally going to give it a go writing. Years and years had passed as Dave had spent his entire adult life pushing the dream to the side for a “secure” lifestyle. Now was the time to really live. His wife and family could not understand why he was throwing everything away.
Dave had a wife and two kids who he had adored. Life was pretty good on the outside. Modest wealth, smart kids, loving wife, all was set. The nice little dream family.
However, deep within Dave burned. He was unhappy inside. Nothing anyone could do would help. He had made an abrupt decision to leave the business world. Life finally was his own. He needed the separation and distance, he thought, to fully explore the passion that remained inside. He left everything behind.
The first few months went well. Waking up in the morning, having coffee, sitting in his little room with the great open views of the wildlife around him. Dave’s writing started with a flurry. Why had he waited so long? This was the life. Just himself in the wild with a trusted dog to keep him company. If he needed a little social interaction he could travel down the mountain and into the small college town at the foot of the hills. Liberal students and professors, he could engage with. Thought-provoking debates about religion and philosophy would stimulant Dave when needed.
Now was not the time for that. He needed to finish a book and get the word out of about his new career. He just had to finish one piece, then things would start rolling. The book had begun great, storyline and characters appearing out of the blue. The muse was working wonders in that little house in the woods. The babbling stream soothed his nerves. Dave could look out and see the animals come and go. A deer here, a squirrel in the trees, rabbits, and even a small bobcat. Life was serene and the writing flowed. He was in a dream.
Then the news came out. A new virus was discovered in New York City. Quickly the country was in another shutdown. Could the virus be as deadly as the coronavirus of 2020? That virus had shut the world down for months and still had lingering effects in 2030.
Now a new virus was out. Dave knew what that meant. “Social Distancing” was now the common term used for isolation. Dave had already prepared supplies for a long term in the cabin to support his writing. He was set for months alone. He was not worried, this would help him focus on the writing. The time began well. The serenity continued as the new virus spread across the country like wildfire. Millions would be affected. His kids would be safe, his wife worked at the CDC and had access to everything to keep them healthy. Besides nothing was going to distract him this time. He had no phone.
After the sixth week alone, Dave was having a hard time writing. Resistance was reeling its hugely head. Dave’s words were as a toddler, sputtering incoherent phrases and paragraphs. Everything he did went into the wastebasket on his desktop. Everything was virtual now. Even his connections with the outside world. His only physical companion lay sat his feet.
Dave envied the animals of the world. No worry of finances, no politics, only survival. Dave gazed at the mighty trees that surrounded his retreat. Guardians protecting his serenity. As he looked out his window a large oak swayed in the breeze. He starred at the tree’s trunk. His vision followed the trunk down to the ground. The roots branching out in all directions.
Dave contemplated the subterrain. The intertwined network underground connecting the trees in their own internet of sorts. As he watched the various trees around him move in the wind, he imagined their conversations. The oaks and birch complaining about the humans ruining the world with their pollution and crash capitalism. Suddenly the muse sprang to life once again.
A story about the trees and the secret way they actually controlled the world. The trees and plants turning sunrays into oxygen for all the mammals to live on. Dave’s imagination exploded with ideas of a secret process in which the trees actually controlled the oxygen and the amount of chemicals released to support the animals of the world.
The dinosaurs were not wiped out by a meteor but by the plants of the age who had enough of the large reptiles. The plants communicated through their roots and slowly adjusted the oxygen levels to strangle the life out of the cold-blooded creatures. Freeze the planet and kill the bloody things. Time for change. The trees executed their sentence with heartless “evolution”.
There had been a battle amongst the plants as well. “Why change?” many communicated, but alas the majority of the plants decided enough was enough. The reptiles had their day and they were phased out. Then came the cold years. The mammals would need to survive and evolve. The trees and plants provided the test. The mammals had taken over and all was peaceful. Mankind emerged and evolved.
At first the trees watched as the pitiful creatures adapted to the world. The weakest of the animals had a secret weapon, their brains. The trees were impressed. Watching the societies develop, the plants were happy with the humans as they used and developed their “vegetables and fruits”. They cared for the plants more than any other creature had done since the wonderful bees.
Dave’s story was taking root, so to speak. Ideas and images came to him, flowed through him, effortlessly. The days were long and consuming. He lost track of time. Sam was still by his side but would often whimper for attention. Dave pushed him aside. Reluctantly feeding him. Sam took to finding prey outside. The dog was turning feral. Sam would come back later and later, eventually one day Sam did not come back. Dave barely noticed, his story was engulfing him.
One afternoon, after a long session of writing Dave had taken a break and laid down on his hammock on his deck. He drifted asleep to the slight breeze and the creaking of the trees. As he slept his dreams become more and more lucid. The images crystal clear.
Dave was outside in the daylight, moving through the woods. Trees all about him. Suddenly an image came to him. He was now a tree. He sensed the world around him through his leaves. The wind, the aromas filling his whole being. Never had he felt so alive. His senses were so acute. Every bird, squirrel, animal around, he knew their exact location. He was not seeing them with human eyes. His new tree vision was not the same, perception was deeper, more enriching. He did not have to move to experience the world. His senses were alive. Soon he discovered that his roots delivered messages from other trees. A wordless communication.
New images formed, places far off in the world came into view. He could sense people in Europe, Asia, and South America. He could not, however perceive Australia. There was no connection to islands. Hawaii was not reachable. Anywhere there was land touching with plants he could sense. Deserts were barren patches as well. Dave focused harder, trying to reach under the sea. He knew plants grew there as well. How to reach them? Dave was sweating in his human form while his dream state persona worked on his new target. Finally the plants of the seas poured in around him. The Great Barrier reef. Everything was wonderful. He traveled all around the world.
Dave was calm and peaceful. When he awoke, the sun was coming up. He had slept the entire night outside. A new calmness came to him. That day his writing was filled with peaceful images. That night he would relish sleeping outside. He prepared this time. PJs, a blanket.
This time things were different. Everything started the same, but after an hour of deep sleep, pain coursed through. Humans dying, breathing hard and sickly. Dave was sweating, tossing and turning in his sleep. He started to choke. What was happening? He awoke but still could not breathe. He realized the cause of the new pandemic. He thought of his family. Then the trees spoke to him.
“Time for humans to die!!”