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The Tree of Wednesday: A Norse-Inspired Short Story - The Finale

An avid fan of the fantasy, dark-fantasy and mythology genres. Will use adjectives with reckless abandon.

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A dreadful plan is hatched

The tree gradually changed from a “creepy, evil tree” to a “neglected eyesore” as we grew up. But this would all change one fateful night.

We were sitting around a small bonfire in Mr. Hobbs’ cornfield, chugging beers that we were too young to drink but felt cool enough to have anyway. Out of the blue, Peter said, “Hey, remember that creepy old tree in the middle of town?”

“Yeah, creepy dead tree, right?” Andy replied.

“The gnarly one with no leaves?” I added.

Peter beamed like he always did when planning mischief, “Yes! That’s the one!” He blurted. “We should go burn it down! It has been giving my little sister the chills, and it’s so… creepy.”

Property of the city

In retrospect, I blame it on the alcohol.

There we were, three drunk teenagers rambling unsubtly across town, a gasoline can and lighter in tow. Peter could barely contain his excitement, sneering and giggling manically as we neared the park. Andy kept flicking on the lighter like a pyromaniac, the spark and flame momentarily illuminating his face in the gloom.

The night was rather clear, and despite there being no moon out tonight, there was enough starlight to make out features in the dark. We crept across the grassy park, shuffling unsteadily towards the looming figure right in the middle of it. The mangled overgrowth reached out towards the starry sky; a monstrosity silhouetted in the night. I became increasingly lucid as I approached it, and an all-too-familiar feeling of dread took hold. I stared at the tree. Its dark branches twisted almost menacingly, but it remained motionless and silent. Not a rustle from the wind. Nothing.

Looking at my friends, I could immediately tell the feeling of dread was shared among us. Andy had stopped flicking the lighter and instead stood as I was, staring up at the tree with a profoundly uncomfortable look on his face. Beyond him, Peter was no longer giggling. He stood silent and contemplative, which was rather unlike him.

“I don’t know…” Andy trailed off. “We could get in trouble or…something.”

“It’s just a stupid old tree.” Peter weighed in. “Let’s get it over with, yeah?”

“But…” I started, “Is it not like… city property?”.

“Who cares?” Peter interjected, “We said we would do this. Besides, we’re probably doing them a favor.”

Peter walked up to the small barrier fencing the tree and hopped over. He uncapped his gasoline can and started aggressively emptying its contents at the base of the tree, muttering incomprehensibly as he worked.

We stood there rooted for a moment, Andy and I, watching Peter at his grim task. A cold sweat trickled down my brow, and my muscles tensed up. Every instinct I had in my body was telling me to run. I looked over to Andy, and we locked eyes. An unspoken message passed between us.

“We said we would.”

Without another word, I approached the small barrier and hopped it, uncapping my own can as I walked.

Above my head, I heard a flutter, and a black bird, a raven, flew off, cawing noisily. It circled overhead, then landed a little way off on the grass, its beady eye trained on us. I regarded the bird for a minute, but Peter’s mutterings drew me out of my short reverie. I joined him at the base of the tree, pouring the contents of my can alongside his.

Why was I so cripplingly scared?

I slowly circled the tree. The only sounds in the quiet night were the sloshing sounds of our gasoline cans, Peter’s mumbling, and the occasional caw from the raven, still some little ways off… regarding us.

I side-stepped an overgrown root on the ground as I worked. A loud crack rang out as I did, and a huge dead branch came crashing down onto the spot I had just vacated, not mere seconds prior. Splinters of wood and old bark sprayed from the point of impact, and I stared dumbfounded, rooted in place from shock.

“Nice try!” I heard Peter yell out.

His voice was muffled like it was traveling through syrup. My heart beat madly into my ears, and my legs trembled uncontrollably. The tree let out a groan. A low creaking sound like one would hear in an old forest, and a single intrusive thought registered clearly in my mind.

I immediately knew we had just been warned.

“Jesus, the tree is trying to kill us,” Andy yelled, voicing what we were all undoubtedly thinking.

I realized then that he was still standing outside the little enclosure. He had not moved, and his face was deathly pale in the dim starlight.

“Let us just leave. This is so bad.” he continued.

“Just light it up.” Peter interjected, “that’s all that’s left to do anyway.”

Andy tried to refuse. I could see his mouth trying to work the argument, but he just sighed. “Fine”, he said in a defeated tone. He pulled the lighter from his pocket and flicked on the flame as he had done countless times on our walk here. That was when everything went south.

The attack

A few things happened almost simultaneously.

I was still turned, my back partially to the tree and looking at Andy when the flame from his lighter came on. The tiny flame illuminated his face for a split second in a warm orange hue. Almost immediately, a long, gnarly branch shot out, smacking Andy right across the chest and tossing him like a ragdoll into the night. His lighter fell, dropping where he had stood and sparking a small flame where it landed. I whipped around as I felt a vice grip around my left ankle. Looking down, I saw a tree root wrapped around my boot.

Suddenly a white-hot searing pain shot through my left side as I was raised in the air and weightlessly flung across the cool night air. I landed with a painful thud and soft squelch and I gasped, the very act of breathing sending blinding pain down my side. The pain set every nerve ending in my body alight. My head was pounding and stars were dancing in front of my eyes as my vision slowly blurred. I could not feel my left foot.

However, I could hear a person screaming, the screams slowly fading as I drifted out of consciousness. The last thing I saw before passing out was the raven - its beady eye trained on me, unmoving and unblinking.

The aftermath

The strangest part was that nobody asked me anything. Odd, considering that I was the sole survivor of the ‘freak park fire that had claimed the lives of two promising young souls, and irreversibly maimed a third.’ That was the running headline in the local paper when I finally came to.

Rather I was told by an all-too-somber police detective that a loose electrical wire from the town’s grid had started an electrical fire that had compromised the tree’s integrity. Unfortunately, my friends and I had been walking too close to the fated tree. A freak accident that the town was extremely sorry for.

I asked questions, but anything that could not be explained along this narrative was written off as the musings of a drunk, shaken teenager.

The tree had survived (oh goody). The fire that had started had also died off without doing significant harm, save for a few falling branches and some scorch marks on its ancient bark.

As for myself, I now look like your typical, disgruntled, one-legged old man who sneers at strangers, feeds the pigeons, and occasionally tries to scare little children with the story of the tree. The tree from which Odin hang. The very tree that stood in the middle of the town. The tree of Wednesday.

© 2022 Ralph Kiragu