Hesitation

“Are you still alive?”

She watched.

She waited.

Nothing.

“I mean, there’s no way you’re alive, right? He wouldn’t have left you here if you were alive.” She wondered, not for the first time, why her husband did the things he did. She shook her head. “This is silly. I’m being silly. I shouldn’t be this freaked out.” Still she hesitated. Her heartbeat accelerated, a frenetic pounding in her ears. Her breaths grew slow and shallow. This was a deep, primal fear, and logic alone wasn’t enough to overcome it, not when she could see the thing in front of her.

She watched.

She waited.

Would it really be so bad to make it all disappear? Then she could go on with her life without this anguished uncertainty.

“No!” she asserted. “I’m not going to let some silly fear run my life. I’m an adult, and you’re just an insect. A dead one at that.” No reply came from the curled up wasp floating in the toilet bowl. She nodded and began unbuckling her belt. But before sitting, there came one final moment of hesitation. “I know you’re dead, but . . . just don’t sting me down there okay?”

The wasp twitched.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Shadows

They buried Boneheart Cole Carrow in shallow grave on the battlefield where he fell. For long years afterword, people avoided that burnt and broken land with its memories of tragedy and strife. So, no one knew when the tree began to grow.

It was a jagged, twisting thing. The old men would spit on the ground when they passed the place and would warn their children and grandchildren to stay clear of Carrow’s tree. It was considered a sign from heaven when the tree was stuck by lightning during one late summer storm.

Only, the tree didn’t die. New branches rose from the charred stump like a clawed hand rising from the grave. Men declared the field cursed, and none would build or plow or even cross through that place. A wood grew up around the undead tree. Or, as some whispered, that one forsaken tree, glutted on blood, had spread like a weed until it had become a forest unto itself.

Generations later, the battle has been forgotten, as has Boneheart himself. But the trees still stand. The folk of that region know to avoid Carrow Wood. Old twisted branches claw toward the sky and cast long, dark shadows.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox