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ADELAIDE Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Bimensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BURNING TREE
By Lucas Milliron

 

 

 

 

 

“Why have you brought me here?” She asked at the foot of the great red tree.

“Was it truly me that brought you here?” He replied. “Your legs carried you through the forest deep. I sang no songs or sirens. My summoning came at no invitation but merely a chance note you happened to inquire.”

“You wrote me a letter. You said it was urgent.”

“Did I? Look again. Is the page not blank?”

“How did you do that?”

“Was it me?”

“Who else!”

“Who else indeed. Where are your parents? Where are your friends? Are you not all alone in the world?”

“That’s not true.”

“Isn’t it? That look chiseled in your brow, that scorn distaste of truth souring your sweet smile. I can read you like words on a page, my dear. You are among acquaintances. No need for dishonesty.”

“When have we met?”

“From the day you were born.”

“How? You’re not even a little bit familiar.”

“Oh, but I am. I am the blurred face amongst a crowded room.  I am the lullaby sung by the chorus of midnight insects; The shadow that tingles the corner of your eye and vanishes as you pass a casual glance. My dear, I have been with you your whole life.”

“Then why now? Why have you called me here?”

“You know this place?”

“Yes.”

“Does that make you afraid?”

“A little.”

“Why?”

“Because, the tree.”

“It is but a tree. Nothing noble, nothing somber- just a tree scorned red by summers heat, preparing to sleep through winters bite.”

“That’s not what the people in town say.”

“Tell me again? What do they say?”

“This is the Burning Tree.”

“Superstition.”

“Maybe.”

“You’ve been here before, have you not?”

“Yes.”

“Well don’t be shy. You have. And here you are.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“Doesn’t it though?”

“No.”

“And why not?”

“Because.”

“Because why?”

“Because I tried to kill myself.”

“Did you now?”

“I thought you were with me my whole life? Don’t you already know?”

“I must confess, I did. But you see, we must own our demons. Better to bring them to light, than hide in the darkness. For what decisions we make, we must equally own. Lest we are doomed to fail.”

“I don’t like it here.”

“It hurts, doesn’t it?”

“I just don’t like it.”

“Where did you fall? The noose around your neck and tied to the branch when you leapt from bow? Is that how the lullaby goes? ‘Down will come baby, cradle and all.’ How long did you lay on the ground before help came?”

“Almost two days. I broke my leg when I landed.”

“To think, had they not come, you still would have failed. A sad irony really, to have chosen your own demise, only to have it stolen from you. Even your own planned death would have been out of your hands. Like your mothers. And your fathers.”

“Stop it.”

“Cancer, was it? It so badly hurt your mother to watch your father suffer.”

“Leave it alone.”

“Well, it was hardly his choice. He chose to drive himself in a drunken stupor off the cliff side. Sadly, he lived. Only to die of the cancer as it invaded his bone marrow while in the burn victim unit.”
“Leave him alone!”

“He had his chance.”

“Please, I can’t bare it.”

“My point is this, dear girl- The dead are selfish. Death is a numb, cold bliss and the dead forget those they leave behind. Your father was dead the moment of his diagnosis. His body simply didn’t know it.”

“That’s not true!”

“Oh, but isn’t it? Your mother died of the embolism. She blinked, and never opened her eyes again. She didn’t care about the world she left behind, about how alone you would be, about how you would have to take care of your sick, dying father. She left you all alone.”

“No! She didn’t want to die!”

“Are you so sure? I can hear them, your every dark thought, your true desires and fantasies. All the muck your foul minds dredge during the most trying times of your live. I can taste the miasma of vile thoughts all of you spew with the faintest remorse. Should it be a sin to think these atrocities and the pearly gates would surely be locked for good. She wanted to die. She wanted an escape from the pain of living. Death was like slipping into a cool bath compared to the raging hell she lived. When she died, your father couldn’t bare it. He tried to take his own life. I thought you knew.”

“It can’t be true!”

“What vile thoughts have you rattling in your grey matter?”

