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The weak spring sun warms my patch of tree. It is an unfamiliar feeling after a gruelling winter. My tree has been naked and exposed to the rain and snow for months and I can feel its damp, mouldy bark pining for some heat. Beams of sunshine penetrate deep enough into my tree to reach even me, hibernating in its veins. The warmth awakens me from my deep slumber.

The branch I live in quivers in the gentle breeze. I stay within the darkness for now, sapping energy from my tree and storing it so I can root my way through the tree’s thick skin when the time is right. I am determined but weakened from stillness and cold. For almost half a year I have been living but not alive, since those before me wilted and were taken in autumn to Paradise. I hear whispers that tell me of the lucky ones, carried down the eternal path of Paradise after their duties have been fulfilled.

It takes a few weeks of storing before I finally begin to push outwards. Worming my way stubbornly through the unyielding layers of wood, I feel powerful. This is my test, I need to show I am deserving of life. I need to go to Paradise, where instead of silence and darkness there is light and birdsong. What is life if I have nothing to live for? If I survive this, I need something to die for. Life is too much of a struggle for there to be nothing in the After. If I can be one of the thousands who thrive, out of millions of us that try but do not make it past the barriers the tree has made to weed out the weakest, then I know I am deserving.

Then I reach sap, and I am bathed in syrupy glory. The whisperers told me the sap would be the indication that I am doing well. I am nearly there.

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