My name is Erica Bell, and my friends and I have been closely following a worldwide phenomenon that’s been taking place over the last 16 years, or so, and we fear that it may all come to a head, soon. I was about 13 years old when the initial event took place and given that 13-year-old me felt that she had better things to do, I didn’t really remember it all that clearly, but I do remember hearing my parents talk about it. That being about some mysterious tree that just appeared in some guy’s yard in West Virginia. While it wasn’t a major news story at the time, I did eventually look into it further, and it became a major factor in my nascent interest in geology, botany, and several other adjoining fields of study.
I would go on to study geology for my undergrad degree, and after graduating with honors in 2030, I would land a position working at a research institute in Ohio, where I worked as a lab assistant to Dr. Gabrielle Antario, who actually saw, and studied the first of these trees. I thought that alone was pretty amazing, and I asked her about it often. The research she was conducting at the time I arrived was on the recent instances of entire forests of these trees appearing all over the world. By the time I got there it was by no means a new phenomenon, as forests mysteriously popping up everywhere certainly grabbed a lot of people’s attention. However, much to people’s detriment, the news media dressed up the events as that of a long extinct species of tree making a resurgent reappearance. Don’t believe everything you hear on the news.
My first fieldwork assignment with Dr. Antario, pertaining to the forests, was to go see a forest in Nebraska. Upon arrival, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the sheer size of some of the trees, as well as the array of colors they came in. It was a mystifying sight to say the least. We stayed out in Nebraska for an entire month, the work was intensive, and it took a lot out of me. We worked long days, seeing little to no change in any of the trees. Upon getting back to Ohio, I started to question whether or not I really wanted to pursue this line of research any further.
That was five years ago now, and it’s been a while since I’ve worked in a proper lab setting. After working at the research institute in Ohio for a year, I moved across the country to Oklahoma, and started a family, effectively ending my career as a geological researcher. However, no matter what I did, I could not fully stop thinking about those trees. So, while being a stay-at-home mom was a wonderful, and fulfilling life, I just couldn’t shake my curiosity about those trees. One night, I decided to open up my laptop, and look into the trees for the first time in several years. I read many news articles, and scientific journals from all over the world, and possibly the most valuable thing I found was that there were many small communities of scientists, and enthusiasts that were devoted to understanding these trees. I messaged people who ran one of these groups, explaining that I was at one time a researcher who researched these trees. They were very nice and were interested in what I had to contribute to the conversation, and I was more than happy to divulge what I had learned from my time in the lab working under Dr. Antario. I was happy to find that these communities were normally very welcoming to any, and all people who wanted to join. So, I began to send out emails in an attempt to start a research group of my own. That one night reignited my passion for geological research, and I figured it was time I got back into researching these trees.
One thing that always stuck with me, that I just could not let go of, and that likely kept me interested in this story, was when one day in August of 2031, Dr. Antario talked to the man who owned the property in which the first tree was found, in which he told her his theory about the trees not being trees, but instead being some kind of alien species. An interesting proposition to say the least. She then went on to tell me the story that the man told her of what happened one night when the man’s neighbors attempted to burn down the tree. I was shocked by what I had heard, and admittedly I initially took the story to be false. However, when pressed, Dr. Antario insisted that the man was not someone who was likely to tell tall tales, or to be hyperbolic, as well as telling me that the events of that night led to the man turning down an offer of $178,000 to uproot the tree for further research. Upon hearing that, I could only assume that there had to be some degree of validity to the man’s claims. I’m not going to lie, the prospect of doing research on trees that attacked people was a daunting one, but one I was willing to undertake.
So, as I mentioned earlier, I have a group of friends who are also engaged in the understanding of these peculiar trees, or whatever they are. We’re a rag-tag band of rogue scientists from multiple scientific disciplines with the mission of finding out just exactly what it is that we’re dealing with. First, there was Brandon, the ornithologist, Carrie and Mark, the geologists, and finally, there’s Kelly, the arborist. I like her a lot. She reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age, and just getting out of college.
After working together for several months, we decided that our first foray into our rogue scientific endeavors was to go check out a forest the had recently sprouted up overnight, outside of Plato, Missouri. So, one Saturday morning, we packed up our vans, and headed north to Plato. While on the way, and while Mark was driving, I placed a call to Dr. Antario.
