Voices hissed through leaves that clung to brittle branches. All around green gave way to a single column of gray.
A scrawny teenage boy stood in an over sized T-shirt and ripped jeans. Strangers walked past his still form, oblivious to the steps of fate he was taking. A cyclist corrected his path, almost clipping the kid. They exchanged no words, no retorts. The world kept moving onward, resolute.
“Come to us.” Called the dead leaves, rustling in the cool autumn air.
The small boy stood on a small hillock, overlooking the gnarled and twisted tree. It reached for him, branches twisted into a sinister smile.
“Don’t you go near it, you hear?” The voice of Kaleb’s mother rang in his ears, a bell tolling danger before the dawn. His eyes roved over the peeling bark. “Never go near the Whispering Tree.”
“But why mamma? Why can’t I? I hear it talking to me?”
His mother had held him close, pressing her lips against his soft cheek. “Because, dear. It would learn your secrets.”
He had only been a child then, not understanding his mother’s words. Fairytales and nonsense, that’s what it was.
Until the day he stepped through the door, away from childhood and out into the world.
“It took your father one day.” His mother had said, staring out the kitchen window as they sat at the table. “It learned about the darkest part of him and the next day I found him, curled at its roots. His body covered in tangled bark and leaves, blood was everywhere.”
The police said it was suicide, but I knew better. It was that tree.”
Seth remembered a solitary tear had run down her cheek, falling from hollow eyes.
He had taken her face in his hands and kissed the tear away. “I promise mom, I promise I will never go near the Whispering Tree.”
That had been three years ago. Three years of knowing the truth. Three years of feeling the call.
Each day before he left the house his mother had looked at him and said, “Remember.”
And each time he had nodded. But not today.
Kaleb had risen from his bed knowing it. With finality he had gotten ready for the day, eaten a silent breakfast, and then left his house. Today Kaleb knew he had to break that promise, even though it would mean his death.
He stepped off the path, down the hill. No one notice, no one cared. An elderly gentleman fed bread to the ducks, a baby squawked from a covered stroller. The world turned.
Kaleb stood before the tree, listening to it whisper.
“Come to me.“