“Stop it.”

“You came here once before. A child’s game of life and death. You ignored your demons. You hid them in the dark, and they smoldered into a fire of passion. You didn’t want to die. You clung to life like a hungry child to its mother’s teat.”

“I wanted to die!”

“Yet here you are.”

“I was scared.”

“Are you now?”

“What?”

“Are you afraid of death?”

I don’t know!”

“Stop crying, child. It extinguishes the passion raging inside you. Are you afraid to die?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“I’m afraid of nothing. That there will be nothing after this. That this is it.”

“Do you know the story of the Burning Tree?”

“No.”

“Its branches burn red through the seasons. A thousand life times it’s lived, died, and lived again, knowing all too well the suffering of man. It has been watered by the tears of those who seek asylum in its bow, and burns with the fires of their passion. It gives all, and asks but one thing in return, ‘Water Me.’ It will carry the weight of your pain, the burden of existence. And all it asks, ‘Water me.’”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I’m only telling you what your heart most desires. An end to the pain. The suffering.”

“But I can’t.”

“You brought the knife, did you not?”

“Yes.”

“The tree asks only one thing. ‘Water Me.’”

As if for the first time, she saw the man before her. His tall, slender body wrapped in a cocoon of well-mannered men. His black blazer buttoned tight, his red tie like crimson flooding from a slit neck. His face however was obscured, a blur of scribbles etched out of her mind as if franticly carved out of existence with a dull knife, perhaps the very knife she held in her hand. Though he was faceless, she could feel the burning frost of his cold, dead eyes upon her.

She looked about the forest. It was fall. The leaves had turned bright yellow, floating like shavings of gold dust through the cool breeze that kissed her blushed cheeks. The blue sky above peaked through the gaps of naked branches, shining the burnt umber forest floor with the last warm sunlight of the season.

Déjà vu. It was a ghost from her past, buried beneath and forgotten for the pain it carried was crippling. It was the same as when she’d last visited the tree, save the scar she’d left the tree where the branch broke beneath her weight. She pulled up her black jackets sleeves and bore her naked wrists to the open air, prickling with gooseflesh in the chilling cold. Life was always out of her control. Her mother’s death, her father’s, all of it came to pass no matter how hard she willed against it. Even her own death had been taken from her not six years ago.

She looked inside at her demons. Terrible, shapeless beasts of ice and smoke, bellowing thick clouds of bitter doubt and fear. They held onto her, sinking her deeper into the darkness that crept in from the corners of her eyes. Her heart fluttered, for the knife was at her wrists without her conscious knowing. She could feel the well of tears spilling from her lids and she closed her eyes hard. She fell to the ground, leaning beside the great trees gnarly roots that rose above the ground in a tangled web.

She could feel the knife burning against her wrist. Finally, she cried out, and slammed the knife into the trees root. Her blood boiled hot against the cold of her face and hands as she slashed and dug into the pulpy wood. She imagined her demons screaming murder as she dug the knife deep in their flesh. Harder she plunged the knife, sweating and crying.

Finally, she opened her eyes, expelling the stale air and greedily gobbling the cool breeze. The man had gone. Vanished. She was alone as she’d always been, her blank letter crumpled on the floor, and the knife clenched in her hand. Slowly, the sounds of the forest came back to life. Birds sang songs in the distance, insects chirped and buzzed their calls of romance.

The man was right. The Burning Tree carried the burden of those who seek asylum below its branches. It asked not but one thing in return, ‘Water Me’. She looked at the root, and marveled at her offerings. Etched by her own hand, “I Choose Life.”

 

 

 

About the Author:

Lucas

 

Those who don’t believe in magic don’t understand the power of written word.  A system of runes and characters etched in all manners of medium set to invade what you hold most sacred and private, your own mind. Words seep into your subconscious, invading your thoughts and planting alien ideas. Even now, whose voice gives life to these scribbled lines of unnatural geometry? You are not in control of your thoughts. I am. My name is Lucas Milliron.

 

 

 

 

 

     
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