I’m not fond of these trees.
I spent a fair amount of time in the Pacific during the last war, chasing after Japanese troops as they starved to death in the jungles once their commanders had abandoned them. Trees had guided me then, as had some of the fey of those islands. Most times, nature and her children were kind to me, or at least neutral in the war.
These trees, they were not.
They loitered about the paths and the old metal railings. Moss hung from them, and a curious stink reminiscent of rotting flesh filled the dank air.
I came to a stop in a strange place, deciding it was time for a bit to eat and perhaps, if I was lucky, a bowl from my pipe.
Luck wasn’t with me.
I’d no sooner settled down on the center of the path, the rifle at the ready when the trees made their move.
Roots slipped free of the leaf debris on the forest floor, and moss shuddered as branches reached down.
I think the trees were expecting me to panic. I suspect that their mere movement had sent men running before.
“Touch me, and I’ll rip you out until your taproots see the sun,” I told them, adding tobacco to my pipe.
The roots and the branches stopped.
From a distant shadow, a single voice spoke.
“Who are you?”
“Never you mind,” I replied, taking out my matches. “Just understand what I said was no idle threat.”
Several of the branches quivered and moved closer.
I put my pipe away and got to my feet, slinging the rifle over my shoulder.
A root raised its head like a water snake and launched itself at me. I caught it, wrapped the damned thing around my forearm and started to pull.
One of the nearby trees, no thicker than my forearm, shivered, and I pulled harder.
Other roots paused in their advance as though the gathered trees were biding their time, waiting to see if my threat was good.
My own muscles tore, and my flesh was shredded as I pulled the god-damned tree out by its roots and then cast it, squirming, to the ground.
With my body stitching itself back together, I kicked the dying tree and began my journey once more.
I’d find a spot to smoke where there weren’t any damnable trees.