There are experiences that will break a man.
Had Peter Tatum ever considered the idea of a man breaking, he wouldn’t have thought of himself as a candidate. Nor would any who knew him.
Peter was a hard man.
He had served in the French Foreign Legion before, during, and after the First World War. He was familiar with suffering, and with grief. Peter had seen his friends killed, and killed some of them as well, though he told few people about those parts of his life.
When he returned to Cross in the early 1920s, Peter settled in on the family farm and took up those responsibilities he had fled from as a young man. By 1952, Peter was a staple in the fabric of Cross society, and among his friends, he counted the venerable and stoic Duncan Blood.
On March 6, 1952, a hard wind came down from the north and tore through some of the older stretches of Peter’s land. Trees older than Peter were snapped at their bases, and he decided that they would need to be cleared away.
Duncan advised against it. He told Peter to leave the trees where they lay.
Peter did not.
He trimmed the limbs off and cut the trunks down to manageable sizes, hitching a team to them and dragging them back to his barn to be cut.
Peter set to work as soon as he could, and within half an hour, as the blade cut through the wood, a dark spray of blood exploded into the cold winter air.
As the steaming fluid struck the snow, Peter jerked the saw free, the thick trunk snapping as he did so.
What he found was a human corpse, still warm, nestled within the heart of the tree.
Peter was found sitting in the cold blood, the body before him as he repeated in a hushed whisper a single line.
“I should have listened.”
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