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The Dead Tree

by TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY 4 months ago in Horror
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by Tanika Smith Wheatley

The cabin in the woods - continue reading below...

THE DEAD TREE

by Tanika Smith Wheatley

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window…

From my own window, as I was about to close the drapes and get into bed, I blinked in surprise, but yes, there definitely was a little flickering light glowing in the darkness…

I silently put my slippers and dressing gown back on again and headed out to investigate.

The moon was full and bright, so it was easy to see in the darkness, as I quietly sneaked up to the little old log cabin – I had my soft slippers on and the thick dewy leaves made my approach softly soundless; still, a twig snapped underfoot – I froze – and waited a moment, barely breathing, but no sounds or shadows moved, the scene was unchanged, the cabin with the candle silently beckoning in the window, now only meters away.

Then an owl hooted, three times, and swooped towards me – I ducked, and almost lost my footing, but it missed, and flew upwards, up, and up, towards the bright, shining moon…when suddenly dark clouds gathered and abruptly put out the moon’s glowing light.

In the sudden darkness, my imagination started playing tricks on me. Did a large tree just run past me? Were the trees getting denser? Thicker? Darker? I had lived here for only a few weeks now, but I never realised how much the forest had grown, in that short time. The closer I got to the cabin, the darker it seemed – I squinted up towards the moon above, but yes, it had completely disappeared – behind dark clouds, and the eerie trees – and was that a sudden chilly breeze? I looked at the candle in the window, and yes, it had been blown out.

I was almost at the cabin door. I looked back towards my own home, but in the dense darkness, I could no longer see it – well, I’d come this far, I might as well continue, and investigate – damn – in the brightness of the full moon and the candle in the window to guide me, I hadn’t thought that I’d need a torch – so, with arms outstretched in front of me, I carefully, and slowly, continued towards the dark cabin.

I managed to find the door, and handle – I tried turning it – it creaked, and groaned, but it opened – I stepped inside, peering in the darkness…

“Is anyone here?” I called softly, but there was no reply.

I tried again, a little louder, “Is there someone here?”

Then suddenly, I felt the swish of someone rushing past me in the darkness, I heard the door slam shut, and a light came on…I twirled to face the person who had shut me inside the cabin – at first, I saw no-one, then, I looked down, and gasped…a little girl…only about seven years old, maybe younger, sitting at the bottom of the door, looking up at me, between straggled strands of hair…

I squatted in front of her. “Hi, where’s your mother?”

“Dead…”

I swallowed. “Your father?”

“Dead…”

“Is there anyone else here with you?”

She shook her head.

I looked around the place. It was a one room cabin. I presumed toilet facilities must have been outside. When I moved into the area, I had meant to explore, but I hadn’t got around to it. And I’m sure the real estate agent said that the nearby old cabin was uninhabited and had been so, for years. In fact, I was the only resident out this way. Which was what I wanted. Solitude. After inheriting some money, I was now independent, and escaping the overcrowded and busy city life.

There was an old-fashioned fire/cooker with a rather crooked and cracked flue, and a pile of wood was lying next to it, but it looked as though it hadn’t been used for a while. I noticed a rickety old table, with three chairs, and an old couch/bed with a filthy blanket thrown across it. No glass in the only window, just shutters that opened inwards, and straw and leaves were strewn around the floor – no refrigerator, a few dishes, pots and cutlery on a shelf, and remnants of old food was on a dirty bench.

I turned back to her. She hadn’t moved. “What are you doing here?”

“I live here,” she answered simply.

“Who lives with you?”

She shrugged. “No-one…”

“Does anyone look after you?”

She shook her head.

I stood. I’d better get you back to my place,” I sighed, “and take you into town in the morning…”

With that, she got up, stood with her back against the door, with arms crossed, firmly stating, “I’m not going anywhere!”

“You can’t stay here on your own,” I looked at the window, “if it wasn’t for your candle in the window, I wouldn’t have found you…”

She blinked, looked at the window, and went over to inspect the candle. “Oh, no,” she half whispered, half wailed, “I was told that when the candle goes out, I will die soon after…”

I ran to her. “What do you mean?”

“You’re not from these parts, are you?” She gasped, “that’s what happens, that’s what happened to my parents too…” she pointed to the couch.

I ran over to the couch and pulled the blanket from it. A man and woman lay there, and it appeared as though they’d been dead for quite a while. “I tried not to look too shocked in front of the child, but I involuntarily stepped backwards, anyway.

“Under the full moon, when the owl hoots three times” she continued, “and swoops at you, Shady, the dead tree puts a glowing candle in your window – that’s when you know that when the candle goes out, you will die soon after…”

“A dead tree,” I gasped, as I remembered imagining a tree running past me before I came inside. I also remembered the trees seem to be gathering closer.

She nodded. “One full moon, people were partying on the lakeside, when their bonfire started burning the forest – the trees have been killing everyone who comes here ever since, on a full moon night. Shady, the largest tree, is their leader. They didn’t seem to mind me, an innocent child, being here, but you moved next door which made them mad again. It’s my turn now, and…you will be next…”

As if her legs had lost their strength, she started falling towards the floor. I ran back to her, but she crumpled to the floor before I could catch her, and with one last flutter of eyelashes, and a sad, deep sigh, she died.

I laid her next to her parents, and put the blanket back, covering them all. What an amazing imagination I thought to myself, as I headed back to my own place, to ring the authorities. But as I walked out of the forest, I stopped dead in my tracks…for there, in my own window, was a candle, burning brightly…

Horror

About the author

TANIKA SMITH WHEATLEY

When I was a young child, I would wake up in the night screaming because of nightmares. As time went on, I realized that I was looking forward to my dreams. They were much more exciting than my real life. So now, I write about my dreams...

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