Last month Trailer Music company audiomachine finally released its uplifting new album Tree of Life. As mentioned in our album review there has also been a collaborative writing challenge brought up by Samantha Geary Jones. 26 tracks on the album led to 26 beautifully crafted episodes of a story. Each episode written by another author on every day between July 15th and Augst 9th. We’re really happy that we got the permission to have all these great writers combined in our third episode of Epic Writing – exclusively in one post with the inspiring tracks for each excerpt embedded!
There’s such a huge bunch of talent in this story that you really should prepare for it. The excerpts name’s are actually the names of the tracks but fit as well as as a title for they inspired and led the writer’s way not only with their musical composition but also with their title. The composers of the tracks are Danail Getz, Jeff Marsh, John A. Graves, Kevin Rix, Paul Dinletir and Steffan Michael Koch.
Another great thing about it: You still have the chance to win a copy of Tree of Life if you’re quick! More about it at the end of the introduction.
By the way one of the authors is Leighton Williams who has been featured with his e.p.i.c. novel already on our site. Here’s a list in chronological order of all the creative Machine Heads [that’s how fans and supporters of audiomachine are called] who made this tribute to outstanding music possible:
- Amy Willoughby-Burle
- John Wiswell
- M. Pax
- Al Diaz
- Gary Philip Pennick
- DL Hammons
- Susan Scott
- Ruth Long
- Daniel Swensen
- KC Hunter
- Shannon Kenoyer Lawrence
- Tina Downey
- Beverly Fox
- Michelle Wallace
- Mina Lobo
- Gwen Gardner
- Angela Brown
- Lisa Shambrook
- Sarah Wesson
- Leighton Williams
- Elise Fallson
- Vidya Sury
- Damyanti Biswas
- C. Lee McKenzie
- Amy Willoughby-Burle
Let’s start with a video which has actually been created after the entire contest. I will show in 6 minutes why you should read the entire story!
Cast YOUR vote for favorite chapter in the Tree of Life: Branching out story! Submit votes via Samantha Redstreake Geary’s FB page until August 17th! Two commenters will be selected to win signed Tree of Life albums. Winners will be annnounced August 18th! Visit Tree of Life: Branching Out Collaboration to read the epic tale in its entirety!
Votes should be submitted via MESSAGE to Samantha Redstreake Geary’s FB page *to keep them anonymous* Thanks!
Alright. Let’s get it on. I’m out. Enjoy the show!
Part 1: The Great Unknown by Amy Willoughby-Burle
She crossed the dew dampened yard on bare feet as the sun tried to break itself against the gray sky. At the cliff’s edge, she ran her hand around the trunk of a lone scrub-brush tree—barren as the dead fields in the way off. She felt the scratch of tree bark across her back—the thick morning wind bringing the bare tree branches down around her like a mother’s arms.
In the distance, someone approached, walking a horse at his side. She was accustomed to watching people walk away, but it had been a long time since someone had entered this land.
Something lit into her hair and she reached up to pull a green leaf from just above her brow. The wind yanked the leaf from her fingers. When she looked up to follow it, there at the tops of the dead tree grew bright green leaves, unfolding and reaching toward the sun even as she watched them.
Part 2: Rebirth by John Wiswell
Wind jostled the canopy until all boughs fanned west, then east, west, then east. They could have been waving to the land’s first visitor in too long, and every eastward wave causing their limbs to green further.
She couldn’t stop herself from smiling, and eventually looked to the oncoming visitor, wondering how to explain what was happening to someone from abroad. He was obscured behind his horse, which was perilously tall, with an ashen mane that stood out against the increasingly verdant surroundings. Every time one of its hooves touched the ground, weeds sprouted and unfurled. Everywhere its eyes ticked, there dry bushes budded, as though eager to catch its attention.
The miracles of its hooves were so entrancing that she missed the man peering around the horse’s side to smile at her. He had brown hair, brown eyes, a brown shirt, and so many freckles that there was scarcely room for flesh. The horse whinnied at him, and she saw a sunflower spring out from behind his left earlobe. The man chuckled, plucked it free and twiddled it at her.
