Martrees on Terra

Martrees on Terra
Rohinton Daruwala

They started to bring them in
about a century ago.
Terraforming chlorodroids
to be precise, or just
fake martrees if you’re not.

They’re installed as tall steel poles,
that only gradually grow bark
like a fungus, and branches, and
sometimes even flowers and fruits
all to carefully programmed

The Company says they’re
far better than trees –
better at oxygen production,
at detox and at holding together
both soil and community.
Easily installed and de-installed,
they can grow or shrink on command,
bear chrysanthemums one year,
and apples the next. They can be
stripped bare by winter, and still
stand unmoved, ever ready to flower.

They’re easy to control too –
an operator can slip in a wire
through the bark at the right place,
or even communicate remotely
through the deep-deep-root-network.
Sometimes though, a martree falls off
the grid, forgotten and abandoned.

Last week I saw them trying
to fix one, neither bark nor root
would respond to any command.
The martree was blocking a
necessary road expansion, and so
they came out with a plasma saw
and cut right through it, let it
crash onto the road, a Goliath
felled by unfair cleverness.
They looked for the recorder
that’s supposed to be at the
centre of the trunk base,
but there was no metal in sight.
Just the bark outside and
living tree all through the centre.
I remember the plasma saw woman
dropping her tool to her feet and
the look on her face, like someone
who’d just run over a child.

Rohinton Daruwala lives and works in Pune, India. He writes code for a living, and speculative fiction and poetry in his spare time. He tweets as @wordbandar and blogs at His work has previously appeared in Strange Horizons, New Myths, Star*Line, Liminality and Through the Gate.