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The Holly Tree
A dark fantasy tale.
P J Francis
Just an aspiring horror writer from the UK
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (15)
A Marriage Made In Heaven (Short Stories) A tale of revenge. [936 words] [Horror]
A Perfect Crime (Short Stories) One womans vengenance as a perfect crime. [1,048 words] [Horror]
Emotion (Poetry) - [39 words]
Ghostly Figures (Poetry) - [89 words] [Horror]
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Insignificance (Poetry) Life's meanings and hardships. [71 words]
Life's Essence (Short Stories) - [123 words]
Miranda And Her Doll (Short Stories) A sweet little girl...or is she? [1,187 words] [Horror]
Ode To A Tramp (Poetry) We forget about people that we don't see. [220 words]
The Daemonae-The First (Novels) This is a part of a dark fantasy/horror that I am writing. [4,721 words]
The Dog (Short Stories) - [258 words]
The Eye (Short Stories) - [138 words]
The Tower (Short Stories) A man wrestles with his actions. [226 words] [Thriller]
The White Room (Short Stories) - [892 words] [Horror]
The Holly Tree
P J Francis
Gentle gold light filtered through the dappled foliage of the circle of trees. The girl joyously skipped along the worn dirt track, her long luxurious red hair glowing like molten fire, as it swung about her delicate waist. Her long green dress swished as she moved, her belt of white pearls tinkling musically together. A smile lit her face, as she raised her emerald eyes to the sky . Patches of azure poked through the dense branches, and she reached up a slender pale hand to caress the smooth bark of an ash tree laughing as a spider tickled it’s way down her arm.
“Anu…? Why have you come…?” a voice asked quietly.
The young girl turned quickly, her red hair spilling out behind her. The spider agitatedly clambered back up to the crack of her elbow.
“Anu, I ask again…”
“Why can I not come here, Mother?” She spied a motion in the shadows in front of her. “Why do you follow me so? Come forward and show yourself…if you dare…” her voice tinkled gently.
“It is forbidden to come here, you know that!” the other voice replied haughtily. A figure gingerly stepped from beneath the large awkward boughs of a crooked gnarled oak. “You never listen to me, your mother, Morrigu the wise! I have only your best interests at heart.”
“You always were a difficult child”
“It is dangerous here, Anu. Things happen…I can’t keep my eyes on you all the time” concern sounded in the older woman’s voice.
“I know, mother. It is just so pretty here in the woods!” she laughed.
“Anu!” she walked towards the young girl, her long blue dress trailing in the forest dirt. Twigs stuck fast to the deep velvet hem, and in irritation, she shook her dress free of them. “I wish that you would stay at home, you have unfinished chores that you seem to have forgotten about…again!”
“But it is such a glorious day. And I needed to get away. Things have been so terribly sad since Owein left…” a lone silver tear trickled down her pale freckled face.
“I am sorry about that Anu. But things have to carry on! There are chores that need to be done and life will always have a wont to continue regardless! I really am very sorry about Owein.” She reached out an aged hand, and touched her daughter gently on the shoulder. A small black spider hurried up towards the safety of the girls crimson hair. “Perhaps he will show up again? You never know. For all you know, you could have walked past him a hundred times and never known that he was there!”
“Mother? But I would know if he was there! I think that he no longer loves me. I am not pretty enough.” Anu sighed deeply. “That is what it must be.”
Morrigu watched her with a wary look upon her face. She remembered that as a youngster, she had looked as pretty as Anu. All of the boys in the village had wanted to dance with her. No-one wants to dance with the old crone nowadays she thought bitterly. Anu has it all.
She patted the young girl on the shoulder, “There, there, my sweet naive Anu. You will met another, I am sure of that!”
“But I do not want another! I want my darling Owein back from where ever he has gone”
“Anu, I have to go to the market for some bread. Are you coming with me now, my child?”
Anu glanced at her mothers face. “I will be there soon, mother.”
