Well, it’s been a while. Your bated-breath waiting is NO LONGER! Here’s a(nother)
twisted flash fiction story, or perhaps it should be more aptly described as slash fiction (for those of you who hate horror, light or otherwise, you may of course skip it . . . this is light on the horror Scoville scale, I must say). Probably sums up this crappy orange Nehi year pretty well, however.
I will (I think) return to this blog in January as I get back on my literary feet—unstressed, I hope!—and share some books I’ve been reading and am longer overdue talking about, from friends and strangers alike, some personal travelogues, maybe some Leigh’s Un-Wisdom, too.
In the meantime, stay curious, stay strong, and, most importantly, stay weird.
Ohmigod, Tannenbaum! A Hallow-istmas story
by Leigh Ward-Smith
They wouldn’t have to walk much farther than a quarter- or half-mile to find a good tree at Old Man Kettler’s farm. Many pines were finished out, as Kettler himself liked to say, in the weeks before Halloween.
So, it couldn’t hurt to check out the stock early, in effect staking out a prize tree before everybody and his brother got to it. Could it?
Brie Cardone didn’t think so, and she’d convinced a couple friends without too much prodding. Adam and Sarah were up for the challenge. In that spirit, ideas were floated, texts were sent, and plans were set.
Despite recent warmer winters, this October brought bracing air followed by a cornucopia of snow and ice. Northern Illinois had transformed into a snow globe, and Brie was forging ahead. The pink-painted sky gave way to the craggy cords of dusk parting its curtain.
Pushing the wind aside flake-by-flake, Brie hunkered down in her crusted parka. The only consolation was that it would stay icicle-ornamented because there was no way the temperature would drop and melt the ice from her hood.
The blank snowpack ahead flattened with each of her bootsteps, and Brie paused to check the guide rope trailing her. She tugged three times, then waved it up and down like a real double-dutcher. A similar signal came back.
Their agreed-upon line of communication was open, even though she couldn’t see Adam for the spitting snow forming a girl-shaped barrier all around her.
Maybe he’s getting too cold? Does Adam make a boy-shaped void in the atmosphere? She subconsciously flared her fingers inside mittens to make sure they weren’t stiff.
Wait, do cell phones even work when it’s 20-below? She patted her pocket before trudging up what should have been the last knoll. Then Brie confessed to herself that she had no clue whatsoever. About the cell-phone issue. About why they were here. About Adam or her constantly bickering parents. About anything.
Maybe Sarah was right. The witch! Sitting at home where it’s warm and dry. Scrolling through Amazon to find the “most badassiest” (her words) Halloween costume for the school’s masquerade.
Brie paused so Adam could pick up the rope’s slack. She still couldn’t see him or his end of taut rope after what seemed like a few minutes of waiting.
She looked down to see an obliterated patch where she’d shuffled and shifted in the snow, not realizing how wildly her nerves were jangling.
Brie pulled the lifeline, feeling her suddenly pounding heart more acutely than the snow shrapneling across her shoulders. It seemed that the snow also backed off as she dithered and stressed.
One last jerk of the rope and I’m outta here.
Instead of getting a pull-back or hearing a voice, she noticed the rope died completely in her hand. With it, a shrill sound traveled just above the now-intermittent flakes, as if it were the memory of a shriek rather than a real, present embodiment. It sounded like the wind’s dialect, not any sentient creature.
Dropping the rope and the ax she’d brought after hastily deciding to cut down the best tree they could carry, Brie turned toward the knoll and hurled herself into it.
At first, it was like an action-movie sequence that’s shown in slow-motion. Her legs and arms pumped and she felt her neck straining, but the body’s pillar of flesh didn’t move.
And then something released Brie, who practically toppled over in a rush up the hill. Finally cresting, she strained her eyes toward the shallow valley of trees below, just making out a few in the first row at hill-bottom.
“They’re . . . no, can’t be.”
Oblivious to anything else, Brie let gravity take over and coasted down to the hollowed-out field.
One tree was poised holding a large candle-lit pumpkin at its midriff, about 3 feet in the air.
“Is this the Great Pumpkin or what?” She almost laughed as she said it, although she felt her teeth clicking together in fear, freezing, and anticipation.
As she pressed closer to the tree, the gourd swiveled 360 degrees to reveal the death stare of Adam, as if his face were plastic wrap draped across its orange-y side.
“More like Sleepy Hollow.” The mouth shifted in the phantasmagoric light of dwindling day.
Brie dashed off and was caged-in by the thick phalanges of the forest abutting farmer Mettler’s Christmas field, its pine-strong soldiers all lined up in rows, preparing for the next human onslaught at Christmastime.
The duo’s tracks were gone. A harvest moon had risen. Mettler’s trees were safe from slicing. And Brie was never seen again.