Shall I tell you a story?
Such an inconsequential story, in the grand scheme of universal things, but still quite important to some.
To those that died.
This story has many beginnings, the very first happened a century or two past (or perhaps three, it’s hard to keep track sometimes), the latest only a year ago on a blustery October day.
I remember that day very well (I wasn’t there at the very beginning, though the tale has been told to me).
Evening dusk had settled in, brushing the edges of sunset, and letting the shadows come out to play. I was where I always am. By the oak tree on the hill. I recall staring up, at one crimson leaf clinging to a branch high in the otherwise barren tree. The leaf swayed in the breezy northeast wind, defying the inevitable until it too drifted downward to join its fellows on the cold ground. One more decaying piece of vegetation in the colorful patchwork shroud beneath my tree.
I laughed when the breeze swirled the leaves; a crinkle and crunch sound sailing on whispered air. Around the tree trunk the gust circled, a dance of dead foliage in its wake, streaks of scarlet, lemon and carroty orange fluttering like a procession. It soared to the sky and showered mouldering colours to settle once more to the earth.
It was a beautiful moment.
A rare moment for me.
It didn’t last.
For a pair of happy lovers interrupted the quiet. I knew the pair, seen them often, here underneath the tree. A handsome young lawyer and his pretty mistress. Her face held such a radiant smile, so sweet, so beautiful.
Until the very instant he slit her throat.
Her bones are buried in the nearby woods. Her mother stills cries at night for her lost daughter.
But she’s with us now. A wandering spirit, waiting.
One of the Ghosts of the Oak Tree.
That’s what we call ourselves. Rather silly, but accurate. For this is where the murdered dead come… after. We all end here, every slain, pitiful spectre in the area. Summoned here… by something.
All the local lost souls come to the tree.
Rain says it’s because of the massacre that happened on the hill. Because of the innocent blood that soaked into the ground. It stained the tree she told me, gave it power. I’m not certain if I believe that, but she knows more of it than I do. She and her people were the first to die. The first story.
But there won’t be a story this year.
That poor smiling girl was the final soul we needed
We’re strong enough now.
We are legion.
And we know all the wicked secrets.
The dead are coming home.
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