Winner of the 2010 Marion Drysdale Award, Grade 9/10 Prose Fiction
Summary: On the day humanity leaves the planet Earth, a girl remembers how she and her friends fought to save the planet’s last surviving tree.
A girl sat alone in her room, watching the world outside her window. The world no human would live on for millions of years. The planet Earth.
From space the slowly freezing planet looked natural, as if cities did not cover its entire face. Until the end of this new ice age, if ever again, no electrical lights would brighten this world. And nature would be given a chance to reclaim what it once owned, while the former inhabitants urbanized and destroyed another planet. The girl doubted if she would even be alive when this new homeworld was reached.
She watched the area in which she had lived, once upon a time. From space the massive city was not visible. Hidden were the skyscrapers that reached the heavens, where millions made their homes. All available space used for human needs. She had actually lived in one of the few remaining suburbs, in a building that only housed her family. This suburb was also special among other urban areas, for in its area was a very rare thing. A tree.
She could vividly remember that tree, a grand old maple, which grew right across from her house. The green leaves of summer, small springtime buds, barren branches in winter, and, most lovely of all, fall’s vibrant, flaming red. Never in all of her short life had she ever seen such a wonder as this autumn brilliance.
When they were young, she and her friend from the neighbourhood had enjoyed climbing upon the branches. Many a game of make-believe had occurred beneath the boughs of the ancient maple. As they grew older, metal swings and a platform found places in their little universe. The girl looked over at her bed stand, at the picture framed in silver that rested on it. There they were, emerald green hair glistening in the afternoon sun, smiling back at her. Smiles of triumph, and celebration.
The memory of the day her beloved tree had been threatened was emblazoned in her mind. Her clique had been lounging around the base of the tree when a car pulled up. Two men and a women got out, and walked up to where they were seated. The tree was being removed, they were told, to make space for a new building. The teens were then told to go home. Shocked, the girl had stood up, and in a burst of daring and adrenaline, had climbed up the tree, to the platform. The others quickly followed suit, and the standoff began.
For over four months, they lived up in that ancient plant, refusing to abandon an important part of their childhood for building space. The only time that any of them left the tree was to get food to bring up, collect the group’s homework from school, or for other necessities. One of the other girls bought hair dye for them one day, and they all coloured their hair to match the shade of the leaves they fought so desperately to protect.
After 134 days, the removal company finally gave up, deciding that it was too much trouble to go through for one old tree.
The girl could still remember the joy of that victory, of saving the magnificent maple from the ax. But, the victory celebration was short lived. The next month the news came out that the Earth would soon enter a new ice age. And she remembered the day it was decided that the tree was too large to be transported to the new planet. The whole group had gathered for one last time under the majesty of the maple tree, and had each taken a cutting to grow aboard the ship that would take then all away from Earth, into the heavens. Although it wasn’t like bringing the whole tree, she was comforted knowing that she would bring part of the old world to the new one, across the expanse of space dividing the two.
An announcement came through in the intercom: the ship was going to leave in ten seconds. The girl stood up and pressed her hand against the glass.