Ponsford Aerosol hated being on the defensive and even less being threatened. He had been practicing as a lawyer for some forty years and in that time he’d acted for all varieties of the human diaspora, seventeen species of fish, twenty-seven living mammals and one extinct variety of lemur who’s dna took action against a multinational weather manipulator for stealing its rain. The incandescent ash opposite was the first flora. The tree was, as was the wont of trees rooted to the spot and conversation had been proving difficult on account of it being insufficiently aspirated to maintain any form of understandable verbal communication. It was when Ponsford pointed this out to the tree’s interpreter that the tree had swayed aggressively towards Ponsford and slapped his face with its twigs. The surprise was greater than the pain, but the tree’s actions made it clear that worse might follow.
‘What the hell’s upset it?’ From the start they had struggled with the appropriate pronoun for the tree and resorting to ‘it’, while understandable in the circumstances of the physical contrafabulation merely served to increase the anger of the tree.
‘Mr Aerosol,’ the translator, a small shrub from an agency specialising in helping inarticulate semi sentients, flapped the leaves away from its artificial voice box, ‘that’s why we’re here. Mr Ash wishes to establish the rights of all arboreo-sentients in the eyes of the law. Indeed as I understand Mr Ash’s position, there is one right above all others that he wishes to establish,’ the translator checked with the tree and was clearly gratified to receive a soft susurration as its response.
‘Which is?’ Ponsford was beginning to wish he’d stuck to parrots. They might be wordy but at least you understood them.
‘The right to have conversations.’
The tree swayed its agreement.
Ponsford looked from one the other, utterly perplexed. ‘I don’t want to cause any more upset, but Mr Ash here has difficulty articulating yet the most important thing to him…’
‘To all trees, Mr Ponsford.’
‘If you say so. The most important right is the right to have conversations. Yes?’
‘Can I ask why?’
‘Oh that’s simple, Mr Aerosol. Up to now, every tree has spent its life silent and it wants that to change. Imagine, decades, in some cases centuries of non verbal communication and then all you have to look forward to is to dialogue.’