The Tree Talker by purplesea
The first time Emilio heard the trees, he went from stunned to terrified to baffled.
He had been on his way home from selling the usual load of corns at the market, whistling happily atop his carabao as it ambled along the dirt road at the edge of the forest. It was Emilio’s favorite kind of day. A short drizzle had covered the trees and the fields with sparkling mist, and the cool air smelled of earth and grass. Father’s small patch of land had yielded a good harvest that season, the corns sold well that morning, and a lunch of Mother’s milkfish relleno and steaming rice waited for him at home. Emilio could not ask for more.
Congratulations, said the kindest voice Emilio had ever heard in all of his twenty-one years.
Emilio stopped whistling and jerked at the reins to make the carabao stop. He turned to the source of the voice. It was an old acacia. There was nobody else on the road.
This is certainly a delight, the voice went on. It has been a long time since an Arayan was last gifted.
When Emilio realized that the voice was indeed coming from the tree, he dropped his jaw and held it like that until the tree said, Go on, child. You are welcome to speak with us.
“Th-thank you, sir, but…but there’s been a mistake…” Emilio stammered, the last dark strands of his hair turning into a resplendent white as he spoke.
The acacia replied, ever so gently, We understand that this scares you, child. But soon you will see—as all the others before you—that this gift will bring you more riches than a century of life can ever offer.
As the tree spoke, Emilio felt an indescribable peace gradually suffuse him—from his heart to his calloused fingertips, through his thin frame down to his cracked soles and muddy toes, up to his perpetually apologetic face to the ends of his white hair. It was unlike anything he had ever felt before. He finally understood why the trees considered this a gift, and why no tree-talker ever regretted having that third child.
“I understand, sir, but I don’t even have a single child to speak of.”
A different voice. Kind still, but firm. Emilio turned his head towards its source: another acacia, taller and more intimidating than the first one.
No lies, child, there is no need for that. We are not enemies, as you now surely feel. Only a fifth child can give you this gift. It has always been that way, and it will always be. You understand us, and that is all the proof that anybody needs.
Emilio had to agree, for he had never felt so agreeable in his entire life.
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