I woke one morning to the sudden and horrifying realisation that I had been transformed into a tree. My familiar room and bed were gone, and I found myself firmly rooted into the soil at the edge of a small woodland clearing. I was unable to move, however by trying to stretch I could feel to the end of my small branches, gently swaying in the morning breeze, and to the tips of my roots, pressed against the cold, damp earth. I tried to call out for help but nothing happened. The silence of the woodland remained unbroken as I frantically tried to think of some way of escape. It was like being stuck on a giant sheet of glue. Had I still been human, my heart would have pounded through my chest.
The hours wore by and no help came. As the shadows lengthened I began to calm and become more aware of my surroundings. I could feel a worm pushing itself slowly around one of my little roots. A squirrel jumped through my branches a couple of times, giving me a slight tickling sensation with it’s little claws. Night came and the owls began hooting in the distance. With the sun no longer on my leaves, I felt cold and sluggish.
The next day dawned and, as the light woke me from my slumber, my thoughts turned to my work and family. I wondered whether they knew something had happened to me. Perhaps my body was still alive and well back where I had last left it, perhaps it was in a coma, or perhaps it had vanished entirely. I knew they would all be worried about me and felt a profound despair at the thought of not seeing them again. There was nothing but silence in response to my sadness. The forest had no care for these human affairs.
Before this transformation I had been a student. Upon recalling this, I also remembered that there were several urgent matters relating to my studies that I had to attend to. I had exams coming up, essays to write, meetings with my tutors. Unless a further miracle occurred, those would have to be indefinitely postponed. I had ambitions to become an architect after university. I wanted to build things, make a material difference to the world, leave a concrete legacy. I was now completely stripped of the agency I had taken for granted. Rather than shaping nature to my vision, nature was shaping me. Suddenly the vertigo of my situation dawned on me. Like standing on a clifftop on a stormy winter’s day, staring into the roiling sea below, I realised my old life was over.
The whole idea of studying and working and interacting with people now seemed foreign. There was little I could do now but observe my surroundings and think to myself. I could feel the moisture being drawn up from the soil through my roots, through my trunk, into my branches and leaves where it slowly evaporated into an invisible mist in the pale sunlight. I could even feel the sugar tingling as it slowly diffused through my vasculature, away from where it was accumulating in my soft leaves.
The days kept passing and little changed in my world. It was getting colder and the days shorter. My leaves started changing colour and one-by-one dropping off. As they browned, I became numb, as if an anaesthetic was slowly being injected into my veins. I could barely feel them drop as the autumn wind plucked them from my branches. It felt as if my life force was withdrawing from the world, retreating deep inside, away from the cold.
I used to read the news a lot and keep up with political affairs. I wondered what had changed in the world since my transformation. Perhaps war had been declared, unless I suddenly started being bombarded by artillery and gunfire how was I to know otherwise? These matters suddenly seemed petty. What did it all really matter when a tree could go about its life completely unaware and uninvolved with these struggles. I no longer really knew what day it was, my only clock was the position of the sun in the sky. I could keep a vague track of the month by the waxing and waning of the moon, something I had never paid much attention to before. It occurred to me that I never used to even see much of the moon. Living in a city meant my view of the sky was always restricted by looming buildings. I was always looking down at the ground as I rushed between scheduled events, never looking up and around. Now there was nothing to do but look up and around. Even though I was in a forest on land, it felt like I was in a small boat, far out to sea in the middle of the night, looking up at the sky. The experience was so whole and encompassing it excluded almost everything else.
The months wore on, snow fell and then melted. I grew new leaves and saw wild flowers in the clearing bloom into a magnificent bank of colour, and then wither into dry seed that scattered on the wind. Time seemed to accelerate and my thoughts changed. I was unable to focus on facts, reason, arguments. Instead my inner world became one of feelings and sensations which I began to embody rather than observe. My vision became more fuzzy yet my feelings of touch were all the more heightened. I could feel every hair on my roots, every pore on my leaves touching the air and earth around me.
Then, one day, I woke up in my bed, looked down and saw my human hands, legs and torso. I was in my old room, the curtains were drawn with a small ray of morning light creeping underneath, illuminating some dust motes hanging in the air. My mind felt sharp, tingling with static as I cautiously sat upright, staring in wide-eyed amazement at my hands. My heart was pounding against my chest and a smile spread across my face. Never before had I been so glad to see another day.