Charity smiled at what Becky had said. She shuffled over to her left, creating a space next to her against the tree trunk. “Come sit by me, Rebecca, and I will teach you how to ask the tree. Your thoughts must be open to it, mind”. In the open air, the girl didn’t smell quite so bad, and Becky crawled into the space under the low-hanging branches. Once inside that canopy, she immediately felt cold, though it was a pleasant enough afternoon. The small hairs on Becky’s arm stood up, and a chill ran over her as she placed her back against the trunk. Charity began her instructions. “Now stretch out your arm, and place your hand on the side of the tree. Push it hard, so you can feel the ridges of the bark on your palm”.
As Becky did as she was told, a strange feeling came over her, and she looked round at Charity, her eyes wide with apprehension. The girl chuckled, showing those black teeth, and expelling unbelievably foul breath. “I knew it! I knew you would commune. Now ask what you will of the tree, just as you want”. Despite the strange atmosphere, and the presence of a child who was undoubtedly a ghost that only she could see, Becky felt more than a little silly. Was she really about to ask a tree to divulge secrets? Everything she knew and believed in so far in her short life told her it was ridiculous.
But she did it anyway.
“Tell me about Drew Tyler, and all his secrets”. She spoke in a formal tone, with appropriate solemnity, just like they did in the few horror films she had ever managed to watch.
Then nothing happened.
She was just about to turn to Charity and tell her it was all nonsense, when an overwhelming force seemed to pin her body back against the tree, and her hand felt as if it had become part of the ancient trunk. Charity was giggling now, obviously delighted. Images rushed into Becky’s mind, clearing away every thought, and opening a window onto something she was unfamiliar with.
Drew Tyler was in his house. She instinctively knew it was his house, and she appeared to be seeing it through his eyes. It was untidy, almost unkempt. Washing in piles placed on chairs, a carpet that had not been cleaned in years, and an obese woman lying on a stained sofa, eating sweets from a plastic bowl. The scene changed to another downstairs room, once a dining room, now used as a bedroom. Under the window was a bed like those used in hospitals, and in that bed was a girl, aged perhaps eighteen. Becky knew that it was Drew’s sister, and there was something badly wrong with her. The girl in that bed seemed to have little idea of her surroundings. Although fully grown, with the apperance of a young woman, her head rolled constantly from side to side, and the sounds coming from her mouth made no sense.
Through Drew’s eyes, Becky approached the bed. The girl was twitching, and her eyes seemed to see nothing. Then he was hitting her. Slaps at first, accompanied by low chuckles from him. He slapped her through the bedding, before hitting her legs hard with his fists, and the chuckles became laughter, suppressed laughter. The bedding was pulled away, revealing the girl dressed only in something resembling a baby’s nappy. He began to stroke her body, still laughing. Then there was more, things Becky could hardly believe, or understand. But at eleven years old, she knew enough to know that it was horrible, and she pulled her hand away from the tree with a violent jerk.
Becky was shivering from the cold under the tree, and the strange experience left her leaning forward, vomiting uncontrollably. Charity looked content. “I told you, didn’t I tell you?” Becky spat bile, and sucked in her breath. “But how did you know, Charity?”. The girl spoke softly, kinder in tone. “Rebecca, the tree tells me everything, and it always has done. All I ever wanted was for you to know the truth, and to be free of Drew and his botherings. And so you can. You know what to do now”.
Becky crawled out from under the canopy of branches, relishing the return to the warmth of that nice evening. When she turned back to look, Charity was gone.
Back home, Becky drunk a whole bottle of mineral water. Her Mum seemed worried. “Are you alright, Becks? You look very pale, darling. What do you want for dinner tonight, love?” With those images still fixed in her mind, there was no chance she would even consider eating. “I did feel a bit sick earlier, Mum. Perhaps it was the shock of that acid burn. I might just have a hot chocolate, and some biscuits. Will that be OK?” Cathy was worried about her daughter. “Of course, Becks, you have whatever you want. You know you can talk to me about anything, don’t you?” Mum’s concern lasted about ten seconds, until the phone rang again. It was about the Scottish hunting lodge once more.
Up in her bedroom and finally settled, Becky thought about what had happened at the tree. Everything she had ever known told her it was a fantasy, an illusion. But what she felt inside could not be denied, no matter how hard she tried. So she typed out something on a word document on her rarely used old laptop, and hit ‘Print’ for wireless printing. Luckily, she got back downstairs in time to grab the paper, before her Mum saw it. “Just something for school, Mum. I am having an early night. Good night, love you.” Mum replied with little more than a grunt.
She was busy.
Back upstairs, Becky checked what she had printed.
I KNOW WHAT YOU DO TO YOUR SISTER
I KNOW IT ALL YOU SICK PERVERT
LEAVE HER ALONE
AND LEAVE ME ALONE TOO
OR I WILL TELL EVERYONE
She folded the piece of A4 paper, and placed it in her school bag.
Tomorrow, she would make sure Drew saw it.