The Last Tree:

"This story is one of many tales concerning the last of the trees, and its final resting place." A booming man's voice proclaimed to the silence of the room.

"In the 25th century, where humanity has full control over all aspects of the world, where cities had rapidly spread to cover the entire globe, there remains one reminder of what was. Soon after the 22nd century the entire globe was covered with buildings, nothing was spared in its wake. Oceans were drained to make way for the growing population, and the buildings spread onward. There is not a point in the world that doesn't see a building. All plant life was removed, save one tree. The one tree was planted in Sector 21737L and remains there to this day, supported by the many advance-"

Shar shifted suddenly from her crouching position, she heard a noise coming from outside the office door. Someone was approaching. As quickly and subtly as she could, Shar slid the small disk out of her arm, causing the man's voice to cut off, and stood up from behind the desk. It would mean expulsion if anyone knew what information she had just been given. She swallowed and tried to calm her racing heart down, the rover passed. After waiting moments in silence, she gathered the set of disks lying on the desk and filed them back into the dusty old cabinet. However, she kept the one last disk she had been looking at, the one regarding the last tree on Earth. No matter how outdated the disk was it was still information that greatly added to the scarce collection that she had gathered over the past five years. The last tree was the one subject she found any interest in, probably because no one else cared any more.

As quickly as she had taken the disk out, Shar hurriedly walked out of the office's sliding door. Calming herself further she continued walking down the hallway, clutching the small disk in her sweaty palm. She had never been given permission to enter that room, nor would anyone else see it. Shar laughed bitterly, she seriously doubted even the government knew what was in the small room full of disks, it was obvious that no one, not even a bot had been in that dusty room in centuries.

She exited the building as silently as she could, quickly hopping onto her hovver220, an old beat up vehicle that had been her grandfather's. Shar doubted that it would last much longer, no matter the attention it was given. Placing her hand on the small screen she told the machine her destination. It slowly rose into the air, off the ancient concrete that marked the entrance to the library. No one read anymore, so the upkeep of the library did not matter to the citizens of the world anymore, no matter how much information it stored. One day, Shar supposed, they would close it altogether. The building itself was already practically unoccupied. The small vehicle containing Shar sped through the city street, the dim street lights flickering, their lives slowly ending. A small bot zoomed past Shar, ruffling her hair slightly with the wind, obviously with some destination in mind. Lucky bot, it actually has direction in life, has somewhere to go, Shar thought to herself as she moved forward on her hovver. Carefully, she slid the disk into one of her pockets on the outfit that clearly labeled her as a student at the University of Sector 47743D. All schools taught the same things anyway, if you went to one, you got exactly the same education as if you went to another. The only real jobs were for the government anyway, they told you whatever they wanted, and you believed it. Or you did not, as was Shar's case. She was almost too young to be attending university, only 43, still supposed to be in high school. Fortunately, she was smart enough to get herself out of the hell hole that was her old school. Shar shuddered slightly, trying to block out the memories that seemed to overwhelm her everyday when she brought to mind her high school experience. A couple passed by, obviously too involved in each other to notice the machine zooming past them. Shar barely glanced their way as tears over came her vision and closed her eyes.

She had only been 27, so young and bright, and so naive. If anything she had been overconfident in her ability to protect herself, she figured nothing could go wrong. But everything had gone wrong, and her world would never be quite right again. Just attending that high school was bad enough, but then she had to trust some of the people she met. If it was one thing that she had ever learned, it was never to trust people, and she never would, ever again. She thought she knew them, didn't it always happen that way? The one worst mistake she had ever made in her life, meeting Zepi and his friends. They had seemed to know what was going on, seemed to always have something to do. So she had followed them, thinking she might actually be able to do something with her life. They led her to places, down alleyways, and into deserted buildings, often for a party or some crazy get together. There were always hundreds of people, always doing something, whether that be dancing or living their life. Shar had thought that it was fun, for a while, she had actually enjoyed herself. Eventually she went to parties on her own, dancing and staying up until early in the morning. She could not lie about the fact that she wasn't performing well in school, her once "good girl" attitude towards life took a drastic turn. The computers recorded her absence, but her parents didn't care, they never did. If you're missing, no one gives a shit, thought Shar cynically. She might be missing out in other Sectors for days on end, just trying to find a good time. And then there was that one night that changed her. She had been taken aside by a group of guys, but she had been to drunk to notice what was going on. They had talked, she had talked, for the life of her she couldn't remember what they talked about, but they had. After that, all she could remember were snippets of memory, all she knew was waking up the next morning in a hospital, surrounded by hospi-bots who were taking care of her. They had recovered what they could of her, all they could find at least. She would never be who she was. Those guys who had taken her aside, had done what they had wanted with her, and ripped her apart. Those sadists, she thought loathingly. Her entire body had been shredded, the pain had almost been too much for her brain to handle, but somehow, she had. Now she was Shar, the half human, the half bot. Not that anyone would notice, but she knew what she was. Her left leg, her right eye, her hair, and half of her torso were never recovered, and therefore artificial. She had two different colored eyes, one a deep blue-grey color, the other, a dark amethyst almost lavender. They had, fortunately recovered most of her brain, the tiny part that wasn't recovered turned into the part that allowed her to read messages that normally only a computer could read. An artificial skin covered all of her artificial parts, it matched her normal skin tone anyway so it didn't matter. She had decided to change her natural hair color once she knew it was gone. Her new hair was a thin pale white blonde color, a reminder of what had happened. Her old hair had been a dark curly black hair that had fallen down her back. That was all gone now, given way to the shorter blonde.

