Sunday, October 2, 2016

Nightmare Fuel 2016, Day the Second - "The Greedy Trees"

Double-post today, and I'm caught up. This is a bit of a fable, not at all inspired by the hours I spent yesterday replacing a toilet.

"The Greedy Trees"

They don't tell you everything in the stories about the discovery of the New World. Part of it, of course, is shame. Shame at what we did to them (and it always does seem to be us telling the story, doesn't it? You've never heard the story the way they tell it. You probably never even realized that). Part of it is entropy; whatever really happened is long, long lost in the sands of time. No cameras, no film, nothing to create a record save scribblings in journals from those who could write, a centuries-long game of telephone beginning with those who couldn't.

No telephones either, for that matter.

There are, of course, other stories. Stories about secret native lore, about how those who were already here knew things that we don't, how they lived in harmony with the land and the white man blundered in and suffered for his hubris.

This isn't that one of those stories.

We can start with the explorer. His name doesn't matter, wouldn't mean anything to you anyway. Let's imagine him with his hooded lantern, casting beams of light into the dark woods in a place for which we didn't yet have a name.

Imagine him finding the hungry trees, each with its victim. Some newly captured, enchained with vines and creepers and spidersilk. Some old, their vital humours drained by the hungry trees, no longer really men. The explorer would see them as demon-like things, serving only the forest.

There's a story somewhere of the explorer getting his comeuppance (for those in the future, quibbling about gendered-pronouns, of course it's a he. Back then most women had more sense than to run into the forbidden forest with nothing but their wits and their thieves' lantern. Perhaps a witch, but this isn't a story about a witch. We'll talk of them later). Of his last moments as the tree-addled victim he tried to save wraps no-longer-human fingers around the explorer's throat, drags him into bark and wood, and demonic sap flows over his eyes, obscuring his vision forever.

This isn't one of those stories either.

Image from tsonline:
Perhaps this explorer had read stories older still, learned from them. Evil forests in Europe might not be the same as evil forests in America, but it's still an evil forest. The only way to deal with it is to not care about the rare and valuable woods in the ancient trees, to wait until dawn and take torch and pitch and dried kindling, to set it ablaze.

To watch it burn, so no humans will be chained forever to the trees. So those who came across the ocean to this place can be at peace and free, not chained to the ancient land.

Centuries past, the explorer was forgotten. The burned out forest lay fallow, charred stumps all that was left of the greedy trees.

A city grew nearby, but not too near. Slowly it spread tendrils, the way cities do. Little tracts of homes on postage-stamp squares of land, some of them where the hungry forest had once stood, but did no longer. The space remained uncursed and empty, free for men and women to ride horses and cars and rail to the heart of the city, return home to tend their lawns, fix their roofs, tinker with the plumbing. Unbound by the greedy trees which would drink their lives.

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