Justice Sat Beneath the Tree of Fire

Justice sat beneath the Tree of Fire and contemplated existence. Each leaf upon the tree was living tissue paper, so thin and delicate that the merest concentration or focus of the sun’s rays was enough to conflagrate the wispy leaves, turning them to brilliant ash.

Justice studied the leaves as they were caught in the light of the sun and set aflame. She watched the brunt remains fall to the ground, where the ash nourished the Tree of Fire, fostering new growth. Justice had been sitting under the tree for ten thousand years, and in all that time had not ever observed even one significant change or deviation from this pattern. Bloom, fire, ash – it was a perpetual cycle, one that had persisted for millennia.

One afternoon Flotsam alighted from their cloud and landed next to the contemplative Justice. “You spend every day observing these leaves,” remarked Flotsam.

“So I do,” replied Justice, chin resting on her knee.

“And every day, I watch you watch the leaves.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, and I have come to ask you why,” said Flotsam, who liked to hear themselves talk. “The leaves are beautiful, I will admit, and I, long ago, from my cloud, frittered away a century or two contemplating them as well. But the tree never truly changes, the cycle of birth and death continues unabated. Each burning leaf is but an individual occurrence of a whole. Eventually I grew bored of the cycle; I felt that there was nothing more to learn from it. But you have not tried of the tree and I find this commendable.”

“Indeed,” replied Justice, only half-listening, their eyes fixed on a particularly bright spurt of flame.

Flotsam smiled. “Now my question to you is this – no, no, it’s not what you think, I know why you watch the tree. That is not my question. My question is: ‘why do I watch you?’”

“Perhaps you have fallen in love with me,” replied Justice, not turning away from the tree. “It’s been known to happen.”

“Sometimes I cannot tell if you are incredibly shrewd, or extraordinary naïve,” said Flotsam. “As for your assertion, I will not affirm or deny, only deflect. Let us suppose, however, that love is the reason I continue to observe you, day by day. But then the question becomes: ‘why do I love a perpetual tree-watcher?’”

“You don’t know? No, I suppose you wouldn’t,” replied Justice. “It is not an answer that can be obtained by sitting in one’s cloud.”

“And how would one obtain that knowledge, my dear Justice?”


“So, do you know the answer then, why someone would love a useless tree-watcher? Is that a thing you have gleaned an answer for, with all your observations of this Tree of Fire, with its delicate paper-thin leaves, its brilliant ash, and bright, orange-red flames? Has the fire whispered to you? Are there patterns in the ash?”

“I have learned little,” replied Justice, “but I feel strongly that there are answers to find. All questions have answers, if you know how to look for them.”

“’How?’ not ‘where?’” asked Flotsam.

Justice leaned back, and stretched their wings, turning to face Flotsam at last. “I can only tell you to observe closely. Your cloud is far away, in heaven. The tree is here, and so I sit here, not afar. I suggest you sit next to me. Obverse me, or the tree, if you wish, but do so with an unencumbered view.”

“Sit next to you?” Flotsam laughed. “So you love me as well.”

“I wonder.”

Flotsam sat down next to Justice and gestured towards a particular leaf as it caught flame. “A spark of pink in that one, yes?”

“So there is,” replied Justice.