22.4 The Tree
Hampstead Heath: 20 May 2128
"I recognise that dip in the ground," Long whispered to Jenny.
"What's special about it?"
"It's near where the machine first appeared on our world. It was also in the same place on 'five'. I bet they're putting it back where it first started from."
The DTM was being unloaded from the wagon using the same method with which it had been placed there.
"That's so amazing," Jenny whispered.
Ray Hargreaves and his sons returned to the wagon.
"Well," he said, "I don't think that thing will be going anywhere else for a while."
"Why not?" said Jenny.
"In a few days there won't be anywhere else to go. Everything will be back together again or maybe nothing will be back together ever again."
Long said. "Does no one really have any idea of what's going to happen then?"
"Even the big-brains at the Tree don't seem to, though they might be lying, of course."
Jenny looked out across the heath. "Plenty of trees here. Is there a special one or something?"
"You'll see," Hargreaves grinned. "Okay, hop back on. I'm leaving the boys here to keep the weight down. See you later, guys."
Boris and Hector waves to their father as he steered the wagon south once more..
"Okay," he said. "Next stop Hyde Park."
"Somewhere else familiar," Long said.
"Don't bet on it," Hargreaves said, with a chuckle.
As they approached central London, Long gaped at the state of the buildings they passed. He recognised many of them having walked their version of these streets so many times. The way nature had uprooted mankind's architecture was both marvellous and horrifying to behold.
But then, beside him, Jenny gasped, "Oh my goodness. Is that it? Is that the Tree?"
The wild entanglement that Hyde Park had become in their world was a pale imitation of what confronted them. It was enough that the excessive growth here would have swamped their version of the park. But even that was rendered into insignificance when compared to the structure that spiralled above it. It was something out of a fantasy. That it had once started off as a tree, or possibly many trees, was without any doubt. However, this monstrosity would beat anything their world could produce by a very wide margin. They both stared up at the twisting arrangement of branches that sought to defy gravity itself.
"They reckon it's more than a thousand feet high now," Ray Hargreaves said, almost too casually. "I seen it several times. Bigger every time."
"What's it for?" Jenny said.
"For? Hmm. Some mad old woman grew it. Now the main mental mob use it as one of their headquarters."
"Are Rick and Ellie there?" Long asked.
Hargreaves shrugged. "Could be. I was told to deliver you two to the base. After that, as I said before, I'm heading home before everything goes to pot."
There was a sudden rumble and Jenny tumbled into Long. They grabbed at each other. Hargreaves slowed the cart down to walking pace but the movement continued.
Long watched the trees sway unnaturally. Only it wasn't just the trees. Even the buildings around them were shuddering. Behind them, one crashed to the ground. Hargreaves ushered the horses on using arm movements that seemed to calm the beasts, though Long had no idea how it worked. It wasn't completely successful but he did manage to steer them away from the higher roofed buildings that were beginning to rain tiles down onto the road.
"Damn," Hargreaves shouted over the noise. "It's already started."
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