God forbid they act as the pretty young teenage girl did who slowly, step by step, made her way closer to the twisted, crackle bark trunk. The tooth and finger shaped leaves twitched, sighing in the wind like the death rattle of a battle blasted soldier.
Sap the colour of vomit popped like zits, oozing and stinking, running down the bark in clumps like rotten milk.
Go away, go away! The tree died to scream. It did what it could to repulse, to make her fear, to piss her off and offend. It wanted to drive her away.
So many seeds; so many what-ifs, hateful memories, and disgusting notions had been planted in her. She needed to leave. She had been there longer than the rest. The seeds it—the tree—had planted in the others were docile, castaways; hardly legitimate. The hosts had been older, or too young, with memories that were fading or with minds that didn’t house enough pain and understanding.
The tree hated the peace religion offered. All but the strongest and most persistent seeds broke through the hardened top soil of self-worth and contentment that the pious and devout offered as a bed.
But more than the faithful, more than the senile, more than the naive—more than anything else in the world—the tree and all of its kind hated this girl.
It hated this girl and the other girls and other guys that were like them. These thinkers and seers. They offered choice soil for planting; horrible situations at home, plenty questioning of the divine, doubt of self. But that dirt, that perfect top soil, was a trap, because they laced all of that seemingly choice planting with poison.
With the most vile cell destroyers known to the tree.
They laced their soil with perspective; with odd perspective and all of the instability that it offered.
The dirt, black and rich, was tainted with the flexibility of understanding, of finding art and beauty in the depraved, of finding value in even the most horrific things.
They saw the seeds it planted in them as chances to learn, as a way to count their blessings, as opportunities to reach out and connect with those around them that had been through similar instances.
Girls like this one carried the seeds, but they never planted them where the tree wanted them to plant it. The saplings would never sprout in their dreams and drive them into fits of insanity. The trees would never see the light of an alley or taste the wonderful waters brought to it by the tears of mortifying, sleepless nights.
Girls like this one, guys like this one, always planted them in glass cases, on display for the world to see. They wanted to draw attention to the trees, to the ugliness that they were, to the horrific things that they wrought with their ever-seeking roots and their nightmarish foliage.
The trees didn’t want this.
They didn’t want the attention.
They didn’t want the noticing, and all of the world’s eyes and ears tuned into them.
The trees wanted to be in the background, growing happily in a cesspool of humanity, spreading seeds in the flesh puppet bodies of those who got too close. The trees wanted to invade and infest without notice.
Under the eyes of the public—being noticed like that—their leaves shriveled. They became like the bonsai; ever manicured and shaped into something called beautiful for being disgusting.
The trees didn’t want that.
And this tree didn’t want this girl to come closer.
It had grown arrogant in its success, planting this girl with too many valuable seeds. It had pushed in every available seed it had, and could see the seams straining and beginning to tear under the pressure. It needed this girl to walk away, to give into the ugly, to inhale too much pollen and cough and descend into a horrible mania or debilitating depression.
But still she continued walking forward, smiling that horribly beautiful smile, looking at the leaves, and the scabs, and the puss, and hearing the horrible yelling of a sexually abusive uncle, and smelling the fear that came with the darkest nights; the whipping that she endured at the hand of a drug addled mother. She kept walking forward, then stretched out her hand.
“…the tree and all of its kind hated this girl.”
If the tree had had lips, if it had had a mouth and lungs and vocal chords to rattle back and forth, it would have screamed until the universe crumbled in on itself.
Do not touch me! Do not! Run away and scream! Run away and be afraid! Be humiliated, embarrassed! Be anything but happy! Do anything but touch me!
But her fingers touched the flesh temperature bark, and felt the bile that belched from between the cracks in the wood, and she smiled even more.
And then the tree, having planted all of its seeds and being unsuccessful in driving this girl with an awful life and a heart full of art—this tree withered and moaned and sank into the ground; a bloated heap of stitched flesh, and it died.
And this girl, the one who had just killed a tree, walked away with her head held high and a heart that floated like a balloon on a string, and she marveled at all of the ideas she had to fill her canvas with.
Ashleigh is a barbecue and bourbon loving citizen of Kansas City. When not got going through thrift stores in search of old books, he can be found locked away in a room writing and sipping fine spirits.
If you’re interested in finding out more, you can check out Ashleigh on Twitter.