Daniel Posey didn’t listen to reason.
Daniel had moved to Cross when he was in his early twenties, hiring on as a hand at the Coffin Farm, then buying his own small house on Gordon Road. He had a tendency to walk along North Road, always along the same side as the Hollow. On more than one occasion, I found him standing at the wall, looking out over the Hollow longingly. I warned him several times to stay away from the place, and he always promised me he would.
As the years passed, and as Daniel put on more weight than was good for anyone, he took to spending a significant amount of time leaning against the stonewall.
This morning, I found him at it again. When I asked him what he thought he’d find there, he shrugged and smiled.
“I’m not sure, Mr. Blood,” he replied, “but I suspect it’s a bit of wonderful.”
In no uncertain terms, I told him he was wrong and left him to his foolish woolgathering.
A few hours later, on my return home, I saw Daniel, and he was no longer at the stonewall.
The damned fool had scaled it, though I know not how, and had gone to sit beneath one of the trees. His head was down, his eyes closed, and he was smoking his pipe. The wind carried the sweet scent of the cherry-flavored tobacco he favored, and as I neared him, Daniel straightened up and shrieked.
A moment later, the roots of the tree burst out through his stomach and his mouth, curling around and sinking back into his flesh. Beneath him, the earth churned and his body was dragged down. Great chunks of skin and clothing were flayed as he vanished beneath the writhing ground, and in seconds other, smaller roots snaked out, took hold of them, and vanished once more into the earth.
With the scent of Daniel’s tobacco lingering in the air, I watched the tree uprooted itself. For a moment, it wavered, then it walked clumsily back toward the tree-line.
I’m not surprised, really.
Daniel must have made one hell of a meal.