by Karen Bovenmyer

haunted-house-1124241_640An empty house lived at the end of his street. Trees like claws stopped other kids, as if they grabbed ankles and wrists and hoods of sweatshirts. He found a way there by looking somewhere else, sidewalk-crack-sidewalk, then dead grass. Up. White oval shapes lingered behind black windows. In. A slamming back door echoed staple-guns putting up his HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD posters. Three years later, after his classmates had grown into pimples and too-short jeans, he came out, hollow-eyed and shaking. He struck the trees, also, with a wet axe from the living house, his body now a man’s body, sweating hard. They took him to a hospital, depressingly white and clean and smelling like medicine, but he still saw the house by not looking. When the demolition cranes came, they were like hands that scooped shingles off the roof, the strange Victorian spires crumbled, broken plaster and creaking timbers screamed, undefined white shapes tumbled down in a cloud of dust. The house at the end of the street died. After, he went home with a face blank as a sheet of paper, something so normal and unwritten, and, in the night, his memories clutched at him, as if they grabbed ankles and wrists and hoods of sweatshirts.

This story originally appeared in Festival Writer and also appeared in Cavalcade of Terror.


Karen BovenmyerKaren Bovenmyer earned an MFA in Creative Writing: Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She teaches and mentors students at Iowa State University and is the Nonfiction Assistant Editor for Mothership Zeta Magazine.

by Christopher Walker

My daughter listens to trees. She always has. When her legs ceased to buckle and she could toddle freely about, she’d find her way across to the Silver Birch in the playground and hug it like she would my leg. I thought she was giving it a kiss, but then I saw her ear pressed to the peeling bark and I slowly came to understand.

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Caroline via Creative Commons

She’s seven now and she can tell all the trees apart by their whispers. I humour her, taking her on trips to the botanic gardens so she can listen to the Cambridge Oak (“sounds like grandad!”) and the Holford Pine (“it’s calling to the pine cones, saying take care!”) and the sprightly Persian Ironwood (“I can’t make sense of it but it sounds like singing!”).

One day I made a mistake. I didn’t notice the parasitic mistletoe growing high up on the bare branches of her favourite Silver Birch. She came back in tears. “He’s dying, he’s afraid, and he’s alone,” she sobbed. I didn’t know what to say. All I could do was hug her like she did the trees, and listen to her rattling heart beating fast within its cage.


Christopher WalkerChristopher Walker is a writer and English teacher based in the South of Poland. His work can be found at www.closelyobserved.com.

by Mickie Bolling-Burke

The trees stood in the silent night, watching as the cottage door opened and children danced out, the adults laughing behind.

“All right kids, which one is our Christmas tree?” Father called out. “This one?”

“No, it’s ugly! We should put it out of its misery.” The children laughed, breaking its young branches. They ran deeper into the clearing. “Here, this one, this is our tree!”

Pre-dawn fog, Mount Rainier National Park

Justin Kern via Creative Commons

The children shrieked with glee, counting out each cut as Father chopped down the biggest, greenest pine. When it fell, he tied a rope around it and dragged it back to the cottage. They knocked the snow off and shoved it inside as they sang Christmas carols.

The curtains stood open, showing the family nailing the dead tree onto a platform and posing it in front of the window. Showing the children hanging gaudy objects from its branches. Showing the resin tears of the dead tree clinging to its trunk. Outside, the trees whispered to each other. Their limbs pressed forward, the trees in the back pushing through to add their strength, shattering the window.

The trees crowded into the room, surrounding the family. Held tightly in the trees’ embraces, the boughs suffocated the family’s screams.


mickie_bolling-burkeGrowing up on the east coast, Mickie kept her wrist watch at California time. When she finally made it to the palm trees and Pacific Ocean of the west coast, she knew she’d come home. Working as an actor fed her creative soul, until her beloved Los Angeles grew too big for her. She and her family now live in a small corner of the southwest, where she finds the sky as majestic and blue as she did the ocean. Mickie spends her time writing, reading, hiking and watching ‘The Three Stooges’ with her much adored rescue cat, Pal.

Mickie has three short story collections available on Amazon.