Part 3: Homecoming by M. Pax
Until this moment, she believed brown so drab. Now it glimmered as inspiring as the greens incited by the horse’s tread, as breathtaking as a rainbow around the moon.
A tiny smile tickled her cheeks and her eyes, and she reached for the sunflower. Her fingertip heated, sizzled, flushing as pink as a blush. She shook her hand and brilliance as radiant as a star alit on her finger.
“Oh my!” She gasped and dared to meet the horse’s eye. The world swam in those inky pools, and her burning finger glowed in their depths like a signal fire. “Flames destroy. Light gives life. Which is this?”
The dapper man and his virile mount shifted from foot to foot, prancing, waiting. The steed’s soft snort warmed the breeze, sprouting a shower of petals — cosmos, dahlias, and violets.
She understood the decision belonged to her. Without fully understanding where her passions stood, she touched her finger to a twig.
Part 4: Solstice Sun by Al Diaz
Her raced heart drummed in her ears. The twig grew faster at her touch. “Life.” She gasped, enraptured by the miracle she was witnessing. The flowery scent filled her senses.
She touched the tip of a branch, another twig emerged. Giggling, she tapped a couple of branches with the same results. She laughed and spun on her heels, her arms raised to the sky. She had the power of life in her hand!
She danced around the tree, leaving a trail of green after her touch. The more blossoms she saw, the more excited she became. “When the Wise Elders entrusted me with the mission to turn the Tree of Ages into the Tree of Life, I never thought it would be this easy.” Her fingertip stung and the starlight twinkled. “Oh, it hurts now.”
“Zoe, the act of giving life is anything but easy. It involves effort and, often, pain.”
Part 5: The Fire Within by Gary Philip Pennick
The words resonated. The thoughts painted pictures of hope, of wonder, of love, in her mind, her heart, her soul.
The revelation of the moment, grew within and without. The Tree of Life spread forth the message. Intertwined with her, the branches, the blossoms spoke of the moment beyond the pain. The sadness she had felt soothed by the knowledge that beyond the anguish, was a new beginning that was born from the heavens of a starry night.
The Tree of Life spoke of the fire within. The flickering flame. A beacon of rejoicing that when the sun doth rose, the world would understand that we shall dance together in an all different, all equal, wondrous diversity. Her pain eased. The gift of a new life, spoken through the music of rustling leaves on the Tree of Life.
Part 6: Above and Beyond by DL Hammons
“But heed my words closely, exalted one,” the stranger spoke, an ominous shadow falling over his eyes. His voice had taken on a serious tone and everything around them seemed to mirror his demeanor, the wind dwindled to a wispy afterthought and his equine companion had become as still as the Caretakers statue.
“The Elders do not entrust this gift lightly, and you would be wise to weigh your choices carefully.”
She looked up from her fingertips into the depths of the visitors gaze.
“Your bestowal, and the fire from which it emanates, are simply a tapestry of affairs used by the Elders to bring forth harmony. Come and behold what you have wrought.”
With little prudence or conscious will, she moved to take her place beside the outlander.
Part 7: The Legend Begins by Susan Scott
The air seemed to thicken slightly as she stood next to him.
“You know my name then. You know that Zoe means Life and that the Ancient Greeks believe that it derives from Eve, she who ate the apple in the Garden of Eden which resulted in the rise from unconsciousness and into the real world?”
“I know this”, he replied. “I know too that women have been blamed for you and your husband’s expulsion from Paradise. But you must know that the Tree from which you ate was both a blessing and a curse?”
She looked up at him.
“Yes, it is a paradox, isn’t it. I chose to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. For my choice we were banished from Paradise and were unable to leave via the Tree of Life which stood at the furthest end of the garden. Flaming swords were placed there to prevent us leaving via that route”.
“Do you mean to say that I have a choice now in accepting this precious gift?”
“This is what I mean. But this gift also carries with it both a blessing and a curse”.
“I have dreamed of this moment for aeons”, whispered Zoe.
The sky darkened further.
Part 8: The Truth by Ruth Long
The leather-clad rider swung down from the saddle, tattered russet duster flapping behind him like the banner of a long-forgotten realm, tawny hair swishing in the breeze like the tail of his chestnut mount. “From the dust we come and to the dust we return.”
