A Beautiful Demise (Flash Fiction)

Originally posted to Disregard the Prologue December 2013

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They killed me on a Friday afternoon. Cut me down from among my brothers and sisters, dragged me through the forest and laughed together while silent snow fell over us. Their eyes gleamed above rosy cheeks as they sang songs celebrating my demise.

They thought I didn’t hear them. Little did they know that my kind’s awareness continues after we crash down. Our life drains more slowly than theirs does, and it takes us a long while to die.

They strapped my body to the roof of their vehicle, a boxy contraption that spewed noxious fumes into the air behind us. The wind whipped me cruelly as they took me far from home and family, and their voices taunted with words I’d thought of myself in better days. Most beautiful in the forest. Perfect.

Not entirely perfect, as it turned out. They cut me again before I was able to stand in their home, shaving off a few more inches of my once-glorious height. I thought of the summers I spent growing strong from the soil and the rain, reaching ever higher toward the sunlight, drinking it in.

I wept where they cut me, but they didn’t notice. The littlest one squealed about sap on her mittens, and an older child told her not to be a dummy. Charming creatures, these.

They piled indignities upon me like I’d never imagined during my idyllic years in the forest. I was forced to stand in a token puddle of sterile, flavorless water, and they screwed metal spikes in to hold me upright. And then… and then came the macabre ritual of festooning my dying body with glittering baubles and twinkling lights, a mockery of the life that slowly drained from me.

The tall one hoisted the smallest up on his shoulder, and she crowned me with a golden star. At least, they called it a star, but it looked nothing like what I remembered from the night sky. Perhaps they killed this one and brought it indoors, like they did me. The littlest one declared me a Christmas miracle, and they all cheered.

For weeks I’ve stood here, a sentinel in the corner watching over their celebrations. For a time they exclaimed over my beauty and the exquisite scent that my dying body lent to the dry, too-hot air of their home. The smells of their cooking suffocated me, but one day they insisted on stringing their baked goods on me. The dog walked by and stole a few pieces off of the lower half, then crept out to the yard with them through his little door in the back. I assume this was out of some sort of primitive mammalian empathy. At least one creature in the house is capable of it.

Then they seemed to forget me for a time. They’d occasionally adjust their decorations, but for the most part it seemed I’d be left with whatever dignity I was still had, to die in peace.

But then the presents began to appear. Brightly wrapped offerings, laid one by one beneath me. Perhaps, I thought, they’d seen they error of their ways. Perhaps they knew it was too late to take back what they’d done, but they would try to honor me with gifts as I passed from the world.

But no. Seven days ago more gifts appeared, all in a rush. At least, I believe it was seven; I count by the sunrises and sunsets outside the window, but everything is becoming hazy as the life drains from me, and I can’t remember. My tormentors all woke early in the morning and exclaimed over the bounty, and then ripped into the gifts like crazed wolves, keeping all of the cheaply-manufactured bounty for themselves. The paper— which I soon realized was made from my deceased cousins— ended up in plastic bags, which they later tossed out the door, presumably never to be seen again.

Aah, it hurts me to think of it now.

They stopped offering me water after the gift time. I’d thought their insistence on prolonging my suffering cruel, but found that I missed that small mercy when it was gone. Again they seemed to forget about me, except to “tsk” when I began to shed needles on their floor.

The decorations came off this afternoon, and those I will not miss. The dead star went into a box. I wonder how many slow and humiliating deaths it has presided over. My limbs grow stiff and heavy, but I am grateful to have them returned to something resembling their natural state.

I will never live again. Never grow. Never be as beautiful as I once was.

They spoke of taking me outside, dragging me to the woodlot behind their home. The idea of fresh air thrills me, but I don’t know that I can bear to be seen like this. I was once a proud tree, healthy and lovely. Now I am a husk, dried out and nearly dead, with strands of silver still clinging to my branches, a reminder of the mockery they made of me, of their punishment for my beauty.

Returning to a forest would be the final indignity, I think. Perhaps I have always been too vain. Perhaps I should welcome the opportunity to return to the Earth, to nourish new life in the spring, to die at last under the cold, beautiful gaze of the living stars I grew up with.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps this tree doesn’t go down so easily. They’ve gone to bed now, all of them. The house is dark and quiet. Dark, save for a trio of candles they left burning on the table over there. If I could shift my weight, just a little, I could catch aflame. I could take this hall of tortures down with me, turn their dream-like holiday into a nightmare.

But I’m a tree. I can’t move.

Perhaps I’ll try. After all, they did say that Christmas is a time for magic and miracles.

One, two, three…

—-

(I wrote this tonight, after taking the decorations off of the tree yesterday. Take from that what you will… or blame the painkillers I’m on. Wheee!  For the record, I’m still Team Real Tree, but I might be more respectful next time. -KMS)

As always, if you want more stories, updates, bonus content and fun stuff from me, you’re invited to join the oh-so-infrequently-sent-newsletter club! Click here


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