No Strings, Just Death

Submitted into Contest #43 in response to: Write a story about transformation.... view prompt



The car pulled to a stop, silence fell in the treetops surrounding it. Birds held their breaths quietly, watching, as a man exited the vehicle and opened the back. With blue collar hands, he took out a large spade shovel and a small sapling. He hummed quietly, inconspicuously. A twitter from distant fowl churned the trees above from his perturbation. 

His mouth filled with the sweet taste of maple syrup, a remnant of the woman he spent the evening with. The woman's wide eyes and hollowed voice entered his mind. He smiled quietly, it was a gentle evening. There was also her honey dew aroma that still filled his nose.

The sound of plastic rustled from inside the trunk. He stopped his ritualistic movements as the sound scolded his ear drum. A loud sneer came from his curled lips, his attentiveness was broken. He dropped the seedling and lifted his shovel, with a loud thud, he thrust it into the plastic. It dropped lifelessly, even the wind dared not shake his concentration again. The man drew the black sheet from his car with another vigorous bounce, and placed the gentle sapling on it’s surface. 

He looked toward the sky a moment, its chipper demur flooded him with joy and he lifted up the trinity with a kiss. It was peace as his ritual neared it’s end. He dragged the pair through the trees to a small clearing where several varieties of young trees rested, ones he’d laid as an offering to the forest.

 For his newest trophy, he chose the perfect spot with pristine lighting. The man dug deep into the Earth, once he reached his depth, he meticulously placed the heavy sheet into the hole ensuring each part folded into the correct position. The air around the tree’s resting place felt bubbly to him as he shoveled dirt over the dark plastic. 

He prayed over it again then stabilized the small root ball in the hole. A perfect red maple, another to my collection, he crooned over the specimen as he looked at the rest of his dependents. He caressed the satin maple’s leaves once more, you were sweet like syrup last night. Such a shame that things turned sour for you, my dear. Fear not sapling this is your new beginning. The playful tree shimmied it’s leaves in response. He smiled at her, it was just as he pictured the perfect release of his compulsions. 

The man then turned to leave his grove, he would be back. The maple’s simple leaves shifted under the light, her fragile roots descended into the fresh soil. After such care, she was planted with an offensive plastic bag. She peered through her eves, the other trees in the thicket appeared morose. Sickly leaves twirled in the air and a vacant crying filled the atmosphere. Why are these trees in such despair, she thought quietly. She felt a sense of eeriness as their calls grew louder across her branches.

As night fell among the grove, the wailing quelled. Under the moonlight, they were comforted. Maple too found the uneasiness that knotted her trunk slowly subsided. There was a sudden shift in the air around her, and in the moonlight she felt herself taking in unseen energy.

Her trunk began to transform rapidly from that satisfied sapling into a frail puppet’s body.  Two hands grasped her face, it was in the shape of a young woman. Green curly hair fell to her midsection. Maple took a moment to appreciate the texture. What is happening to me? Her mind screamed frantically.

Thump, thump, thump. A puppet heart beat thickly in her wooden chest. The sensation caused the youngling to stagger backward uprooting her heavy feet. She stumbled, caught by the mulberry that once stood irrevocably behind her. 

“Careful, you’re still very green, young one.” The mulberry spoke in a sweet low voice. Firm wooden hands released from around Maple’s waste. She stood firmly now on her newly formed feet. Words lodged in her puppet throat beneath unused vocal chords. 

“Mul, don’t waste your time with the sapling. She still thinks our father cares for her.” A redbud tree puppet snickered. Red hair fell from her head like a lion's mane, her puppet form looked much younger than Maple but her tree form was clearly a decade or two older.

“Red quiet that childish mouth of yours,” Scolded an elderly fig tree puppet. She was hunched over and held a curved branch in her hand to steady herself.. Her hair appeared tucked into a bonnet with a three pronged leaf poking from it. Red stuck her tongue at the old marionette. Maple’s eyes became wide, her body shivered with fear under it’s new frame. 

“Calm yourself child. The spell is easily broken and it will mean your end if it breaks.” The old one's voice sounded loud in her ears as the fig gestured to several decaying trees in the thicket. It was clear they were too sickly to transform. 

“Yeah wouldn’t want our father to choose another to take your place,” Red teased loudly. She pointed her finger aggressively in Maple’s direction, it caused the fearful tree to step backward. She was caught again by Mul. Gentle fingers pressed on her wooden back.

“Ignore Red, she is the youngest of our family and has not yet grown into her trunk, though I’m not she’s capable since the spirit that possesses her puppet body was very young.” Mul’s words caused Maple to fold her eyebrows. 

“W-what do you mean possessed by a spirit. That can’t happen. I am my own sentient being. I was awoken the moment my roots rested in the ground.”

“Ah but that’s the magic of it. You were placed in the Earth with another. Your mind, it is her mind.” Mul stated flatly.

“Hush Mul, she has not yet regained her memories. Perhaps it's in her best interest to forget.” Fig spoke peaceably.  

“No I want to know, why am I here? I thought our father was a gentile man.” Maple’s voice cracked.

“If you want to know, dig below the soil that your roots touched.You’ll find the answers and more,” Red giggled a sinister chortle. Maple eyed her for just a moment then moved into her resting place. The others stood quietly behind her, they gave each other sympathetic looks.

She scooped three large handfuls of dirt before encountering that offensive plastic sheet. She lifted it gingerly, it was wrapped around something large like a burrito. She could feel the weight of it as she tugged more and then it gave way. 

She gasped loudly at what was below. Memories flooded her mind in that moment but they were too much for her puppet heart. It broke under the weight of her grief. The others watched as their warnings became true.. 

Large fungus sprouted across her wooden body and her leaves became yellow and burnt. Water drew from her trunk and dried the precious bark that encased her. Roots sprouted suddenly where her marionette feet had formed. Again she was that familiar small maple sapling. The maple fell backwards suddenly unable to hold her body steady as it died, and there she would rot into nothingness. 

“See I told you, she wasn’t yet ready for the truth.” Fig scolded the youngling as she wagged her finger angrily. Red took a meek step forward and picked up the open plastic sheet. With one last look, she covered the dead woman with a large split in her skull. She shivered, memories of her own death surfaced and she decided to fill the hole with dirt. Mul placed her arms around the little wooden girl. Their father, a monster, forced them into this existence filled with death. Yet they survived. Why?

May 29, 2020 03:19

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Kelechi Nwokoma
00:56 May 30, 2020

Chelsy, I really love your take on the the prompt. Most authors wrote on people going through transformation, and I'm glad you wrote on something different, which is a tree. Your story is really interesting, and the descriptions are great. Keep it up!


Chelsy Maughan
18:33 Jun 01, 2020

Thank you so much for the comment!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply