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"The Hangin' Tree" -- FWG Flash Fiction for 3/23/2024

So many stories came to mind when I saw this prompt. The prompt is:





THE HANGIN’ TREE


The tree was old. Older than any of the newer growth surrounding it. It also looked dead, yet harbored all manner of living things. Creeping juniper enveloped it, dripping from the one remaining stump of a branch. Pink and purple mushrooms sprouted from the broken branch as if straining to float away on the wind like airborne jellyfish. Other, more mysterious, plants sent their shoots up to test the breeze, while their roots dug deep and sucked the remaining life from the ancient tree.


“It’s beautiful,” Bey said as butterflies flitted about, landing ever so softly on the tips of the mushrooms and the questing shoots.


Reg scoffed. “You wouldn’t think that if you knew the story behind this tree.”


Reg was a native, having lived all of his fifteen years in the Hollow. Bey was from the Capitol, visiting her Aunt Charlotte for the summer.


When Bey gave him a questioning look, Reg continued. “This was known—still is, actually—as the Hangin’ Tree.” He paused to appreciate Bey’s open-mouthed reaction. “Legend says hundreds of rebels were hung from this very tree during the Great Revolt.”


Bey shuddered a little, so he put his arm around her shoulders before continuing. “See the green shoots sticking up out of the juniper? They were soldiers captured and hung here.”


She shuddered again and slipped her arm around his waist.


“The mushrooms are officers, wearing the colors of the rebels’ flag. That tallest one is General Loxley, who swore a curse that the day this tree fell, so would the Emperor. His men have been eating it from the inside ever since.”


Bey nuzzled close to his chest. “The butterflies look like they are kissing the rebels.”


Reg nodded. “They are the men’s wives, mothers, and…” Their eyes met.


“Lovers?” Bey whispered.


THE END


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