Sometimes I get in a mood that only fiction can help. When writing’s the only remedy, there’s always the comfort of a little fictional revenge.
The Wishing Tree
She wiped the blood from her cheek and trudged on. The tree wasn’t far.
Each step she took reverberated in the silent forest. It was the kind of silence that held secrets. A sacred silence.
With twisted trunks sprouting from a pine needle-strewn floor, the forest itself was straight out of a fairy tale. The old kind. The real kind. The kind without happy endings.
That was fine. She wasn’t after happy endings. She was after revenge.
In a wood like this, with the late afternoon mist obscuring her feet and the sun’s last rays lighting up the tops of the trees, it was easy to forget the time, the place. It was easy to believe the old stories about spirits in trees.
When she was little and her Nana told her the tales, she’d shiver in delight hoping that the spirits were kind and friendly to small children, knowing in her bones they weren’t. The spirits weren’t kind. But they were just. And that’s what she needed now.
Up a little incline and around a bend and there it was. The tree. The Wishing Tree.
In the little clearing amid the tall pines the Wishing Tree’s black branches traced a lacy pattern against the dusky sky. Its trunk strained against gravity, twisted with the weight of a hundred centuries and the hopes and dreams of a thousand souls.
A shifting of the clouds and the trunk flashed tarnished gold against slick black. She reached a hand up. Hesitated. Then she saw the rusty rivulets of dried blood. Fear evaporated and all she felt was the searing anger that had been fueling her march for the past hour.
Her fingers bumped against the copper and gold coins driven into the bark. Some were so old she didn’t recognize their markings and others, older still, had been almost entirely swallowed by the tree’s malignant growth.
They were scales with their outer edges bent at right angles, roundness disfigured by the violence of their introduction.
Scales or armour. A vengeful serpent or righteous crusader. It mattered little to her what form the spirit of the Wishing Tree took so long as justice was served.
She fingered the perfect coin in her pocket and a tiny smile lifted the corners of her mouth before the pain of her bruises turned her face grim once more. She tightened her grip and drew the coin out. Stepping forward her foot brushed against a stone. It was the same size and shape as a brick, its color dull and grey. But it called to her. She picked it up and felt the indentations, the pockmarks of wish makers before her. This would be her tool.
A sliver of black bark caught her eye and she put the slim edge of the coin to it. Her arm trembled as she brought the grey stone back, but when she launched the stone forward her blow was true. The coin lodged in the wood but it wasn’t enough. Three times. Three times her Nana had always said.
Her second blow was sharper. There was anger in it. The coin bent, folding under her force.
But it was the third that drove the coin irrevocably into the trunk. It was the third that shook her soul. It was the third that made no sound in that silent forest, just a subaudible hum carried on the aether, a barely felt vibration. It filled her head, reverberated against all the rage, gaining speed, gathering strength.
A sharp intake of breath and a darkening of her eyes. That’s all it was.
She barely remembered the journey back home. Just that the path flew under her feet, the cold of the forest at night matching her thoughts.
People think that the spirits serve us, her Nana had said. But the truth is we serve the spirits. We do their bidding. We mete out their justice. We make our wishes, our pleas at the root of their ancient homes, and they answer. Mostly with silence, but sometimes with an echo of what we already know is in us.
Outside her door. She climbed the steps, opened the door, stepped down the hall, crossed the threshold of the old man’s bedroom. He lay there. His breath fouling the air. In her hand was the grey stone. In her heart was her wish, black and twisted like the tree.
She came near the slumbering form. She raised her arm. Three times her Nana had always said.
Three times to make your wish come true.
Image via: A Patch of Shade blog