Lula Belle Ashton
"My father-in-law came staggering in one night from the fields shouting about the trees falling down. I thought at first he might have had a stroke, or at least a heart attack. We tried to take him to the hospital, but the old man was having none of it. He told us he would show us at dawn.
Ti and I were scared, for certain - but not for the right reason. We waited for morning, dreading it, because we thought we were waiting for the final proof that poor old Father Ashton had lost his marbles. By the time we were putting on our boots at dawn the next morning, we had already agreed that he would probably have to go to a nursing home. We had no idea what we were about to see.
Little Misery was the first to see it. She had woken because we were moving around the house before dawn - the child is a light sleeper. Before we could tell her no, she had put on her coat and boots with the rest of us to see what old Theo was saying about the fruit orchard. And when she saw the trees, my daughter burst into tears and stopped in her tracks - wouldn't take another step.
Anyone could see that something had gone terribly wrong. The trees were gone. Some of them had toppled over, but others had just become twisted somehow. The trunks were split and wrenched into tortured, contorted shapes, with boughs that snaked along the ground or clawed up at the night sky like skeletal hands. Strange tangles of ugly, poisonous-looking vines had erupted from the ground all around them, spreading out in every direction...looking at them I couldn't help thinking of the pictures I had seen of the Zombie Rot, with veins and arteries standing out in stark black tangles against pale, bloodless skin.
Father Theo had taken Misery in his arms, and now I could see that the two of them were crying together. In his face I could suddenly see the boy he must have been once, a child raised on this land, who climbed these trees and loved them as if they were members of the family. And even while my heart went out to him, I felt ice cold from head to toe."
|Lula Belle Ashton|
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