By Jason Gibbs
“With the magnitude and sheer viciousness of your crimes I have no choice but to sentence you to twenty years as a tree.”
The judge’s voice echoed around the court room, followed by a gasp. My lawyer turned to me with a look of pity. Even the prosecutor seemed taken aback. In fact the only person not showing some reaction was me, and that’s because I was trying to stop myself from laughing!
A tree? What kind of punishment was that? I’d worried about death, or time down the mines. These people were ridiculous. To avoid them changing their minds I made sure to keep my face sombre as I was walked out, limping.
My lawyer sat down heavily.
“I’m so sorry. Really, I tried everything…”
I cut him off. “Dude, it is no problem. A tree? It’s a joke. This is going to be easy.”
He stared at me. Shook his head, and continued, “If that’s how you feel. But you’re a braver man than I. Your mind will be transferred via standard neural matrix into a tree in the national forest. The tree will be cared for as much as is possible, and you will be safe barring accidents. Your body will be placed in stasis, and will be in exactly the same condition when you get it back.”
I rubbed my healing arm, I’d taken a lot of physical damage when they arrested me. “Any chance of them doing some healing while I’m under.”
“Then in twenty years they do the reverse transfer and I’m free to go?”
“Well, they offer support services to help you integrate back into the community.”
I laughed, and he sighed, “Yes, you will be free. I’m sure by then you’ll know your own mind.”
The following morning the guards collected me and walked me to the transfer chamber. I just smiled. I thought of the magic of compound interest on my loot. Twenty years, and I’d be very rich.
The transfer was painless. First, blackness, then I had new senses. I could feel my skin, bark I guess, in such detail. All the insects crawling on it, the wind caressing it, but it wasn’t creepy, it was beautiful. My roots reached out and mingled with those of my neighbours. I could feel their life flow, a friendly connection, as strong as love. I was adored by the trees around me, by insects laying eggs in crevices in my bark, birds nesting in my branches. For the first time in my miserable, and miserly, existence I was part of something greater. I cried, mentally, at the joy of it. Twenty years of this would be heaven.
I reached out with my senses to feel the oneness around me, but there was nothing. Only cold silence. My body felt weak, aching and limited, and through my growing panic the truth exploded. My twenty year sentence was up. I was back, only human. Cold. Alone. I screamed my throat raw in rage and loss.