The Demon of the Tree
*This story contains subject matter which some may find disturbing.* **Please read at your own risk.**
She had a dream once–it left her numb inside, but not for a small time. The numbness inside lasted for a long time. As for the dream? There’s a hitch to those: the ones you don’t want will always return once you’ve had them.
As for the dream, it had a specific origin. She lived in a small community up in Northern Ontario, and that meant several things: long, cold winters, and vast tracts of undeveloped land. If it was undeveloped, it was wild. And if it was wild, it was dangerous.In that particular community there was a local legend: the Blood Tree.
To the story’s credit, the tree was real. In a ravine west of the town hall, there was a hoary red willow. It was old, rotten, yet somehow alive. The ravine was fenced off to keep people out. It was treacherous, deep, but neither that nor the fence were a deterent. As a joke, she had made a fake note, written a few cryptic words on it, and pinned it to the tree. It was meant for a cheap scare. What she hadn’t anticipated was for another note to show up on her doorstep the next day.
I watch as they crawl down to me. Like so many worms they draw near, inch by inch, blind, oblivious. Like their mothers and fathers before them, they do not heed the primal instinct of their forebears: fear.
After reading it through several times the shock began to wear off. She was sure she was alone at the time; someone had been watching her, and they wanted to play tricks too.
“What’s that about anyways?” someone asked. It was one of her neighbours.
“Oh this?” she waved the note above her head. “Just a joke. Someone’s trying to scare me.”
“Yeah, I noticed it while I was walking my dog this morning. Pretty weird if you ask me. Whoever it was, I think they were hiding in the bushes out back, because Casey was barking like mad; I had to pull him away to make him stop.”
“Really? I didn’t hear anything this morning. I’m not much of a light sleeper though.” That wasn’t always true, but to be honest she didn’t remember much of last night. She had woken up half an hour ago, her body stiff and sore everywhere. It was probably the weather they were having. They were well into the second week of October now. “It is the time for this kind of crap.”
“Yeah, it’s sad really. We’ve been having this kind of thing happen all across town–kids you know. Just looking for something to do.”
This year there was a new record for vandalism within the town. Many were claiming that it hadn’t been this bad in years.
“Well, I guess we’ll have to lock everything up at night,” her neighbour said. “Well, I’ll be on my way now. Take care Sherri!”
“Yeah, you to Melissa! It was nice to see you!” Sherri watched her neighbour’s receding back before returning her attention to the note. “Just looking for something to do,” she mumbled. “Well, it’s not like I can say anything.” Lifting the lid to her recycling, she tossed the note. The muscles in her arm made a silent protest. Ow! It wasn’t normal for the weather to affect her in such a way. Perhaps she was due for a doctor’s visit? Sherri called in to schedule an appointment for the following week, then went on about her day.
By the time evening came she was exhausted. More so than usual, but that was just a symptom of the bad weather they’d been having. At around lunch the winds had picked up, and it had started to rain: a cold, miserable shower for an already gloomy day. Everyone was indoors anyway, so it made little difference. With nothing to do, Sherri retired early for the night.
It wasn’t until midnight that she began to suspect anything wrong. Her body jolted, as if slapped, and her eyes popped open. Outside was a wild storm. Right? That’s it, right? It sounds like someone’s moaning, screaming . . . And it sounds like a lot of someones.
In the two seconds that it took for her mind to register that thought, she became aware of another thing: something was pressing down on her body. When her eyes adjusted to the dark, she saw two red pinpricks. She normally did see pinpricks when she woke up at night. It had never bothered her before–
–But there had never been a body to go with those two dots. A large body too, but that was all she could make out. In another two seconds she realized that her body was paralyzed. The thing leaned forward till it was almost touching her face. “He’s coming!” it whispered. Its breath smelled of dirt.
When she woke up the next morning there were three things: she had vomited in her sleep, she was more exhausted than before, and her room was a mess.
She could barely think.
She could hardly move.
What was happening?
I come in the night. Twin rivers run red, and I swell.
The words were scrawled on the ceiling above her in what looked to be clay. “Oh . . . Gaw–” her lips scarcely moved as the words croaked past them. She choked back a sob. “OoooOooh!”
Out of the corner of her eye she saw it. A horribly tall, sickly thin . . . thing covered in red tatters . . . Sherri never saw its face. Wincing, she propped herself up on an elbow, then looked in the direction where the apparition had been. There was nothing to see, of course. She didn’t care. With everything she had she screamed at the spot, shrill, like a beast. Not out of fear. Out of rage. Out of hate for the thing which had violated her.
She knew one thing now: there was a reason that tree was red as much as there was a reason for it to still live.
Without even thinking she got out of bed; she began to move automatically, unconscious of even moving. If and when she did think, it was the colour red. Once she stopped to think about a stone, but only for a few seconds.
She woke up the next morning, well-rested, feeling like her normal self. There were no unexplained aches or pains on her body. For a change that was nice. Sherri did feel a bit weak, and when she looked in the mirror she found an odd bruise on her neck. Her bedroom was a bit messy, but nothing suggested that there had been a break-in. Had it been a bad dream? she wondered. There was nothing on the ceiling above the bed.
It wasn’t until late in the afternoon, when a thoughtful neighbour came around, that she heard the news. Vandals, or so it seemed, had cut the Blood Tree down. Her neighbour, Melissa, wasn’t scandalized at the act however.
No, she seemed relieved.