Occasionally, when the Protectors were at Prayer, the Ancient Ones would tell us stories of the Time before The Darkness. Their stories were not always accurate, because their memories were so very old but, so long as you did not stray from The Believing, their fantasies could not harm you. And there would be no punishment. Because The New World has always been a tolerant World.

Old Meg’s stories were always the best because Meg could actually remember the Time before The Darkness. And Meg could remember the Trees. Trees, She used to say, were as tall as the Great Chamber, the tallest of all living things. And the oldest. She would close her eyes and point her shaky finger into the empty air and describe their shapes and their colours. But mostly She would describe their Leaves, which were not as the Leaves of the precious Orchids, the Monsteras or the Philodendrons. She would tell us of the Cycles of Light and Heat which are beyond The Believing. And She would tell us that the Trees and the Leaves, and the many creatures that were not Man-Kind, were obedient to these Cycles.

Meg’s favourite Time within the Cycles was called Spring-Time, which was the Time when the bare Trees awoke from their naked sleep. When their branches would crack open and release their Young which were called Cherry Blossom and Catkin Blossom. The creatures that were not Man-Kind also knew that Spring-Time was the correct Time to bring forth their Young, which many of them did in the forbidden way. Meg told us that, when the Cherry Blossoms and the Catkin Blossoms appeared, The Old World became filled with happiness because it meant that new Life was coming.

Those of The Old World were happy even in the last ever Spring-Time. Because they did not understand that it was going to be the last ever Spring-Time.

Meg told us that the Trees, when their Blossoms were ready, would encourage their Leaves to grow large to capture the Before-Light, because that was needed to nourish their swelling hearts. And, during this new Time of Swelling, The Old World would become filled with warmth. We were never really sure whether the Leaves made the warmth or the warmth made the Leaves, but whatever way round it was, this new Time was called Summer-Time and it was an easy Time when everyone celebrated the Trees and everything grew large and swollen because of the Leaves.

The last ever Summer-Time was the Time when Anger also grew large. And it was that Anger that summoned The Great Descent. Meg would always remind us never to mention the Anger if the Protectors were close by. Because the Anger belonged to The Old World that was not tolerant, and The New World has always been a tolerant World.

Next came the Fall. This was when, from the swollen hearts of their Blossoms, the Trees would bring forth the Seeds that contained new beginnings of themselves, so that they might be replaced if this became necessary. Meg told us that this was really why the Trees had produced their Blossoms in the first place. All creatures, including Man-kind, were allowed to feast on the Seeds because there were so many more than were needed. And the Trees were honoured to share. Meg would always pause when she remembered the Seeds. But Her voice would become sad because now that the Seed part of the Cycle was done, the Leaves were no longer necessary, so the Trees would encourage them to fall and to recycle back into the Earth. We did not understand her sadness because to be recycled is The Great Blessing.

It was during this last Fall that the Anger became so great that it caused the ground to rise up and form the Black Shell around The Old World. But the Anger continued and the Black Shell grew so dense that the Before-Light was unable to get through and The Old World surrendered to The Darkness. The Cycles of Light and Heat disappeared and very soon The Old World became unsuitable. And Man-Kind was forced to leave. The Protectors called this leaving The Great Descent, and the Time since The Great Descent they call Winter-Time.

Winter-Time has lasted for many Generations. It has caused the World Above to become empty. And for the Trees and many many creatures to cease. If it had not been for the Protectors, Man-Kind would also have ceased. But, fortunately, plans had been made by those with the Anger. And the Great Chambers had been made ready for the Chosen Ones and their Protectors. Meg was a Chosen One. Many of her Kind were included in The Great Descent because the Vitro Farms were not fully operational so they were needed for the Replacement of those Recycled. But very soon, as the Farms flourished, her Kind became unnecessary. Their growth sacs were no longer needed for Replacement and eventually production of her Kind was discontinued.

Meg was Fourteen Old Years from her Birthing when She descended. Much younger than most. And much wiser. When She grew mature, Meg helped redevelop the Algal Tanks and the Protein Pits and the Motion Lights that sustain them. And She improved the Vitro Farms so that New Ones could be Birthed earlier. To provide further achievements, Meg was allotted five additional New Years before Recycling. It was during those five New Years that She remembered the Trees.

Meg was the last of her Kind and the last of the Ancient Ones. So now there is no one left to be Her or She. And there is no-one left that can remember the World Above because Meg’s memories went with Her into the Recycling Crib. Without those memories Her stories have no meaning.

The New Ones are not interested when I tell them of the creatures that were not Man-Kind, of the Ancient Ones and The World Above. This is because The World Below is all they have ever known. And all they need to know. The Protectors still pray that soon the Winter-Time will end and we will ascend to the World Above. And I hope that this will happen. But as the new Generations arise many amongst them question the need for Man-Kind to leave The World Below. Many of them fear a Return to the Unknown. I do not fear The World Above because I remember the joy in Meg’s eyes when She told Her stories. When she remembered the Trees. I hope that somewhere in that dark and cold and broken World the Trees will come again. But I do not think it will be in my Life-Time. And I do not think I will ever see Meg’s Trees.


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