You, who stand there, not far from me. Yes, you with that pitying look in your eyes. Don’t mock my bare branches. Don’t feel sorry for my old, lined trunk.
For I too, was once a glorious tree. I had a crown made of the greenest leaves. Birds of all colour came to sit on my branches, to build their homes. The ants and skunks, the rabbits and squirrels, they all came to sit under the shade of my branches. I had a thousand hands and a strong trunk. I was the unconquerable one.
In the day, birds would perch upon my branches and sing of happiness and hope. The ants would build their homes near my strong, reliable roots; the squirrels would bury their nuts deep under the ground, worshipping me to protect their food while they went on more quests. The sun would shine diligently upon me, to give me the light I needed to grow. The clouds would give me shade when I was warm. The rain would come fast and hard to wash away the dirt from my beautiful leaves. The humans would come to me too. Sometimes just to take a rest underneath my expansive shade, sometimes to take sweet, ripe fruit that hung from my branches like miniature golden suns.
At night the stars would shine upon me, and the fireflies would gather around me, like gold dust floating in the air. The animals would burrow themselves into the protection of my roots, and the birds would sleep peacefully in their nests on my branches. Always knowing that I would protect them.
Everything and everyone would come to me, because I had something to give to every being in the world. Even the other trees would look upon me, for I was the tallest of them all, with the most leaves, and the sweetest fruit. They bowed to me when powerful winds blew as I was the only one that stood upright, unbending during the strong winds.
And this power, this knowledge that every being depended on me, was heady and magical. It made me feel invincible, unbreakable. I ruled the forest, and everything within it.
I was the King of Everything.
But I forgot one truth. In fact, the only truth there is: everything that breathes must die one day. If not yesterday, if not today, it may tomorrow. Death comes in different ways, at different times, but it always does come. The only thing that gives comfort is the knowledge that you were loved, and that you loved. I was loved for my generosity, but I was too proud to love.
The disease came suddenly, attacking us one by one. At night I would hear the creaking trunks, the crumbling of the branches, the leaves rustling down to the ground. I was sad for the other trees, but my branches hung proudly, for the disease had not gotten to me. I was too strong to be attacked by the insects that ate from the inside, causing all of the forest to slowly disintegrate into nothingness.
The fireflies were the first one to go; they did not like the crashing sounds during the night. And then the stars went into hiding too, as if it was too unbearable for them to see the sadness of our fate. Soon, as the leaves were beginning to fall, the birds took flight too, off to find some other magnificent forest. The animals went away too, to find new homes. As the last of my fruit fell to the ground, the humans stopped coming too.
I am the last one to stand, and will be the last one to fall. I should feel pride in having come so far, but as I feel my insides crumbling into nothingness I wish for only one thing. To have died with the others, and to not have to face the unfortunate prospect of death alone.
As I feel my branches weakening, drooping with the weight of the disease, the clouds cover me, as if out of pity, to hide the disgrace I am without my crown of leaves. They are the only ones who still protect me from the sun when I am too warm, and there are the only ones who have stayed with me all this time. I am glad that at least I have the clouds with me.
But still, without my crown of leaves, I have nothing left to rule.
I am now, the King of Nothing.