Thursday, September 24, 2020

Life & Style

The Tree That Walks by Night

It was a dark and stormy night. I’m serious. It really was a dark and stormy night.

When I was a kid I had a love-hate relationship with scary stories. I loved turning the lights out and hearing tales of Bloody Mary’s fingernails and phantom hitchhikers. I hated the aftermath, which consisted of a sleepless night surrounded by every one of my stuffed animals and thinking that every noise was a ghost.

There was one frightening yarn about a tree that came to life and walked the woods in the dead of dark, feeding on campers. I never wanted to go to camp anyway because I never wanted to sing the stupid songs they’d make you sing, but the thought of being prey to The Tree That Walks by Night really sealed the deal. In my yard the trees stayed put.

I’d forgotten about that story until recently.

Four nor’easters barreled up the coast in just three weeks. It’s like Mother Nature has PMS and is taking it out on everyone.

One storm starts as a slushy dud, but suddenly, as it grows dark, the wind intensifies and the slush solidifies into snow. By full dark, outside resembles a scene from a 1930s horror movie. Trees are bent over with the strain of heavy, wet snow like hunchbacks in whitewashed bell towers. My lights are flickering and I can hear branches snapping just beyond the windows. An unholy howl rises as if from the Hound of the Baskervilles and careens across the lawn.

My phone sounds with its own plaintive wail. A text from one of my neighbors. There’s a limb in the road and she can see it from her window. The plow won’t be able to get through and we won’t be able to get out. I pull on my winter gear and head into the storm. Can I move the limb out of the way? Probably, I think. How big can it be?

The trees are alive, bowing and groaning and leaning into the road. Branches are strewn on the ground, claws of bark that have been ripped off. Bloody Mary’s fingernails.

Up ahead a husk of tree corpse looms. This is not going to be easy. I grab hold of it and pull, but it’s not budging. Talons scrape my arms, clutch at my legs.

A specter emerges from the swirling snow. It’s my neighbor and she grabs onto the limb and pulls with me. The limb is too heavy to drag, but we do manage to pivot it so that it’s out of the way. A flash of light. A growl of thunder. Plate-sized flakes swirling in our faces. Yes, there is such thing as thunder snow. I heard it once years ago, but have never actually been out in the middle of it. I never want to be out in it again.

After we finish with the limb, my neighbor and I make haste for our doors. I’m trying to run without falling, but my boots are slipping and icy shards are stabbing at my eyes. The wind pulls at my coat hood and reaches down my back. It’s not until I’m inside and have my coat off that I realize I’m breathing heavy.

I don’t know that further down the road a bigger limb has fallen. The plow can’t get to us anyway.

The next day I leave the safe zone of my house and assess the carnage. The limb at the other end of the road is a monster. It’s completely immovable and requires a chainsaw massacre. Thankfully, that happens before long. As I pass it on my way out of the road I note how harmless it looks all cut into pieces and placed in a neat pile to the side. The wind has calmed to a light flutter. Snow slides and drips slowly from rooftops.

I don’t believe in ghost stories anymore, but I do believe in nature. She’s one scary mother.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at jeepgribbs@hotmail.com. Read more of her columns at www.zip06.com/shorelineliving.


Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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