"I'm not a bit changed--not really. I'm only just pruned down and branched out. The real ME--back here--is just the same."
"It's so easy to be wicked without knowing it, isn't it?"
"It's all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it's not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?"
The night was clear and frosty, all ebony of shadow and silver of snowy slope; big stars were shining over the silent fields; here and there the dark pointed firs stood up with snow powdering their branches and the wind whistling through them.
Quotes taken from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The night was clear and frosty, all ebony of shadow and silver of snowy slope; big stars were shining over the silent fields; here and there the dark pointed firs stood up with snow powdering their branches and the wind whistling through them. It was the perfect atmosphere to scare Ben. It was all still and quiet-like in the woods, Tara thought. The October moon was making it's last appearance and the orb seemed haunted and sallow. It was a perfect night--for revenge.
"Where are we going?" Ben asked, amused. He'd been following her in silence for a while now just holding her hand. They'd been together for a month, and he'd scared the crap out of her the previous weekend at a haunted maze. He knew she was trying to get back at him, but this... just didn't seem all that scary. It was the woods--and cold--seriously cold. Hopefully, he'd earn a little something to warm him up by just coming out here. Tara wasn't a prude about that kind of stuff, and he really liked that.
"We're almost there. I read online about this clearing that's haunted," Tara said, pulling him.
Their boots crunched on the ground. Frozen ground. Frozen leaves. Other than the noise of their shoes and breath--even sound seemed frozen. They broke through the trees into a clearing.
"How is this haunted?" Ben asked, staring around him. The ground was perfectly flat... no rocks... just the white-gold frosted bones of grass and two barren trees in the very center. It was supernaturally still, he'd give it that, but haunted...? He wondered if he'd win points with Tara if he pretended to be scared.
"Online it said something about it being cursed. There was a pair of teenagers like twenty years ago who were going at it in this clearing, and her father found them and killed them. You'd think the two of them--against an old man--anyway. I wouldn't let anyone kill me for getting it on in a clearing. He still comes here, sometimes, they say."
"Uh huh...," Ben said, skeptically. It looked like a clearing. The two trees in the center were a bit strange--like a shrine to the teenagers, but that was probably what created the lame story.
Tara tried not to appear disappointed. It didn't look like much. Oh well, at least she had Ben here to generate body heat--she was so freaking cold. Turning to him, she slipped into his arms and kissed his neck.
"Here?" Ben asked. He'd never said no before, but there was something eerie about this place.
"It's so easy to be wicked without knowing it, isn't it? Well, this time, we know it's not allowed. Let's sin a little, Ben," she whispered in his ear before biting it.
"Uhh.... Tara, how about back in my car--where it's warm?" he said, trying to dampen his arousal. Seriously, she was right. It felt wrong. He'd just as soon have sex in a graveyard than this place.
With a groan, Tara stepped back, frowning, and folding her arms. "BEN--come on. Are you too scared?"
Rubbing his neck, Ben looked at her and shrugged. "I'm just not in the mood--right now." Wow. He'd never said that before.
"Doesn't it turn you on just a little?" she asked. Holding her hands out, she said, "I can totally feel the air telling me to stop. It's awesome. There is no way we're leaving this place without scratching this itch, Ben."
That's when it happened. Tara tried to move toward him, but she didn't. Her feet were frozen to the ground.
"My shoes are stuck," she said. Reaching down, she untied her shoes. "My feet are stuck in my shoes." They looked at each other, horrified. "What's going on here?" she asked Ben.
Backing up, eyes wide in fear, Ben said, "Okay--you got me. That's pretty freaky. Knock it off and let's go."
"I can't move," she insisted, trying to pull her foot out. "Help, Ben, help!"
Stumbling, he ran to her and yanked at her foot. It was stuck and her skin felt odd, stiff and rough. Whatever was happening, it was spreading.
"I can't bend my knees," she screamed.
"I don't know what to do," he said as he began to dig around her shoes with his finger. His nails scraped against something almost immediately--a root, growing out of her shoe. Glancing behind him at the other two trees, Ben jumped back. There was no way he was turning into a tree.
"What are you doing?" Tara asked frantically as the bark grew up her legs, across her waist, and stiffened her neck and her arms outstretched.
"The hell, Tara! You're turning into a freaking tree," he said, swallowing.
It was over in less than a minute. The transformation was complete. Where Tara had once been--stood a willowy barren tree.
Ben walked around her. What should he do? His girlfriend was a tree. That was when he heard the other two trees whispering in the still night air.
"Run--it's too late--run before he gets you too," they said.
"No, Ben, go get help. Wait. Don't go. No, not yet. Stay with me," Tara called, her voice scratchy and soft.
Ben sprinted out of the clearing with the whispers of the other trees egging him on.
Tara could see the other trees out of the corner of the knot that was now her eye. "Why?"
"If you care for him at all...," the tree that sounded female said.
Tears leaked from the knots in her tree body and congealed into sap. "So, I'll just be a tree forever?" she asked. "I don't deserve this! Maybe you do, but I don't deserve this."
The female tree sounded offended when she said, "It's all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it's not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?"
A year later:
Ben finally made his way back to the clearing. He owed Tara that much--to make sure she was okay. Plus, he hadn't slept for days after the visit to the clearing, and when he finally had, he'd awoken, convinced it was all a weird dream and that Tara really had run off like everyone said. He just needed to see. The doctor's pills weren't keeping the night terrors away, but maybe if he saw that it was just a dream....
The clearing was just as he remembered it--only it was daylight this time. There were two trees in the center, side-by-side, and then a single tree near the edge of the clearing. He approached the tree and was only slightly startled when it called his name.
"Ben, please stay. I've been so lonely," the tree called.
"Tara, is that really you?" he whispered.
"I'm not a bit changed--not really. I'm only just pruned down and branched out. The real ME--back here--is just the same. Please, the old man comes sometimes, and he is crazy, Ben."
"What do you want me to do?" Ben asked. "I don't think this can be fixed."
There was a pause, before the Tree said, coaxingly, "It's not so bad as a tree--maybe if I had another tree beside me. The other trees are happy with each other. They're far away, though. It's really quite lonely, Ben. You could--join me."
Ben set the flowers he'd brought at the base of the tree and stepped back, before running out of the clearing again. There was no way he was becoming a tree.