The Final Tree

Across the blasted plain the lone walker plodded. The bubble helmet made his head
appear strangely misshapen. His environmental suit sagged in places giving him a
lugubrious look. He scrabbled up a slope sliding occasionally on the loose scree.
Reaching the top he looked down upon the desolate valley below. Devoid of life
other than the hardiest scraps of lichen, even those dying now. The domed habitat
could just be seen in the distance, an ugly unnatural blot. However, beauty had long
since left this dying planet. His sigh reverberated inside the helmet as he trekked
onward. It had to be here somewhere, all reports suggested this was the only place
where conditions would permit it. Just one look was all he craved. His breath caught
in his throat. There it was. The very last of its kind. Betula Pendula, silver birch. Her
skeletal branches reached upwards towards the darkening sky asking a silent question,
why? Every crease in her bark drawing his eye. A lone tear began an endless journey
down his cheek. Stumbling up to it he caressed her beautiful bark with his gauntlets
wanting so much to touch it. To live in a world with nothing, no beauty, everything
artificial was more than he could bear. His orders were simple, locate the tree and tag
her. She would be shipped to a lab for “study”. As he sat beside her his final report
read: “Unable to locate specimen B1375/a, the final tree.”

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