Tree Swing

PP201808

 

It begins with a creak.

That much I now know to be true.

A creak. Nothing more. Simple really. A sound. A delicate outline on the wind. The slightest, and most innocuous, of creaks.

But soon the creaks begin to increase. In both volume and frequency. They begin to bite. Jarring against the breeze. Scratching at your mind. Your skin. Tearing at the imagined layer of sensitivity coating your spine.

And then comes the image.

The image you know to be false. The one you know to be untrue. One that goes against the grain of common sense; that collides with the fabric of reason.

The tree swing.

A crude, antiquated rope and wood concoction.

Swaying. Jolting. Flapping in the breeze. Creaking. Creaking. Creaking.

To others you know the scene remains untarnished. Undisturbed by the swaying, creaking image. To the naked, untroubled eye, it will appear simply as a tree. And nothing more. A robust, isolated tree. It sits in the centre of an immaculately-kept field. The barest outline of a long-forgotten path scurries its way through the wheat to the base of the tree.

In another tale I could call it beautiful. In another life I would even deign to call it harmless. But not in this life. Not in this tale. Not with the creaking. That relentless, unceasing creaking. Back. And forth. Back and forth.

It does not, and will never, stop.

Shall never fall silent.

Not to my ears at least. Not to me.

And who am I, you may ask? What is the name of this harbinger of the morose? The one who brings you this murmured lament? Well, my name is of no consequence to you. Not now. And it shall be as equally insignificant, if not more so, by the time this narrative draws to a close.

Who I am bears no relevance.

What matters only is that I have been, for lack of a better word, chosen.

It is my time. And my burden. Mine alone to bear. I am the one to hear the creaking. I am the one to see the tree swing. I am the one to catch a glimpse of her.

Her.

The woman in white.

Although ‘woman’ might not be strictly accurate. Girl may be closer to the truth.

An ageless entity. Appearing and not appearing. Seemingly to her own choosing. Flitting between this world and another. Her image and appearance mercurial. Yet when she does appear her presence calls to me. Beckons me. Like a siren call. Steering me towards my end, towards my fate.

I knew not why.

At first I fought. Chose to resist. Chose to question.

I stayed away from this sight. From this place. With all my being I endeavoured to remove myself from her image, from her calling. But the draw was too forceful, the pull too unyielding.

During my self-imposed, and increasingly fragile, exile I researched. Tried to find meaning. Context.

What I discovered chilled me. A girl, a young girl, was murdered at this spot in the early 1800s. Mutilated. Seemingly by a vagrant. Her white dress ripped from her pale body. Her flesh flayed. Her bones, her hair scattered across the surrounding countryside. Meticulously, no. The barbarity of the act clear for all who witnessed the aftermath. The horror of the incident, of the report, absolute.

But I discovered more.

Disappearances. Frequent disappearances. Throughout the years. Sporadically across the centuries. Always apparently near this spot, near this area. Young children. Boys, girls. Adults. Men, women. Of all ages, standing and creed. Every couple of decades or so another soul would disappear into the morass of time.

On occasion bones – sometimes scattered, often clustered – would be found near the base of the tree. Some buried deep within the hovel burrowed into the mound beneath the tree itself.

No-one seemed willing to connect the events. No reporter, nor historian, able to tie the pieces of the emerging pattern together. Hamstrung either by ignorance or self-preservation.

So I resolved to enshrine my exile in permanence.

To stay away. Always.

But the creaking.

That creaking.

Slow. Ponderous.

It called to me. Louder than before. With a greater sense of urgency. With an added intensity. My defences failed. My resistance dissolved. I needed to return. I had to return. I must.

And so here I stand.

Within sight of the tree swing.

Her pale, youthful complexion, bedecked in that white dress, slowly swinging back and forth. Each creak of the swing wrenching into the early-evening air.

The light begins to fade ever so slightly.

I walk slowly forward. Each step a step closer to my fate.

