The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Tree of Life
by K.R. Morrison
Mom had been mayor of our town for a great many years, and in that time peace had reigned. We had prospered, and there had been only minor problems—nothing like the issues facing our neighboring cities.
But then someone had to get nosy. Why they had to interfere and pry into business that was not theirs, I can’t say. All I know is that, in the tried-and-true attitude of “what have you done for us lately,” the townsfolk were at our door with more questions than we had answers to—and ones they should have left unasked.
Into the fray someone threw the firebrand—the word “witch”—and that sent everyone’s tempers blazing. Soon followed a real blaze—a pyre, with my mom trapped inside. Our Pa, as unsettled as his mind was at that time, tried to follow her in, but the townsfolk kept him from doing so. Guess they didn’t want him to get hurt. How civilized of them.
That night, after the fire had subsided and the people had gone off to their other pursuits—possibly looking for someone else to incinerate—a great wind came up. It picked up the ashes from the town square and, under dark of night, deposited them in a neat pile behind our pumphouse.
I discovered them the next morning when I went out to check the gauges; seems the water had stopped for some reason. I took a shovel and wheelbarrow to the pile, and soon had it transferred to a certain tree not far from yesterday’s conflagration.
No one was up and about yet, so I had no trouble with my next move. Once the ashes were distributed around the trunk, I set off for home, happier than I had been since before the unholy visitation of our fellow citizens.
The change was gradual, but once the leaves had fallen from the tree, it became obvious. At least to me. It took longer for the others to notice; they were too busy being the center of their own stupid selves.
First the twigs turned and twisted, then the smaller branches. Over the course of a week or so, the shape became more and more clear.
Finally, the townsfolk began to notice. Some actually looked up from their tiny little universes to see the change.
A month after their scapegoating session with my mom (so who knew you’d like to run the good things of life out as well?), the shape had become too clear to dismiss. People assembled at the base of the tree to look and gawk—and probably to discuss its immolation. I really don’t know what they were talking about, as I was not there.
I was home, cleaning the house and readying it for a visitor who would certainly be arriving soon.
Pa had just settled himself on the porch when there came across the field a cacophony of noise from the direction of the crowd.
“What’s with those people?” he grumbled. “Always with the noise.”
I looked across, where smoke was billowing from the town. I could just barely make out people screaming and running, most of them on fire.
“It’s okay, Pa,” I told him, laying a hand on his shoulder. “It will calm down soon enough. Just sit quietly and wait.”
He looked up at me through watery eyes. “She’s coming back today then?”
A silhouette emerged from the flames and started in our direction.
“Looks like it,” I told him. “I’ll get the tea.”
Fiction © Copyright K.R. Morrison
Image courtesy of Rie Sheridan Rose.
More from K.R. Morrison:
Enoch’s Return: Pride’s Downfall Book 4
All hell broke loose, as demon fought saint, and undead fought mortal. Fangs and swords, fire and light, mingled in a cacophony of noise that would have awakened the dead — if they hadn’t already been in the pitch of battle.
Toby was looking forward to celebrating his 21st birthday with family and friends. However, the day is shattered by the arrival of his sister, Erica, fresh out of the juvenile detention center, where she has lived in isolation most of her life. There is something very wrong with her still; witness her biting the ear of her taxi driver and licking the blood from her lips, and the way she antagonizes everyone around her. The other thing that is very off-putting about the day is a gift he receives – a musty tent and a few iron spikes that have been lying in the ground for years. Toby faints at the sight of the “treasure,” while Erica reacts violently and runs off to who-knows-where.
While he is unconscious, Toby learns who he truly is, and of his mission.
Delightfully fun and wicked.
I saw this one a-coming!! Loved it!
Love it! Very powerful story.
Fantastic! I laughed at “most of them on fire.” Great treatment of the prompt, and loved the photo RieSheridanRose!
So well crafted – this line “they were too busy being the center of their own stupid selves.” holds so much truth it’s painful