She was delighted to hear from me, and I must admit it was nice to talk to her as well. I told her of our plans to investigate the forest in south central Missouri, to which she was glad to hear, but upon hearing that, she imparted some new information on me. That being that forests were starting to appear at much higher rates than before. She said that they were popping up at a rate nearly 20 times the rate that they used to. She also told me about several forests that had seemingly taken up permanent residence in their found location, and that several major cities throughout the world had been completely displaced. That was new, I thought. However, the most shocking things she told me on that phone call was that on several recent ocean expeditions, those trees had been found underwater, having sprouted up from some of the deepest depths of the ocean, thus rendering the task of measuring their full size impossible. That was astounding, I thought, and with that, I thanked her for her time and insight, and we quickly wrapped up the call. The drive was long, but after a mostly scenic drive through the Missouri countryside, we arrived at our destination, and set up shop, where we would be camping out for the next five days.
The first order of business was to measure the approximate size of the forest. We eventually came to the conclusion that forest measured somewhere in the vicinity of 1900 feet by 775 feet. Certainly, one of the bigger forests on record.
Brandon immediately got to work cataloging all the species of birds seen around the forests. Admittedly, he didn’t have much to do, since birds tended to avoid the forests like the plague. One thing of note, however, that Brandon pointed out was his cataloging of an indigo bunting, a bird rarely spotted in that part of the country. Not sure why it was there. Maybe it had nowhere else to go.
The first day was reasonably uneventful. It mainly consisted of cataloging the basics: size, color, that sort of thing. The best part, however, was that that night Carrie busted out her portable stove and cooked up a spectacular meal of spaghetti and meat sauce. It was delicious. I even went back for seconds. Brandon went back for thirds. After dinner things wound down pretty quickly. Brandon rigged up his small TV so that he could watch some professional wrestling, while the rest of us played cards. Even though we were only playing with plastic chips, when it came to poker, Kelly really cleaned up. We may have to take her out to Vegas when we’re through with this.
After the game finished up, and everyone got their sleeping bags and headed to their respective vans to go to bed, Kelly and I stayed up to tie one on with some hard seltzers I had brought. We had a nice conversation for a bit. I told her about my old work back in Ohio, and she regaled me with her plans on going back to grad school and getting her master’s degree and that she hadn’t quite figured out where she wanted to go for it yet. She was sharp and certainly had a bright future. Not long thereafter we too packed it in for the night and headed for bed.
The next day started bright and early. Brandon was out standing in the field noting what birds he saw, and what their flight patterns were. Kelly spent the day taking pictures of the bark of the trees for cataloging purposes. Meanwhile, Mark and Carrie took samples of the soil surrounding the forest in order to get an idea as to what type of soil these trees took up root in, as well as attempting to determine exactly what it was they drew sustenance from. I kept my distance that day, mostly monitoring the forest itself. I didn’t find much of note, aside from just some gentle swaying, which could easily be explained away as being due to the wind, as it was a decently breezy day, that day. Day two, much like day one, was deemed a success, and again ended with some of Carrie’s incredible cooking, this time it was chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes. She should really consider publishing a cookbook. Also, like day one, day two ended with a game of cards, and as it turns out, Kelly is a whiz at blackjack, too. I am really considering that Vegas trip, right about now.
The next day didn’t start quite as the previous two days had, as it had rained that morning, thus delaying us a bit. When it finally stopped raining and we did get back to work, Mark and Carrie went on collecting samples of the local rocks and minerals to get an even better profile of the land surrounding the forest. Then, something totally unexpected happened. Kelly, who was again tasked with photographing the trees, noticed something strange, that to my knowledge and not yet been cataloged. She showed me a close-up picture of one of the trees, that at first, I didn’t really think too much about, until she pointed out something very odd. That being the trees’ color. As previously mentioned, these trees tended to come in a variety of colors, but what she showed me, absolutely floored me. She showed me a picture of a bright yellow tree.
“See how it’s yellow!?” She insisted.
I responded in the affirmative, before she pulled up a picture that she had taken the day before.
“Well, look, yesterday that tree was dark purple.” She pointed out.
I studied the picture closely and concluded that she was right. It was most certainly the same tree, but now it had changed color. In all my time following this phenomenon, I had never heard of any of the trees changing color like that.
“We might be on the verge of a major breakthrough here.” I said.
“Hey, Brandon and I were thinking about heading up to Kansas City to grab some barbecue for dinner tonight, figured Carrie could use a break from having to cook for us, how does that sound?” Mark interjected.
I had to admit, barbecue did sound good. We all agreed, and Mark asked what we all wanted. I asked for a half rack of baby back ribs, while Carrie and Kelly asked for pulled pork sandwiches. After that, the boys took off for Kansas City. The three of us finished out the day, recording our findings and whatnot, while we waited for them to get back. They returned around eight o’clock, or so, bearing some great smelling food. My ribs were delectable, and the inside of the van smelled incredible. Brandon, having ordered some barbecue chicken, delivered the quip of the night, when he said that as much as he liked to study birds, he also liked to eat them. That got a much-needed laugh from the group. After dinner we were all too stuffed to play any games or do much of anything else, so, we turned in early that night.
