I recognized the house.
The sight of the structure caused my feet to stop and my heart to ache. I’d last seen the building in 1877. A branch of the Coffin family had lived there for several decades, and I remembered, quite clearly, setting the bricks in place and building the house for them.
They’d been dear friends, and when they vanished, I’d been heartbroken.
Miles and Ruth Coffin, four children and a pair of dogs.
A hole, and nothing more, could be found on their property.
I searched for over a week and delved into the Hollow to see if there wasn’t any trace of them.
There’d been nothing.
And here the building was. Destroyed, like the family.
Around me, the trees rustled, and a large tree off to the right shook itself awake. I dropped my hands to the Colts, and the tree spoke.
“There’s no need of that, Blood,” the tree said. “We’ve no quarrel with you. There’s been word spread by some of the fey of what you’ve been up to. Good riddance, too.”
I let go of the Colts.
“You look old enough to remember the house,” I ventured.
“Aye, Blood, I remember it well enough. Like your proverbial manna from heaven. We were starving. A rot had taken hold of the strongest of us, and soon, we were like to die. Animal flesh is not nearly as wholesome as a man’s. We were praying, a thing not often done with my kind, and our prayers were answered. The house arrived,” the tree murmured.
Around me, the younger trees shook with excitement at the recitation of what appeared to be a familiar and oft-told tale.
“We did not slay them,” the tree continued, “despite our hunger. There were babes, and to take a parent was to condemn them to death. My own parent would sooner have torn up its roots than do that. Still, we watched them for three days. At the end of the third day, we heard gunshots, and the dogs bolted from the house. I was sent in since, as a sapling, I could still move about. I found the bodies together. I pulled them down, and we ate.”
“And did you all survive?” I asked, glancing around.
“No. For others, the food was too little too late. But I wanted to live.”
“Sometimes,” I glanced at the house, “that’s all you need.”