Sentinels by Mally Smith

I had traveled quite far before finally r-
esting beneath the tree. The Elm provided
a pleasant shaded rest and view from the
cliff. Below I could see the snaking Assa-
bet with it’s orange waters and naturally
forming dams of old car tires. I took in a
deep sulphuric breath of the local air and
smiled.

It was the sound that drew my attention. A
low grinding tone that inspired odd sensat-
ions along the edges of my skin. I felt th-
e presence of static electricity as my hair
began to rise. Uncanny distortions of time
caused a brief panic. I looked around quic-
kly for something with which to ground mys-
elf.

My fingers met the bark of the large Elm a-
nd it’s rough surface contributed to the fe-
eling. Subtle shifts and hyperawareness of
tactile reality. I was drawn back to the l-
ow rumbling tone. And then I heard the voi-
ce.

“Hey! You!”

I looked around to find the source of the
nearby voice. Nothing but trees and squir-
rels on stone walls.

“Hey! I’m right here!” The disembodied v-
oice repeated.

“Who are you?” I tried to stand, lost my
balance, and almost fell off the cliff i-
nto the orange waters below.

“The tree.” I looked at the tree. “Weird,
I know. I was enchanted by a sorceress.”
It said.

“A sorceress?”

“I was tricked into drinking from that f-
ountain at the base of the valley and I
turned into this tree. Look at me!” This
revelation startled me. I could feel my h-
eart palpitate in an angular, vile, fashi-
on.

“The fountain by the waterfall?” I asked,
warily.

“The very one.” The tree sobbed, “Oh, wic-
ked Fates, what did I do to deserve this?”

“You drank from the fountain?” I asked, f-
eeling my heart pounding in my chest. The
surrounding valley suddenly bathed in dan-
cing iridescent sparkles. Something akin
to deja vu attached to my consciousness.
An ominous sucking fear.

“Yes, Father. It is an enchanted fountain,
you see, very ancient and whoever drinks f-
rom it will turn into a tree. I’ve since h-
eard countless tales and legends of thi-
s forest from learned travelers such as yo-
urself, and it’s a shame I hadn’t heard th-
em sooner! Surely you’ve heard the tales o-
f which I speak?!” The tree laughed and i-
t’s leaves fell into my hair and clothes.

I groaned.

“You didn’t drink from the fountain, did y-
ou?” The tree asked. Cackling as it’s weig-
t settled and it’s branches strained in dul-
l echoing pops.

I didn’t feel well, at all. The low tone gr-
ew in intensity and my skin began to itch. I
spotted green in my periphery and placed a
hand on my head. Leaves. Small twigs grew f-
rom my skull. I plucked one off. Pain. I lo-
oked at it, but was drawn to my hands. Cove-
red in a rich bark. I wiggled my fingers wi-
th great effort. Pain.

“Oh no…” I exhaled, attempting to stand.

My field of vision turned into a limitless
sparkling white noise. My blood pulsed vi-
olently. I could sense my heart slowing. V-
eins hardening. Pain.

“Rough break, padre. Rough break.” The tre-
e said as it shook it’s branches. “Rough b-
reak, but it’s not so bad as a tree.”

“I…” I was frozen, half erect, crooked in
suspended agony and sensory assault.

The tree whistled a strange atonal melody.
“At least we got a good view.”

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