“How did you come by this wisdom?” she asked, eyes, ears, and heart as wide as the ocean.
He scooped up a handful of soil, and let it sift through his fingers like the sands of time. “Because I am the Adam who came before, the one who lives now, and the one who is yet to come.”
She crouched beside him. “Then you must know what I am to do with this gift.”
His smile was gentle. “Consider this: what matters most is how you spend those precious heartbeats between rising from dust and returning to it. This is the truth that never changes, the story of our days, the root of the Tree of Life.”
Part 9: Breaking Through by Djinnia
A gust of wind tore through the Tree’s branches. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled in dark tones. The threatening storm ruptured, and rain poured from the sky.
Zoe’s heart saddened as the vibrant new life became pummeled by the pelting rain. “Oh no.”
He touched her shoulder in comfort. “It’s all right. Death is as natural as life.” He lifted her face with the crook of his finger to meet his gaze. “Many will survive and be the stronger for it. Those that do not will be mourned by you because you loved them.”
She understood then. Love was the savior and the destroyer. It was the succor and the hindrance. It was the truth speaker and the deceiver. Love was meant to be clung to tightly yet strong enough to let go without reservation.
Zoe laughed as she threw her hands up into the storm. The freedom of her insight exploded forth from her heart like a Phoenix from the ashes. She grabbed his hands and danced away in giddiness as she imagined her soul flying alongside in joyous rapture.
The rain slackened then stopped. The clouds vanished to allow sunlight to create water diamonds to dazzle their eyes as a rainbow painted the sky.
Part 10: Across the Horizon by Daniel Swensen
Zoe turned her face to heaven, catching the last sparkling droplets in her hair. Molted by the wind, the clouds gave way to a serene wedge of cerulean sky.
The Tree blazed out in all directions, a riot of color and light, yearning branches tipped with leaves of carnelian, emerald and gold, eclipsing the day-lit meadow into shards of multi-hued shadow.
Even as she looked on in rapture, a sudden melancholy pain wracked her, curling in her abdomen like an errant unborn.
“What is this?” she asked, dismayed by the rift between the beauty before her and the encroaching agony within.
“Separation,” Adam said. “All life is a greeting and goodbye, by turn. The hurt of separation is called living.”
“A transition,” Adam intoned. “The first of many. Life is change, Zoe. You are life, and you will change. This is the pain of your first goodbye.”
Part 11: The New World by KC Hunter
A rainbow met the horizon with an eruption of light. Spirals of color poured from the source—violet, amber, emerald and gold—arcing into the sky and then slamming sharply into the dirt. There were forms in the arcs; shapes of man and animal alike, twisting along the energies as they coalesced into a writhing pool, motes of energy rising slowly from its surface like fireflies.
Zoe and her companion watched in wonder as three forms gracefully emerged from the spectacle, shedding flecks of light as they surfaced. The first: an unnaturally thin man, his head swarming with bees. The second: a child whose hair was set afire and whose back sprouted gossamer wings. The third: a woman of some age, her hair white and her dress flowing around her like a possessed fog.
Zoe could hear their voices, in synchronicity, repeating what sounded like a lullaby:
We come for the one,
We come for the one,
Who holds the Tree within her eye.
We come for the one,
We come for the one,
Her new world makes the Devil cry.
We come for the one,
We come for the one,
Giver of life who now must die.
Part 12: Turning Point by Shannon Kenoyer Lawrence
The arcs exploded into bits of glimmering light. As these glorious specks cascaded over Zoe, she was filled with a sense of elation, her fear beginning to ease, calm settling over her. This was her time.
The thin man left the others behind and approached her. He pressed a hand to her belly, and she felt a quickening beneath it, gasping as the pain of countless bee stings filled her. Yet she bore it, stood tall, unwavering.
His voice was that of millions, speaking as one. “To thee, I grant conscious choice. You have the power to determine what happens from here.”
She looked into his yellow eyes as the agony moved down her legs, into her feet. He removed his hands, but stayed before her, his gaze shifting to the ground. Her own eyes followed, and she was stunned by what she saw. Her feet shimmered, the flesh moving as if something lay beneath it. She felt within her an ache to change, to let go. Something fought for release. His words came back to her, and she knew what she must do.
