Ten years ago, a girl planted a tree. She and her grandma walked through long grass, clutching a conker seed in their clasped hands. They dug a hole in the fine, lush earth and placed the conker inside. Grandma covered the hole and the girl patted it three times for luck. They left.
On the first year they returned, their tree was two feet tall. It was healthy, well placed. They gave it water and left, hand in hand.
On the second year they returned, the tree had barely grown. It was swelteringly hot outside. The soil was bone dry. They tipped buckets of water onto the soil, knowing it would only last a couple of hours. In worried silence, they trooped home.
On the third year they returned, the tree was more than a metre tall. But the forests around it were not. Sawdust and burnt stumps lay in their place. The tree had not been hit. This had been a controlled fire. They walked home, tears rolling down the little girl’s cheeks.
On the fourth year they did not come. Grandma was gone, and with her, the girl’s home.
Year five. No one was there for the tree. It willed the girl to come. The climate was changing. It needed to say goodbye.
2 years pass...
On the eighth year, an eighteen-year-old, almost unrecognisable young woman makes her way to the tree. She has been through so much, lost so much. She thought perhaps if she came here, she could say goodbye to her past, move on.
There is no way she can do that now.
She is not standing in the lush field surrounded by glorious forests that she was eight years ago. No. This is a wasteland. A dry, dead wasteland. The smell of smoke and devastation lurks forebodingly in the thick air. Plastic wrappers sweep past her ankles, taunting her, teasing her. All your fault! They seem to be screaming at her. All your fault!
She’s running now, curly brown hair flying behind her. Her hazel eyes are searching, scanning. “Please, please,” she whispers. But now she’s seen it and she wishes she hadn’t.
A shrivelled, 2 metre tall tree. The branches creak in the dusty wind. A plastic bag is caught up in the leaves that remain, and a dead crow lies at its feet. How, how can it be so... dead when they planted it with so much love? The girl kneels at the bottom of the tree and wraps her arms around it. “I’m so sorry...” she whispers. “I’m so, so sorry.”
She returns as much as she can after that, but nothing she does helps. No water is enough to save the tree, no love enough to cure it. Two years and it’s dead, nothing but a reminder of what lay there ten years before.
Lying in bed that night, the young woman tosses and turns. She is dripping with guilt that her own race is responsible for this. There is only one thing she can do.
Fight for her planet.
Isobel Clarke was born in Edinburgh in 2009. She still lives there with her mum, dad, sister and cat Zeus. In her free time she likes to read, draw, write and go on runs. After school she would love to get a book published and travel around the world; Nepal and Japan are at the top of her list.