From Green to Greed

Nothing but lush green filled the vision of Roman Santos, who spun to admire the spectacle. Under the shiny leaves, the umber-colored branches of the tree were well-hidden. It was like a sea of emeralds surrounding him, dancing in the air to the tone of the gentle wind which gave them a rhythm. Except that wind was from his own professor's fan. Roman crawled on all fours with his back only an inch from the jagged pine wood. Ever since he drank Dr. Miro's elixir, his entire body had shrunken down to the size of an ant; each leaf had become as big as his entire body. Dr. Miro's words from just an hour earlier still echoed in his head: “It's a true test. Drink this elixir, and you'll shrink so much that my bonsai tree will appear as a giant force of nature.” “So you're promising me that if I find every piece of gold slathered on its leaves, I'll win a million dollars?!” Roman asked as he hunched over his chair next to Dr. Miro's desk. “Yes,” the professor answered. “Remember, Roman. This bonsai tree is special. It's the rarest species in the world - one which can grow gold on its leaves. All you need to do is shrink down, collect the gold, and trade it in for cash.” As his recollection faded, Roman peered down the tree trunk, landing his eyes at the dirt which hosted the roots. Time to start hunting for that gold… he thought. With his sights on the first leaf in front, it didn't take long for him to locate his first piece of treasure. The glossy yellow made it easy to detect, and it appeared more splashed than slathered. Roman worked away at pulling the gold off of the leaf's surface - his fingers clawed at the edges while he heaved at his prize. By the time it finally unstuck itself from the leaf, Roman found his forehead drenched in sweat. “Ugh, this will take a while…” But it wasn't until the third leaf, at the sight of its thin and weak-looking petiole - “Wait, I'm so stupid…” - was when he realized how simple the task assigned to him truly was. With both hands gripping the sides of the leaf which was as wide as his entire torso, Roman twisted the entire blade menacingly. Within seconds, the petiole ruptured, tearing the entire leaf off its branch. “Alright!” One by one, Roman began breaking each leaf off entirely, while dropping them to the ground below between snaps. This is a much easier way to collect the gold! “Ouch,” he muttered, caressing his knee as it caught a bump on the twig he kneeled on. He forgot the tree's branches were snaggy and hardly sittable. I just have to avoid the sharper parts, he thought, and grinned as he continued collecting. To Roman, it simply meant higher risk, higher reward. For a million dollars, nothing was impossible. And so he continued breaking off every leaf from the bonsai tree. By the end of the day, only one thought lingered in his mind: How should I spend my million bucks? Not a single leaf remained on the tree. A smile engulfed his face as Dr. Miro greeted him from the ground below. “Congrats, now please come down.” A red ladder appeared just below his feet, prompting him to finally come down from a long day of treasure hunting. Roman smirked as he reached the ground, observing the pile of leaves he gathered next to the trunk. “You completed the task in a way I expected you to,” Dr. Miro explained. “Nice, now where's my money?” But then it happened. “Wait, what the fuck?!” Roman cried as his feet began sinking into the dirt. Any yank from either leg proved to be useless. “Your time has come to an end,” Dr. Miro explained with a sigh. “What do you mean?!” Roman yelled as the dirt underneath continued swallowing him up like quicksand. “You became greedy, and prioritized your own self-interests over the health of my bonsai tree.” “Screw off! You're the one who told me-” “Yes, that I know. And it's not just your fault, it's our fault.” With one last scream of agony, Roman's head tucked under the enveloping dirt from the ground. Two Days Later João walked into his former professor's lab while a policewoman followed from behind. “Dr. Roman Miros Santos passed away in his lab yesterday due to cerebral hypoxia,” the cop explained. “I recall he was also suffering from a few mental illnesses, and sometimes referred to himself as two different people,” replied João. “But even our president loved him.” “That's ‘cause he was an advocate for the President's Deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest project last year…” “Ah, yes, I remember his ten-year-old bonsai tree was completely dead when I found his body. No leaves, no life,” answered João. “There's a lot of folklore about that bonsai tree species. It's said that Gaia, the Goddess of Nature, created that tree to test the morals of humans. It could grow gold, but the only way to extract it without damaging the tree was to let the leaves fall by themselves. Gaia was testing greed. The tree's bumpy branches represented the uselessness of those who knew, but ignored its pleas for help.”

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