The tree was angry.

I’d finished putting in a new section of fence along North Road when word came to me that there was an older tree who was displeased.

I thought it might be something foolish. Children climbing the branches, dogs marking the trunk.

I was wrong.

When I arrived at the tree, I found it to be more than a little out of sorts.

Someone had murdered four people, taken their heads, and buried them in the tree’s roots. The surest way to plant ghosts.

The ghosts themselves stood on either side of the tree, a pair of couples watching me with lackluster eyes and a listlessness only the newly dead had.

I would get no information from them.

“Have you put irons on your legs?” the tree demanded.

I paused, hands on the butts of my Colts. “Came as quick as I could. Know who did this?”

The tree snorted in derision. “By name? Of course not. Only the Bloods and the Coffins are worth knowing. They were not your kin.”

“Who were they?”

“Children but not children,” the tree answered.

I peered at him, waiting for the inevitable, drawn-out continuation.

It came nearly a full minute later.

“I tasted the earth when they came near and paid them little mind,” the tree stated. “They were forest folk, of that I am certain. They reminded me of someone, ‘though I cannot recall who.”

“Someone you were friendly with?” I ventured.

“I am friendly with you, Blood, and no one else,” the tree hissed. “They are not worthy of my time or of my patience. They are nothing more than a side of beef on a late August evening.”

I glanced at the ghosts who were still wandering about. “They won’t leave, you know.”

“I know,” the tree spat. “Not until they’re damned good and ready.”

“Did the children but not children leave you the bodies?”

“No,” the tree grumbled. “And I’m hungry.”

I nodded.

“Right. I’ll see what I can find. Keep a raven nearby and send it along when you’ve more news for me.”

The tree muttered its agreement, and I left its small glen.

Children but not children.

Ghosts left behind to torment a tree.

Something had a long memory, and it’d been nursing a grievance for a while.

Time to find who it is.

#supernatural #trees #paranormal #books

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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