Evan was a tradie. He worked on building sites all his life and liked to think he was pretty good at it. He was married, had kids, a house, a dog, a mortgage just like all the rest – but death cut him off from all of that.
It happened like this. He and some mates had flown to Queensland to attend the wedding of an old rugby friend who’d moved up to the sunshine state. Night of the party they were all pretty sloshed, trying to catch the train home from the Valley. Not the last train of the night, but the first of the morning after a serious back room party. Just as it was pulling into the station some scrawny junkie fell onto the tracks.
Evan didn’t think, he just jumped. He tackled the junkie out of harms way but the train clipped his legs. It went over them. Then it got his arm too. He remembers the pain mostly, and the lights, red and blue and flashing in his eyes, people pounding on his chest. Then there was a long time of silence. The Tree came unto him, an aspect of Heartwood strength.
He woke on a mortuary slab. The soft pings of surgical clamps falling free from his open wounds brought him round. By the time he’d stumbled, bare arse naked out into the streets the incisions had mostly closed. Arrested for indecency they’d refused to believe his name. “Closed coffin cremation”, they’d said, “legs and arms were gone”, “family flown home”. He wandered the streets in a haze of confusion, seeking those he could sense that were like him. Those others who were the same, a part of the Tree.