There was no peace.
This tree, unlike the last I’d spoken with, had no sympathy for the plight of others. The tree was hungry, and I was food.
Or so it thought.
The tree was damned big, and I don’t recall having seen its like before. But there it was, as big as life, and it saw in me a meal.
I took little time to try and dissuade it of that idea.
I tried to skirt ‘round to one side, but thick, powerful roots punched up through the earth and intertwined with deadfall and saplings to prevent my passage. No matter which way I turned, the tree locked me in.
I suspect it was having some fun, much like a cat toying with its prey.
I wasn’t something to be toyed with.
The tree wanted me to approach it, and so I did. I drew my Colts, and the tree let out a bellowing laugh.
“I know what you are,” the tree started, and I shot it.
Roots and branches snapped as the tree cursed me in a language I didn’t know.
The tree was old, and it was fat. I ducked, smashing branches and clutching roots as I emptied the Colts into it. The tree’s powerful scream of anger and pain made blood pour from my nose and leak from my ears.
I reloaded the pistols and watched with satisfaction as dark sap seeped from the tree’s body.
“How dare you?!” the tree screeched, and I fired all twelve rounds into the tree again.
The branches shuddered, and the roots smashed down to the earth, deadfall leaping into the air from the impact.
Passages appeared in the living wall behind me.
I reloaded the Colts, dropped them into their holsters and pulled the rifle off my shoulder.
“Leave,” the tree gasped. “Go.”
I brought the rifle up to my shoulder, sighted in on the cluster of leaking holes left by the Colts, and I fired again, and again, and again.
With the last shot, the tree’s heartwood shattered, and the sap sprayed out for a split second before dying down to a trickle.
Trees are difficult to kill. My father taught me this when I was just a boy. The speaking trees are the strongest, the most determined.
But he taught me how to kill them all the same.
Killing, my father always said, was a chore and nothing to shirk from.
So I don’t.