City of Trees This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

By
     There were no trees in the city. This wasunfortunate because it often got so hot in the summer that people takingpleasant strolls or heading off to the specialty bakery would becomewoozy and incoherent before they fell and died from heat strokes. Evenworse was the fact that it was only innocent people falling down dead inthe streets because the guilty ones came out at night and died in alleyswhere they weren’t as much in the way. This was also terrible forthe city government because all of the good candidates died and thoseleft were swindlers, liars, and generally dark alley people. Some of themore cynical citizens speculated as to whether there were really anygood candidates, but those who were merely fatter and unhealthierswindlers, liars, and dark alley people. Either way, the city was inpoor shape. There was too much heat and death, and too little happiness.The people of the city yearned for shade to save their lives and forbeauty to lift their spirits.

There were many artists in thecity. They were neither innocent nor guilty people because they wereconstantly battling and analyzing both the good and evil insidethemselves. This was fortunate because they did not have to worry aboutheat strokes or back-stabbings in dark alleys, and so thrived in theirlofts and sometimes in cafés at dusk. They were very lonely, however,because none of them ever thought they related to others while the truthwas they didn’t want to - they were afraid it would make them lessunique and perhaps a fraud if one related too well with another.

One evening the city folk sought out the artists. They werefound in a moodily lit café discussing avante-garde literature andwhispering experimental poetry into the ears of their lovers. Thecitizens commissioned the artists, with money taken from the pockets ofheat-stricken innocents, to create something that would provide shadeand beauty to the city, as well as restore balance between innocent andguilty people and healthy and unhealthy government officials. Theartists considered this, trying to decide whether or not this wasdeserving of their abilities. Most decided it might be fun (though theydared not admit it) and took the job. The more aloof ones joined becausethey couldn’t bear the thought of such a large project beingwasted on lesser talent and because it was, well, exciting.

Atfirst the artists debated what to create. They needed something large,something wonderful. The more abstract thinkers wanted iron sculptureswith brightly colored mobiles. Others pushed for intricately carvedobelisks with effigies of the artists atop them. Finally, they decidedon the most useful, beautiful thing they could think of, something thatwould call upon all their talents and require of them what they alllonged to do - imitate God.

They made trees from papier-mâchébecause they would be sturdy but still sway in the wind. They anchoredthe trees with metal roots that reached ten feet into the concrete. Theleaves were made of several shades of green tissue paper. They would flyoff on windy fall days and the people of the city made a festival ofraking them. The artists created a special committee to re-attach theleaves every spring. Finally, the trees were painted in warm browntones. Some citizens said they looked too much like paintings, otherssaid they were beautiful because they did look like trees. Most peopledidn’t say anything because their mouths were hanging open.

The trees transformed the city. Innocent people could walkpeacefully down shady streets without

dying of the heat. Evenguilty people started coming out during the day. They, too, prosperedfrom the many new pickpocketing opportunities. The artists were soinspired by the change that they brought about more of it. They paintedbuildings with stunning landscapes so realistic that it was hard to tellwhether they were in the middle of the city or a meadow. Even people whoweren’t artists began creating. They wrote poems and sang songsabout the trees. Then they wrote poems and sang songs about trees thatwere really about things like love and unhealthy politicians. Peoplefrom all over the world came to live in the city, bringing their own artand ideas. They even built miniature versions of the city in amusementparks for people who couldn’t go to the real place.

Eventually the trees began to melt away, as papier-mâché will ifleft to its own devices, especially if those devices are often in therain. They were pulled up and placed in an enormous cutting-edge museumwhere they were protected from further decay. This outraged some, whoexclaimed into megaphones that the museum was taking worldwide landmarksand shutting them away so they could only be seen from 9 to 6 every dayexcept Sunday, when it was 9 to 1. It was disrespectful of culture, theyindignantly protested, and besides, how many deaths would come ofit?

The original artists were by now extremely old so theyappointed younger artists to do what they had done years before, the actthat had brought wealth and happiness to a large part of the world. Theyoung artists were very nervous, but they knew that their art would soonskyrocket in popularity. So, shaky as their hands, they created newtrees for the city. They dared to make their trees slightly taller thanthe originals and beamed inwardly with pride. They also fashioned themout of sturdier material that could easily last until the artists’descendants didn’t know who their ancestors were, plus some.

The more traditional people were reluctant to accept the newtrees. They attracted different crowds, however, crowds who wereinspired by the newness and brought about artistic waves that once againmade the city and a great part of the world swell with culture. It wasthen that the citizens began to discuss that perhaps taking down andrecreating the trees should become a regular event. Snatches of thiscould be heard all over the city and the air crackled with potential.But before anyone could do anything, a happy group of citizens tore downthe new trees. Their creators were crestfallen, but they were hailed asco-creators of the New Revolution, along, of course with the vandals, sothey decided to overlook the demolition of theirmasterpieces.

