Somehow everything always stayed green in the New Greeceland Arboretum. The gardener was either a genius or a magician – perhaps a bit of both. Either way, Manto could never resist going out there for a little sanctuary, especially at this time of year when all the other trees were changing colors and losing all their leaves. Today she had a few other Debs with her who were eager to turn back time and recapture the feelings of summer among the lush foliage.
They approached the gates and passed the sign out front. “WELCOME TO NEW GREECELAND ARBORETUM,” it proclaimed; then, “Where it’s always Arbor Day.”
Manto led the way to the cabin where the offices were. “Come along,” she said to Emerald, who was lagging behind to admire a particularly leafy shrub, but then caught up to Cathbad and Nydiva. They stood behind Manto as she rang the bell on the front desk.
A man shuffled out to meet them, aged but fit. His face was lined from exposure to the sun and his eyes were sharp. “Howdy-do,” he said. “Can I help you.” It was a statement rather than a question. They felt that he could answer anything they would ask of him, and with every amount of confidence and authority. They read his nametag: Garbrith O. Fenhead. Surely this was the mastermind behind this place.
“Hello there,” said Manto. “I’m a Lifetime Member.” She produced her card. “I’m here for a visit, but I need to register my guests.”
“Yep.” Mr. Fenhead whipped out a book and flipped it open. “Sign here.” Then he said abruptly, “Come with me.”
“Oh, we don’t need a guide, I’m very familiar with—”
But Mr. Fenhead cut her off with a wave of his hand and led them out to a grove that was lined with majestic trees and flourishing, full bushes.
“Is this new?” Manto asked breathlessly. “I don’t remember seeing this last time.”
“Yep.” He watched them as they wandered and examined everything.
“Look at this!” said Emerald, who pointed at a teardrop-shaped fruit hanging from a tall bush. It was light green with translucent skin.
“Those look marvelous,” said Cathbad. “Let’s try them.” He picked a few, and handed them out. They all bit into the fruits tentatively at first, but upon discovering how sweet the bright pink flesh inside was, they couldn’t deny it was the most delicious thing they’d ever tasted.
“And look at the legroom under here!” said Manto admiringly of one of the shrubberies.
“Very nice,” Nydiva conceded. “Are there good branches to hang your clothes on?”
“Clothes?” Manto was puzzled.
Nydiva laughed. “Forget I mentioned it. How silly of me.”
“Mr. Fenhead, what are these, anyway?” asked Emerald, holding up the fruit. But he was no longer with them. She shrugged and took another bite.
“It really IS always Arbor Day here,” sighed Manto as she nestled herself into the grass, staring up at the leaf-covered sky.
“Indeed. Happy Arbor Day,” said Nydiva.
The others laid down with her, enjoying the quiet, and they closed their eyes, absorbed in their own thoughts. It seemed to grow dark quickly, and when they opened their eyes again, the canopy of foliage looked thicker than it had before. “How long have we been here?” Emerald wondered aloud.
Cathbad stood up, squinting to see if he could spot the sun’s position through the branches. “I can’t tell,” he admitted. “Surely it hasn’t been that long. It can’t be nightfall yet.”
“Do you remember the trees being this close?” said Nydiva. “I thought this area was much more roomy.”
“Me too,” Manto agreed. She turned and bumped into a tree. “What the—”
It couldn’t be possible, but somehow they were right up against the trees. They looked down and saw the trunks firmly rooted down in the soil, yet the circle of trees seemed to be closing in on them.
“Okay, I’m officially freaked out,” stated Cathbad, his face pressed up against the bark. He turned to face the girls, but now there were trees between them, too.
As physics tells us, no two molecules can occupy the same space. Something must give way. Deb molecules are no match for the strength of tree molecules, so when push came to shove, it was the Debs who had to yield. They were pressed between trees like leaves between wax paper. Transparent and paper-thin (and you know what paper is made of), four Debs made their way to the afterlife.