02 Mar Hanging Tree
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"Hanging Tree"Written by
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Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
My boyfriend and I decided to go down to the South for a week. Hike the Great Smokies and everything.
We rented a cozy cabin, secluded, in the woods, not many people milling around. It was the end of summer, still some tourism going, but not much.
We thought it would be the perfect getaway from city life, and people in general.
The cabin had this big two-paneled window near the kitchen that looked out at the woods around the cabin. For some reason, there were no curtains over the window, or even a curtain rod, so we couldn’t hang up towels or a bed sheet for some added privacy.
We didn’t like the window, but figured there was no harm to it.
On the second morning, I was standing by the window as my boyfriend sat in front of his computer. Yes, he brought his computer to the cabin. A week away from the city did not mean a week away from technology.
Peering out the window, I noticed for the first time a long yellow rope hanging from a tree branch, about ten or so feet away. The rope snaked down, but ended five or six feet off the ground.
I hadn’t noticed it before and commented on it. My boyfriend said he’d noticed it earlier, though he didn’t remember seeing it the day before. Neither did I.
We left for dinner and came back.
“No one around,” my boyfriend said, glancing out the windshield. “All the other cabins are dark.”
There were two or three other cabins in the area. Ours was the furthest back, and as we drove past the others, we noticed no other cars and no lights.
“Must’ve all left,” I said, smiling.
“We’re all alone,” my boyfriend grinned. “Alone in the woods.”
He made a fake ghost sound and I just ignored him, closing the car door and walking down the ramp to our cabin door.
Later that day, about 8:30pm, I sat in front of my own laptop. A three-lamp chandelier hung over the table. It flickered once, then stopped. My boyfriend didn’t even notice.
Ten minutes later, the light flickered again, and the bulb died.
“Two more to go,” my boyfriend jokingly commented. I gave him a weak smile and went back to my screen.
The light flickered again.
“Maybe we have too many plugs in,” I said.
“Shouldn’t cause an issue. Doesn’t matter,” my boyfriend shrugged, busy playing his video game.
I went back to typing.
Since it was dark out, and we had lights inside, I couldn’t see anything out the window, even though I was facing it. Anyone standing up beside it, though, could look in and see us. We’d never notice them because of the glare.
But for one moment, I was sure I saw something move.
Must be my own reflection, I thought, but knew it didn’t make any sense. I hadn’t shifted enough to cause a streaking reflection.
The second light bulb flickered.
“We should do something about that,” I said, still shaken from that streaking reflection, even though I hadn’t told my boyfriend about it.
“It’s just a light bulb,” he said absentmindedly.
“It could go out. Maybe all three could.”
“I’ll give her a call tomorrow.” Her was the cabin owner, a nice older lady named Robin. He went back to his game, and I went back to typing.
There was a knock at the front door.
“Who the hell is that,” my boyfriend grumbled, getting up from his seat.
“Don’t open it,” I said, grabbing his arm. The light bulb flickered.
“Maybe it’s Robin,” he said.
“At nine o’clock at night?”
He shrugged and walked down the hall to the front door.
“Don’t,” I said again, grabbing a pen. As if I’d be able to stab anyone with it…
The door opened. I peeked over my boyfriend’s shoulder. A man with long, scraggly hair and an oversized coat stood on the front porch. He held a lantern flashlight in his right hand, the beam hitting the ground.
“Evening,” he said. “I was jus’ walkin’ ‘round here, heard some noises. I come from up the road. Got a cabin of my own there.”
“What kind of noise?” my boyfriend asked.
“Not sure. But thought I’d come up an’ check.”
“We didn’t hear anything,” I said.
“Well, the man glanced over my boyfriend’s shoulder at me. I noticed one of his eyes was missing. “Could be the bears,” he grinned, three teeth missing. “They’ve been prowling ‘round here the past week.”
“We’ll let you know if we hear or see anything,” my boyfriend said.
The mad gave a single nod and stepped away. His dirty yellow nylon coat crinkled as he walked off.
“He’s creepy,” I said, giving the door a little tug, even though my boyfriend had already shut and locked it. He was already at his seat, back facing that dark, open window.
The light flickered again.
“Yeah, well, at least we know we’re not alone if there actually is anything out there.”
“Maybe he’s the only thing that’s out there,” I said.
“Scared?” my boyfriend chuckled, making those fake ghost sounds again. I threw my pen at him.
