Copyright 2001 by S.R. Sudekum
Chapter III - Sodium Nights
At first he heard the sound. It wasn't identifiable. Nothing he'd ever heard before. Nothing he could get his mind around. Like an insect struggling to break free from his own dripping sap, Chris slowly, painfully, drew back from the blackness into a grey buzzing consciousness. He could feel nothing, he could see nothing, he could hear nothing. Just the unidentified sound, that wasn't really a sound at all...more the activity of his own nerves attempting to repair their connections enough that he might...be.
"Gonna make it, boy?"
Reality slapped into focus with such force Chris could not focus. It was bright...the stars were close...the stars were hovering just above the ground. He was in the forest...was it all a dream? A nightmare! A--
A silent scream filled his throat. He could not move. His branches were bound flat against his trunk. The pain washed over him in a gut-wrenching wave as he realized he was bound tip to trunk in tight binding twine. Branches bent and flattened and twisted in perverse ways Mother Nature had never intended, paralized by cutting bonds tearing into his tender needles. The sickening stench of his own sap dizzied him, his mind whirling, all coherent thought gibbering like a sick squirrel in the last stages of rabies.
"Don't squirm, boy. It only makes it worse. And it'll be worse without you helpin' it along."
Chris struggled to focus on the voice from nearby. Next to him, practically crushing his pinioned branches, was another pine. A spruce by the look of him. His needles had an unhealthy yellow tinge, and below the stink of his own sap and fear, Chris could detect the telltale odor of rot and ruin. The sharpness of the stranger's needles scratched into Chris...they were drying...brittle...clearly the spruce was not long for this world.
"What happened" he meant to say....but no words would come, just a dry inarticulate moaning...he struggled to look around, the best he could, bound and trussed and leaning against something hard. All he could see by the eye-level starlight were pathetic torpedo-shapes like he must look. Trees cruelly bound in twine, leaning against each other as if for support. A soft sobbing and groaning throbbed just beneath his level of hearing. Beyond them he saw Field Trees...straight and conical, boughs flung out proudly and lit by the treetop-level stars...but this was no field...there was no earth beneath him, just flat greyness.
"Congratulations, scrub, you're going to be a Christmas Tree."
"Whu-whaa? No...no...I-I was in my forest...not a field...then-then the man in the red hat came and-and-oh GOD what did they DO TO MEEEEEEE!"
The other trees turned at the sound of his shrill keening, and slowly turned away.
"Knock it off, shithead! You'll get us all in trouble!" the spruce hissed. "Your ass is mulch, so you might as well shut up and deal with it! They cut your feet away and here you sit until either you're bought or you die. If you're lucky you'll die first."
"I-I can't feel my feet...I'm all...sticky...I can't move..."
"Don't worry, pally!" A cheerful bright voice from the field trees..."They'll give you new ones!" and with a maniacal laugh, the trees parted to expose the speaker...and the fresh wooden boards nailed crosslike to his oozing stump.
To be continued....