As if You can Hear the Trees Scream

 

They arrived at the edge of Chokewoods just after sunset, feeling relief and dread at the sight of the looming trees. Everyone hesitated, not wanting to enter. Lukus slid off Spark, grabbing his head with a grimace when he lit. Rose dismounted and stood by his side, Sinornithosaurus_magsaying nothing. Lukus turned wide eyes to meet Rose’s barely perceptible nod. This was like it was the first time they arrived, in spite of it being a different part of the woods and a different time of day. “Well,” she said, jostling everyone by speaking. “Let’s get on with it, shall we?” She gave Lukus an abrupt shove and followed him through an opening in the tangle of brush and matted vines. Fuzz, Spark, and Lipperella came immediately behind.

In they went, straining from side to side in hopes of spying some sort of clearing or cave for a place to camp. “If you listen, it’s almost as if you can hear the trees scream,” said
Lipperella, in a whisper tinged with awe.

“We thought so the first time,” said Lukus. “It’s so eerie.”

images 2“Indeed,” said Fuzz, “But the trees are in fact not screaming, and when their trunks look so grotesque, one’s imagination would understandably be thrall to suggestibility.”

“So you don’t hear anything then?” said Spark.

“I didn’t say that, “said Fuzz. “It sounds like far away moans and murmurs in some giant hall, but that must be the wind ‘way up in the trees, rather than the trees themselves.”2004_1024chapel0005

“Are you sure?” said Spark. “I’m not.”

“Well no, but it’s the simplest explanation, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps, but ‘simple’ doesn’t take Razzorbauch’s perversion of the place into account.”

“Good point,” said Fuzz, as everyone fell into a nervous silence.

“Hey,” said Lipperella. “Look up ahead. That could be a clearing.” It was. They made a hasty camp by doing little more than spreading out their blankets and deciding how
they would keep watch. Rose heard no owls at all, only the ghostly murmur and sighs
echoing from unimaginable reaches off in the timber.
Ch. 29, The Collector Witch

The_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps

Lukus Strangles on a Choke Oak Fruit

Rowan

Lukus bounced in his saddle and renewed his interest in their surroundings. There were ironwood and gnarled muscled hornbeam trees all over the flat of the creek bottom near 2004_1024chapel0005the banks, but as he looked, he saw that there imagesbwasn’t a single tree of any kind, not even a sapling, that was not bent and twisted into some horribly unnatural pose. “I’ll declare,” he thought. “How could trees give me the creeps?” He kept seeing ordinary looking leaves on the ground, much like the white oak leaves in Niarg. When he looked overhead to find where they came from, he saw that they weren’t sorbus-decora-fruitoaks at all, but bore brilliantly colored succulent fruits in bunches, each bunch a different bright color. “Fresh fruit and lots of it, just hanging there for the taking. And I think I will,” he said as he steeredSORBUSJOSEPHROCKv2 Starfire toward the nearest tree. Directly he had a handful of the irresistible smelling treats. “Hey Rose!” he hollered. “Come back here and try some of this fruit! They’re better than your old figs! And they’re all different colors!”

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Rose turned Mystique about at the word fruit and came galloping back for his first bite.

sorbus-maderensis-fruit“Wow Rose! This is good,” he said, champing away. “Strange, but real good. It’s got milky white juice which is real bitter but really, really sweet at the same time.” He popped11684990965_4bd7dfdd98_b another one into his mouth and savored his prize. Suddenly his eyes bulged open with strained urgency. He turned frighteningly red as his veins stood out. He wheezed in a gasping panic as though he might explode. And now he was gagging convulsively.

Rose fought down her horror. She sprang from Mystique and mounted Starfire behind TR0000004742_card_lgLukus, who by this time was bent over, turning purple and nearly unconscious. She wrapped her arms around him, mxsa7ep4GuMMZ6APQ6Beb-Agrabbed her fist and yanked, making him cough out chewed fruit all down his front. He slid to the ground and sat there gasping and coughing as tears streamed down his face. Rose knelt beside him, and saw that the inside of his mouth and throat were still swelling. Once she had rinsed out his mouth, he croaked a hoarse thanks for saving him.

1279287337-53793900“Needles! It felt like needles,” he said as he mounted Starfire. “I don’t understand what happened. Those berries weren’t even big enough to get stuck in my throat like that, not to mention fill up my mouth the way they did. My throat hurts.”

“Lukus,” said Rose, “I just remembered something that Grandfather once told me. Sorry I didn’t think of this before now, but I reckon I’d no reason to. He said the berries here were all the different colors of the rainbow. I think the pits can be roasted, but anyone who eats the fruit strangles to death while his windpipe swellsThe_Collector_Witch_Cover_for_Kindle shut. That’s why they’re called chokeberries and this place is called the Chokewood Forest. Those trees are called choke trees or choke oaks, though they aren’t true oaks at all. I guess they grow all over here.”

Ch. 8, The Collector Witch

 

 

Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps