The image quality of reality depixellates right here, under the Tree. Around me is normal stuff, sun, plants, and yellow beach, the salty haze of sea. Above us, a wide purple ellipse spirals the form of a tree taller than the planetary atmosphere, extending its ghost limbs into space. We boggle, most of us 20 or younger, a class trip from a college 3 hours inland. Almost everyone here did a celebratory drug drop in honor of this momentous occasion. My friend Mae is still asleep on the bus.
An older woman in a park ranger’s uniform is lecturing, hand gestures describing various dips and bows. “The Nether Tree moves in its own time. Nighttime stars and one Nether emergence are visible. Do not expect the Tree to obey the laws of sidereal time.”
No one is listening, everyone is bored. We take out cameras, recording the moment or posing. The park ranger’s hands bow and dip like seagulls. “The bole intersects the horizon half a mile out at sea. There is no true intersection with the surface of the planet. The waves pass through an area of extreme cold and temperature displacement before being vanished into the god-knows-where.” Best explanation all day.
It’s cold in the sea wind near the Tree, and above us we see movement, a light flickering from inside the purple coil of discolored sky, like a star but too big, and butter-yellow, wrong color. After three hours of bus riding, we are ready to record anything. The park ranger hems, bashful: “This is a Nether emergence from the lower crown area of the Tree. Nothing to worry about.” My classmates wake up, gazing through recording device screens, displaced outside the moment by excitement and technology. Around us, silence seems to leak from the sky, even the tide is muffled.
The glowing dot changes color, yellow to red, then red to hot pink. Then long pink limbs extend downward, like lightning strikes captured in slow motion. Two, three splashes strike the waves out at sea. There is a crash out there, loud enough to send chills down my spine. It’s moving away from the tree, standing up on those long skinny lightning strikes. Moving toward land.
The park ranger hurries us back to the bus, bone-white and silent. Waves are exploding around pink lightning arcs as the emergence approaches. We retreat to the bus, some still recording, some stifling tears. As I crest the dune that separates the beach from the parking lot, I look back to see massive waves erasing our footprints. The pink dot hits some kind of dimensional barrier at a quarter-mile out, ripples like aurora borealis light, vanishes. I breathe out involuntarily, tension beginning to dissipate.
Thirty feet away, our tour bus glows pink. Mae is inside, her eyes on fire. Slow lightning reaches from her to me, separating sky from aether. I fall, keep falling. My scream is a tendril of pink light, sparking between bodies, joining us together in communion.