The Moaning Trees

Mark me here, children, and take a look at the forest around you. 

  For time untold, whoever once lived here used the trees for gallows, and every type of body was hung there: men, women, children, foreigners, criminals, those who practiced magic, or were believed to be doing so, and those who renounced it when the tables turned.

   Rabid and diseased animals were not spared, butchered where they were tied to the trunks.

   And as the spirits drifted and the flesh rotted, the tree bark grew paler, and the spring blossoms stopped growing.

   Tree roots grew twisted, with a reddish tint to them, and the pale bark flaked away as the corpses dried and swayed in the wind like old companions in rocking chairs on a porch.

   The last explorers that traveled through and briefly tried to settle here wrote that the soil was infertile, the turned earth littered with the broken bodies of predator and prey alike. 

    An odor of decay became omnipresent, a patina of corruption clinging to the air like sweat on a hot body.

    And when night falls, children, one can hear the trees moaning. The stories and songs say it’s the cries of the condemned mingling with the screaming pleas of tortured bodies and pleas before they die. 

    In autumn, the wind stirred leaves echo the sound of snapping necks and fluttery sighs of death.

    On nights of the full moon, the very trees seem to wail as the collected burden of their grisly growth overwhelms them. Others say the weeping, restless spirits cry as they wander, lost to time and memory.

   And when the seasons change, children, the spirits of those condemned in that time return to tell their stories to one another, again and again.

   Every night, no matter how fierce the weather, now empty the land, if you listen you can hear  the cries for mercy, then the raucous, mocking laughter from the hanging mobs that cheer on the savagery.

     Other nights, when the moon is new, among the trees you can hear the laughter of children as they run after each, their footsteps rustling and cracking the detritus beneath them..

    Daring campers have fled, hearing snarls and low, deep growling as their bodies were rolled over by unseen paws, their faces probed by wet, cold blots feeling very like the noses and tongues of canines they couldn’t see, and their chests suddenly heavy with weight they couldn’t get off before they woke up screaming, as if an animal had settled on top of them.

     Still others shared a sense of dread, waiting in thick silence as something watched them, but despite their risks in calling out, nothing was there. 

      No one answered. 

     All things considered, children, it’s best to avoid the moaning trees and travel the long way around these arbors of evil and grief, if you can. 

     You see, they have long memories, and don’t mind sharing them with you. 

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