The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
We Only Needed to Listen
by Sheri White
Before we destroyed everything, before our world became dark and barren, I used to explore the woods behind my house on hot sunny days. The giant trees provided cooling shade, and I would listen to the birds and insects singing while I watched squirrels jump among the branches, chattering and playing high above me.
My favorite thing about the woods, though? The trees talked to me. I don’t mean like those creepy trees in The Wizard of Oz. They whispered through their fluttering leaves. I told my mom about it, and she told me I was imagining things, that I was just hearing the breeze. I didn’t hear them with my ears, though. They spoke to my heart.
They talked of scary things to come – fires, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes. They said it was up to us to save them, to save everything and everyone on earth. But what could I, only ten years old, do to let grown-ups know what would happen to us?
Eventually I stopped going to the woods. The doom and gloom whispered from the trees scared me. Then we moved to the city, and I made new friends, discovered boys, grew up. But every once in a while, I would dream about the trees and the future. In the morning, sunshine would pour into my room, but instead of hearing whispering leaves, car horns, grinding garbage trucks, so many city noises would assault my ears.
I finally stopped keeping a window cracked at night. My sinuses filled with smog and exhaust while I slept. Cigarette smoke from the neighbors hanging out on the balcony at all hours stunk up my room. I missed the woods.
I majored in environmental studies in college, becoming more alarmed every day at what was happening in the world. The trees were right – so many natural disasters now, animals once thought of as invincible now listed as endangered species, crops turning to dust. I tried to warn people; I wrote editorials to newspapers, sought out other climate change believers, joined protests against big businesses wanting to rape our lands and waters.
I dreamed of the trees almost every night. But I realized it wasn’t actually the trees, but it was earth itself. Earth her self. Mother Earth — or Mother Nature — begged me to help. I didn’t know if she talked to anybody else. And I guess I could have imagined all of this, but did it matter? The earth was in trouble.
Those of us dedicated to Mother Earth tried our best. But greed and willful ignorance won out, as usual. This time, though, Mother Earth was done with us. She appeared to me in a dream alone, no other trees to whisper for her. She stood tall, magnificent, like a nymph in a fairy tale. But when she spoke, the sadness and anguish in her voice broke my heart.
“The time has come. I can no longer heal what humans destroy. And I can no longer fight against those who hate.”
Once Mother Nature stopped fighting us, a darkness settled over the earth, literally and figuratively. Many died – animals, humans, anything organic in nature. Lakes and rivers dried up, fire ravaged and scorched the earth. Dead sea creatures bobbed along the surface of the oceans. The smell of death filled every breath we took.
Fear and anger ruled the world. Those who didn’t die on their own were killed for their supplies – or their flesh.
I no longer dreamed.
Fiction © Copyright Sheri White
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Author Sheri White:
The Shadow Over Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity
O little town of Deathlehem,
Within you death doth lie!
Beneath thy deep and rutted streets
Tormented souls do cry.
Yet in your dark streets shineth
A cold and ghostly light.
The fears and tears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
Well, here we are again, folks — Deathlehem …
… where Krampus isn’t the only creature to fear
when the holiday draws near…
… where holiday treats aren’t safe to eat …
… where not even the apocalypse will keep
people from celebrating the holiday …
… where even Chanukah isn’t safe to celebrate …
Twenty-five more tales of holiday horror to benefit
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
Terrifyingly disturbing and wonderfully written.
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