Chapter 5:

The Matridendron Tree

FICTION: If you held the power of god in your two hands, would you save the world? Would you doom it? Or would you watch from the sidelines, just as you had done before?

The garden of Eden.

Not the one you know and love from The Holy Bible’s Genesis, but somewhere much more real. Seemingly cursed with the stench of gunpowder and death, it was a middle-eastern country that many thought would be plagued with both internal and external strife for eternity.

But now, it’s known internationally by a very different name and for a very different reason. Considered by many as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, it is now aptly named, “Eden”.

Well, not that it was entirely natural, but still, a miracle nonetheless.

And here I was with a pair of digital spectacles in hand, recording and logging the wildlife inhabitants.

If it was at all my decision, I wouldn’t be keeping any kinds of records of the place. There was a certain sacred nature to it, if not purely for the reason that humans were entirely unable to set foot within the bounds of the garden due to its radioactive nature. But beyond that, it was no less than comparable to Alice’s Wonderland. A jungle of massive, vibrantly colorful foliage dominated the landscape. The river waters were a bright, fluorescent blue due to a species of glowing algae in the water, which calmed to transparency in the still lakes. The sun peeked through the trees in a rainbow array, shining through the leaves and taking on their hue.

A small brown rabbit; or, what resembled one; hopped past me with a sense of urgency. Thick clumps of red dripped from the twitching prey in its mouth. I floated parallel to the ground, hoping to follow it to its destination. I kept my eyes on it, double-checking that my specs were recording. Without warning, it suddenly dove into the soil without a trace and disappeared completely.

I fished an external camera out of my pocket; it was on an extendable wire; and shoved it down into the missing patch of ground. As it began to slither down through the short tunnel, I followed the display on my specs, taking witness to the same rabbit once again, as it reached its destination. The creature was surrounded by its infant kin in a nest-like enclosure, extending out its long, snake-like tongue to feed them the catch directly.

I hadn’t seen this one before. I wanted to name it something like “Usaginai”, but that wouldn’t make very much sense to an English speaker such as yourself, unfortunately. And I can’t just go around leaving translator’s notes everywhere either, or else it would kill the immersion.

Though I guess explaining that defeats the point anyway.

It’s not like any of that mattered, considering I was never the one who got to name these new species, even though I was the one cataloging them. No, that was always up to him and his assistant. They insisted it had to be something more scientific.

It was nonsense. Why couldn’t the not-rabbit have a pun for a name?

I pulled the long-neck camera out of the hole, and patted the dirt off of it before placing it back in my pocket. Using tools like this was a pain in the ass. If I wanted to, I could easily see through the ground without any trouble. But it’s not like I could record my eyesight directly onto an SD card.

Well, to be more precise, that kind of technology was present. It’s just that my body, though technically that of a human’s, didn’t really play by mortal rules. My powers were entirely separate from logic, and were more or less entirely unexplainable. Plus, I didn’t have the required implant to do so anyway.

But as an example, say I did have an implant. If you used a wireless hyperlink, you could record and process the raw data from my brain relating to my senses, and convert it into a virtual sensory media file. Cool tech, right? But that post-processed VSM file would output only what my human senses experienced. The walls I could see through; the inner thoughts I could hear; none of that would register through the chip.

There are currently two running theories about this phenomenon: either the ten of us are tapping into some other dimensional plane which three-dimensional technology is unable to process, or these abilities and information are being fed to us by an outside source. But considering the one who gave us our powers has already been deemed out of commission, the likely answer is the first.

That said, those are more or less somebody else’s words and ideas. I don’t really understand the bulk of it; I’m just The Observer, after all.

As I hovered above the surface, I noticed a small patch of dirtied white peeking out amongst the thick vines and tall grass which covered the ground. It wasn’t a flower, or any kind of fruit; no, it was human remnants. They were long eaten away and decomposed, leaving a dusty, browned skull and some hollowed out bones which were all wrapped up in vines. It was deformed, with a few unruly growths; signs of spontaneous mutation.

