Author : Cody Brooks

“I tried! I tried!”

The man called out.
No one answered.
All sound was an empty wind buffeting over crumbled rocks. A tree stood before him, grey and leafless, its bark peeling from the wind.
The blood of the tree had withered and dried; now it was gone.

The man held his head in his wide hands. He could feel every bone, and his palms filled his sunken cheeks; his skin sagged in atrophy. In a tattered cloth covered in dirt and dust he rested on his knees, wanting to cry but holding back.
He looked up to the tree. Big from what he had ever seen, it was 4 feet tall, curving outward from the base. Its trunk was twisted; long, thin branches reached out, shaking on the wind. The man followed the branches with his eyes, the straight lengths, the knots and bends, the splits into smaller branches.

“I am truly the last now.”

He moved his eyes to look to the horizon in front of him; an expanse of dust and eroded hills. Once tall mountains, they had fallen and the corpses deteriorated into nothing. He turned, slowly, paying attention to his lower spine, and leaned his head over.
He looked behind him: same.
He turned back, lifting his eyes to the tree once more.

All is ruin… I am the last… And yet, if I am, there is nothing left but to dream a human dream.

A slanted hole had been dug under the tree to just below the meager roots, about two feet wide. The man took time to move his body into a crawl. He slumped, moved his arms in front of him, and slowly placed his knuckles on the ground. He rolled down his left side and gravity took him quickly. He let out a dry yelp, coughed, and shuffled toward the hole.

Not yet, don’t do it yet…

The man came to the opening and moved his legs in, his belly sliding on the dust, pushing with his hands and his forearms. His body moved down, down, and far enough into it that only his head remained above ground.
It took a few minutes of breathing; he turned over to face upward. Roots from the tree dangled onto his abdomen and chest. He reached for a thin root and swirled a finger around it to grab hold.

He turned his eyes to the red sky, the grey tree standing above; the last thing standing.

Now, now I can…

As he looked into the depths of the bark, a tear welled out of his eye and rolled down his cheek, leaving a clean trail where dust had caked. A tear came from his other eye. His hand shook for a few moments, holding as tightly as he could to the root of the monolith. The shaking stopped.

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