by C.S. Henrys

“The Tree”

C.S. Henrys


It had nightshade leaves, that tree. Black, that is. A strange tree. It, unlike everyone—everything else, never seemed to die. It was always there. It grew some sort of berry, I think; they were toxic to people. In a way, my old tree was, itself, like an ikon of death—itself eternal, but killing all it touched. And at the embark of spring, every year, fresh sprouts would come up at its base; even they could not sap the life of death, as it were.

I recall I could never climb that tree; I believe it was a bane to me. No ambition to surmount the obstacle. The killer tree—reminding me of things. My brother—yes, I had one once—used to climb that horrible tree, slender tree with vacuum leaves and twiggish branches. I would always shout to him ‘Brother! Brother! Why do you want to play on the scary tree?!’ And he would come to me, and reassure me; say things like, ‘Haven’t mum and dad told you about that tree? It’s not scary,’ or ‘Brother, if you would climb the tree, you’d see it can’t possibly hurt you.’ Brother was a silly lad, a frightful lad. Perhaps I had a certain neurosis—I don’t know. Youth comes with its own quirks and joys, and young I was, then.

I was well on my way to believing him, though—and then one particular day came around. ‘Twas on New Year’s Day, I think—a boon, because I was born on the 2nd of January. Brother and I were playing in the snow of the lawn when he deigned to climb that fatal tree. With the sleet had come ice, and so afflicted was the tree; yet, brother wished to climb it regardless. He did—he, as I best recall, stood triumphant upon the tree, as though he had peaked Everest itself, and then reached down to pluck up a wad of slush from its contorted branches to hurl at me—but ne’er did he accomplish that as such, that his feet gave way on the branch, and they tumbled forth, his head sweeping backward. There was no particular crunch; too much wet slush on the ground for anything like that. But brother didn’t move. I stood there in the blowing wind

-clouds harsh, dark, and high o’er us-

and the fresh-falling snow for god-knows-how-long, waiting for brother’s game to end; for him to get up and continue playing with me.

As I approached him, I noted his form; his head was cocked in a way no man’s head should ever be, the most grisly pose imaginable, though there was but little blood. His eyes stared out, stark wide, and dull, like a pair of scuffed marbles; one meagre bead of blood ran from his poor crippled nose. I could not quite conceive death at that bleary age, but something about his body in that state brought a meek tear to my eye.

Still now I sit, and I see there that accursed tree. I lumber forward, feeling the knot in my stomach, and the knot in my hand. It has been a good many long years since then, and I, being my tattered family’s sole heir, now own this household, this property; I own that bloody tree. That black, knotty old tree. That killer tree.

Without realising, I’ve stepped into the shadow of the tree. The reaper looms, now, over my head.

-Catharsis is a sweeping thing, says Thanatos-

Agreeing with that sentiment, I climb the tree for the first time, as high as I possibly can, bones weary with age. My eyes whet, but I cannot call it sadness, nor can I call these tears. This is a sort of equilibrium—this is a sort of shame. I am making things right. The knot I hold wraps around the branch of the tree on which I sit—my hands move with the implicitness of necessity.

The tree, I see, is the real victim of all of this. It cannot kill, but its existence facilitates so much death. Now I, too, will die by the hands—no, the limbs, the standing arms—of this damn tree. The knot wraps around, and limply, I drop into the abyss.

-There it stays dark, brother; dark like the leaves-