When the first tree disappeared, she didn’t notice. When ten had gone, he couldn’t get her away from the window.
“Daddy…” said Amy, pointing at — and eyes fixated on — the grove of trees at the far end of the yard behind the old farmhouse that had been in their family for generations.
For days that grove of trees had gotten smaller. And while she wasn’t sure what was happening, Amy could swear she just saw the earth gobble one of those trees right up, slurping it down like one might slurp a string of spaghetti.
“Enough,” said Amy’s father. “Enough about the trees already.”
“I said enough,” he roared.
Amy froze. She’d never heard her father raise his voice quite like that. But his face quickly softened when he saw the fear on his daughter’s face.
“You shouldn’t worry about such things,” he said, motioning for her to come over. She obliged, and he gently kissed her cheek. “Be a good girl, and go play in your room for a while.”
“But daddy…” she started again, before he held a finger to his lips to shush her.
“Why don’t you go play with your new dollhouse?”
Amy silently walked away as her father picked back up his newspaper and put his reading glasses back on. He might be willing to act like nothing was happening, but she couldn’t. And she wasn’t going to her room.
Amy quietly opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. She tiptoed, so as not to let the wood’s tell-tale creaking betray her. Once she hit the grass, Amy bolted around the house for a view of the grove, being sure to stay low, below the windows so her father wouldn’t see her.
“Seven… eight… nine…” she counted the trees left on the property, stopping when she heard a distant rumble, like thunder but emanating from the ground below her feet.
Eight. There were now just eight trees left in the grove.
Amy didn’t know why, but she felt drawn to the trees. She wanted to protect them. But from what she didn’t know. She couldn’t resist trying to find out, and quickly cut across the yard until she was standing beneath one of the large evergreens.
She placed her hand on the tree as if she was feeling for a pulse.
“What happened to your friends?” she asked, not expecting the answer she was about to get.
The ground began to shake, knocking Amy off her feet. The tree in front of her began to jerk wildly back-and-forth as if someone was jiggling a loose tooth, trying to get it to finally fall out.
The cracking and tearing sounds coming from beneath her – the tree’s roots ripping apart – terrified Amy, but she couldn’t move.
Then the ground opened in front of her, and before she realized what was happening, the tree she hoped to save was gone, sucked below the surface, leaving a huge hole in its wake. Amy, still frozen, was left sitting on its edge. She screamed as the disturbed earth began to collapse in even more.
“I’ve got you,” said her father, scooping her into his arms and running towards the house as the ground, or whatever was below it, let out a deep satisfied groan.
Amy’s father set her down as soon as he got them safely in the house. She was crying.
“It’s okay honey,” he said, hugging her tightly. “You’re okay.”
“Trees,” was all Amy could mutter.
“It’ll all be over soon,” he told her. “I’m so sorry I didn’t warn you. But it’ll all be over soon.”
Amy didn’t leave her father’s side that night. And he didn’t try to send her to her room. They sat up watching cartoons until she fell asleep beside him on the couch, only woken once by the rumbling of another lost tree that night. She must have slept through the rest, as the grove was gone by morning.
“It’s over now,” Amy’s father told her when she woke up. “But now we have work to do.”
Amy saw her father had already been hard at work, filling the holes in the grove. They spent the day planting new seedlings – the same kind of evergreen she’d played beneath for years, but barely bigger than twigs. She was still too afraid to ask her father why he had those seedlings waiting in the barn, knowing they’d need to replant the grove all along.
* This story was inspired by a writing prompt shared with me on Twitter (the first paragraph given to me as a starter to play with).