The tree hollow

Submitted into Contest #196 in response to: Write a story involving a portal into a parallel universe.... view prompt


Fantasy Speculative Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of substance abuse.

Kenny King covered his ears with both hands, squeezing hard, trying to block out the noise. It wasn’t working. Raised voices seeped through, dishes being broken, threats exchanged. He grabbed his pillow with the Spiderman pillowcase burying his head, covered in a thick shock of ginger hair, like a tortoise trying to find protection in its hard carapace. Stop, stop fighting! he screamed into the matching Spiderman comforter. He knew they wouldn’t. It was a wishful mindset. More times than not, the flashing lights of the black and whites, the knocking on the front door, the apologies, the it won’t happen agains followed. Their house was that house, the one that people called the police about on a weekly basis for noise complaints, domestic disturbances, drunk and disorderly. At nine years old, Kenny shouldn’t have known those phrases and what they meant. Unfortunately, he did. Kenny was an exceptionally bright child. At a very young age, he knew both of his parents were gripped by the demons of the bottle. Kind, loving, sweet parents turned into dark, dangerous, violent devils under the influence of foul-smelling liquids. Tonight, was such a night. One of the worst actually. 

I am dug out of my hideout by a kind eyed stranger. His badge has a name, Collins. His bright blue eyes well up like a dam about to break. Sadness marks his brow.

 "Kenny, it’s okay son. You are ok. My name is Officer Collins, you need to come with me. Let’s get some shoes and clothes together for you, ok?" He gives me a wink of his left eye and a smile.  

"Ok", I say meekly. "Are they alright? Are they dead?"

"No, no, no. Oh, Jesus. They are just having a, um"…words escaped him," a timeout, that’s all. We are going to take you somewhere safe and have you talk to a special doctor about your home life, your parents."  

"Ok, how did you know my name?" I ask.  

"There is on a sign on your door", he says.

"Can I still see my friend Miranda?" I ask.

"Yes, Kenny." 

The doctor lady has big glasses that magnify her eyes making her look like a praying mantis. She has a soft soothing voice and a gentle peaceful demeanor. She asks me all sorts of questions about my mom and dad. Do they yell at me? Do they hurt me? Am I scared to live in my home? I know if I answer truthfully, it will not be good for my parents. My dad had told me it was ok to lie, if you are doing it for the right reasons. So, I do. I love them. I don’t want new parents, a new home. I just want them to get help.

"No, maam, they don’t hit me. They are just sick. It's from the poisons they drink. They love me very much."  

They decided to get my parents help with the sickness. I can’t live at home until they are better. My dad’s mom, Grandma King, took me in temporarily. I don’t like her. She smells of cigarettes and old lady perfume. She always says things like kids should be seen, not heard. I don’t think she likes kids much. Her house is full of crocheted blankets in various patterns, indoor plants, and shelter cats. I think she likes plants and animals better than me. Her cats are mean, too. 

I stay in my room most days, lost in my thoughts looking out at the old, gnarled tree in her front yard. It is about forty feet high, with limbs that splay out like an open hand, and a hollow in its base. I daydream that through the other side of the hollow is an exciting new world of wonder and awe. Some days it is full of talking animals who live in castles made of marshmallows. They have to slay a fierce dragon. Once they do, it is time for a party full of yummy desserts and exciting games. Other days, it is outer space. Full of emptiness. Cold and dark. Until you find a new planet colonized by purple aliens. They have bulbous heads and tentacles for hands and feet. They never talk. Thoughts just come into your brain. They ask me if I like cake. I say yes.

I hope Miranda can come see me soon. She is my best friend. I miss our adventures.

I wake with a large one-eyed cat on my chest. He hisses at me and scratches my face. I cry and go to tell Grandma. She says it is my fault. I must have done something wrong. She washes the cut and gives me a band aid. "Behave, Kenneth or it’ll be a paddling for you" she says.   

I hate it here.  

I walk out to the disfigured misshapen tree to see if perhaps I'm right and there does exist a doorway to a better place. I have just enough room to scurry into the darkened cavity. It smells funny. Like dying things. I want to leave. I guess I was wrong. No vibrant new worlds to explore, no new friends to meet, nothing but darkness and rot.  

Then as I turn to leave, a bright white light appears above me. An angel dressed all in white descends from the heavens. She says that her name is Winifred. She is my guardian angel. She has come to take me to magical new worlds. I take her hand. We soar into the thick clouds, which are made of cotton candy. I take bite after bite relishing the decadent treats. Winifred takes me to a land high up in the clouds. I ask where we are. She says a place with no pain, no hurt. I ask what the name of this place is. She says it has no name. I take her hand and we walk a stone path gilded in gold towards a castle far in the distance. I feel happy. I feel safe.  

In breaking news, Channel 5 has learned that the body of a small boy, found in the trunk of an old maple tree at 25 Berkshire Avenue last week, was missing child Kenny King. An autopsy will be performed to find out the cause of death. His paternal grandmother had said the boy had run away from her care. Flyers posted throughout the city and two searches had yielded no results.  

May 03, 2023 17:51

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Bruce Callahan
03:20 May 11, 2023

Thanks for giving it a read, Pene. By no means am I a polished writer. Still learning as I go, I appreciate your craft input. Yeah, I'm kind of an emotions writer, trying to get the reader to feel the piece. A few more sentences to flush out the situation probably would have worked better. I was going for the longing of leaving to go to a new better world versus the reality of stuck in a rotting tree, metaphor for his home life.


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Pene Worth
23:04 May 10, 2023

A sad story, so much good story here. Sorry, I am no expert, my own stories are full of issues, but I will comment on what I do see. Negatives: First paragraph some run on sentences. A difficult transition from third person to first. I think maybe a hint that the Grandma had done something to the boy, it seems a difficult concept that he just died in the tree hollow. Good - it reads like personal experience has impacted on this, I can read real voice; it is beautiful in parts where it is in the child's mind, the child's viewpoint.


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