‘How very sad the fall of a tree that even the eyes of the dead should fill with tears!’
It all began when he felled the Great Old One, the one who had been rising towards the heavens since time immemorial. The Demon of Greed had gripped his heart like a vice and corrupted it with the desire for Mammon’s riches. As he struck the final blow, his mouth twisted in a lustful grin, and he leaped and shrieked in joy thinking of the tomorrows to come.
That night walking back from town, having feasted and drunk; pockets bulging with silver and gold, he was accosted by a strange sound. It was as though an infant was crying, calling for his mother. The cry so oddly disturbed him that he made haste towards his cabin. However, the sobbing continued to trail him until he bolted and shut himself in his room. Then he fell exhausted on his bed and drifted into sleep, but it gave him no peace.
The forest bellowed in pain and the branches grew hands as they grabbed and pulled at his arms and legs. His body ran cold with sweat; his eyeballs rolled and spinned; his lips trembled, and he tossed and turned trying to escape the clutches of his nightmare. But that was not to be. Giant fingers clawed at his limbs and he felt a thousand nails being driven into his flesh. Then a knife slashed at him and he stared at his insides fall out onto the creaking floor. Just as a blood-soaked saw was about to slice through his neck he tumbled into deep slumber.
In the morning, incessant thumping on his roof roused him. He opened his window to a sea of dead birds with broken wings and crushed feet covering his yard. Then he gazed aghast at deer, foxes, rabbits and rats raining from the sky; their eyes wide-open and mouth gaping and gasping for breath. On the dead birds they crashed and there they breathed their last. He had become their hangman and his place was their graveyard. The stench of a thousand corpses seeped through him, and his body reeked death and putrefaction. There and then he went mad, for there was no place left for him to go except six feet underground.
With a hatchet in hand, he placed his legs on a wooden block and chopped them the way he had cut the Great Old One -one branch at a time. Blood streamed and flooded the floor. When it was finished, he giggled in satisfaction; his mouth drooling. Raising his bare left hand, he turned it to and fro looking for the best part to aim the axe on. He positioned the blade on the wrist, and, unwavering, he severed it from the hand. Finally, holding the axe at its shoulder, he turned it upside down; the blade facing the sky, and hammered his head onto the razor-sharp edge over and over until his skull cracked; his brain spilling out like a sack of beans ripped open. Soon after, what remained of him fell on the damp floor where his body writhed and wriggled till only droplets of blood dripping down could be heard.
Legend has it that, after the Great Old One was felled, a red liquid-like substance oozed out of the remains of the ancient mangled stump. It slowly turned scarlet and vaporous, squirming and tossing about like an animal whose throat has been freshly slit, before it vanished with a scream that rent the air with a nameless agony. The forest howled like a mother weeping, holding her dead child in her arms. An icy chill swept through the land and brought everything to a standstill. They say that even time froze and the hours stopped ticking that night. Even today, there is a red patch at the center of what remains of the Great Old One.
These gruesome events terrified the townsfolk who resorted to planting more trees to appease the deity of the forest. But none of it mattered. The wailing did not go away, and the town remained under its haunt driving the residents to the verge of abandoning it.
Then a ragged boy who lived by the edge of the woods said, “We keep planting trees, but how about not cutting them?”
His idea was their salvation that healed the lamenting forest. The wailing stopped and the terror left the hearts of the townspeople. They no longer cut trees. Instead, they waited for a tree to fall before they could use it.
‘Make trees fall, pay with all. Let them fall, joy for all.’ You can hear this song sung to this very day in the town of Magnolia Spring recounting the day when the Great Old One died because of the greed of one man.
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