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The Green War

by Christopher Clagg


We are at war. I must remind myself of that.

As the sun rises I stand at an open window and let the sun soak into me. Spreading what few remaining leaves I have, I close my eyes. For a moment I simply lose myself in the heat, and forget why I am here.

But after only a few minutes the world intrudes and the sounds beyond the cloister of rooms where I have my sleeping chambers and my offices, rise up. Noises in sharp-edged contrast to the quiet beyond the buildings.

Reluctantly I fold my leaves back into myself. They are disappearing, and eventually of course I will have no leaves at all. I will be trapped in this form. Come for negotiations, and then, cast away. I will be left behind.

That human concept of a whole death is no longer amusing, but now disturbing.

As that happens, the fear wells in me. The negotiations become more complicated, more intricate. And more deadly.

The cost of failure moves higher.

I turn away from the windows. Pulling into myself, fashioning some resemblance of a human body. A human face. My leaves fit so closely and are tinted so palely that from a distance I appear completely human. It is only my speech and my movements that are still somewhat awkward.

Reluctantly I turn from the sunlight. Reminding myself that I have a duty here. I am Ambassador, sent to negotiate a treaty to the war. To barter for a piece of the world, a chance at life. Or to deliver an ultimatum of death.

But the humans do not understand that.

*   *   *

In the middle of the Amazon the war goes silently on.

Bulldozers press at the roots of the Oldest trees and snap through the youngest saplings without even thinking. Crushing them under steel treads that do not hesitate at all.

In the heart of the Amazon the Oldest trees rustle their leaves in the wind. The youngest trees shake. They are the angriest. They are the ones quickest to learn the lessons of violence. It is hard to listen to their angry quivers and not be caught up by their emotion. They have no words, not like human words, but their movements are the same thing:

"An eye for an eye!" They are screaming.

*   *   *

I sit in the conclave of the War forum and listen to the humans debate whether they will negotiate. I tell myself it makes no sense. But it does. I have been too long among them, to fool myself into believing I do not understand their gesture.

The humans are belligerent. They posture in the forums. They speak their words as if words were colored hues to twist as they wont. They are selfish and smile a great deal while putting the knife in the next back.

I tell myself that it is horrid.

That it is evil and cruel and self-centered.

That I will never understand their motivations. But that is not true. I know where this will lead. And what it means and I have no innocence here as I bargain for advantages that I can press for my own reasons.

I am becoming like them.

I have come among them. Was made in their image to better speak and learn and be seen by them as one of them. And after all of this, I am slipping away from the green that I (we) once was and am decaying into a single-minded, single-willed thing.

The humans call me the green.

But I have become a traitor and so have chosen a name for myself, and that name is Betrayal.

*   *   *

Deep in the center of the Amazon the seeds come, slowly at first, taking many seasons to pass from the edges of the great jungle to the center. It is where the Oldest of the green are calling us.

But I have drifted away from what I was.

I can stand on the balcony of the hotel in my rooms and drink a martini and hear the pull of those oldest trees. The deep rustle of wood and ground murmurs that speak of joining. Of great purpose and urgency and the soothing one-ness that pervades all the green.

It is the loss of that one-ness that makes me feel blind.

Like a cripple standing here with a white eye staring sightlessly. Listening with my ears to try and make up for it.

But I did not have any eyes until they made me human.

It is my eyes that are blinding me.

The light that pours into my eyes and makes me dream human dreams, instead of into my green leaves and down into the depths of my leafy boughs. Making glucose and life and continuance mindlessly and without even a single thought.

I have told the humans.

"It is a War" I told them.

I used their own words to explain things.

But they are too busy posturing to listen.

And that means of course that they will die.

*   *   *

The Jungle that remains in the heart of the Amazon is the last jungle. It is the last bastion of plants in all our numbers and varieties.

The humans press us and move their bulldozers and blades closer and talk their talk.

In the end it simply means that they are arrogant and believe it will not come.

And so the green seeds which have moved deeper and deeper into the center of the Amazon pull tighter in. And the older trees then begin to pull their roots in and pull back into the center.

All the green world pulling in.

Fleeing the humans.

And readying our answer and our revenge on the humans as well.

*   *   *

It has taken years, which for humans of course is a long time. Though for us, in the green, it is the blink of an eye.

Our minds move in geological time. Our breaths are centuries and our dreams are millennia.

The world has pressed closer and the humans have made their way across it. And have done with it as they would.

The Great Amazon has pulled back into itself and is waiting like a loaded gun about to go off.

*   *   *

This morning I awoke from a stupor with the young human female that is the translator of the Brazilian delegation.

She has dark almond eyes and a rich voice that reverberates on my skin the way it used to when I was simply part of the green.

Her name is Camille. Camille Estefania Rodriguez-Calderon.

She whispers in the early light and lays back on the bed and curls a cigarette between her fingers and wonders aloud her doubts that anything will come out of this that will be beneficial for anyone other than the Financial Institutions.

I watch the horror of her smoking the tobacco cigarette with a casual indifference to the death of my own kind that such familiarity has bred.

They say it is the same for those in prison camps during wartime. The unthinkable becomes the norm.

The thought of civility and a chance at a life again. These have become the unthinkable.

"Today is the day?" She asks, and I nod my head. I don't have to know, by looking at a calendar or a clock or even to consult some cabinet meeting. I can feel the decision in my sap, though that has almost faded completely from me.

I still retain a small portion of that heritage.

But I can feel all the green in one place and trembling, murmuring, shivering.

And like a kettle boiling on a hot stove. It is nearing its own point of no return.

There is an explosion in my mind that makes me believe I have lost my head. That I no longer am standing but am reduced to fragments and am scattered over the landscape of the room.

Five thousand miles away the center of the Amazon jungle explodes straight up into the sky. Ejecting in one massive green explosion into the atmosphere, and beyond.... into open space.

Leaving this world behind.

And all the humans. And all their words.

And empty talk.

And empty postures and empty promises.

When I can clear my head I look at the human woman next to me. She lounges back against the bed and has no conception that anything has occurred at all.

"Yes," I say, because I speak their tongue. Because I am practically a human myself.

"What will we do for oxygen afterwards?" she asks. There is a quizzical look that crosses her face for a moment.

I don't answer for a moment, but look out the windows toward the sky that I can't see from this angle. And feel the explosion of green fading outward...... outward........ feeling it fading.

Until it slips away and is completely gone.

"There won't be any more," I eventually say.

And I wonder how long it will take to use up what is left in the world?

But I don't know how long it will take.

"I'm afraid," she says.

And she looks alien, sitting there, all skin and eyes and hair draping over the front of her face in the early light. She doesn't move. Just sits on the bed with her long legs drawn up and her arms wrapped around them.

I nod.

"Yes, I understand," I say to her.*


Story copyright © 1998 Christopher Clagg <>

Artwork "Mother-N" copyright © 1998 Duncan Long <>



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