Under the Maple Tree

   It wakes, shrouded in fabric and filth. Eyes, black as night, open to darkness. Hands, gnarled in arthritic death, reach out to grasp its surroundings.
   Slowly, it begins to realize that it is underground. How, it would think, if it had a higher understanding, it does not know. All it knows is that it is below the ground, buried under thin soil. Though not pressed, it will take effort to claw out of its earthly womb.

   Fighting its restraints, it claws through fabric, where dirt shines through where, it knows, light should.
   Setback, though not deterred, it continues to dig.
   As it presses itself up into the damp embrace of earth, thoughts of its previous existence begins to come back. A boy, not yet a man, struggled to breathe and keep his eyes open. The boy, it knows, was dying, like only its kind can when it becomes sick. Though the boy was not dead, he was also not alive.
   It knows this because it once felt this.
   Earth parts under curled fingers and insects flee in the presence of movement.
   Life, it seems, is magnetic.
   This creature is not the attracting point.
   It is polar—south to a north, black to a white, partly dead to a possible half life.
   While it rises to an above world it knows but is alien altogether, warmth surrounds its chilled body. Should it have been above ground—up in that foreign place it will soon call home—it would have spoken a word that it knows, but cannot truly speak.
   That word would be, Ah.
   Now, near the surface of a dead mother’s womb, the ground is harder, compacted by the worldly elements of rain, cold and touch. Maybe, it fathoms, it should have stayed underground, locked in a mortal embrace which would not have faded until many long times have passed.
   It can’t wait.
   It needs to eat.
   Fresh, fruity fibers explode in its brain.
   The presence of food drives it forward.
   Suddenly, unaware that it has completed its task, its fingers slip through the barrier that it has always known, yet not experienced. Here, warmth greater than that of the higher ground touches it, and for a moment it reels back, afraid of what it is now experiencing.
   It stops. It thinks. It realizes.
   No. It must continue.
   With most of the struggle gone, it breaks through the tangled embrace of dirt, weed, and sweat—maybe, possibly, even blood, though it has no reason to know.
   Finally, it stands where it was truly born. A tree, so large and plentiful, stands high over its head. Limbs tipped with ruby-red leaves cradle the almost-setting sun.
   A single leaf falls past its vision, though it does not look up. Its eyes have not yet grown accustomed to the bright light in its home world.
   Home, it would think, if it could remember past its rebirth.
   Then, without a second passing thought, it turns and walks away.

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