Contest #118 winner 🏆

163 comments

Speculative Crime

He buried her in the forest before the leaves of the quaking aspen turned golden. No one noticed the tamped down soil, or the way the wild grasses died back all around her, or even the circle of whimsy brown mushrooms that erupted soon after.

And when autumn came, and the leaves changed, the trembling giant whose roots she fed turned scarlet instead.

“I am here,” she called. “Please find me!”

But, after the first frost, the leaves turned rusty, and were then indistinguishable from the rest.

No one noticed her, buried in the forest beneath the quaking aspen.




Snow falls, blanketing her in a cold white solitude with only her thoughts for company, and she wonders…

Does her family know she isn’t coming home?

Or do they maybe think she’s just run away from it all? Does anyone suspect foul play? Or has he once again convinced everyone of his harmless temper?

“We argued, but I loved her. I never would have done anything to hurt her.”

Then why did she (the other woman) drive her car—in neutral—into the lake?

She wonders what he’ll say about her.

“We argued, but I loved her. She said she would leave me a hundred times, and I guess she finally did.”

She wonders if anyone ever found the unused airplane tickets in the back of her underwear drawer, rolled up in a sock with the wad of twenties she’d been collecting for months? Did he find them? Is that why…?

Is that why she’s rotting away in the earth now?




Spring arrives and the bugs return, but she only has so much of herself left to give them. The grass grows back, greener than before, and the roots of the quaking aspen snake through her ribs.

He returns—and steps on her grave.

Just with one foot, at first. She thinks he’s testing the ground, or checking for bones sticking out of the soil; when he doesn’t fall through, he stands on her grave fully. The pressure on her chest is unbearable, but he already broke her heart once.

When he breaks her ribs, she feels nothing.

He steps off quickly, sheepishly, and reaches forward. He grabs a branch from the tree he buried her under and snaps it off with a quick tug.

Is that how she died? She remembers his hands on her neck and then nothing else.

It was so quick.

They argued. She told him she didn’t love who he was anymore, but she never got the chance to leave, like she’d planned to for months.

He walks away with his souvenir and she doesn’t see him again for a long time.




A million thoughts fill her up, and she wonders if she’ll ever have peace from them. They never ceased while she was alive, in her waking hours or otherwise, and now they continue even as her body returns to the earth. Restful oblivion does not come to her and she wonders… if not in death, then when?

Did Niki worry when she didn’t show up? Or did they just assume she never meant to arrive in the first place? Are they angry she broke her promise? What about her cat? Did they keep Mr. Jenkins? Is he healthy and happy with Niki?

And, more than anything, she worries no one knew her thoughts in those final months, because he stole her from her family and friends—stole her from herself, even.

She’d said so many awful things to so many people, and all they’d ever wanted was for her to be happy and safe. But she never listened—was too proud to admit she’d been wrong until it was too late.

She almost doesn’t recognize who she was in those final months anymore.

(Why does she even care? She’s not —— anymore.)




She begins growing out of her broken body the following year, and feels for the first time in a long time the gentle rays of sunlight beating down on her through the budding leaves of the surrounding quaking aspen trees.

However, almost before she can appreciate the new sensations that come with being a sprouting aspen tree, a browsing deer strips her of her leaves—and then a hare finishes her off.

But that’s fine. Her roots remain, and she continues pulling water and other nutrients from the ground for the giants she shares herself with.

They don’t speak, but she feels their sympathy as they wordlessly console her, and offer her their full support when spring arrives again.

She grows quickly with their tender support, and when the browsing deer returns, she has more than enough of herself to give.




When they see him again, they almost don’t recognize him.

He’s older, grayer. Feebler. He walks with a cane now and uses it to push around the mulchy layers of decaying leaves. The top layer of soil has grown sugary over the years and he has to hold on to branches as he steps up the incline, or risk slipping.

But he is himself still, and they could never forget his eyes. Warm like honey; hard like amber; and, sometimes, colder than moonlight. Wrinkles (and time) have softened his piercing gaze, but they still feel it as he looks about. There’s an unmistakable hint of sharpness—like raw edges on smooth river stones.

He does not recognize them.

They have grown up strong and tall since he saw them last, and the animal path he followed all those years ago has meandered ever so slightly off track. He is not lost, but neither can he find his destination.

He looks up, straining his neck, searching for the tree with the cracked-off branch—searching for the piece of them he broke. He turns around three full times, facing north after each spin.

Still, he does not find what he’s looking for.

Forgiveness. Closure. Maybe the tree he buried them beneath, which no longer stands.

It blew over some years ago, when the summer storms came. The uprooted stump is just to his right, but he does not make the connection, because the thick trunk was hauled away for campfire fuel the same year it fell.

He leans against his cane, silently stewing over his dilemma. He’s never had much patience for anything, really.

The wind rattles through their bare branches and a chill creeps through him. He shivers, hunching his shoulders against the stiff wind, and lifts his cane. He turns right, shuffling through the frost laden leaves, and unknowingly walks over their grave.

He stumbles over the exposed roots still attached to the rotting stump and falls—hard.

He lays there for a long moment, winded from his rough landing. When he recovers enough to move, his shifting is accompanied by a low groan.

He does not stand up—cannot stand up—and rolls onto his stomach, searching for his cane in the leaves. He does not find it; it flew quite far when he fell.

A crow caws overhead and he curses while struggling to push himself up onto his knees. One hand sinks into the frosty leaves, and closes around something smooth and roughly the same diameter as his cane.

He pulls on it, yanking it out of the ground after a couple of firm tugs. He’s not as strong as he once was.

A brown stained bone comes up, and he stares at it before flinging it away from himself with a startled cry.

He finally calls for help, having accepted that he’s too injured to escape the forest of quaking aspen on his own.

“Help!” he screams. “Please, someone!”

But no one hears him and each shout is more desperate than the last, until he’s screaming himself hoarse, sobbing between breaths.




“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

The answer has never been more obvious to them than it is now.




No one noticed him, fallen in the forest beneath the quaking aspen.

November 06, 2021 02:28

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163 comments

Josiah Makram
20:49 Nov 12, 2021

Oh my word...I am blown away. This is my favorite entry so far. It was beautiful in a sobering way. The descriptions were vivid and I love the plotline. You definitely have talent and can't wait to see what else you created. Great job! :D

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Myia Melendy
00:16 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks for reading! I honestly didn't think I would win--there are so many amazing and talented writers on Reedsy! I'm looking forward to writing more for Reedsy Prompts in the future :)

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Josiah Makram
18:43 Nov 19, 2021

Absolutely! I’m looking forward to seeing your creativity in action:)

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Heather Ferguson
02:59 Nov 13, 2021

Instantly taken back by how amazingly beautiful this is😭

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Myia Melendy
03:18 Nov 13, 2021

Thank you!

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Amanda Lieser
19:27 Nov 12, 2021

Hi Amy is, Congratulations on the win! You did a great job with this piece. I thought that you had beautifully tragic imagery and I absolutely loved that you contracted the beauty of the trees with the character’s transformation. I also love how you converted the passage of time. Thank you for writing this piece.

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Myia Melendy
00:14 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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Carla Ward
19:01 Nov 12, 2021

Awesome story. Keeps interest to the last line. I enjoyed the karmic payback.

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Myia Melendy
00:12 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks for reading!

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Renda Brooks
18:37 Nov 12, 2021

Very well-written and intriguing story line. It held my interest too :) Congratulations on your win!

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Myia Melendy
00:11 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks!

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Daniel Roueche
18:15 Nov 12, 2021

I absolutely love this story! It’s captivating and well-written and the ending is just perfect.

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Myia Melendy
00:11 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks very much! (´▽`ʃ♡ƪ)

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Debbie Wingate
17:45 Nov 12, 2021

Hauntingly beautiful. Congratulations!

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Myia Melendy
00:11 Nov 13, 2021

Thank you!

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Delia Tomkus
17:43 Nov 12, 2021

Wow that is beautiful! I love the ending!

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Myia Melendy
00:10 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks!

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Sharon Dee
17:31 Nov 12, 2021

Oh my, what a beautiful piece! Congratulations on winning; you really deserve it.

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Myia Melendy
00:10 Nov 13, 2021

Thank you!

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Steven Rensch
03:12 Nov 13, 2021

Wonderful. My favorite so far.

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Myia Melendy
03:18 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks!

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Michael Regan
00:15 Nov 13, 2021

A riveting story it held me all the way to the end. Congratulations on your win.

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Myia Melendy
00:19 Nov 13, 2021

Thank you!

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Barbara Martin
23:21 Nov 12, 2021

Congratulations! I like the way it started out almost like poetry, and kinda stayed there for a bit. Nice read.

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Myia Melendy
23:45 Nov 12, 2021

Thanks! I think I have a (bad) habit of writing purple prose, but I've discovered that I can take the weed whacker to it and beat something almost poetic out of it, at least XD

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Jane Beckwith
23:20 Nov 12, 2021

"They have grown up strong and tall since he saw them last, and the animal path he followed all those years ago has meandered ever so slightly off track. He is not lost, but neither can he find his destination." Everything about these lines has me full of admiration (and possibly envy). I feel like he has failed to cancel out her essence and their growth. He was definitely on an "animal path" - so subtle and so true! I loved your story. I hope to read another.

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Myia Melendy
23:39 Nov 12, 2021

Thank you! This was my first time sitting down and writing a short story based on a prompt, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Looking forward to writing another!

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Levi Hernandez
22:06 Nov 12, 2021

this was really good I liked it keep it up

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Myia Melendy
23:36 Nov 12, 2021

Thanks!

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Sheryl Mixey
21:45 Nov 12, 2021

Wow, no wonder you won the contest. That is one amazingly intriguing story so well written. Congratulations!

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Myia Melendy
23:36 Nov 12, 2021

Thank you!

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21:21 Nov 12, 2021

YAS, QUEEN, KILL HIM- so proud of you, myia. deserved win!

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Myia Melendy
23:35 Nov 12, 2021

Thanks for reading! And glad you think so (´▽`ʃ♡ƪ)

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17:19 Nov 13, 2021

:D

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Faith Ogedegbe
20:00 Nov 12, 2021

Congratulations!

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Myia Melendy
00:10 Nov 13, 2021

Thank you!

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Ashley Cullen
20:00 Nov 12, 2021

Whew, that was excellent! The whole thing is great but the ending is just amazing.

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Myia Melendy
00:10 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks for reading! I'm glad you enjoyed the ending--I sometimes struggle with them!

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Marcia H.
19:47 Nov 12, 2021

Congratulations!! Very well written. I loved this story.

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Myia Melendy
00:09 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks! Glad you liked it :)

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Mercy Ineke
19:21 Nov 12, 2021

Amazing piece a well deserved win

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Myia Melendy
00:09 Nov 13, 2021

Thanks!

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