“They won’t let you leave.”
The voice stopped me.
Turning, I looked into the flowering trees I’d been passing by only a moment before.
A young woman stood a short distance away, clad in a long dress and holding onto one of the branches. Had I not heard her voice, I would not have known her as a version of my mother.
I spat on the ground and slipped my rucksack off one shoulder, allowing the pack to swing round and hang in front of me. I undid the clasp on the front as I spoke.
“What makes you think so?” I asked.
“The trees listen to me,” she said after a moment. “Everything does. Well, everything does now.”
“You know better,” she snapped. “My own Duncan was wretched. I drowned him in his tub when he was four.”
“Well, you’re a peach of a mother then, aren’t you.” I slipped my hand into the rucksack, found the damp bit of cloth I was looking for, and held onto it. “I’m going to kill you in a moment.”
She let out a laugh and shook her head. “I have the trees, Duncan Blood. My trees.”
I saw her squeeze the branch she held onto, and the orchard shivered from the tips of their branches to the depths of their roots, the ground rumbling beneath my feet.
“That a fact?”
My mother glared at me. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
I drew my hand out of the rucksack and held the prize up for her to see.
“A sapling?” she laughed. “And what will you do with that?”
Squatting down, I scooped out a bit of earth and set the sapling with its protective wet cloth around its gentle roots into the fresh ground. White tendrils pierced the fabric and burrowed into the earth.
The flowering trees stiffened.
“What?” my mother began, but no sooner had she spoken than the flowering trees acted.
Roots erupted from the ground, piercing her feet and legs, curling through the dress as it darkened with blood. Branches lashed out and took hold of her arms and head.
My mother screamed and howled, raging against her sudden imprisonment and pain.
“The trees have no master,” I informed her.
She tried to speak, but the branches and the roots pulled in opposite directions.
A heartbeat later, my mother fed the trees.