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The Solitary Tree

by skinnieminnie 

Posted: 31 March 2009
Word Count: 716
Summary: I, originally, wrote this for the Hale writing group I attend. The tree is real (my friend and I run past it in a magnificent local park in the early mornings!), the accident is based on a real life experience (that took the life of a childhood friend), the rest is 100% fiction.

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He sensed that someone was in the room. An unfamiliar coolness surrounded him as he opened his eyes and raised his head from the pillow. The room was in darkness and she stood just inside the doorway. A halo of light framed her face and her softly-sloping shoulders. She remained silent; he could hear the bustle from the nursesí station just a few yards away.

As she approached him she lowered her head and greeted him with a friendly kiss, her lips cold against his fevered skin. He noticed how beautiful she still looked. She bore no scars, no disfigurements, no sign of the accident.
Looking down at a fragmented body he recalled twisted metal, broken glass and blue flashing lights before descending into darkness. She remained silent and rubbed a soothing hand over his weary shoulder. He gestured her to lean in closely, he didnít want anyone else to hear what he had to say.

As he attempted to speak, his throat tightened, as if a hand was gripping it tightly in an effort to silence him. She whispered for him to take his time and the words came.
He told her to go and find the solitary tree, the one they had found together all those years before, eerie and beautiful. Standing alone, it bore no foliage, only the scars of a ferocious storm. She was to go alone and return before daybreak. He didnít hear her leave as his mind and body succumbed to a morphine-induced slumber.


She drove frantically in the dark, seeing only the occasional car passing in the opposite direction. She almost missed the car park on the sharp bend, and swerved a sharp right into the entrance before coming to a halt. She got out of the car and scanned the night sky. The moon was full and the light dusting of snow on the ground illuminated the night. Tucking the torch into her pocket she pulled her coat tightly around her.
She followed the well-trodden path over the fell, stopping occasionally to gather her bearings, or to glance back at the forlorn car park. It wasnít long before it appeared as a dot on the horizon.

It was just as she remembered, only under the night sky it bore a more ghostly appearance, as though it was the only tree remaining on earth, Mother Natureís last stand against the atom. She walked towards it and laid her hand on the cool, dead wood. In a centuryís time there would be nothing to show for its life on this planet, nothing but a heap of dust.
She paced around the wooden structure wondering what it was she was supposed to be looking for, then retreated a few paces and studied it from a distance, but nothing illuminated her thoughts.

As she turned to walk away she tripped heavily over a stray root. Her torch tumbled to the ground, its light flickered, and she worried it might be broken. Momentarily she panicked about being alone in the dark, but the light jumped back on and a beam bounced across the bare trunk. She saw it, and picking up the torch stepped closer to the tree. Holding her hand out towards the impressions, her long fingers traced the deeply carved initials - their initials; her cry shattered the snow-muffled silence.

In a few hours it would be dawn. She returned to the ward and quietly crept past the nursesí station and back into his room.
He was sleeping. She cupped his face and the coolness of her fingers woke him. She leant towards him and kissed his mouth and as she withdrew she saw an infinite sadness in his eyes. They embraced in the tragic silence. While he slept she faded into the shadows then into a memory.


In the empty days that followed he cried alone. One crisp morning he was helped to dress. Cars arrived, solemn faces appeared from behind darkened glass. A casket was lowered into the welcoming earth. He regretted that he hadnít told her sooner, clarified his feelings; asked her to come with him. But she had belonged to somebody else, to the man standing next to him now. He wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and turned towards his friend.

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Comments by other Members

Bunbry at 12:00 on 01 April 2009  Report this post
Hi Mandi, well done with this!

The POV changes a couple of times [especially in the para when she returns to the ward for the last time]. Surprised Sue didn't get you for that!!

Also I'm assuming she was a ghost - how would she trip over a root / drive a car etc?

But if you can sort these things out get it sent off somewhere!!


skinnieminnie at 12:21 on 01 April 2009  Report this post
Will look at the pov-thanks. He is dreaming it (he's on a morphine drip ) but she has died- I think I need to make it clearer without giving too much away.

When did you figure out which one died?


Bunbry at 13:33 on 01 April 2009  Report this post
The whole thing is a dream [apart from the funeral]?

Not sure that's a good move because that would mean none of it really happened [which isn't very exciting!]

I suspected she was a ghost when you didn't use names or dialogue, but it was only at the end was I sure she was dead.


skinnieminnie at 09:39 on 07 April 2009  Report this post
I have now edited this (with the help of a friend - thank you, you know who you are!)and it has been sent off to a Flash Fiction competition. Fingers Crossed x

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