Zoe allowed the change to occur, willed it to do so, watching as her feet elongated. She reveled in the sensation as they broke through the crust, penetrating the soil, so cool against her flesh.
She felt the roots of the tree that stood near her. They were weak, crumbling; she sensed a sickness there. Her own roots spread, intertwining with the old ones and breaking them apart.
The tree began to wither.
Part 13: Cry Freedom by Tina Downey
As the tree withered, Zoe felt herself begin to really live, as the roots her feet had become grew deeper and deeper into the increasingly colder earth.
The change happening to her physically was excruciating, but her heart was elated as she felt herself being propelled towards the sky, growing branches and shoots and more branches. Leaves appeared where her hands had been, and she felt the breeze ruffling them all over her body. It felt right.
The feeling of completion left her wanting more. A voice whispered in her soul, “Freedom! Take the freedom!” As she had before, she willed it to happen, and the freedom came easily, smoothly.
She no longer felt the pain, instead she seemed to shrink even as she ascended further. The fluttering leaves were now far below her as she allowed the transformation to take her body once more.
The thin man smiled as he watched the eagle, appearing as from nowhere, soaring quickly away from the new tree.
Part 14: Ashes to Ashes by Beverly Fox
Below her Zoe could feel the earth move and as she watched it with her new eyes she saw what she could only now begin to understand. Everything, every being, every element would play a part in the rebirth of this world.
As she soared overhead she witnessed the next piece of the cycle. The child floated forward, carried by its tiny wings, its head alight with the fire it carried. Even as it moved towards the old tree she could see the fire grow and feel the heat beneath her. It placed a hand on the cracking wood and the tree burst into flame, the fire burning high into the sky.
As she floated on the updraft she felt her heart swell. The ashes of the old tree would feed the dirt and allow the new tree to grow. All death would lead to rebirth. By sacrificing her body the tree would swell with life and even as she thought it, she watched it happen.
The field began to explode with green, spreading like lighting from the base of the tree. Each ember fed the ground with life and as the ashes spread, the world erupted. She soared above it all and heard Adam’s words echo through her mind: another transition had begun.
Part 15: Life Chronicles by Michelle Wallace
She felt the power of the gift as the ongoing conflict raged within. It was both wondrous and terrifying at the same time, as it boosted her spirit and sapped every ounce of strength from her body.
“Who are you?” Zoe enquired of this sage, whose countenance told a tale of ageless wisdom.
“I am nobody and I am everybody. I am you and you are me. We have met before, at some place, at some point in time, and yet this is our first conscious encounter.”
“I don’t understand.”
“All life vibrates in a never-ending dance within every atom of our being, which leads to our continuously changing nature.”
She struggled to comprehend, to hold on, yet knew that she had to relinquish the familiar and go where this wondrous change would lead her.
Adam smiled knowingly. “You cannot escape that which has been preordained. From the moment of your birth, through every step of your life’s journey, everything has been leading up to this moment.”
Part 16: An Unfinished Life by Mina Lobo
And after this moment? Zoe thought. The core of me remains, so I believe I must go on, but where? To what purpose?
Zoe sensed that her new form would not last. She flew in rapid circles, uncertainty and fear roiling within. An urgent need for action gripped her. Right or wrong, her spirit compelled her to go.
She swooped and brushed a wing against Adam’s cheek. When his hand reached for her, Zoe soared away into the darkening skies.
* * *
Adam watched the eagle until it was barely a speck. He’d known Zoe must leave, so why this overwhelming sadness? Why did his soul groan in protest? For Zoe, he had all the answers, but for himself? None.
“You’re still here?” asked the wizened woman. At his bewildered look, she said, “An Adam needs his Eve, you know.”
At that, Adam sprinted and leapt into the air. His change instantaneous, a second eagle bolted after the first.
The horse whinnied a question.
“Yes, you can go too.” The elder swept her gnarled hand, transforming him into a silvery-grey dove. He hovered, gave an experimental swirl, then followed his master to parts yet unknown.