“Alright. But make sure that you! No more lingering in horrid old woods!” She strode away with another exaggerated flourish of her blue dress. “Dratted trees! Dropping their leaves and twigs everywhere. What a horrible untidy mess!” she muttered with annoyance.
Anu watched her mother’s back disappear out of sight. Lately she seems so angry, she thought in wonder, I really haven’t any idea why!
She walked towards the oak tree, where a few moments earlier her mother had been stood. “I will always have you” she murmured to the large tree, trailing a small hand down the rough ridges and contours of its bark. She pressed her face to the rough wood, “Why! I can almost hear your heart beat” she said in delight. She felt a tickle against her ear, and she raised her hand. The small spider raced into the sanctuary of her slender cupped palm. “And what are you doing here, my little friend? Earwigging? I know a place where you will be safe!” she said laughing as she gently deposited the black arachnid on to a low hanging branch. “You will look after him, my large cumbersome friend?” she asked the tree.
Anu sat in the dappled shade, nestling amongst the hoary oak roots. Wild mushrooms grew in abundance, and Anu watched mesmerised as a powder blue butterfly danced above the grey fungus with a larger white one. Their wings shimmered delicately in the sunlight.
It was dark when Anu awoke. How long have I been here? She thought in panic. She had been to the woods hundreds of times, mostly to visit the old oak tree, but had never stayed there until dark. Anu glanced about her nervously, remembering her mothers warnings of dangerous things.
“Oh mother will be cross!” she said as she stood, dropping leaves and blades of grass from her dress.
The moon rose majestically from beneath its blanket of clouds, casting a magical silver beam into the heart of the circle of trees. A large creaking, groaning sound filled the night air, and she turned to scream , running from the protection of the oak. She spun around in fright as she saw the gnarled old tree move its branches towards her, almost as if it were imploring her for help.
Anu watched in mounting horror as the coarse bark sloughed away, revealing a tantalising glimpse of living pink flesh. Her hands fled to her mouth like pale moths caught entranced by the light of a candles flame. The bark peeled away in strips now, and somehow the ruined oak seemed to have shrunk, gradually diminishing until it resembled the shape of a man. Anu covered her eyes, all the while moaning in terror.
“Anu?” a young male voice asked her “Anu, my love?”
She turned to the sound of the voice. “Owein? Is it you?”
“Yes, my love”
She rushed over to him, and they embraced passionately. “But where have you been?” she asked him, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“I have been here, as always! I was cursed, and set into the shape of an oak tree. I saw you, near every day. My love, you shouldn’t have seen me. I fear you will be accursed too.”
“What have I to fear when I am with you, my dear Owein” she replied gently running a delicate hand through his head of brown curls.
“I am accursed to spend eternity as a tree, only coming to life a few hours as the moon shines as a whole”
“Then let us make the most of our time together, my beloved” she said as she gently kissed him.
Morning broke brightly the following day, as Morrigu trundled up towards the sacred ring of trees. A large heavy copper cauldron was slung over one crooked elbow, and the Athame shone brightly from its belt at her waist. She nudged aside the undergrowth with her thick forked stang, muttering under her breath all the while about impudent no-good lazy daughters.
Morrigu broke through to the clearing, and saw with satisfaction that the hoary old oak was still stood silently there. She looked across and saw that there was another tree close to the oak. “When did that get there…?” she pondered silently. She could see that the oak had its branches wrapped almost protectively around the slender green trunk of the other tree. “When did I plant a holly tree…?”
“What on earth…” Morrigu exclaimed as she peered closely at the young tree.A small black spider darted into the comfort of a lush curled leaf. The holly trees’ waxy prickly green leaves stood up stiffly, and caught about its slender branches, a belt of delicate white pearls, shimmering softly in the gentle sunlight.
“Anu…NO…OH NO, what have I done?” Morrigu screamed in to the silent masses of trees.
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© 2003 P J Francis
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