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The Soul Tree

A halfway house between life and death.

By Xanthe MattheysPublished 2 months ago 7 min read
Image created by DALL-E with my instruction.

There is a tree. It's a big tree. It looks like any other tree. It's big, been around for centuries, probably. It's not in any special sanctuary or marked by any particular qualities that make it stand out. It's just a plain, old, everyday, normal-looking tree. I've been to that tree. That tree is not a normal tree.

On occasion, you'll get someone coming too close to the tree and they may feel sad or angry or hopeless after spending time there. Those people are empaths, they sense the emotions coming off people. There aren't many of them around anymore. On many occasions, it's children with their innocence that will absorb some of the energy surrounding the tree. But they do not know their feelings yet, so they themselves will feel sad or lonely or angry for seemingly no reason at all. Yes, empaths sense people, not trees, but then there is nothing commonplace about this tree. This tree is special. This tree, for someone unknown, crazy reason, is where many earthbound souls, whose bodies are still very much alive, congregate when tragedy strikes.

And this is why there is so much emotion oozing from every pore on the tree, every leaf and flower, every node on its trunk, ever root penetrating the earth. Even the scent of the tree bombards the senses, but only to those who are more open to the emotions around them. Most souls only leave the tree when their bodies give out and they are no longer bound to the earth. They may linger a little when the pull to this plane of existence is extinguished, but very soon they yearn to leave and give in to the constant call to move onto a different stage of their journey. But there are some, just a few, a very, very select few, whose bodies heal, whose bodies fight, whose bodies don't give up, and they are pulled back from this brink of existence to return home. I am one of those few.

I had been murdered. Well, for a little while at least. The doctors fought hard, and after hours in surgery they managed to save my bullet-riddled body. My brain was injured, and they managed to somehow fix that too. To a degree. Dead for a few minutes, coding again and again, but somehow always coming back. I sometimes wonder if the fight was worth it, if my body should have just given in. The journey to healing was a long, treacherous and frustrating one. After all, months in a coma isn't the same as a few hours of beauty sleep, muscular atrophy is nothing to laugh about. Having to relearn simple life functions, having to spend endless painful hours learning to walk again, to grow those muscles, to form new pathways in my brain, was a waking nightmare. I think the one trigger, the one thing I held onto, was I remembered the tree and the clarity of everything.

I remembered all the souls, and I knew I had to bring peace to some of them. Plus, I wanted my killer to pay. Although I technically am not dead, I died the day I was shot up. The tree changes you. That tree opens your eyes to everything. It was like a light-bulb moment in my head, of suddenly being able to see everything clearly. It felt like a sudden rush of some drug that overwhelms you and you feel you may burst with all this rush of knowledge that just engulfs you. Emotions felt 10-fold stronger that what one could ever imagine. I had two drivers, empathy for all those souls and their stories, and hatred. HATRED! Hatred for the man who left me withering in a pool of blood, terrified and in pain. Hatred for the man who made that happy. Hatred for a world that let him get away with it. Michelle was no longer the Michelle that once was.

The tree was the halfway house to many souls, most who'd gone through hell before arriving there. There were happy souls too, some that had been going through illness and had succumbed to a stroke, and happy to not be living through all the pain anymore. For some it was a car crash, sudden and no ill intentions. Some had positive personalities and that continued as they lingered. But most, most had suffered illness, or were angry at their life being cut short too soon. Some had been victims of a crime. Many souls only stayed a few minutes, days, as their bodies succumbed to whatever injury had exiled them there, but some stayed months, years, decades. There was one soul, who I came to know well, who had been there for 21 years. His body remained comatose after a stroke and because he was so young when it happened, the family believed that a miracle would someday happen, that medicine would evolve enough to bring him back. He was tired of the tree. He was tired of all the sadness and hate and despair of so many of the souls that came here. He was tired of having no consistent companions. His connection to his body was thin, he had to cling to his name with all his might, otherwise he'd lose it. He'd been at the tree longer than he'd been in his body. David Turner. David Turner. Don't forget. David Turner.

And with his name on my lips, I entered the live-in care facility that I had since discovered was home to the body of, you guessed it, David Turner. Shouldn't be too hard to find a comatose patient of that length of time. And it hadn't been. There had been articles about him, there was a Facebook page dedicated to prayers for him. He was at Brockham House, a countryside "retreat" his family had handed his care over to. I had contacted the institution about perhaps a placement for myself in a few years. My injuries to my brain, made it seem I was a bit slow, might need assistance, as my speech was inhibited and I couldn't always quite say what I intended. It made it easy for me to be allowed to wander the halls and visit a few of the current inmates, guests, patients, whatever you wanted to call them. My thoughts were as sharp as ever, but it was frustrating that I couldn't always convey what I was thinking. Needless to say, it was of great benefit when wanting to get away with certain not-so-legal things. If I get caught, play dumb, which everybody automatically thought I was now, and mumble my way into it being an accident. I'd adopted a limp, just to add more authenticity to my role as handicapped.

So I "accidently" disconnect the cables to David's monitors, "accidently" pulled out the breathing tube that kept him alive. Left it all looking like it was still connected, in case someone popped in to check on the room's other occupant. Wasn't planning on being around when they found him. There were no cameras in the room, and I actually managed to slip out without anyone even knowing I was there. I had entered the neighboring room, slipped in through the connecting bathroom, and then exited the same way. I pulled my gloves off in the lady's room. David could move on. He had been a child when he'd found the tree, but yet his body was that of a man now. "I'm sorry it took so long, David. I wish I could know you were okay." I felt a shiver run through me. But if that was a sign, who knows? Maybe it was just the chill of the aircon that was blasting away in the bathroom. Now, it was time to help the rest. Help all that I could. Some were still hanging on to life, hoping that perhaps they could get back to their bodies. Some, their bodies had healed, but they had been at the tree so long, the connection was too weak to pull them back. Most didn't want to die, they wanted their families to know they loved them. They were selfless acts, wanting to ease their loved one's sorrows. Others wanted vengeance.

I would help them. That's why I survived. This is my purpose. The tree. The tree was my purpose now, and those still wiling away their days there. And then it'd be my turn. Then vengeance will hit home. It had been my husband who had ordered my death. And by all the strength that's left in me, that man would pay. I closed my eyes and the clarity of everything washed over me. In my ears I could hear the rustling of leaves.

thrillerShort StoryMysteryFantasyAdventure

About the Creator

Xanthe Mattheys

I'm a middle-aged mom from Sunny South Africa. I am trying to find my way in this crazy world and find positivity and meaning in my everyday life. I've always enjoyed writing and hopefully can find a platform here.

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Comments (2)

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  • Xanthe Mattheys (Author)3 days ago

    I made a small error in the story not too far in, someone instead of some. This is me writing late at night. lol

  • Alex H Mittelman 2 months ago

    I like trees! Very well written! 😒😎

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