This human must have survived quite a ways to end up this deep into Eden, even dead. I looked up towards the hulking, golden tree in the sky, which overlooked the entire rest of the jungle. It looked like something out of a video game; like some sort of godlike existence which watched over its domain.

Well, that’s exactly what it was; feeding nutrients to the rest of its kin across the holy plane, it served as the mother of Eden. He liked to call it “Matridendron”, which was the internationally accepted scientific name.

Latin this, Latin that. I liked the name “Eve” better.

I returned my focus to the dwindling corpse at my feet. This view must have been mesmerizing to them as well, to trudge on in this man-eating garden. They must have wanted to meet Eve enough to give their very life for such a cause.

Just about everything living in this untouched paradise was wildly hostile towards humans and technology. And if the wildlife didn’t get you, then the radiation poisoning would. It was a well-known fact worldwide, and the reason why the garden was almost entirely untouched despite all of the world’s technological prowess. But all the same, you would find bones and rotting corpses scattered just about everywhere amongst the borders of Eden. For many, especially modern Earth and nature activists, this was their Mecca. It was one of the few remaining places where you could find entirely natural forests and plant life, despite the middle-eastern desert climate which surrounded it. No modern scientist was able to understand it, due to limited research ability.

But the whole world more or less unanimously decided that the place was better left untouched due to that fact, and bills were written to protect Eden’s right to existence. Of course, there were stragglers here and there who sought research anyway, but the forest took care of those by itself.

As for the rest of the corpses, they simply wanted a peaceful place to end their lives.

But this corpse; their story must have been an interesting one. It’s a shame that I didn’t get a chance to observe it personally. The best I could do now is offer their soul peace; not that spirits or ghosts really existed to my knowledge, but it was more about the sentiment than anything else.

I wanted to feel godly once in a while too, you know?

I grabbed as many of their remaining bones as I could find, and carried them to a suitable oasis, right by a nearby lake. There, I laid the corpse to a proper human rest, burying it within the ripe soil. There were a pair of not-lions nearby, which relaxed by the water while taking no notice of my activities on the opposing shore.

I had already cataloged their species on an earlier visit, so I didn’t pay them much mind either.

After a quick detour to collect a water sample, I trudged on deeper into the biome until I met its center; until I met Eve.

“Sorry, it’s been a while since my last visit.”

I touched my hand to the thick, outer layer of bark which patterned upwards like veins. I could feel Eve’s heartbeat; their pulse. The very moment I made myself perceptible to the tree and its surrounding inhabitants, a barrage of vines shot out to drag me downwards with an unprecedented amount of force. Of course, I didn’t feel a thing, and paid no mind.

“Sorry, I know you don’t like it when I come here. But I have a deal with The Record, and I’ve got to uphold my end of things. You already know the spiel…”

The vines loosened, and returned to rest.

I pulled out the water sample, and shook it a little, watching the algae inside flare up.

“I did promise him a water sample, but…”

I poured it out onto the roots below my hovering feet.

I didn’t really say when I’d get it to him.

“I can always come back another time.”

I touched Eve’s bark again, and took in their mixed feelings about my presence.

“Well, I mainly just wanted to say hello, and enjoy the scenery for a bit. It’s a bit rich coming from me, but I think everybody gets lonely from time to time.”

Was I speaking about myself, or Eve?

I wonder.

They responded in kind, extending the same offer which they did every time I came by. That being, to drink from Eden’s water and become one with the forest.

It was enticing sometimes, but I never gave. I planned on being The Observer until the end of time, or until I was unable to do so anymore. I had already promised myself that. And to become part of something else would mean to interact with others; to interfere with the world.

“Sorry, it’s too late for me. But I appreciate the offer, as always.”

It’s never too late.

That’s what the divine tree seemed to be saying to me.

Well, I knew that already. But for me, my mind had already been made up.

“See you in another twenty years or so, Eve.”

Truly, a paradise untouched.

Surely my impure hands would soil it. Or at least, that’s what I used to tell myself.

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