The Hanging Tree

There’s a certain way sunlight strikes the tree, in the dying days of Autumn, that makes it seem as if it’s underwater. It doesn’t filter through the branches so much as it flows down them, and as the breeze strengthens, the tree sways with the languid ease of a ripple upon an ocean.
Perhaps, before Adam’s kind, giants had claimed this place as home. Perhaps they had congregated at this spot, desperate to flee whatever the affliction that threatened to remove them from the earth’s memory. They lifted their arms to the sky, in supplication, in hope that their Creator would save them. As their desolation grew they clung to each other, crying out in voices the sound of granite and dirt and dust.
This was what the tree looked like, giant arms intertwined, curving up to the sky, an unanswered cry for deliverance. It was as if the earth had answered instead, in the only way she could, giving of herself, of her lifeblood, where once was flesh now wood.
At least, that’s what the elders of Adam’s tribe would have them believe, and that as this tree was the remnants of an ancient wisdom that walked paths long forgotten, it must have been imbued with magic. Sacred, to be revered. But Adam had yet to see any evidence of this magic the elders spoke of, and was at that stage in his young years where the world that can be seen begins to nudge the unseen world closer to the edge of an abyss. Stories could not transfix him as they once might have, the world he could touch was the only thing he believed in now.
But he had not yet lost his curiosity, nor the impish drive to tread beyond the borders of what was permissible. Besides, with a foot pressing down upon a branch his hand had but clasped a few seconds ago, it was too late to give concern to rules and superstitions. If he was not meant to climb the tree, than why had it been created with such perfect footholds, bark that was not rough against the skin, branches that seemed to offer support where his hands sought it?
The only real concern tugging at Adams mind was that the more he climbed, the further it seemed he had yet to go. Still, he must reach the top eventually, and with his father’s blade he would cut from those topmost branches whatever he found there, and return triumphantly, revealing to the whole tribe how blind the elders truly were, how set in their dying ways.
But the tree knew better, somewhere from deep within, it remembered wanting to be saved, and centuries had spawned from that memory a cruelty, a malice sharp as the blade sheathed in Adam’s belt. Let this creature climb, let it’s arrogance and petulance make it feel invincible.
Bark suddenly went smooth, a branch snapped, hands clutched and missed, and a scream slowly faded into the distance. The tree knew better.
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~ by tenmiles on January 24, 2008.

6 Responses to “The Hanging Tree”

  1. Holy shit, dude! For a moment there I thought my RSS reader was broken. An excellent story, as always. Kind of reminds me of my army days and the “Sien jy daardie boom?” school of thought.

  2. Do mine eyes deceive me?

    Yay, cause they don’t 🙂 And not just any old post, but a great story too.

  3. You take wisps of ideas and turn them into something gothic and elegant …
    the only suggestion I would venture (and this is my impression, so take it or leave it) is not to let those wonderful sentences wander away from you – keep them sharp.

  4. Well.
    Well well well.
    (how am I doing hiding the surprise there? Better than kyknoord, right?)
    I love trees, but this one…
    And I love your stories, and this one…
    Do I dare a “welcome back”??)

  5. Hmm. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this. Late, yes, but I don’t have the fancy feeds set up and all that. My favorite line is the last; I like what it implies. Or may imply. I’ve waiting so long for a ‘fix’ that I’d almost fogotten how sweet it could be. Yes, the last line. And one other… but I’ll leave you to figure that out on your own. 😉

  6. Welcome back – brilliant story, btw 🙂

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