Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

My name was Walt. I hunted. Drank beer. Drove a truck. Met my wife, May, skinny dipping down at Hodgeson Creek. We married. Had kids. Lost two sons to wars in foreign countries. Lost a daughter to a war in another state. My other son, Rufus, came back from a war, then met his boyfriend skinny dipping at Hodgeson Creek.
I had trouble with that. Coming on top of my cancer, it didn’t seem fair. Then my youngest, Maisie, told me she had cancer. That broke May. She admitted she’d got the same diagnosis. Something had been seeping into the waters of Hodgeson Creek for a long time.
We mourned for each other as a family, then looked for ways to change things. No vengeance. Saw what that did to my father. We set out to make things better for those who didn’t have cancer yet.
Doc Moses, he saw it first. Some Professor at a fancy clinic over in Russia. Had tried it on animals. Started human trials. They were closed to the public. There were awful rumours, but Moses said he understood why.
Cashed in just about everything we had, took a flight: us, Rufus, his boyfriend, and Moses. Went to a place I couldn’t pronounce. Not surprising: the cancer in my throat meant I could barely talk.
The clinic was set in acres of mixed forests. It was beautiful.
Professor Ed was a nice man. Couldn’t speak English worth a damn, but his assistant was really good at it. She explained why the process was hidden from the public. We sort of got the idea, but Ed said that if we were interested, we had to see before we could join.
May liked the idea. Maisie too. We signed and went to see the changing room. After that, we were all different. It’s not a thing you want to see, until you know where it leads, and what it offers. We talked it over and decided to do it. For the future.
The day came and Rufus formally introduced me to Terry. My boy said he thought it was a wonderful thing we were doing. I called him a poof. He called me a bigot. We laughed. I kissed my son and gave him my blessing, then took May and Maisie’s hands. We went through the hissing doors to our next life.

It’s not death. Those who object are wrong. We’ll grow for centuries. How can we be recognisable to anything that lasts only ninety years? Sure, we talk to each other. We can’t communicate with you except by using devices like the one that created this article. Experts from the clinic brought it. They come by every few years to check in on us. All too easy for doubters to say it’s made up.

If you believe, trust me when I say the change is hard. You can’t wait until you’re about to die. If you die during the vivilig transformation, your corpse will be partially lignified. The process doesn’t stop all neat and tidy because your soul lit out for sunnier climes. Your kin will be left to bury a coffin full of stinking compost.

If you don’t believe, kindly let people have their peace amongst the trees planted in memory of their lost ones. Take your hate away. Better still: let it go.

Rufus and Terry visit the three of us every month, down in the copse on the shore, our roots slowly leeching the toxins from Hodgeson Creek.