Part 17: Hallowed Dawn by Gwen Gardner
As the dove spread his wings wide to encompass the horse, they transformed into one. Thus, a wondrous creature was born on the wings of a silvery-grey dove. For the horse, rewarded for its pure love and faith, became the sacred unicorn.
Unicorn shed his thick hooves for lighter travel through the heavens. Zoe and Adam, not to waste the God-given resource, weaved the shavings with their beaks into a spiral and placed it on Unicorn’s forehead as a symbol of unity between animal and mankind.
The three soared playfully through the skies. Updrafts carried them high into the atmosphere. Downdrafts sent them plunging back through. They rode the currents of life, up and over and around and through, until tired, they rested in the silver-lined cradle of a cumulus cloud, rocked gently by the hand of God.
Part 18: Leaving the Nest by Angela Brown
A thunderclap jolted the trio awake, hearts racing from surprise. Dark clouds brooded impatiently, closing in on their nest in the sky. Emitting high pitched squawks in protest, the eagles took flight, leaping free, followed closely by the unicorn.
Tempest winds whistled in their ears and worried their wings, stripping feathers by the handful as they spiraled down. Bones shifted and stretched. Their bodies elongated into human form.
The moment Zoe and Adam lost all flight, their feet sank into wet grains of sand. Their bodies sizzled from the transition, skin stung by rainfall.
“Over there!” Adam pointed to a cluster of low hanging palm leaves. Grasping each other’s hands, they ran the few yards to shelter, falling to their knees beneath the canopy.
“Where are we?” Zoe rubbed her hands over her bare arms.
“Where we are meant to be. Together.” Adam traced his thumb along her jawline and leaned forward.
Zoe closed her eyes, tingling inside from the spark he sealed in her when they first met.
Adam breathed out. Zoe breathed him in.
In a tangle of arms and legs, wet hair splayed upon the sand, man knew woman.
And the thunder rolled.
Part 19: Day One by Lisa Shambrook
As the storm finally subsided…and light, melodious rain fell, Zoe rested replete in Adam’s arms. Crepuscular rays bathed their searing, salty skin and Zoe’s soft smile lingered. Waves rippled and scintillating diamonds glittered on the ocean surface.
A drip, from the leaves above, sizzled as it touched her skin and Adam’s finger trailed the bead of water down to her breast, where he let it settle. Zoe raised her hand and stroked his thigh, their eyes meeting in calm satiety and love. Zoe’s hand smoothed across her belly and down into the sand.
“So, this is life…” Zoe sighed.
Adam nodded, “Giving and creating…” A wide grin spread across his freckled face as he lifted a daisy from behind her ear. “We’re intrinsic now…to this earth, to this life…to the dance of this planet.”
They laughed as an exultant neigh interrupted their moment, and they beheld their unicorn galloping across the endless stretch of sand and sea, daisies blooming beneath his hooves and waves crashing in his chaotic wake.
Laughter lit up the sky and Adam pulled Zoe’s lips to his. As they parted, a breeze danced across their bodies and they shivered in unison. Adam’s words resounded across the wide expanse as they embraced. “We are one.”
Across the ocean, on the far horizon, a mountain grumbled beneath simmering clouds.
Part 20: Age of Innocence by Sarah Wesson
The distant mountain grumbled again, and Zoe felt the vibrations. “What’s happening?” she asked, pressing a hand to her stomach.
Adam laughed. “We’re hungry, my love.” He sprang to his feet and helped her to hers. “Come on.”
Hand in hand, they walked in beauty under the dawn streaked sky, uncaring that they were naked.
They came to a place where tangles of wild grapevines wound around heavy-laden berry bushes. They ate until their lips were stained red from sweet fruits and their breath was savory from vegetables pulled from the rich earth.
Deeper they wandered into the garden, and deeper, until the ground rose and they found themselves on a path leading to two white rocks.
The Unicorn landed before them, its horn catching the sun and flashing with sudden fire–but they were unafraid. Adam’s voice and Zoe’s touch gentled their friend and its horn cooled as it bowed its head and withdrew.
A shining coil lifted its head from a boulder, the slitted eyes brimming with broken pride and aching sorrow.
Zoe’s heart broke open, and she reached out. It wound itself around her arm and seemed to take comfort from the scent of her skin on its flicking tongue.
