Drawing: A tree with a shadow face, at night-time. Caption reads: “Don’t look at the monster tree.”

Tree short story by Iris Carden

Settle in, dear reader, while I tell you the strange tale of Anna, who learned the hard way not to pick on little kids.

Anna had to stay at her little cousin Kayla’s house for a week while her mother was in hospital. Worse, she had to share Kayla’s room.  

Anna had argued with her mother, had pointed out that no fifteen year old wanted to share a room with a five year old, had insisted she was old enough to stay home alone.

Despite that, her Aunt Mary and Uncle Jake had taken her home with them, after dropping her mother at the hospital.

Anna sulked that afternoon.  She spent most of the afternoon on her computer, or playing with her phone.  As much as possible, she tried to ignore her cousin.

Eventually Aunt Mary strongly suggested she go outside and play with Kayla for a while, since Kayla had been looking forward to spending time with her.

Resentfully, Anna went out to the back yard, where Kayla was playing with a doll.

“Anna, this is Chrissy. She’s my favourite doll.  We have tea parties together.  Do you want a tea party?”

“No. I’m not a baby, and I don’t play tea parties.” Anna went to sit under a tree to text a friend, and try to continue to ignore Kayla.

“Not that tree!” Kayla shrieked. “That’s the monster tree.  Stay away from the monster tree.”

“Monster tree? Seriously? OK.  What makes you think it’s a monster tree?”

“At night time, if you look at it out the window, it has a scary face, and it moves, and if you don’t hide it will get you.”

“Look,” Anna said.  “The tree’s got rough bark.  Maybe at night, the shadows make it look like it’s got a scary face. Maybe you just imagine it.  Babies imagine things all the time.”

“I’m not a baby! I’m a big girl. I go to school.”

“Prep’s not real school. It’s not real school until you’re in grade one, and even then that’s only primary school. Prep’s just baby school.”

“You’re a big meanie. I hope the monster tree gets you.”

Kayla walked away with her doll to play in another part of the yard. 

Anna, feeling victorious, sat back under the monster tree, and texted her best friend Kerry all about the conversation.  

When Aunt Mary called them in for dinner, Kerry texted to be careful the monster tree didn’t get her. The text made Anna laugh.

How often, dear reader, are the things small children say discounted or ignored?

That night, after Anna had complained again about having to sleep on a trundle bed in Kayla’s room, she stood beside the window, looking out over the back yard. Kayla had gone to bed hours earlier, and Anna could hear her deep, regular breathing.

In the moonlight, Anna could clearly see the scary face on the monster tree. No wonder Kayla had been scared.  That face, with the jagged toothy mouth, was guaranteed to frighten any small child.

Anna took a photo.  She texted it to Kerry, with a message saying, “I guess there was a reason Kayla thought the tree was a monster.”

She looked up from texting.  Strange.  The tree looked closer.  Anna thought the light must have shifted.

A text came back from Kerry: “Watch out it doesn’t get you.”

Anna looked down at her phone to read the text, then looked back up.  

The tree seemed closer, still.  Of course it was impossible.  Anna looked at her photo.  The tree had been back behind the clothesline. It was parallel to it now. That couldn’t be right.  She re-checked the photo.

Then she looked out the window yet again, to see the tree was almost against the glass.

At that moment Kayla woke up, and squealed: “Hide!”

Kayla pulled the covers up over her head.  Anna dived under Kayla’s bed, dropping her phone, and shattering the glass.

“How long do we have to keep hiding?” Anna whispered.

“Until morning,” Kayla whispered back.

The next day, Kayla was up early, and out playing, before Anna woke up. 

Anna was sore and stiff from sleeping on the floor under Kayla’s bed. She didn’t see Kayla run over to the monster tree and throw her arms around it in a hug, or hear her thanking the tree for helping teach Anna to not be so mean.

And so, dear reader, we leave Anna, who has learned her lesson about taking her resentment out on smaller and weaker people. She’s going to be much nicer to her little cousin for the rest of her stay.

I invite you, dear reader, to look out for more:

Strange Tales

While you’re here…

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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