That night, however, brought something we were not expecting, as while we were all fast asleep in our vans, there came a knock at our van door. We all awoke with a start, as we certainly weren’t expecting any visitors while parked on the side of the road outside of a rural Missouri town. We were all a bit frazzled. As I got my wits about me, I looked over at the clock on the dashboard; it read 3:01 AM. I then looked up and gazed out the front window, where I could see a black sedan parked down the road a ways. Then, I turned to my left to see a man in a black suit and sunglasses standing there, peering in the driver-side window.
“Could you roll your window down please, ma’am.” He asked sternly, to which I obliged.
“Umm, hi, is there a problem?” I asked.
“My name is agent Jefferson, I’m with the FBI.” He stated, while flashing a badge. “Who are you? And what are you doing out here?”
“We’re conducting research on the forest.” I answered, somewhat warily, and pointing over my shoulder in the general direction of the forest.
At this, he barely reacted, but after a short silence he went on to explain that the FBI had an interest in the forests as well and was working with researchers to compile data. He then asked if we would be willing to share our findings with the FBI. Feeling as though I couldn’t say no, I agreed, and he gave me an email address to send my report to. On that, he bid us a goodnight with a nod, and walked back to his car, and drove off. It took a while, but after that, we all eventually got back to sleep.
After the previous night’s excitement, our fourth day of research was just another average day of collecting samples, analyzing them, and recording our findings. We didn’t really find too much of anything out of the ordinary with the geography surrounding the forest. It was nothing more than a lush area with nutrient-rich soil, perfect for supporting plant life. Kelly took even more pictures, which showed that even more of the trees had begun to change color, which made it ever clearer that we were dealing with a very unusual type of flora. It was hard not to think that we were on the verge of a scientific breakthrough for the ages, if we could just identify what these trees were.
So far, we had kept our distance, and mainly put together a profile of the surrounding area. This only gave us so much information, but we still had yet to really examine the trees themselves in an effective manner. So, that night, while we all sat around eating more of Carrie’s delicious food, we resolved that having not come to any concrete conclusions yet, the following day we would enter the forest.
The rest of the group seemed to sleep fast that night, but I was restless, as I did not yet know what the next day had in store. When the morning came, we geared up and headed towards the forest, Brandon bringing up the rear. As we approached the forest’s edge, we started to hear a low vibration coming from the forest. There were several different tones that we noted coming from the trees and at irregular intervals. After noting this, we slowly approached the forest. Mark and Kelly were the first two to enter the forest, and as they did the humming that came from the forest immediately intensified. At this, I could see the unease come over them. It was then that I had a eureka moment. I was beginning to think that maybe the humming sound that had been noted coming from the trees since they first started showing up was a way for the trees to communicate with each other.
“Erica, look!” Carrie shouted.
Snapping out of the daze I was in, I looked up and saw the branches of the trees beginning to stir in a serpentine fashion.
“Get out of there!” I shouted to Mark and Kelly, as some of the branches began whipping around violently.
It was around this time that Brandon began to hightail it back to the vans.
“Get out now!” I urged, with everything I had in me.
Not long after I yelled that, a branch swung down swiftly, knocking Kelly to the ground. Mark attempted to flee but was tripped up by some roots. As he lay there on the ground he was seized by several sets of roots, and ferociously torn apart right in front of us. At that, the trees let out a droning shriek. That was certainly not a sound we had ever heard from the trees before, and what an unsettling sound it was. It was also at this juncture that I noticed several of the trees were beginning to rapidly change colors, as exhibited in the pictures Kelly took. It was at this time that Kelly, now noticeably very woozy, stood up, and attempted to leave the forest. I looked on helplessly, as with a noticeable limp she stumbled her way towards us. Just as she made it to the forest’s edge, and I thought she was going to make it, one of the trees forcefully, and seemingly deliberately, fell over, and crushed Kelly. I was left absolutely stunned by what we had just witnessed.
Not knowing what else to do, Carrie, Brandon and I gathered up our equipment, packed up the vans, and headed back to Oklahoma, Carrie, and I in one van, Brandon in the other. The drive home was long and mostly silent, giving us an adequate amount of time to process what we had just witnessed. The atmosphere in the van was dismal, with very little in way of conversation, and many tears being shed.
Upon getting back home around 11:30 that night, feeling down, and defeated, I opened my laptop and wrote up the most succinct report I’ve ever written to send to agent Jefferson. It was only ten words: Trees not of this world, the end may be nigh.
Credit: Steven Allen
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