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Lonely Tree

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Atop a lonely hill on a desolate plain, there grows a lonely tree—it has been around as long as anyone can care to remember, but no one has ever seen any leaves grow from its eternally-barren branches. It is twisted and strange as if dead, yet still stands strong and the grass around it grows in irregular clumps.

Small animals stay clear of the tree and birds that perch on the branches never seem to sing or build nests, quickly flying away as the wind blows against the branches—causing them to creak, but never snap.

The hill is often visited by a shaded boy, no older than eight and dressed in black. He wears no shoes and has an odd, somewhat swollen face. He sits under the lonely tree and plays with a string, regardless of the weather or time.

He can appear in the middle of a warm summer's day, the start of a cold winter's morning or amidst the heavy rain of a stormy night—he never seems to care, forever playing with the string under the lonely tree.

Every year, usually around March, the tree is visited by another child—a girl no older than ten. She is dressed in white and wears no shoes. Her face is thin and slightly crooked, she stands by the lonely tree and waits in silence.

Should the mysterious boy arrive, the girl finally moves, giving a curtsy to which the boy bows his head. She takes his hand and leads him to a small stool by the tree, ties a rope around his neck and hangs him without a single word.

Then, it is said, somewhere in the desolate plain, a life ends just as the boy hangs from the tree—the girl disappearing and never seen again until the next year.

Should anyone find the boy and speak with him, they will find that he has no tongue. If they try to move or disturb him, they will feel as if a pair of large hands were choking them until they left him be. If one dared to sit down next to the boy and say nothing at all, he would offer the string. Any who accepted the offer would find themselves growing depressed and alone. Their lives would become meaningless and a desire to end the suffering would overwhelm them, in the space of a few weeks.

Yet if one ignored the offer, and simply stood up and turned to face the boy—one would see the boy transformed into a tall, dark-skinned gentleman. Good fortune and health would befall that person from that day on.

As for those who found the girl, only pain and suffering would befall them, for upon being spotted the girl would fade. Revealing instead a hooded man atop a horse, those spotted in the path of the figure, grow meek and weary.

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