Adam drew her to him and they passed between the rocks.
A tree of familiar and wondrous beauty stood before them, a single, glowing fruit hanging from the lowest of its branches.
The serpent hid its head in the crook of Zoe’s arm.
Part 21: Apotheosis by Leighton Williams
Zoe now focused on the unique tree in front of them. Its roots were not only spread deep but also spanned countless miles on end, as evidenced by the ruptured earth that passed between her and Adam’s feet.
“My goodness, have you ever beheld something that possessed this much grandeur?” were the words of an awestruck Adam.
“It truly is magnificent.”
“I’m going to do a bit more of exploring. If you need anything, I’ll just be over the hill down in the meadow.” He turned to leave.
“Who – ?” Zoe looked down at her arm, only to discover that the serpent had disappeared.
Yes, who? was the reply of a voice, whose location she could not yet discern–until she noticed the shimmering scaly reflection of several coils tightly wrapped around the lower boughs of the tree and the head of which looked on with eerie approval.
Take of the fruit my dear Zoe, for once you do you will achieve a state that you had once thought to be unattainable.
“Which is what?”
The serpent smiled coyly.
Part 22: Equinox by Elise Fallson
Zoe reached out, but hesitation gripped her soul. Something felt wrong.
“Go on,” tempted the serpent, darkness dripping from its forked tongue.
“Don’t listen my love, it speaks only lies,” Adam said, as he and the unicorn rounded the tree to join her. But their words fell into obscurity as Zoe’s mind recalled the day she met Adam, when the power of life burst through her fingertips for the first time. She remembered the thin man, the old woman, the fire-haired child, and the Tree of Life. That day she had been given a gift and this she had not forsaken.
Instead of the fruit, she took the serpent.
It wrangled in her grasp, hissing in protest but Zoe was stronger. Her fingertips ignited with the power and brilliance of a newborn star, and drove the darkness from the reptile’s heart. The serpent pulled away in a sphere of light that expanded ten fold until a dragon emerged in its place. The animal towered over them, completely covered in scintillating jade-colored armored scales that sent reflected light in every direction. Golden-colored spines sprung from the back of its head to the tip of its tail and glorious wings unfurled across the land.
Looking down at Zoe the dragon said, “Thank you. You broke the curse and brought harmony and equilibrium back to my heart. The Elders chose you well. Climb on, both of you. I have something to show you.”
Part 23: Hope and Glory by Vidya Sury
Adam and Zoe mounted the dragon and soared into the unknown. The unicorn followed close, watchful, wary, not fully trusting yet. Where would the dragon take them?
Suddenly, a blinding circle of light jolted them out of their reverie. Adam and Zoe watched, mesmerized, as the dragon flapped its wings once, then twice and stopped. The brilliance faded to a gentle glow, to reveal a path of gold. Angels sang as a heavenly fragrance invaded their senses, taking their breath away. As if in a trance, Adam and Zoe alighted.
Zoe curiously reached down to touch the path strewn with a shower of petals – cosmos, dahlias, myrtles and violets. Unbidden, the memory of the day she met Adam filled her mind. She marveled at how the Tree of Life had bound them together. Her spirits lifted and she threw her arms up in joy. Smiling, Adam drew her close and brushed his lips with hers. “I am proud of you” he murmured. They gazed at each other, love shining in their eyes. A powerful emotion gripped them. Love gave way to anticipation and holding hands, they set off down the path, with nary an inkling of their destiny, yet full of infinite hope.
Little did they know that they had crossed heaven’s threshold. The unicorn smiled sagely, pleased, for it knew what awaited them. Glory. And an important mission. The strength of a woman had triumphed over temptation.
Part 24: Remember the Titans by Damyanti Biswas
Zoe breathed in the air, rare, like at the top of a mountain. Adam’s face came into sharper focus, much as everything around her, as if each flower petal, pillar, bench, blade of grass had lit up from within. Wondering how the dragon would look in this shimmering light, she turned to find it. But it was gone, and in its place stood the wizened woman, dressed in a plain green robe, the misty clothes of before dissolved in air.
Before her eyes, the woman’s skin lost its wrinkles, her white hair turned a rich red, and she smiled.
