Don’t Let the Family Tree Touch the Ground

Okay so, I noticed my life had always been a little different than most of the kids growing up in New York at a fairly young age. Mother and Father were always pushing the whole, “don’t ever give out your true name,” or “don’t share our teachings with anyone.” Not to mention being home schooled with the focus on botany and old texts that I’d doubt you’d find in any foreign language class. Let’s not forget my summers were spent on our private property, which has a creepy shed I wasn’t allowed to look at, and I didn’t even know the whereabouts until I turned twelve years old. The literal blindfold came off like hitting puberty was magical or something.

That summer I learned a lot about my family, and myself at that. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been out of the city prior to that, but we could, “never stray too far from the eye, because they’re always looking for an opportunity,” as Father would say. I always assumed he was talking about Grandma and Grandpa being old and whatnot, but we’ll get back to that.

The drive was just as quiet as any other, but the difference was that I can actually see where we were going for once. It was a normal drive out into the wilderness as the green overtook the gray and then onto the dirt road that led to the property. Everything felt….normal by my standards. Then I started thinking, how did we get our car over the stream of water? Did dad build a bridge every time, then knock it down? Grandpa have some sort of pulley system set up? Impossible. I would have seen it or something.

As you can see, we have a stream that runs just along our property line. Yep, I’ve been trying to make sense of it my whole life, a literal moat with a current. I noticed we were getting close to the property after the fourth turn out of feel. I could have walked there with my eyes closed if I wanted to, well at least I like to think so. Anyway, we stopped right at the edge of the property line, and Father unsheathed his knife, carved from bone I might add, to give to Mother. At first, I had no idea why, or what was going on. Silly to think Mother was going to widdle together a bridge out of sticks.

Mother looked back, and said what she always said, “Honey, remember to never show fear.” Before then, I thought she just wanted me to be a big girl, all strong and whatnot, but this time it was different. Mother stepped out and to the front of the car, pressed Father’s engraved bone blade to her hand and slid it across her hand with such force to spray some of the blood into the water. I watched with wide eyes as she crouched down to place that same hand in the dirt and I couldn’t believe it. The stream parted, but continued to run as if the divide wasn’t there. Shortly after the ground below started to rise and level itself out to give us a clear path to drive on through.

Before this moment, I had never seen anything like that happen right before my eyes, minus what I saw in the literature. Mother nonchalantly pulled her white handkerchief from her pocket, wiped the blade clean and just turned around to get back in the car. Mother handed the knife back to Father and looked back to say something along the lines of, “I hope you’ve been paying attention,” or something. Right after that, she looked down at her cut hand and said something while making a symbol on her palm with her freehand, just to take out the white handkerchief again and wipe her hand clean.

Now, that handkerchief was still as white as the first day it was cut from the fabric. You’d think that’d make my little brain go crazy, wouldn’t it? Well it did, and before I can even question what the hell was going on we were already at the house with Grandma, Grandpa and my Aunt greeting us as we pulled up. They seemed more excited to see me than usual since this would be the point where Mother and Father would tell me to take off the blindfold.

I was told to wait in the car while Mother and Father got out of the car to speak to the rest of the family. Normally I get told to take off the blindfold, we give our love, eat dinner together and then Grandma and Grandpa go out of town for the summer while the adults tend to the shed. It’s the best since I get to help out in the garden and brush up on some herbal lessons. This time it was nothing like that. They exchanged some words, Grandma and Grandpa nodded, got in their truck and went the other way. I mean they waved as they drove by, but it looked forced. Like they were nervous or something, and they had every right to be.

Father walked back over to let me out and told me that it was time. I simply got out and followed them into the shed, and….and….sorry, I haven’t spoken about this to anyone in a long time so please bear with me. I followed them into the shed to see something that looked like a tree. A tree that went up about six feet before bending at an angle as if it was trying to grow back down into the ground from where it came, but it couldn’t because there were chains wrapped around it that were fastened to the ceiling. There were five branches at the top of the tree that were dangling down, or reaching for the ground. Creepy as hell.

My parents and aunt were standing by the tree and waved me over for a closer look, and so I did. It was a fucking arm coming out of the ground with freakishly long fingers and was covered in scabs. Being so repulsed, I obviously tried to step back, but Father was right behind me. He said, “This is our family’s duty. To keep them on the other side by not letting the idle hand make contact with our world.” This is when I made my first mistake, I asked, “And how is that?”

I mean, it was fairly obvious on how they were doing so considering that we would have fires every night that burned a bright green, but I just needed to hear, or see it for myself. Father unsheathed his knife and handed it to my aunt to go cut off the dangling fingers. I stood between my mother and father to watch my aunt perform the ritual as she crouched down to scoop up some of the dirt beneath her and sprinkle it across the blade. The tree started to sway while it’s branches curled in, like a hand making a fist, as if it was trying to get away.

My aunt was as fearless as they came. She stood under the tree and lopped off the longest finger-like branches. The tree shook the shack trying to get away from her, but the chains stayed true. Mother and Father stood unphased as the tree spit out a green viscous at our feet. My aunt went for another branch when I noticed one of the bolts started coming loose in the ceiling. The first thing that came to mind was what Father would always say, “they’re always looking for an opportunity,” but before I can say a thing everything had gone very, very wrong.

We all noticed too late. The branches fanned out, knocking my aunt to the ground, and then they just dug through her stomach into the earth below. My aunt, the beast of a woman she was, used the lady of her strength to throw the knife back to my father as the arch the arm made created a portal that sent out a shockwave. My father put the knife away, locked hands around me with Mother and the whole shack came crumbling down on us. All I could think to do was bury my face in my knees and hope for the best.

