The Beginning

In the beginning, before the earth was your Earth and the heavens were your heavens, there was a garden.

It started with the first mother: a tree whose seed was gifted from the stars and penetrated Earth’s virgin soil—splitting open in total darkness with no choice but to follow the light upward. The resilient sprout flourished into that which would birth all life.

Mother Tree’s roots sank deep, all but kissing the core of her planet, and her limbs stretched out across the land and up toward the stars. She fought hard to prosper in the emptiness that was life with no other life, and her first years passed in the quiet sound of possibility.

Eventually, the cosmos blessed Mother Tree with an unexpected gift. Humble beings appeared before her, curious and silver-tongued, and introduced themselves as nameless gardeners, servants to her and cultivators of what they promised would be a fantastical garden.

They doted on Mother Tree, nourishing her with crisp, cool water and tending dutifully to the soil around her, preparing for what they knew was to come. Mother Tree did not think to question what might be expected of her, and the gardeners offered no explanation.

One day, Mother Tree found herself surrounded by the wide-eyed gardeners, beaming as they marveled at the newly sprouted buds speckled generously all over Mother Tree’s miraculous self.

New growth meant new life: the dawn of the garden that would herald the world’s precious beginning.

Cheers erupted around her.

“This is what you were created for!”

“…an honor to carry this weight of the world!”

“…everything is as it’s supposed to be.”

Mother Tree’s glow matched that of the moon, illuminating the void that once consumed her isolated life. For weeks the gardeners watched Mother Tree in diligent shifts, coddling, comforting, and nearly smothering her. The gardeners’ constant attention lifted Mother Tree’s spirits as the weight of her children exhausted every fiber of her being, and the gardeners assured her that the worst would soon be over.

With love and the tenderest care, her buds bloomed. She dreamed of what they might grow into; imagined her days watching over them as they took on new shapes and weathered every season.

As each child matured, the gardeners waited in anticipation, whispering in hushed tones as the days passed. Though their behavior made Mother Tree anxious, she ignored her instincts and shoved her thoughts deep within her roots.

It wasn’t long before Mother Tree felt her first child’s hold weaken. Panic ensued as every gardener rushed to her side, fixated only on the young fruit and offering her no comfort. Mother Tree told herself this was for the best, that the well-being of her child should, and would always be, their top priority. Her trembling limbs shook the first ripe fruits free and the gardeners raced to catch them.

They praised her first birth with wild excitement as they whisked the children away from Mother Tree before she knew what was happening. Every attempt to protest was drowned by the sound of their celebration, and she was left alone to drown in the darkest sorrow.

As more fruit began to ripen, the gardeners lingered less frequently, and instead only visited her to pluck dropped fruit from the ground.

Eventually, they returned with seeds from her beautiful children and began planting them back into the soil. Mother Tree was too afraid to ask what they had done with the bodies—too afraid to believe the gardeners were not to be trusted.

Greed soon replaced awe as the gardeners became too impatient to let the world work in its own time. Mother Tree was helpless as they hacked her children from her body,spewing excuses about ripeness. They pretended not to hear the squeals and screams in their assault, but she heard every single one.

The gardeners smiled and built their fires, stopped hiding their actions in the shadows, and sang as they sharpened their blades. Mother Tree wanted nothing more than to crumble under the weight of her own branches. She had no place to hide, no power to stop them from maliciously ripping apart her children until their cries fell silent. She watched in agony as the gardeners charred their bodies directly over a sinful flame or dumped their chopped bodies into stews. Their teeth tore through their lifeless flesh, they laughed as juice dripped down their mangey jowls, and Mother Tree sobbed as they sang of their success.

Anguish consumed her as she understood all too late that creating life meant creating suffering and grief.

She pleaded with the gardeners but was met with scoffs. They suggested—no, insisted—that her purpose was one of sacrifice, that she was destined for this and only this and should be happy with her role in creation.

Mother Tree asked who decided this for her but, again, received no fair response.

Her hope disappeared and took her energy and strength with it. As the unbearable agony continued, new buds failed to blossom on Mother Tree. Her roots thinned and rotted, and her figure hunched into a disheveled curve. The gardeners quickly started using words like “ungrateful” and “lazy” and demanded that she “get it together.” It was easier for those not expected to create life to believe it should be enough.

Mother Tree felt heavier each day, unsure how they expected her to grow when she wasn’t allowed to hope for something better.

Touting the need to preserve their own energy and stop wasting it on Mother Tree, the gardeners took it upon themselves to absolve her of her duties.

Wide smirks glistened as they approached with shimmering axes. They told her not to worry, that they would still find a way to make use of her—one where she’d remain frigid, voiceless, and immobile. A gardener, now woodsman, marched mercilessly to her foundation and swung violently at her belly. He stepped back after each whack to admire his work as her layers weakened and the gash in her trunk grew. Her spirit diminished one sliver at a time, and after what felt like an eternity, Mother Tree fell to the ground, limp and lifeless.

Reduced to a stump, Mother Tree’s severed remains were tossed into the fire to warm the gardeners sitting comfortably around it. Her children watched in horror, fearful of the day they, too, would be reduced to nothing.