An act possibly of foolishness you may think? An act without logic, perhaps? Almost entirely. On both counts. Yet my submission to the calling feels preordained. My actions prey to the predatory force of my inevitable conclusion. Another soul to be claimed. A victim to be consumed.

My crime? Simply being seen. Simply walking along this quiet woodland path as I had done a hundred times before. All without incident. All without variation.

Until the creaking.

That gnawing, scraping, haunting creaking.

The girl in the white dress continues to flit in and out of visibility as I close in.

Always swinging.

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

Creaking.

Eternally creaking.

Always.

Creaking…

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The Perfect Spot

He loved to walk with her, especially just after the rain. The smells that newly fallen rain produced was intoxicating to his sensitive nose. Like a drug addict craving that next dollop of nirvana, he couldn’t get enough of the heavenly smells wafting from the sodden ground.

They took the same path every evening, through the fields, past the long flowing grass that just begged to be explored. Not that she ever allowed him to explore. Said she couldn’t trust him. She was right. Onwards down the long path towards the tree. Carved in to the trunk by an unseen hand or perhaps Mother Nature, the perfect seat, the ideal spot to rest. They never stopped on the way past, always striding on to the end of the track first before turning back and only then would she let them rest.

Tonight however she was obviously tired because she stopped as soon as they reached the tree. He pulled at her arm, keen to explore and go further and for the first time she didn’t argue. Slipping the lead from around his neck she made a shooing motion with her arm and uttered one one..’Go’. He hesitated only for a second then ran off back to the fields of billowing grass.

Ears flying in the wind, legs galloping faster than his heart, he sped through the grass, barking excitedly, chasing what he could smell but not see. Freedom was his and he would not go back on the blue tether ever again. Choking him, holding him back, that was no life for an animal meant to run free.

He found a particularly foul smelling patch of ground towards the bottom of the field and he dove in to it and began to roll himself frantically through it, all his senses bursting with pleasure. The warm, wet feeling on his newly shorn fur. The smell of the manure assaulting his nostrils and burning the back of his throat. He loved it all.

Once he was satisfied he was as coated in muck as he could be he tore after imaginary rabbits for another twenty minutes or so before he realised he was thirsty and remembering the blissfully cool puddle that always appeared at the base of the tree made his way back through the long grass towards her.

It was then he saw her. Hanging from the arm of the tree that she once said looked like it was waving at her. She’d gotten tangled in his blue tether somehow.

He peered curiously at her, watching the way her feet dangled, swaying gently in the wind. She was wearing his favourite trainers, the ones he chewed for comfort that smelled so strongly of her. He didn’t understand why she always shouted at him when he did that. Didn’t she know it made him feel close to her?

He walked towards her and wondered why she wasn’t pulling on the tether like he did. Didn’t it hurt her like it hurt him? Was she sleeping? She must be, it’s the only other time he saw her this still and quiet. He didn’t want her to be quiet. Quiet meant she wasn’t paying attention to him and he loved that more than anything. Strange how she thought this walk was what he looked forward to the most. She had such gentle hands. His favourite times of the day were when she caressed his ears, tickled under his chin, relaxed him in to a near catatonic state.

He knew what would make her move, make her pay attention to him. He started shouting at her, she hated that, always shouted back at him, shaking her head until her hair stood on end, making her look so funny, he laughed, then she’d shout even more.

Not today though, she must be in a really deep sleep. Only one thing for it, the guaranteed sure fire way to wake her. He started jumping at her feet, teeth exposed ready to take the gentlest of nips. It was harder than normal because she was sleeping in such a weird way and she was much higher than usual. He kept jumping, shouting, encouraging her to wake up. His teeth grazed the sole of the smelly, delicious shoe and boosted by the aroma teasing his damp nose he gave one final, mighty leap and pulled it clean off her foot.

He lay panting, tired but ecstatic underneath her and waited for the shout of anger, the exasperated twitch of her foot but neither came. He settled down at the base of the tree and comforted himself with the familiar smell and taste of his favourite trainer. She would wake up eventually and they would walk home together, safe in the knowledge that they would always be there for each other. No one else could love him like she did after all.

PP201808