Working Excerpt from Of Evernost: A Traveler’s Tale
I cannot describe the Tree of Life here; I will give you a few of the sorts of things you might or might not see if you visit it. Someday I’ll make the traditional, systematic attempt on the tree itself, root by root, leaf by leaf, fruit by fruit, discussing its thousand levels, the sap that sustains it, its knots and wounds, the insects tunneling in its wood and the animals wrangling among its branches, the progress of pollen from flower to flower and the honeys of the bees that carry it. But bear in mind that many of its lesser companions already beggar description: a tree with doves for fruit, happily roosting and flying about the tree, but at the same time also white flowers and sweet white nutty berries, and a tree that has pink flowers and roots in clouds as well as the white ground you approach it on, which extends its roots throughout creation.
The Tree of Life is found with them in the realm of unending summer and perpetual day. A gold fence cages it, and even if it lets you catch it you must then cross the fence, a task whose difficulties most of the few who have attempted it and described their failure found to be as indescribable as they were insurmountable.
Here is one adventurer’s account, which others have endorsed as at least an image of the truth despite the wealth of idiosyncratic detail: the fence has hundreds of many-eyed guardians, one for each gold fencepost, its own particular emblem at the top of that post, and the image of its own sort of eye engraved all along that post, ready to appear when you brush against it however slightly and pierce you with every glance from every eye, which takes the form of a spear, shaped and barbed uniquely, every sight and turn, catching from you a new name, a new aspect, a new body part, with every look, and each is twisted and wrought into its area of the fence, until you are transfixed into the design: a suspended and incomplete form of the real penalty for trespassing, for which the gatekeepers on their rounds will eventually liberate your fragmented awarenesses, a penalty they claim (untruly, I believe, if it’s the fruit you came for) is a genuine, though the cruelest, fulfillment of your desire. The elder carries a sword that burns with the flat fire sun on gold, which is the last recorded remnant of the sun here, because the Tree and the sky have encompassed everything it was. The fire is what lets the sword cut you free. It only strengthens and hardens the fence itself while you, imperfect, are washed from it. The younger gatekeeper holds a chain, an endless gold chain drawn up from between the Tree’s roots. He binds you with it, assesses you, and finds the place among the Tree’s massive roots and lower trunk where you belong, often the place you came from, and holds you there (perhaps a single piece of bark, the Tree is larger than it ever was) for the elder to pin you with his sword through your heart, setting up a fire within you, assuring that you will be returned intact and whole as you weren’t even when you arrived, which is to say wholly within their plane and subject to them. It then remains only for you to hang wailing and fading until every last perspective of every last guardian has done away with you. No blood, no harm, likely as not no memories.
The sky is flat behind the Tree. Not flat like a solid plane of sky blue, it’s still intangible, but there is absolutely an end to it in this place. The branches of the tree touch the far reaches of the sky, there is no depth to the blue anymore, nowhere you could travel. This is the extremity of the sky, this is the far ends of reality in all directions. Really, once you are inside the gate, what happens to space is hard to express. There is only one direction, and that is toward the tree, and what is behind it, which is this extreme of all space. From this conjunction, the tree to the sky, like from a contradiction or a division by zero, every kind of fruitfulness emerges, the tree is the structure and reality, and all leftovers are taken care of in perfect, unbroken, careless, and contemptuous infinity. There is nowhere else left for things to come from, this is the absolute of daylight.
You may not notice that this conjunction is the wellspring of all things. Here, for example, pour birds, an unending stream of birds, out into the world, if you come to it on the right day with the right eyes. Or water. From the outside, usually, the tree is all locked up in its fence and its protections, stiff barrier number one, all gold and sectioning, locked, wrought, bound. But since anything can emerge, everything that breaks down the gate also comes. Here–one day, in the future, when some mighty liberation comes to pass at the end of things, or a new beginning–or perhaps every moment, all the time–floods leap out around the tree and break open the gate and flow out to the whole world, breaking the fine gold locks and the links of the chain, quenching the fire of the sword, opening and leveling and making a mockery of the rules. The petals of flowers to everyone, seeds, life to everyone who will swim up or eddy in, the tree itself being stripped at every moment and growing anew to replace what was taken. That flow of water is why we have oceans at all. But you will see that gate and not the floods.
There is in most senses nothing beyond the Tree. It is nonetheless possible, with a possibility hedged by every kind of impossibility, to pass further north still, from perpetual day to eternal night, where the earth meets the stars and the fruit that grows is something else entirely.