So, the citizens created and destroyed trees. Theywent through hundreds of thousands of pounds of papier-mâché, clay,paint, glue, construction paper, bronze, scrap metal, glitter, and otherartistic media. The city hummed with fresh thinking and people and artand science. It swelled and flourished like a living thing, althoughliving things do not often flourish this well. It made such an impact onthe world that people who’d never even been there could hardlytalk about it without getting emotional. It became the only wonder ofthe world because the other seven seemed rather silly in comparison.

Of course, where there is something great there are those whowant to steal or destroy it. A few countries banded together to seizethe city, but then began warring amongst themselves to see who wouldkeep it. The rest of the world held them at bay, though, and no oneactually took over the city. However, they did get a few good licks inhere and there.

Bombs fell and the city was completely leveled insome areas but the citizens held a parade and created it anew. Theywelcomed the challenge and euphoria of being part of something somassive. The whole world soaked up this mentality and the whole worldgot a lot happier. Eventually the attackers gave up because there was nopoint in destroying things when everyone was just going to throw aparade.

The city took on natural foes with much the sameattitude, only a bit more cautiously because when you tried to belogical with a tornado, it just lodged you neatly between a house and abrightly colored tree. Unearthly storms ravaged the city, but itcontinued to thrive like a forest after a fire. It seemed that itspeople had discovered the secret to unshakable strength andhappiness.

Eventually the enormous slab of concrete that was thefoundation of the city began to crumble under the stress of so muchdestruction and creation. Underneath it the earth was dead, which waswhy there was a huge concrete foundation to begin with. But there werefires. There was fertilization from fat healthy cattle, who werethemselves new to the city. Specialists came and poked around in thedirt and, over time, it became rich soil that would give anything anyoneasked of it, provided, of course, that what anyone asked for was somekind of plant.

One particular scientist came to the cityinterested in this miraculous fertile soil. He was a genius, though likemany geniuses he was sure that he had absolutely nothing to contributeand would probably die without anyone knowing his name. He came to thecity with humble hopes, however, and rented a miniscule house with ayard about the size of a cardboard box. He specialized in genetics andexperimented with several plants, which yielded an array of remarkableplants ranging from purple corn to tomatoes with surprisingly sweetsinging voices. As amazing as these were, he had difficulty attractingnotice in a city so large, especially a city already full of geniuses.Then, he planted something that would send a tremor through the world.

A tree. It started as a spindly thing he germinated in a tubeand to which he read bedtime stories. It grew at an alarming rate,accomplishing in a week what normal trees did in decades. The citizensembraced the tree and this scientist because they’d never seenthis kind of tree, the kind that created itself. When the treedidn’t stop creating itself though, they grew a little nervous. Ittowered high above the city, its branches providing so much shade thatthe artificial ones were no longer necessary.

The people decidedthat it was time for newness where the tree dominated, and elected thestrongest citizens to cut it down. They started at the top so itwouldn’t topple over, and so they wouldn’t have to deal withthe dejected scientist at the bottom who’d chained himself to hiscreation. It took an entire day to climb the tree. They hacked away atthe branches without regard to where they went, as long as they camedown. Pieces landed in fields and on top of houses and in coffee cups. Alot of the tree chunks fell into the river where they swelled and had tobe fished out and distributed to compost heaps, and then dumps whenthose could hold no more.

When the tree was finally no more thana large flat disk, the people held a great feast on it, in honor of thescientist. The scientist, who was by now so famous that he was discussedat dinner parties, did not attend because he’d been asked to helpwith reforestation halfway around the world.

The people soonbegan working on new projects on the base of the old tree. Theydelighted in building on top of some other work of art, but their newart was rapidly replaced by new growth pushing up from the base. Theywere shocked! This was art that would not die, and they disliked it. Howcould there be anything they could not destroy?

Panic rippledthrough the city. People began demolishing everything they could find inthe hopes of saving something. They found, however, that there wasnothing they could do against these mammoth works of art. The entirecity was lost to sprawling roots and its people were forced to spreadout into the rest of the world.

Most of the citizens were fairlyannoyed, but eventually they shrugged and said it was bound to happensooner or later. There was nothing left of the city, mostly becausenothing was ever saved before the Big Trees. Even those artifactsshriveled up because of some unforeseen genetic flaw. Over the yearseven the optimism of the city faded and wars and unpleasantness beganagain. People still talk about the city, but without that whimsicaltone, only mischievous laughter as they tell of ancient myths and afantastical city made of trees.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the November 2006 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback