An edited and improved version of this story is now available for purchase as part of the ‘Prophecies of the Drowned Oracle’ collection.
I’ve always thought trees had a certain energy to them. Nothing outright magical, but— Well… maybe it is magical.
When you stand next to one of those old, huge trees. A trunk at least twice as wide as you are, thick branches reaching for the sky, curling and twisting high above. You stand there close to the stem and look up, and that’s when you feel it. This energy, this enormity.
It’s so difficult to describe, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ve seen others stare up when underneath a tree, and you can just see it in their expression.
It’s certainly not as prevalent with the smaller trees. I think it develops as the tree matures. If you can catch the energy of a younger tree, you’ll feel the difference. It feels less solid, malleable.
But it’s difficult to feel this energy. You can almost see it in the way their branches sway in the wind, but you can never feel it because you can’t get close enough. There’s always those damn fences in the way.
I know what they say, what they want me to believe. That they’re there to support the tree while its root system develops enough to hold it upright. It might even be true to a certain extent. But that doesn’t explain the trees that have been fenced in for years.
You can say it’s just laziness on the part of the local governments, but I don’t believe that. I think it’s done on purpose. It’s not a coincidence that the energy of wild trees feels so different from the ones trapped by humans.
But why? Why would they trap a tree in a wooden fence? Why would they want to affect their energy? I don’t know. I don’t know why trees need to be trapped, but it’s not just the tiny ones. It’s bigger ones as well.
They’re few and far between, but sometimes you’ll find one standing in the middle of a field. Huge, majestic, intimidating, with an aura so intense you can almost feel it from the road. They’re beautiful. Their branches are fanned out in such a perfect dome you just know they’ve been standing alone in that field for their whole life.
But their magnificent beauty is tainted by the hardwood fence surrounding them. Their energy stifled. I sometimes wonder if it’s some sort of cruel joke to trap them in the dead remains of their kind. It’s like trapping a human in a cage made of bone.
I try to keep my distance from those trees. Not because I don’t like them, but just… I saw something once, in the forest near where I live. You can imagine I often walk through the forest with my love for trees and nature. I know my usual route so well I could walk it blindfolded. I used to go out at night as well.
I don’t anymore.
The forest has many clearings in which farmers either grow corn or raise animals. I like the ones with animals better, they often have a more naturalistic look.
I walked past one of those and saw the usual trees standing there. Three of them, still relatively small, all with a fence around them despite the fact they’ve all stood there for half a decade by now. I pity them, trapped the way they are in their fences while their brethren around them in the forest are free to stand unrestricted.
Nothing looked abnormal then, but on my way back home when I walked past the same field, one of the fences stood empty.
I paused and looked around the field. I thought I’d just missed the empty fence earlier and there would still be three other trees, but no. There were only two.
I’m not embarrassed to say I freaked out. I resumed my walk at a much faster pace than before, intent on getting out of the forest as soon as possible. All the while my mind tried to come up with all sorts of rational explanations.
None of them held up. They were all more convoluted than the truth, and I’m not one to believe a complicated explanation over a simpler one. I felt eyes following me. More than just eyes, something was following me.
I increased my pace. I thought I heard footsteps behind me, but when I looked there was nothing. The bushed beside me rustled.
Just a bird, a tree would never fit— could it? The bush was placed on a slope, it wasn’t impossible…
I kept walking faster. I never resorted to outright running, somehow convinced that was a step too far in going along with my delusions. I should have run. It wasn’t a delusion.
I was lucky. I wasn’t caught by whatever followed me, although there were moments I was sure it was a close call. I didn’t slow down even when I left the forest. I only allowed myself to pause and catch my breath once I’d pulled my front door closed behind me.
It took me a while before I dared enter the forest again. It’s been six months, but I still don’t go there at night.
I do still go past the same field. I should be watching the two remaining trees closely, waiting for any unnatural movement… but my eyes keep lingering on the still empty fence.
I don’t know why we trap trees with fences. I don’t believe the trees mean us harm… but I do know I don’t want to be in the path of a tree that escaped its human-made prison.