I don't know how I got here. I don't know where I am. I'm awake, or at least aware, during the day. As soon as the sun sets I begin to fade away. My attention span lessens until I simply sit, quietly musing, feeling what's around me.
I like to sit outside, especially at night. Once it gets cold enough to almost freeze I have to sit inside, though.
I remember a few things. It's like a story that someone else lived instead of me. Imagine being a teen-age boy on a farm in northern Wisconsin...
"Paul? Did you do your homework?" "Yes, mom. It's all ready for tomorrow. I'm going out to the barn to help dad bring down the hay and grain."
What we would regard as idyllic days, to an only child on a farm it seemed cruelly, desperately boring. Get up in the morning, take the bus to school, try to look attentive to the deadly dull teachers though their deadly dull classes, take the bus home, do chores, have dinner, read a book for a while, go to bed. Rinse, repeat. Only his respect and love for his parents kept him from training the herd bull to ride and taking it into town for a soda, or building a working catapult, or ... He did get into trouble for mixing up some guncotton and blowing out a line of stumps that had a habit of turning over loaded hay wagons. He used too much guncotton. It was an honest mistake, but the sound set off four Vietnam vets and nine guys back from Afghanistan. He did get an 'A' in chemistry that year, though. His dad didn't beat him silly, as he thought might happen. He just sat Paul down and they had a little discussion. It boiled down to "Seeking forgiveness afterwards because you're pretty sure you won't get permission doesn't scan when you end up short a foot or a hand. Besides, all he had to do was to crack the tap roots and use the tractor to pull 'em out. Any more was a waste of good explosives.
Paul was out walking one cold night when the moon was full. His boots squeaked in the snow, the silence and the cold. He was heading back to the house when mother nature called. He stopped to piss on a red maple tree at the edge of the yard. He heard a tremendous explosion, a flash of heat on his back then felt his clothes ripped away. His last memory was that of being violently shoved against the tree.
He woke up in the darkness, with flashing lights everywhere and people running around like chickens. He couldn't feel his legs or feet. He heard a couple of voices.
"Damnedest thing. He's still alive. That maple tree skewered him like a taffy apple. Jesus. How we gonna get that tree off him?" "Bring up a crane from the electric company, I guess. If it can tote electric poles it can pull up half a tree."
The new kerosene heater had blown, which fractured the tank just on the other side of the wall. The kerosene leaked down into the basement where it nearly exploded from the bits of flaming wood falling down from the story above. The house was an inferno.
The heat from the burning house had started the sap flowing down the trunk of the old maple. He had received the benefit of the old tree's last action. The sap kept his blood volume high enough so that his heart and lungs had something to work with. The medic had forced enough platelet packs into him that it kept him alive. It did something else, too. It gave Paul's liver enough time to adjust to the changed blood plasma. Some damned strange things were going on in his body.
The next thing Paul knew he was on his back in a hospital room. They'd found out by experiment that he got a lot better in the sun, so his bed was in a window bay, like a little greenhouse. The doctors found that he got noticeably loopy when given I. V. glucose. He came close to dying of shock when they forced saline solution into his veins. His body didn't tolerate salt anymore. His skin toughened to the point that drawing blood samples became impossible. When his feet and legs started to spasm, then itch the team of doctors on the case got drunk. Without a doubt he was getting better but nobody could figure out how or why. Slowly he regained the use of his legs and feet.
The lawyer for company that installed the furnace couldn't stop bickering about who was at fault with the lawyer for the company that made the furnace. The judge got pissed at both of them and had them split the finding against them. They were out ten million plus my hospital fees plus court costs plus my income for life, as at the time I'd been speared by a shattered maple tree trunk. Messy. No doctor worth a malpractice suit dared to suggest that I might ever recover from that.
They were right, but not in the fashion that they expected. You see, the changes slowly passed my blood/brain barrier. My brain started changing. My mind became--different. Different enough to keep me from ever holding a job that dealt with mathematics or paying attention to time.
I became stronger. I was strong enough to leave the hospital, but I had no place to go. The court hired a 'minder' to take care of me, watch me, what ever. I wanted to go back to the farm to see what was still there. The farm was a desolate wreck. The animals had been sold off out of simple mercy to keep them from starving to death. The buildings were all intact, though. The hay was no good for anything but bedding, as it had laid in bales for six years while I recovered. The court had forced the county to cover the hole made by the explosion and fire. It had been a nuisance and a public danger. It was at the time a pile of dirt, gravel and half-burned building material. The poor maple that had saved my life was but a dried out dead thing. I wished that they'd at least buried it upright for a foot or two in hopes that it would re-root. No hope, though. It forced its sap, its life, into me. In a way I lived because of its sacrifice. It sobered me.
I had my work cut out for me getting the tractor running. I had to have professional help as the hydraulic hoses were rotted, the fuel was garbage and the oil was sludge. The tractor had been left outside. The farm pickup was likewise due some tender loving care.
I had a prefabricated house put in on a slab some ways back behind the barn. I had power and phone run to it. I got away from Christy kerosene and bought a propane heater, water heater and stove. The new well went in easily enough, and I had no problem getting a permit for a residential septic system. Then I had the old house dug out to the foundation, including the old septic system, and disposed of. Good field dirt filled the hole. I sold the old bales of hay for bedding.
I had a greenhouse added to my prefab. I hated the dual-layer glass that came with it. I went to the university to talk to a couple of professors there. They thought I was full of shit when I told them my story, until I took off my shirt and showed them the scars. Then they got practical. They sat me down in a chair under a big window. They changed the glass out every three days for a month. We found that the glass I liked the best was an old flint recipe that was cheap and used all over for window glass and greenhouses in the 1930's and early 40's. Any plastic anti-shatter coatings screwed it up. I ordered it in 3/8 inch thick sheets. The added strength made up for any anti-shatter properties.
Then I added another greenhouse by hand. This one I started filling with seedlings. Red maple seedlings. I had a vision of fields covered in maple trees.
I kept getting stronger. My hands and feet kept getting longer and longer. My beard grew in. Green. I hadn't noticed but my eyes had changed color. They were green. Dark green. My voice got deeper. When I went to town I wore coveralls, a jacket and some boots. At home I didn't wear much of anything.
I used the tractor and a big plow to rough up most of the road back to my place. It was drive able but sure looked abandoned. I didn't want any joy-ridin' visitors. A few boulders cunningly placed made for a good barrier against the ignorant that wanted to see the 'tree man'. The propane man and the grocery delivery van could get through, just fine.
I was up to about seven foot eight. When I picked up a shovel handle my fingers wrapped half way around it again. My little prefab house felt damned confining. I ordered lots and lots of squared-off mined limestone rock. I pulled that house away from its foundation and set it aside. I'd use parts of it as I went, then have the carcass hauled away.