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The Trees Swallow People: Part 11

A horror about trees

By Conor MatthewsPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
The Trees Swallow People: Part 11
Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

I felt like going for a walk. I mean, I always do, but this particular time I really felt it, like I was strongly carried against a tide of weak reluctance by something persuasive. I skipped breakfast (a lonesome cup of coffee) and would have left without Diva if it wasn't for the fact she bit into the hem of my jeans. As I put on her harness, fighting her excited squirming, I couldn't help but think how unlike me it was to forget her. Whatever had got into me it was intoxicating. I was focused completely on the walk, specifically, for whatever reason, to St. Catherine's Park.

We were only a few minutes outside when I noticed a stark difference since my meeting with Shepard. Those in the village who only weeks ago were plaguing my home, imprisoning me with gum-bleeding, tooth splitting smiles, were now passing without giving notice. I felt an ease going out now, like I was given an unspoken promise to be left alone. It was a relief.

I've often struggled with confidence and once heard it described as the ability to know you will be okay, no matter what. For me, there was always that voice that would tell me in detail how everything could go wrong, everything that was wrong with me. Now, I felt different. I felt safe.

Well… safer.

I wasn't ignorant of the still present oddity. Even with my newly stated "made man" status, I wasn't happy with how things were. I certainly wasn't going to forget about those who died, disappeared, or left. I still think about Mary. But it was nice to feel something even remotely positive. The weather was pretty fair, as I picked up the pace a little, pulling Diva along from the leash clip on my belt loop. She had to scurry and urinate at the same time to keep up. I laughed a little, entertaining the idea I was manic. It would have explained a few things. I didn't dwell on it, for the speed at which I was going once I passed the park gates took even me by surprise. Diva, her pants a snorting chortle, strained to keep her tiny paws in step with me. Even I grew worried, yanking her closer to me so she could keep up.

My feet seemed possessed, robbing me of agency. An alien drive filled my senses; get to the trees, get to the trees. My short-lived comfort in this new paradigm evaporated as I stumbled and tripped on the uneven and littered path. Coming into the latter half of September meant the still freshly fallen leaves of early autumn felt wrong as I stepped on them and the shiny chocolate bar wrappers that crinkled. I was in denial, wondering out loud, in between swears, where we were going. They (my feet, that is) took a sudden left turn, passing the dilapidated monastery, shunting myself and Diva down the path, passing the wilting flower beds; a stretching grave of brown. Leaning back and attempting to brake with my heels jolting into the ground did nothing; it was as if I was pulled by an invisible force. Poor Diva was stumbling over herself, barking in desperation. Frightened, I reeled her in quickly and pulled her up into my arms.

Another turn and, despite my attempts to stop, we're through the opening between a row of evergreens, passing the empty dog park, and we're heading for the paddock. My body is about to send me into the trees. It's those strange, alien moments that remind us how easily swept away we as frail humans can be by the sheer motion of action. Normally, it's only glimpses we catch ourselves in, forgetting why we're in a room, cheating with someone not worth a ruined relationship. Yet here I am, pulled forward by a "me" I never wanted to admit exists, a "me" that always keeps me company.

I've always been suicidal to one degree or another. I imagine it works like any other addiction; the threat of relapse will always be there. Like an alcoholic who can stay sober but always want a drink, I have to make my limbs go rigid to not jump onto train tracks. But this… I never wanted this. I never wanted the blame to be hauntingly my own. They'll blame the trees, and maybe they'll be right, but in my final seconds, I thought, it'll be a twinge of excitement, of relief, of lust that'll undercut the sheer terror coursing through me. A fetishistic gore; existential ero-guro. I wanted this. In a final act of humanity, I detached Diva from the leash. Despite her barks, her feeble attempts to pull me back, her weak, lost, lonely whimpers, I continued.

I should be dead.

But I heard something.

I stopped, dazed, as though awoken from a dream that had just incorporated the very sound that stirred me, a strange amalgamation of the illusionary and reality, casting a haze before my very eyes. Once again, I heard him call out, this time clearly.


I stood there, facing the trees. I was feet from the wall, about to reach the edge of the trench sloping down to it. I let the words ring out, listing. I scoffed, amused. I was saved by swearing. I turned around and found, standing by his John Deere UV, one of the park rangers, looking at me with his hands on his hips. He was a tired, sour looking man; the kind of bald scalp and slack face that made him look far older than he probably was, but not nearly as old as he was in spirit. He was the kind of person you knew from how they just stood was a joyless dick. This was Eugene.

What are you doing!

I looked around, making sure it was me they were addressing.

Yeah, I'm talking to you, ya thick! You can't have your dog off the lead!

Apparently, somewhere back at the beginning of the pitch, a new sign was erected; "No dogs allowed off lead beyond this point". With the researches, news crews, and visitors now growing bored with the trees, they had left the pitch in a state of disarray. Large patches of the pitch were torn up muck pits, carved by tire marks and water logged. In an effort to salvage things, it has been reseeded, which meant the pitches for the time being were strictly off-limits. I apologised, but that wasn't good enough.

THERE'S A SIGN! Can't you see the fucking sign!

Once again, there was that beautiful, wonderful humanity; the insistence that the world is wrong and we are right. I really can't believe it when I come across it. Even in all this mayhem, it almost brings a smile to my face to be reminded that we are delusionally pathetic, wonderfully immature, and cosmically overwhelmed by just how meaningless we are. And here was Eugene, desperate to keep order. I doubt I could communicate to him what had just happened, how he had saved me from oblivion, how I had fought to stop myself. What would be the point? After all, he was growing agitated with me when I didn't respond.

Hello! Are you deaf!

I put Diva back on the leash and walked home, going straight to bed. For one night, for the first time in a long time, I slept undisturbed by conflicting wishes to end everything and a deep fear of death. I slept peacefully.


About the Creator

Conor Matthews

Writer. Opinions are my own.

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    Conor MatthewsWritten by Conor Matthews

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