Springingtiger's Blog


“Oh What a Beautiful Morning!”
March 31, 2016, 23:32
Filed under: Poetry, Writing | Tags: ,

As tomorrow NaPoWriMo begins I’m not writing a post today. Instead I’m sharing an extract from a little something I’m working on ‘The Trees of new Texas’. Actually the real reason is it’s late and I’m tired, anyway it makes a change from all the serious stuff lately.

wpid-2013-07-27_11-05-27_HDR_1.jpgCalhoun stopped Daisy in the High Pasture and looked around. It was a beautiful sunny morning. He carefully compared the view with the image on his tablet taken yesterday just in case there were any differences. For a moment he thought all was as it had been until he noticed the bush. Just a small bush swaying in the breeze…except there was no breeze. Calhoun chambered a round and fired four rounds rapidly into the bush. It screamed and rushed towards him its eight root-like legs propelling it quickly towards him. Behind it two trees, probably its parents, broke from the tree-line.

Calhoun snapped off a couple more rounds, opened the throttle and swung Daisy round. The bush was still chasing him. He hit the call button on his comms and shouted.

“Trees!” Trees had become an almost universal call for help in New Texas and demanded an urgent response. Calhoun could see the quad-bikes of Joe Alvarez and Tommy Smith barrelling up the pasture towards him. Smith raised his ‘stopper’ and a high explosive round the size of a man’s fist whistled past Calhoun’s ear and tore the bush apart. The smaller of the trees let out an angry howl and hurled a fleshy pink pod towards the retreating Calhoun which Alvarez destroyed with his flame thrower.

The two trees were running rapidly down the pasture as the three quad bikes retreated. The three men were firing as best they could over their shoulders. A lucky shot from Smith caught the female square on, tearing away several branches.

Calhoun reflected that they should probably be described as arms rather than branches. In fact the name ‘Trees’ was wrong and they needed to find a name that suited the monsters better. The first settlers on the lower plains had not encountered the ‘Trees’. It was only when they ventured into the partially forested hills that they came across them.

It was still some time before the ‘Trees’ were discovered, largely because they looked like trees. The planet had several large carnivores upon whom the settlers had blamed the first disappearances. At first it was just some livestock in the high pastures and the occasional hunter who failed to return from the forest and no one worried unduly. Then the day came when a team of herdsmen saw one of the trees consuming a cow that had strayed near the woods. They had tried to kill the thing with their rifles, only one made it back to town.

People only came to understand the horror of the trees when Judge Dawson of Los Alamos County thought up a novel punishment for a killer. When six-year old Lucy Tucket was found raped and strangled in a ditch, no effort was spared to find her killer. Eventually Sheriff Sam Sung had arrested the store owner Solomon Haddow after a search of his premises turned up Lucy’s soiled underwear neatly folded in a drawer. The DNA was conclusive. The Judge advised Haddow that things would go easier if he pleaded guilty, but Haddow had money and hired a smart Advocate from New Houston and pleaded, ‘not guilty’. In the event the verdict went against him. Instead of hanging him the Judge ordered that Haddow be tied between two stakes in the high pasture. Then he set up a cine-camera with a long lens to record events with a radio mike attached to one of the stakes.

Showing the film to arrested suspects had speeded up the justice process as very few pleaded, ‘not guilty’. The clincher was not so much the film as the soundtrack, the awful slurping sound as the tree drank Solomon Haddow. Drink was the right word, its branches secreted a liquid that dissolved Haddow’s flesh and as it melted, the Tree sucked it into the same branch. No one who heard that slurping accompanied by Haddow’s screams and prayers ever forgot it. The guilty pleaded ‘guilty’ and ─ reflected Calhoun ─ most of the innocent probably did too.

A shout of, “C’mon Jack” broke Calhoun from his reverie and a glance over his shoulder had him open the throttle all the way. Daisy leaped forward. The two adult trees were closing the gap and Calhoun was wondering if he could make it when he heard the chopper. He looked up and saw the Los Alamos Sheriff ’copter approaching fast. When he looked backwards again the trees were, without having turned, speeding back towards the tree-line. The helicopter fired a rocket after them, it overshot and exploded in the woods. Seconds later the two trees had crossed the line and were indistinguishable from the real trees around them.

“Damn, we need a better name for those things than ‘trees’ thought Calhoun as his radio crackled. It was Sam.

“Do you want us to fire into the wood?” The Sheriff asked.

“No,” Calhoun replied, “unless you can see them?”

“All trees look alike to me.” Said Sam.

“Thanks Sheriff. We’ll just head off, there’s obviously no stock left in this field. See you later!”

“Yep, see you. Don’t forget your pen.”

Jack sighed. That one rocket meant a trip to the Sheriff’s office to sigh a retrospective request and receipt. It had to be done and it helped keep a record of tree incursions…damn he hated that name!

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