April 6, 1948


“You’re new.”

The voice stopped me, and I dropped my hands to the butts of my Colts.

The voice laughed. “Those won’t do a damned thing to me, Blood.”

I couldn’t pinpoint where the voice came from. The words wrapped and twisted around me, and my hands tightened on the guns.

“You know my name,” I stated.

“I’ve known you a long time. All sorts of versions of you,” the voice replied. “Some good. Some bad. All hell on wheels. That’s part of you all the way down to the curious soul of yours, Blood.”

I relaxed my grip. “How many of me?”

“How do you count the ants?” the voice laughed. “You don’t. I don’t count Bloods either.”

I smiled. “Because we’re like ants.”

“Interesting ants,” the voice added.

“Where are you?” I asked, letting go of the Colts and folding my arms over my chest.

“All around,” the voice sighed. “I travel through the trees. Along their roots and across their branches. I’m as fixed as they are, though, and can only go as far as they grow. Some years, that’s quite a bit. Others, well, others I’m kept within certain limits.”

“You’re a spirit?”

“I am now.”

I expected bitterness in the voice, but there was nothing more than acceptance.

“I was a man once. Longer ago than I care to remember. I had a wife and children, a farm and good things,” the voice sighed. “But I came here to seek my fortune. There was word that through a tunnel, there was more land, and I was greedy. My avarice drove me forward, and it took all I had away from me. I died alone here, and there was naught I could do about it.”

“Is there something I can do?” I asked.

There was a long pause, and when the voice spoke, it was with a tone of astonishment.

“A merciful Blood,” the voice whispered. “I’d not thought to see one of you merciful. Strange days indeed. Yes. Look upon my bones.”

The leaves of the trees rustled, and I followed the sound to his remains.

Nothing more than his skull and a few long bones. They were yellow with age, and they looked forlorn upon the soft leaves.

“Do you want to be buried?” I asked.

“No, Blood. Merely to be remembered.”

“Tell me your name,” I said, and he did.

Tom Willow.

Long dead, but long I’ll remember.

#nature #horrorstories

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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