The hovver moved on across the streets, occasionally turning onto different streets. Once she had reached the main route, Shar opened her eyes, things could be dangerous at 300 miles an hour, and she had to focus. It was like this every day, on the way to her job at Sector 47751Q, after her classes had ended for the day. A coffee shop, simple enough, she worked behind the counter to repair the service bots in case they were fried or had caught a virus. Not a particularly fascinating job, but she had gotten information from that shop, and had decided to stay. Shar turned left, she was almost there, only about twenty miles to go. Suddenly, a man with elf ears that were covered in tattoos and piercings veered queerly off to the side of the road. His rover slowly puttered out and died, he quickly hopped out to the side and gave a panicked look behind him. The road police will get him soon, thought Shar as she turned back to face the road in front of her. The road police were notorious for arresting people who were stranded, sometimes it wasn't even a person's fault, but they did nonetheless, money for the government in any case.

It was such a depressing thought that Shar was gloomy when she hopped off her bike and entered the brightly illuminated coffee shop a few minutes later. Her shift was from 8:00 PM to 3:30 AM the next day, it was a long shift, but she didn't mind, it wasn't like she slept anymore. She hopped behind the counter and slid into her clothing, mandatory for her work. Customers were filing into the store one after one, requesting things from the bots. Shar sat bored behind the counter, reading up on new messages, big surprise, she had none. And so, she spent the next couple hours staring into space, reflecting on what she knew from the disk, she knew there was more to it, but she'd have to wait to get to her apartment to finish. Suddenly, a man tapped her shoulder, she had been spacing for too long apparently.

"Yes? How may I help you?" Shar said coldly, indicating that this was all she intended to do. She looked the customer over, he was a businessman no doubt, his suit indicated as such. He was clearly fit and well cut, his clean shaven face smiled at her.

"Actually, I wanted to introduce myself, I'm Hari." Said the smiling man, Hari.

"And?" Asked Shar, in a bored tone.

"Get your name, surely you'll tell me at least that" Hari laughed slightly shaking his longish brown hair as he did so.

"If you want to find my name, why don't you ask my boss? I don't talk to customers casually, sorry." Said Shar, cutting off the conversation by turning away.

Hari's face dropped into a frown, "But surely…" He trailed off.

"Have a nice evening sir, goodbye" Shar said and watched him leave, rejected. She smiled to herself, when would men ever learn? Never. In all the centuries, after thinking they were the dominant patriarch of the world, they had never learned that they were simply the stupider of the genders.

She turned back to the store after Hari had left the counter, waiting for her shift to pass, the hours ticking by in her brain as slowly as she could think possible. Finally it was over, and today was a payday to boot, she slowly got out of her seat and wandered over to the back of the shop. Entering her boss's room she found her boss sitting cross-legged and listening to a new style of music, which Shar couldn't remember.

"Er, Ma'am? It's my pay day and-" Shar trailed off when she noticed her boss was pointing to the desk behind her, "Thank you ma'am."

Shar turned and gathered the thin envelope containing her salary for the week. She exited the store and tucked the envelope inside her vest, where the disk lay waiting. As she was about to get onto her hovver once more, a hand reached out of the darkness and grabbed her wrist. Shar looked up and saw Hari.

"Yes?" Shar said expectantly.

"You ignored me and were rude to me in that store earlier, I'm here to get what I want." Hari said coldly.

"Oh, and what is it that you want? A cup of coffee?" Shar added equally as cold

"No rather, I want you." Hari said hungrily staring at Shar's body in a way that made her shudder.

"Well sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not for sale, check somewhere else." She said and turned back to her hovver to realize that she wasn't being released. She hated to use force, but in this case…

"Look babe, I want you and I came here and waited for you, I'm going to get what I want." He said creepily and tugged at her vest containing the disk and the salary.

"Don't. Touch. Me." Shar said harshly, suddenly filled with a dark boiling rage, she would never like a person ever again after her younger experience.

"Who's to stop me?" Hari said carelessly, starting to fiddle with the zipper on her side.

"I am." Said Shar coldly, stepping back from him, grabbing his wrist and snapping it in one swift motion.

Hari howled in pain as his wrist was broken. "You bitch!" he gasped at her.

"Rather, I think you are the bitch here," Shar responded in a numb voice, her anger still rising "I will make you suffer for the suffering you have caused others and myself" As quick as a bot could react she reached out and snapped his neck, watching the blood flow out of his face. She stepped back in horror. She had just killed Hari, she had killed a man. All in anger, she had killed him. Shar paled as white as the now motionless Hari. Quickly stepping onto her hovver and leaving the body behind, she zoomed away to her apartment, leaving the ugly scene behind.

