The Tree

A man sat under a tree to take shelter from the searing sun. It was the middle of summer and the afternoon hour; nothing alive could bear the might of the sun at that moment. The man, who was crossing a dense jungle, decided to take shelter under this ancient, beaten tree with a canopy so vast that it appeared to block the entire sky. Under that sylvan sky he partook his lunch, a simple affair of rice and curd – he was a poor traveller in search of work. After the meager meal, his eyes began to sink beneath a rising tide of drowsiness; he slowly nodded off to a deep sleep. After what seemed like an instant, he opened his eyes to find the sun low in the western horizon. He panicked. He had intended to rest just long enough for the afternoon sun to lose its edge but now the night was approaching and he still had many miles to cover through the jungle. Traveling in the dark was inadvisable for these woods were notorious for man-eating tigers, ambushing jackals, and poisonous cobras. 

The dying rays of the sun would last for a while more. He figured if he sprinted, with conviction, he just might make it to a safer place beyond the densest parts. There was a single road through the forest and he would not get lost As the man was bundling his things and preparing for a headlong spint, a deep, resounding voice spoke to him, 
“Human! Don’t run into the forest now. You will never make it through before the darkness descends and the demons emerge. Stay here. This tree is blessed. It is the only safe spot in this entire jungle. No man-eating tiger or four-headed cobra can reach you while you are under its protection.”

The man was stunned. The voice appeared to be from everywhere and nowhere in particular. He suspiciously eyed the tree and approached it with ample caution. He was a wizened traveler. He filled his lungs with air and shouted at the trunk, 
“Who are you? How do I trust you? What if this tree is not an agent of God but rather an instrument of the devil? What if the wickedness that resides in this tree emerges at night and devours me?”
A few moments passed. Slowly the ground beneath his feet began to shake as the voice returned with a mirthful laugh. The booming laughter seemed to send tremors to every nook and cranny of the tree, disturbing the birds that resided in its vast branches. As gradually as the laugh began, it ended as abruptly, 
“You just spent many hours resting peacefully under this tree. Any devil residing in this tree could have easily consumed you then. That you are still alive proves that this tree is not a tool of the Shaitan.”

This struck the man as a reasonable argument. He had indeed lost himself to an uncharacteristic slumber but had emerged from it thoroughly refreshed. But he was still not conviced. He replied, in a louder voice, 
“Even a toddler knows that demons cannot emerge when the sun is shining. Only the night bequeaths the fell!”
The sounds of his proclamation echoed through the woods until they were drowned by the twittering of birds rushing back to their aerie homes. The voice sprung to life grander than before, 
“The foolishness of man never fails to suprise. Demons don’t hide from the sun. They shelter from it. You too avoided the sun under this canopy, do you perish if you step outside for a moment? I pity your ignorance, but I want to help you. Go back to sleep. No animal or demon will touch you. Look at the birds flocking back to its arms. They are smarter than you for they know the magic of this tree and the evil that surrounds it. Stay here, stay alive.”

The man was perplexed. His rational mind suggested he should run towards the safety of the forest periphery. But what if despite his efforts he is unable to reach the periphery before nightfall? What will he do then? Where will he find shelter from the foul creatures of the night? Wouldn’t it be better to trust this mysterious voice and stay here?
As the man was wrestling with the two choices, both unpleasant, he heard a sharp screech above him. When he looked up he saw a hawk, her wings abraze with the dying sun behind them swooping down towards him. As she fell she ushed darkness towards him like a heavy curtain that has been unleased from its hinges. Her feathery edges shone red from the last rays of the sun and her razor talons rippled into his eyes. The man screamed and fell to the ground, his hands clutching his empty, bleeding eyes. Copious tears he shed for his missing eyes, until finally, in a voice filled with scorn, he called out, 
“Whatever happened to the magical tree? You said it will protect me, but even before the night the tree let me fall into eternal darkness. Answer me!”

There was no answer. The man struggled to his feet. In his newly blind disorientation, he swiveled from side to side like a drunkard and screamed agan, 
“ANSWER ME! If humans are so ignorant, how could this magical tree let this happen to me? Answer me!”

A few moments later, just as the man was preparing himself for another gut-wrenching scream, the voiced replied calmly, 
“This is indeed a magical tree, ancient and wise. It could have protected you from the malice of tigers and the mischiefs of jackals, but even magic cannot contend with the hawks of destiny.” 

The man screamed in agony and fell to his knees. Blood flowed down his face and arms as the sun finally went to sleep. 


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