I honestly thought we died until Mother said something under her breath like, “blood in the catalyst.” I looked up to see Mother and Father still around me and we had a red bubble around us that protected us from rubble. Mother had bit into her lip and let out a soundless wail that expanded the bubble, tossing back everything around us to leave the only things left standing….the tree and whatever was left of Grandma and Grandpa’s place.

We stood before the portal into another world that secreted the stench of decay. A mirror of our earth, but did not follow our rules. Nature was flesh, where flesh was nature. Long black hair grew from the bruised covered ground and it swayed with the breeze. Arms, like the one from the shed, stood smooth and tall with their hands reaching for the sky with flaps of skin hanging off their fingers resembling the leaves of a tree. Snake-like creatures, made of tree and stone with grass tongues tasting our air, entered our world and took to the skies, but seemed to be never ending. Man, I sound like my mother when she used to tell me all those stories.

The creatures that you’d assume would fly seemed too heavy to do so with their stone wings, so they dragged their non-organic bodies along the ground leaving a trail of blood from their world to ours. Each creature that entered our world had started dripping gold from every crack and orifice on their body. Mother stepped forward and drug her nail across her forehead making her face bleed. She then pulled her special pouch from her pocket while all those things flooded our world.

Mother stuck her bloody hand in her pouch and threw a handful of herbs in the air. The herbs shot in different directions then created this red mist around us that deconstructed the creatures on contact, but in doing so drew their attention to us. Father moved me behind him while unsheathing his knife again, but this time it was much longer and looked like a machete more than anything. Mother yelled at Father telling him to protect me while she closed the portal so he did, or at least he did his best.

Father’s blade cut through anything that bared its fangs at us like a hot knife through butter, and Mother took center stage using her blood covered hands to seal, if not, contain the creatures as they forced their way through. I just stayed by Father’s side waiting for the nightmare to end, but one after another the snakes kept pushing through and biting Mother while the flightless monstrosities beat at her legs with their stone wings. I could see her struggling, trying her best to finish the spell, then it took its first step into our world. What I assume is our counterpart.

A marble behemoth squeezed itself into our world by planting its hand on my aunt, forcing her body into our earth, and peering in with its smooth, featureless face. It stood up and used its shoulder to stretch the portal enough so it could fit as the marble began to crack and ooze a gold, metallic substance. The thing forced the arm, or tree to extend further from the ground, exposing the new flesh covered in gashes. More and more creatures started pushing against Mothers barrier and all I could see was the worry on Fathers face.

I ran to Mother out of impulse, and pulled off the snakes while kicking the bird things on the ground. I know it’s stupid and I broke my toe in the process, but I needed to do something. Mother was weak, I could see it in her pale face. The behemoth pushed through her barrier, grabbed Mother and slung her into their world….and….her insides forced their way out in every way you can imagine. I turned around to see Father being overwhelmed by the creatures, now coiling around him. A tear ran down his face as I watched him mouth, “I love you,” before his body went limp.

This was the end, so I thought standing face to….face with the marble giant. Out of nowhere, Grandpa and Grandma’s truck came roaring down the dirt road and into the behemoth that just batted the truck to the side. My grandparents may be old folk, but they’re about as resilient as roaches. Grandpa crawled out from the wreckage holding his shotgun with sigils engraved into each barrel while Grandma crawled out of the other side.

Grandpa loaded two white shells and unleashed a cone of black fire that covered everything making its way through into our world. Grandma ran over and pulled me down seeing that I was in shock, but Grandma knows best. She took that second to reassure me that everything was going to be okay, then stood up and said these words. “Oh Mother, we seek power in you and your beauty. I call upon the one who gave us flesh and soul to protect your home from evil and now evil has presented itself. BY THE NAME OF….,” the behemoth looked to the sky and violently shook as if the scream it was trying to unleash was trapped in its marble shell that was covered in black flames, “SEND US AID SO THAT WE CAN BANISH THESE BEASTS FROM ONCE THEY CAME AS WE ARE MADE TO DO!”

Grandma stood between me and the behemoth with her arms out as the marble beast reached out to grab her like it did Mother. She stood fearless as roots burst from the ground like tendrils and wrapped around the behemoths arms and legs. She let out a cackle while animals of all kinds came to our aid. Grandpa continued to open fire as the black flames passed through organic life unscathed as they used what nature had given them to protect their earth.

I noticed Father’s machete was sitting next to his body, so I ran over and grabbed it, swinging it at anything that came close. I’ve never felt such….power. In the back of my head I kept hearing Mother’s voice, “blood is the catalyst,” so I used Father’s magic blade to cut into the palm of my hand and Grandpa pointed his shotgun in my direction and fired. Granted, I knew it wasn’t going to kill me, it still scared the hell out of me, but when I opened my eyes my Father’s blade was now covered in that black flame.

Hawks were ripping snakes from the air while the beasts of the wild aided us on the ground. I knew what I needed to do. I ran to the portal and stabbed the tree that kept the portal alive as it burst into black and green flames. The marble beast looked down at me like it knew it had lost, and retreated back into its world and the portal shut behind it. Everything that didn’t belong just fell apart, leaving remnants of what they were made of. I’ve been here ever since keeping tradition, because that damn tree never stops growing.

Grandma and Grandpa showed me a thing or two before….moving on, and now we are here! Sorry for making you wander all the way out here, but I promise it wasn’t just to talk your ear off. You found the bottle in the stream and that means you are like me! Gifted that is. I would hope you’d cross over willingly, but I kind of need someone here so I can, “relinquish the temptation,” as Grandma and Grandpa would say. Just think about it. It’s far easier than finding your way back home.

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