Shar reached her apartment and put her hand on the keypad that let her into her gloomy twentieth floor apartment. She stumbled into the room and lay on the couch staring at the ceiling. Shar was a murderer, she had killed. Clutching her hand to her chest, she wept bitterly for what seemed like hours. The police would be at her door any minute, what was there left to do? She remembered the small disk in her pocket and pulled it out, slipping it into her arm.

"The one tree was planted in Sector 21737L and remains there to this day, supported by the many advanced machines that were created to support life for an eternity. The last tree is a reminder of what was, and what will never be again." The man's voice ended once again, not because of interruption, simply because the tape was over.

Shar stared into space, hearing the last line echo in her brain … reminder of what was, and what will never be again. Sure she had learned that Earth had once been covered in trees and animals, they had all been killed except for that one tree. Everything seemed so pointless now, humanity was in a slump. Something began to dawn on Shar, the realization that nothing actually had a point any more. No matter what she did, no matter what she wanted, it would all come down to nothing. The human race had killed what had been earth, what truly was earth, the trees. The animals were all long gone, to be imitated by the clones created by scientists, but never the real thing. The very soil that had created her race had been covered to mask the ugly landscape that had once been an ocean, and was now flattened. The earth was truly a flat and barren place now. Bereft of all its life, excluding the one that had made it this way, the earth was silent. The music of creatures was silenced by the humans in their own need to hear their own voice. We're such a conceited species with delusions of greatness, thought Shar bitterly. She slid the disk out of her arm and lay it on the table, getting up stiffly. She had reached a decision. Swiftly as she could, she left the area with the couch on it, and entered her sleeping quarters. Shar pulled several objects from on top of the dresser containing only school uniforms and stuffed them into her pockets. As quickly as she had entered, she left, walking at a determined pace, her face a pale mask of the happiness that had long since died within her.

The hovver sat ready, its old fusion engine slowly whining, its life coming to an end. Shar smiled bitterly, weren't all things as the hovver was? She climbed onto its worn seat and began to drive, she set a destination thousands of miles away, far to the west, Sector 1A the first of the sectors. All she could hear now as she rode on the hovver was the ferocious beating of her heart, she wondered if she would make it before the police found out about the murder, and who had done it, the government was always quick to act on things like this, made them seem like they were doing something. The early morning passed into the later morning and the afternoon, she didn't stop for food or drink, she kept going, her head pounding with a vicious headache. At last, at one in the morning the next day, she reached Sector 1A, the new resting place of the last tree. The people of earth had moved it about fifty years previous to now. The disk was outdated. She hopped off the hovver, the one thing in the world she could trust, and watched it totter off the sidewalk and crash, its flame licking the side of the building. Shar laughed under her breath and turned away from the destruction. Her legs were barely working from the long drive, but she managed to quietly stumble up the steps until she reached the entrance to the building. She paused at the entrance pad, quickly bypassed it with a glove that contained another's handprint, she wouldn't give away her position to the police quite yet. She entered the gloomy building, and followed the cheery neon signs down to the very last of the trees. Quietly as she could she entered the last of the doors, and was greeted by the sight of the last tree. It was a weeping willow, standing in the room surrounded by the ugly concrete walls and floor. Its bark was withered and the entire surface of the tree was what only could be described as ugly. Shar climbed over the bar that restrained people from ruining the tree and sank to her knees next to it. She slowly placed a shaking hand on its bark.

"You brave tree, you are surviving in a world, you are weeping as your name says, for humanity, shed no tears for them, for they have shed you none." Shar began her voice quivering with tears that threatened to fall down her face. "The earth that was is no more, you are ancient and you deserve rest but I cannot give that to you, I must leave you to tell your story. Perhaps humanity will change its ways, but I highly doubt it. But in case they do, pass on my message." She took her hand off the trunk. Slowly and deliberately she stood up next to the tree, she pulled out a small antique gun loaded with one bullet. She smiled grimly and knew its purpose. Raising the gun to her head Shar sighed and thought of the waste of humanity. The horrible things they had done to the planet that had started them. The way they had twisted everything so they would have it their way. Shar pulled the trigger. She fell down onto the bark of the tree and slid down onto the floor, becoming motionless as Hari the night before. Her blood slowly ran down her face until there was no more to flow, forming a large puddle on the floor.

The old earth had died, and so, had Shar.

The early in the morning of the next day an old janitor wandered into the building, there had been no visitors the day before so he hadn't been in. No one came here anyway. The man sighed, and turned to the tree. He raised a pair of unsurprised eyebrows as he saw Shar's body lying next to the tree,

"Oh, another one," He said, his voice seemingly without expression. "Dipa c'mere we have work to do."

The small bot appeared and vaporized Shar's body, and began cleaning the blood away from the wall, making sure that no one could tell that someone had been there.