This is the story of the Oak. I suppose I should start at the beginning. I've never been particularly fond of trees: great, twisted things watching the night, long, thin branches tapping on my window as a child, leaves rustling in the breeze, creating malformed delusions in my mind. Two weeks ago, I moved to a quaint country house with my parents. We wanted to get away from the bustling city life under the impression that life in the country would be a lot less stressful. We couldn't have been more wrong.

When we first arrived at the house, the first thing I did was grab my luggage and head inside to my new bedroom. The house was surrounded by a dense forest, with a small trail leading out on to the highway. So naturally, the only thing I could see from my bedroom window was woodland. Except one thing. My new bedroom overlooked our small garden, in the centre of which was a large oak tree. Its trunk seemed to rocket up towards the sky and its branches pierced out from its thick bark like pins in a cushion. However, the most peculiar thing about it was a faint set of scratches on the side of the tree facing the window, which appeared to be in the shape of a face with closed eyes.

I merely shrugged this off as a natural occurrence, unpacked my things, and got some much-needed rest. The next day, I had breakfast with my parents, took a quick look around the new place, and decided to go outside to explore the grounds. It was nothing to be marveled at. As much as you'd expect, there were trees, trees and more trees. However, upon further study, I noticed that the innermost tree line gently bent towards the old oak tree in the middle of my garden. I found it slightly unnerving, but nothing I couldn't find a rational explanation for. I decided that it was probably just how the wind blew around those parts and headed back upstairs to browse my computer.  

As I entered the room and sat down at my desk, I took a quick glance out my window. I was just about to turn back to the screen when something caught my eye. I was almost positive the oak was closer to my window than before. I jumped out my chair, a little taken aback, and scuttled to the other side of the room. I was angry at how paranoid I was being, so I crept up to the window and took a longer peer out into the garden. There it was, the Oak. I stared long at its jagged branches and thick trunk, seeing if it would do anything until I noticed that the opening between its carved-in eyelids seemed slightly wider than before.  

I'd had enough at that point. I went downstairs to tell my mother about the tree and she told me I was seeing things and suggested I should take to my bed a little earlier that night. I agreed. I logged off of my computer at 9:30 and decided to get some sleep. I shut the curtains, lay down and closed my eyes. At 3:00 in the morning I awoke with a start to the sound of frantic whispering. I could hear the trees outside rustling and the words 'beware the Oak' bouncing around in my head, causing a dreadful migraine. I stopped dead when I looked at the window. The curtains were drawn back, and the Oak was staring in at me. Eyes wide open and gaping like manholes, its wooden mouth carved into an open grin. I jumped out of bed, careened down the stairs and frantically called out after my parents.   

No answer. I called and called out to my parents, but I received no response. I checked outside. No car, no nothing. I started to freak out; I grabbed a knife from the kitchen drawer and ran. I didn't know where I was going, but I didn't care. I just sped down the dirt path to the highway, all the while only being able to hear the constant groaning of 'beware the Oak,' accompanied by the sound of leaves rustling and wood cracking. The trees seemed to bend inwards towards me as I passed as if they were trying to grab me, warn me. I didn't know and I didn't care. I was too terrified to stop. I ran and ran until I reached a clearing.

There, where I expected the highway to be, was my house instead. I panicked. I was about to turn around and head back when — footsteps. Heavy and loud, bellowing through the woods behind me. Without thinking, I sped into the house and barred the door. I didn't know what to do. I was running through scenarios in my head, trying to piece together what was happening and how to escape it. Was this a nightmare? Most probably, but I wasn’t so sure. My feet hurt from running and pinching myself seemed to be ineffective. Should I attack the Oak? Question it? Should I keep running? Was I going to die? My thoughts were promptly interrupted by an unusual sound drifting down the hall from my bedroom. It was the sound of faint sobbing. I tightened my grip on the knife and crept up the stairway, braced myself at my bedroom door and on the count of three, burst in flailing my arms around like a madman.  

However, when I looked around into the dark of my room, I was confronted with a wall of darkness. The sort of darkness that chokes you in its icy grasp, the sort of darkness that smothers you and threatens to swallow you whole. I stood there as patiently as a statue, as silent as the grave, waiting for my vision to adjust itself. I was kept company by nothing but the gentle sound of creaking floorboards and the whistling of the harsh wind. As my eyes adjusted, the wind began to die down. I glared through the fluttering curtains, knife in hand, only to see that the old Oak had returned to normal. I was baffled. I stumbled back and the knife dropped to the floor, glinting in the moonlight. As I regained my footing, my parents burst into the room, asking me if I was alright, running over and holding me, checking me for cuts and bruises.   

That was two weeks ago, and every night since, the Oak has edged closer and closer to my window. I’m afraid to sleep. I’m afraid to go into my room, and I’m even afraid to close my eyes. Every request I’ve made to move has been written off as ‘Mental Instability.’ My parents won’t believe me, and neither will my friends. Whenever I sleep, I hear the shuffling of roots, the rustling of leaves, the whispers in the wind. I don’t expect to be around for much longer, so I’ll leave you with one, final message.  

Beware the Oak. 

Written by George Biddiscombe

Proofreading and Creative Support: Amanda Garcia