The trees are the history books of the world. Within a single cell of an old tree lives a history of hundreds of years. Trees remember long after we die. Sometimes the trees have seen more than we can hope to see in our lives, for the trees see what they have to see, not what they want to see. Sometimes in our lives, we face dark situations, situations that imprison us and make us feel trapped. The more we are imprisoned in a situation that weakens us, the smaller we feel.
This is a story about that kind of situation, the kind that makes us feel small and weak, the kind that lives within a single cell in the trees of history.
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Suddenly, she felt the urge to run.
She began to trot. A trot that became a jog. A jog that became a full-blown sprint.
Little Lilly was running.
She was running through the dark forest, a forest she once remembered from long ago; a forest that scared her. Trees hung over her, long and thin, like veins. They were reaching for her, trying to grab her as she ran.
She ran as fast as her little legs could run. She was running through the wicked paths of the wicked trees. She was running through the dark noise of the dark forest. She was running through a wicked, dark place; a monstrous place.
All around her the trees reached for her. And each tree was an ungodly shape. They looked like old oak trees, the kind that had been alive so long they had too many branches to count; they were too old to remember themselves. Their height was many miles above the ground, and their branches spread out several hundred feet.
The branches scared her so much that she closed her eyes to get away from them. But in her head she saw those horrible branches that weaved in and out of each other, as if they had long, treacherous arms linked together, surrounding her. Within those large, interwoven branches, she thought she saw large, mocking grins.
Little Lilly ran.
She ran so fast that she didn’t even care where she was going. She ran even though she was breathless and hadn’t eaten for days. She ran through any path that she could find, any path that wasn’t cut off by trees and branches and veins and grins. She ran with all of her might, forcing herself to run away, anywhere away… from him.
She ran for hours, or it might have been days. In this place, she never knew. She ran so long that time faded away behind her, leaving only the fear.
Until Little Lilly stopped running.
Before her, in this world of trees and branches and darkness and fear, was a large chair, almost like a throne. A throne made of stone and of ancient things. A throne made of blood and horror. A throne that weaved across itself, like the trees around it. It was as if the throne and the trees became one another, penetrating each other, hurting each other.
They weaved so much that Lilly couldn’t tell tree from throne, and it was all a giant mass of stone and tree and blood and ancient things.
And him. In the darkness it was difficult to see, but Little Lilly knew it was him. Sitting on his monstrous throne of fear and pain, Little Lilly saw him.
She knew him. Or at least, she knew him once.
He was hunched over on his unnatural throne. Hunched over like an old man, too weak to sit up straight. His eyes were a bright, unnatural green, and his face was a shadow, too dark to see anything but those horrible green eyes. His hair was long and stringy. His long, grey beard flowed like a river and reached down to his lap, becoming one with the branches and the throne on either side of his branch-like legs. He was an unnatural thing, an abomination.
He was looking into his hands, and within his hands was a cup made of fire. Even though he looked more like wood than man, the fire seemed not to burn him. His whole body was slouched as he sat there, holding his cup of fire in his hands, as if waiting for someone to come, someone like Little Lilly.
Then those horrible green eyes looked up at her, his monstrosity making her feel no bigger than the last flower of a dying autumn. He did not smile. He did not laugh. He was no longer the person he was a long time ago. He wasn’t the person Little Lilly knew anymore. Instead, he was a thing. A monster.
He took a hand from grasping his cup and reached out to her. He had been so still that he looked dead, but when he moved each part of him slowly came to life. It was horrible, it looked as if a tree made of stone with a human face started moving toward you.
He reached with what could have been a hand or a branch, and he reached towards her. Those horrible green eyes seemed to reach towards her too. His eyes were cross-eyed and he drooled shamelessly. His face became something made of uncontrolled, starving desire.
As he reached out for her, he made a noise, the kind of noise one makes when they have not eaten in days. A gasping, throaty noise that seemed to say, feed me.
He reached out for her, to touch her, to pierce her, and then Little Lilly would feel pain.
Then Little Lilly was running again.
She was running away from him. She knew that if she looked behind her, that if she slowed down for even a second, he would be there. He would reach for her. He would touch her. He would reach his long branches out and pierce her, and Little Lilly would feel pain.
She was running away. Away from the monstrous king on his monstrous throne. She was running so fast she forgot to breathe, and rest, and think. All that was in her was fear. Fear of him, fear of this place, fear of fear itself.
And as she ran, she felt as if the branches of the smiling trees around her were reaching for her. She ran for hours, or it might have been days. In this place, she never knew.
Until Little Lilly stopped running.
And before her sat the monstrous man on his monstrous throne.