He laughed, catching it and laying it on the table. “Maybe we should go out there and look around. Might be a demon or something.”
“You’re not funny.”
“And you’re not scared,” he grinned.
That flickering light again. The second bulb went out.
“Down the one,” he grumbled, the door sliding loud against the wooden floor as he got up to check the chandelier. “Might be some bulbs around here somewhere,” he said, moving to open a few cupboards and drawers.
“I think I saw one downstairs, actually,” I said. “In that closet.”
My boyfriend left me to go downstairs, turning on the stairway light. The chandelier flickered again.
“Get three, if you can find them,” I called down. “I think the third’s about to go, too.”
He yelled something back, then cursed.
“Stubbed my toe,” he yelled up.
He came back up a minute later. “Didn’t find any. I’ll just call her in the morning. Or we can go out and get some tomorrow.”
“That’s the first thing we’re doing then,” I said. “Getting bulbs. I don’t want to spend the rest of the week in the dark.”
“Wait, did you see that?” he said. He was moving to sit down, then jumped up, staring out the window. “I just saw something streak by?”
“What something,” I said, standing up slowly. I grabbed the pen again.
“I don’t know. But it was yellow, I think. It shot by the window.”
“Maybe a bear?” I said, knowing it wasn’t true.
He shook his head. “Not big enough, unless it was a small bear. And way too fast. There’s something out there. I’m going to check.”
“Are you crazy?” I said, grabbing his arm. “Don’t go out there. You don’t even have a flashlight.”
“Come on,” he said. “I’ll take a quick look then come right in.”
“Two minutes, I promise.”
He gave me a quick kiss and went back downstairs, to the sliding door that led right out to the back woods.
I heard the door creak open, and with my pen in hand, I quickly went down the stairs and watched by the door.
His white shirt was bright in the darkness. I could just see that rope dangling from the tree.
“I don’t see anything,” I called out, “Come back in.”
He waved me silent and he stood looking around, only his head moving. I noticed his back was really tense.
“Samuel?” I said, my voice barely carrying.
He waved me quiet again. Then hurried back inside.
“I think I saw something.”
“See what? I didn’t see anything.”
“Not sure,” he said, quickly locking the door and shutting the curtains. “Did you bring in my hunting knife from the car.”
I shook my head.
“Where are my keys?” he said, taking the stairs up two at a time.
“On the table,” I said, right as he grabbed them.
“Watch my back,” he said, slipping out the front door, “But stay inside.”
He ran up the ramp, to the car, opening the trunk. He rummaged for a minute as I glanced around, looking for any movement.
“Hurry up,” I said.
“Coming,” he said as he slammed down the trunk and locked the car. He was inside in less than a minute, locking the door and giving it a tug of his own.
“Why don’t we stay in for the rest of the night,” he said, a light sheen over his face. “Make some tea and go to bed early.”
“I’ll go warm up some water now.”
He absentmindedly nodded as he shut down his computer and went to charge his phone. “Your phone charged?” he called out from the bedroom.
“The battery’s dying, I think.”
“Where’s your charger, then?” he said.
The third light bulb went out. Then all the other lights in the cabin.
“In my suitcase, I said.
Samuel came out from the bedroom, the glow of my phone in his hand. “How about we forget that tea and just go to bed.”
I quickly shut off the stove, and we slipped into bed, snuggling deep into the blankets.
“We’ll get up early,” I said, “And head into town for the day. It’ll be nice to see more people again.”
“Yeah,” he said. A minute later, I heard him breathing softly.
“You asleep yet?” I said.
No answer but the light breathing.
I lay awake for the next two hours, listening to the windows creaking.
When I woke up the next morning, Samuel was still asleep. I slid out from under the blankets, glad for the bright sunshine coming in through that big open window.
I grabbed a bowl of cereal and milk and set the coffee pot. I figured the smell of coffee would wake Samuel and we would get going to town.
The sound of cereal crunching in my head, I meandered over to the window, glancing out. The bowl shattered at my feet, milk sloshing everywhere.
“What’s going on?” Samuel said, running out from the bedroom.
I only pointed out the window.
“What’s there?” he said, his eyes wide as he came up behind me.
Hanging from a tree was a second yellow rope. And right beside it, a third one. From the third one hung the creepy visitor from last night.
And right beside him, stood a little boy, in a yellow coat. I blinked, and he was gone.
“You saw him right?” I said.
Samuel opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, there was a knock at the front door.
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