“It is indeed I,” Sophia touched Zoe’s elbow, “You’ve done well, my daughter.”
“So the snake, the dragon?”
“We change form based on who we feel we are. Remember the tree, the eagle?”
“But why, mother?”
“To make up for all I had done. For the Blind one, the Imperfect, who could create, and was thus the Creator. But who had not compassion, nor love. He created Adam and Eve, but did not teach them of the Spirit.”
Sophia’s eyes turned to the ground, and Zoe followed them. Adam had sunk beside her on the grass, a strange stillness about him.
Part 25: Tree of Life by C. Lee McKenzie
And this stillness spread until there was no sound except her heartbeat. Her breath.
She faced the wizened woman, the woman called Sophia that she knew as Gaia, Mother of all Earth.
“What does this mean?” Zoe asked, and her voice shattered the silence.
Gaia held out a single leaf.
“Speak to me,” Zoe said. “Tell me. What is this about?” She’d flown with dragons, she’d been strong against the serpent, but this silence frightened her. Gaia frightened her. “Is this the final transition?”
Gaia placed one finger against Zoe’s lips, and then took both her hands in hers.
Within Gaia’s grasp, Zoe remembered the story: the pain of giving life and dying, the joy and sadness of change, the ecstasy of love and the misery of loss. And when Gaia released her, Zoe pressed the one leaf to her heart in gratitude. Gratitude for Gaia’s gift of truth and the silence to recall it. The silence to hear her heartbeat. Her breath.
A tear trickled from her cheek to her chin and fell onto the earth. She let go the leaf and it flittered to a place just beyond where she stood. It fell onto that one small damp spot of tear stained earth. And then the tree she had thought was lost forever, was once more.
It stood before her in the dawn light.
It became the silhouette against the sky at dusk.
And the music of the Tree of Life sprang forth from everywhere, banishing the silence.
Part 26: Final Hope by Amy Willoughby-Burle
The music of cicadas and birdsong filled Zoe’s ears. She listened closer and somewhere in the far away she could hear the neighing of horses, the calling of pups, and what could be nothing else but the laughter of children. Even the trees sang—rubbing their leaves together in the wind.
At her feet, Adam stirred. His intake of breath the clearest note of all.
Zoe knelt down to Adam and helped him up to his feet. She turned back to speak to Gaia, but she was gone. “Thank you,” Zoe spoke aloud to Gaia’s memory.
Adam breathed in deeply to get his wits about him. He called out in a whiney and there at his side was the steed on which he had first arrived.
“Where are we?” Adam asked Zoe.
“Back where started from,” she said. “Begun again.”
Adam’s horse stamped his hoof against the ground and green spread out around the three of them, running across the earth toward the sapling already branching out, stretching up toward the sun.
Like Adam and Zoe, the very earth was beginning again—just like it was meant to do. Winter’s barren had brought Adam to Zoe and spring to the Tree. Acceptance of the gift of second chance had brought Life to them all.
Zoe took Adam’s hand and placed it on her belly. There was new life budding there as well–born in those moments under the blue sky and palm leaves along the edge of the ocean when she and Adam had found passion and peace in each other’s arms.
All that she and Adam had journeyed together was reflected in nature—both human and earth. Change and choice—destiny and decision. Zoe saw them all for what they were—the serpent, the dragon, the rumble of storm and the shaking of the earth. She remembered her wings and her ability to soar. She remembered the charring of the tree and the tear that brought it back. She understood that each season of life brings with it joys and trials, tests and jubilations, magic and miracles.
Adam wrinkled his brow at his own misunderstanding. “But what is the point of doing it all over again?” he asked. “Aren’t we just repeating the cycle?”
Zoe touched her belly and thought of the baby growing inside. She knelt down at the base of the new born Tree of Life, sure that she could feel the roots shooting beneath the very dirt on which she knelt . Adam joined her and put his arm across her shoulders.
“No,” Zoe said. “Each flower is new, each branch of this tree reaches out in a different direction than before, each leaf that unfolds is as different as each new day that will dawn. And with us, all of us, each birth is a new Adam or a new Eve. A new chance. A new hope to get it right.”