‘My Friend Tree’ by Heather Walker

Isolated by trees and forest, the small town of Evermay sat protected by the unknown. Brightly coloured houses and shops lined the main street and town-center, while the river wound the river wound its way through the cobbles. The stone bridge stretched across the current, forming the only way to cross to the other side.

However, Evermay wasn’t always this way. Long ago, in the summer of 1966, fire raged within the confines of Cherry-Oak Manor. The sheriff, his wife and child had lived there for many years, and wished to remain so, but it was not to be. Only the child had survived the beast of flames, with only wisps of his life and a suit of scars and burns.

Twisted, changed and intertwined with sorrow and anguish, the boy was rehomed. He ate very little, and never spoke unless at home, where his words were consumed by feud and quarrell. The dislike for his adoptive parents slowly turned into hatred that boiled deep within him, until one day. On the boy’s twelfth birthday, he was reported suicidal and dead, but rumors began to spread, rumors that spoke of how the boy actually ran to the forest, and the report was just a cover story, to conceal the truth. It wasn’t until a camper ran into the town, claiming that a small boy coated in scars had killed all five of her friends in the cover of darkness, that they knew he was still alive.

Nevertheless, our tale is from the time of December 1983, seventeen years later. The magic of Christmas was in the air and no one gave that summer the decency of a second thought and carried out their lives as one would. All but one. On the outskirts of town, the one place the town would happily forget stood – Crystal Elm Manor. Despite the festivities, darkness radiated from the somber home. In the corner of the sitting room, Michael Beachwood curled into the corner, protecting his head from the all too familiar blows he was receiving from his stepfather, Damien Stone, who’d married into the family three years before his mother died of cancer. Michael could have been beaten for any reason, and his stepfather usually found one everyday of his miserable life. Defeated and distressed, Michael finally gave up on hope and absconded into a new life within in the thickets near the border of town.

Discomfort soon settled over him. Knowing the wood was one thing, but seeing it at night was another. All that was familiar was swallowed by the dusk ink that cloaked the monster deep within. Contemplating his fate, reflecting upon his choice, Michael sat alone on the crisp, sombre ground, unable to sleep he looked up into the heavens and asked one simple question: why?

As if the world had reached into mind, and bore deep into his soul, a deep hollow male voice resonated out from a nearby tree.

“It’s because God’s one the cruelest beings to ever bare his presence,” it told him. “He enjoys crushing the innocent of the world into tiny pieces over, and over again until they’re beyond repair!” he said. As he had said this, Michael took cautious steps towards the tree,  with the new found hope that he wasn’t alone anymore. All memory of the dangers of the world simply slipped his mind and was replaced by excitement and naivety.

“Who are you?” he asked

“Let me see. Who am I?”

“It’s not a hard question,” Michael pointed out

“You’re right, my name is Tree.”

“Nice to meet you Tree; I’m Michael Beachwood,” the boy replied. “But I’m not dumb. Why are you in this tree and not in town?”

“I’m not somthing the town wants to be associated with. They couldn’t even bring themselves to look at me, not even if they tried,” he replied. Bitterness tainted his voice, as if he was remembering his past.

“I understand. They’d rather ignore a problem than attempt to fix it, the obnoxious snobs!” Michael spat,

“I’m glad you do.”

Weeks went by and the boy and Tree talked most days, and everything seemed fine, or so Michael thought.

“So, Tree,” he began. “Does everything have a voice?”

“Oh yes. Everything does. You just need to know how to hear it.”

“Okay. Can you tell me anything about you? Like how you ended up in this tree?”

“I’m an orphan. I ran away twenty-seven years ago and my parents died in a house fire.”

It was then Michael realized who he was talking to; the man in the tree was the little boy that ran away all those years ago.

Suddenly, the trees seemed to grow together, blocking the light from his eyes, voices cried out from every branch, leave and thorn, begging for his mercy, but also for their end. It was too much. Michael Beachwood’s world broke in half, fragmenting his thoughts. He ran; he ran in any direction he could in a desperate attempt to silence the word of nature that plagued his thoughts; he returned to the other nightmare of his home.

He woke up surrounded by grey walls. For a moment, he heard nothing, felt nothing, but then the voices flooded his mind once again and reality set in. He was in the asylum. The asylum only existed for one purpose – to forget the less than perfect and to conceal the dark truths of the town. Once again, the voices overwhelmed him. He called out into his dank confines.

“No more!”

No one quite knows or remembers how, but at that moment, he didn’t hesitate, he didn’t think. He just ended it all.

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