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The Trees Swallow People: Part 14

Christmas Special

By Conor MatthewsPublished about a year ago 3 min read
The Trees Swallow People: Part 14
Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

It's Christmas in a few days, and understandably there's an unease about it. There's an odd feeling of shame intermingled with determined jovial spirits. There are fewer houses than ever decorated (many are without the excuse of being abandoned), yet of those that are, they appear more festive than in previous years. Interestingly, many of the ones I know lie empty are decorated, draped in lights hanging from the gutters, windows frosted in mock-snow from a spray can, and, perhaps a little morbidly given everything, a tree dressed in baubles and lights. Fake trees, obviously, but you wouldn't blame people for breaking from tradition.

Even myself and Diva made the point of erecting our own everlasting evergreen, hanging memories of years gone; ornaments marked "2017" or photos encapsulated within spheres. There's a photo of me and my late partner smiling at a Christmas display at Dublin Zoo. Another one is of two penguins with our names written on their bellies. I've even seated the stuffed teddies she used to insist I put on the tree, all eight of them. I try not looking at it for too long so I don't get overwhelmed.

I had fallen asleep on the sofa, with the last of the cooling radiator's heat, the soft aura of the lit tree, and the low volume of the lofi streaming from the TV lulling me into peace. Diva was nestled between my knees and atop the blanket covering my legs. I must have dozed off in the middle of reading "Dubliners", for it was in my hands when Diva had awoken me, growling as she spoke.

Wake up! Wake up, Dennis!

I knew I was dreaming because my name is not Dennis. I sat upright, lifting myself higher. Diva, sitting up but still in between my knees, was dragged along with the blanket.

This has been going on for too long, James. We must make preparations.

I agreed with her, though I asked her to not call me James, which was not my name either. I knew what she meant, though, even in my dream. The trees, the disappearances, the cult; it's all been going on for a little over a year now. I had hoped my new found compliance would at least signal some kind of outlet, an opportunity to escape presenting itself or a way to position myself in more favourable circumstances, but nothing seemed to be on the horizon. I had no promise Shepard wouldn't come after me. I tried explaining this to Diva.

Listen to me, Mary!

I'm starting to think my dog doesn't understand the concept of names.

I may not get this opportunity to speak to you on the matter again. Not in English, at least. You know this Shepard person is not good. I believe you humans would call him a "fanatic". But you are underestimating the danger he places all of us in, especially you and me, Peter!

Still not my name.

Men like that, men of devotion, are men of preconception. They do not react well to reality. They devote themselves to wishes, not tides of chance. He doesn't just see the world a certain way, he lives in a world he wills it to be. He is not living in a world where the trees swallow people; he lives in a movie where he is the hero. You, Philip, as the Tree Guy, threatened that. But to outright kill you is to go against his narrative; at least without a better excuse than jealous, for the time being.

How my dog can understand the concept of Narrative Identity Theory, but not my name, I don't know.

Listen to me Sinead; you are only "The Witness" so long as you are useful to him. You bolster his ego as a messiah of sorts. Once you can no longer serve that function, you will be disposed of. Be weary. Do not grow complacent. It is better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven. When the time comes, you must know there is every likelihood one of you will need to kill the other. You may be able to live without doing so, but I fret Shepard will be incapable. I may never get another chance to warn you, so please heed my words. Also, if this is the one chance I get, there is something else you must remember. Do you know the way you scratch my belly and ask me "Who's my woo-woo girl? Who's my special woo-woo girl?"


Please continue that. I enjoy it very much.

That was the one and only time Diva ever spoke to me. It's also the one time she turned out to be correct; one of us would indeed kill the other.


About the Creator

Conor Matthews

Writer. Opinions are my own.

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