Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do.
I heard the scream. It would have been hard as hell not to.
A moment later, one of the apple trees told me there was a child by the white oak.
I ran as hard as I could.
The white oak lived far to the north, a safe distance from all entries on a normal day. But that didn’t seem to be the case today.
There was a second scream, one far more terrified than the first, and as I ran, I heard a long, wet snap.
No other screams sounded.
I heard the crash of animals in the brush and saw Martha and the two new dogs racing along beside her. All three had their ears back and their tails low. Above me, the ravens cried and sped.
When we reached the white oak, there was nothing save the splatter of blood on leaves and a single piece of paper.
“Blood,” the tree chortled. “Why did no one tell me your mother had returned from the Hollow? Is your father with her? I would have thought they would have come to see me together.”
“I didn’t know she’d come back from the Hollow,” I answered. “And as for Father, no, I’ve not seen him in well over a century.”
“She brought me a gift,” the white oak continued. “The little girl seemed quite confused.”
“I’m not surprised,” I answered, voice hoarse. I gestured toward the piece of paper. “May I?”
The dogs sat down, and the ravens settled into nearby branches.
“Son,” the letter began, “it seems you’ve taken a notion to killing mine when they’re doing naught but my work. She wasn’t yours, I know, but she’ll feel like she was. I did not drug her as your father would have done in the old country. She was awake, and I am sure she suffered. Enjoy your dead child, my son. I hope you will join your siblings soon. Mother.”
I folded the paper and put it in my breast pocket.
“All is well?” the white oak asked.
“Well enough,” I lied. “I’ll be back soon.”
“I would enjoy that,” the tree chuckled, and I left with the dogs by my side.
I needed a hard drink, and I aimed to get it.