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Flash Fiction: May We Shed These Human Bodies

May We Shed these Human Bodies

We were good at being trees, long ago. We had been years with our knots, tallying the rains and dry spells with careful accuracy. We shared conversation with the wind, the squirrels, the spiders. We shared quiet with the clouds before they burst.

We were good to look at, too; we were tall trees, well-grown. We stood eighty feet high and three feet around, our bark a flat, glassy gray, a few fissures mapping our journey through seasons. In the winter, our buds were the color of coffee, dark brown and velvety, and each spring we exploded in green. The animals walked our branches, the breezes pushed at our leaves, and the wind helicoptered our seeds to bury almost-trees in the earth.

We were experts at being trees. We still had a hundred good years left, and we weren’t interested in being anything else.

But the Three were walking in our wood one day, and they noticed how tall and proud we were. They asked would we mind being humans, and though we didn’t know what that was, we said we would mind very much. We pointed out what fine trees we made, and the Three threw back their heads and laughed like wolfhounds. Then, we were new things, human things. People. The Three took our soft pink hands in their hard hairy ones, and gave us new names. You are the first, they said. You are the beginning.

The Three knocked their hard heads together and made a fierce storm, and when it was over the kingdom of people had grown up around us. The Three encircled it with a vast sparkling fence: a dangerous necklace around our throats. And we learned to sing and speak, and to hunt and swim, and to climb into the branches of trees who were still trees and beg for death. We wept to be so unanchored, but we did not die. We missed the wind’s chattering company, and the clouds’ damp silence, and we sighed to see our animal friends shrink and run before us, and yet we did not die. We grew and changed and multiplied for many ages, until the gods themselves passed out of the world and no one was left who had known us as trees.

We are not good at being men. We are weak, our minds and bodies soft and pliable, our histories marred by violence and loss into unsteady seasons, bearing ragged bark and stunted fruit. It is easy to make new people, but difficult to grow them, these restless ones that take so long to leave the nest. We are unsure always. Even now we long for leaves, long for years marked by measured change, by rebirth and regrowth—and we sometimes leave this world early, hoping that, like Dante’s suicides, we may shed these human bodies for the punitive grace of greening branches and deep, steady roots once more.

amber sparks

flash fiction in Artvoice

Literary Buffalo occasionally includes flash fiction alongside the poetry, features, interviews, and book reviews. Literary Buffalo seeks submissions of flash fiction, meaning complete stories running 500 words or less. Stories longer than 500 words will not be considered. Send submissions to flash fiction editor Greg Gerke at or mail them to Flash Fiction Editor, Artvoice, 810 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14202. Please include SASE for return of manuscript.

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