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The Oak

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The Tree was very old. Some said that it had been around in the time of the Druids, and that it had survived a direct hit from a bomb in the Second World War, the only damage being a long, black scorch mark which still scars its trunk to this day. The only thing known for certain was that it had been here since the park was founded over two hundred years ago.

Over time, the boundaries of the park had shifted, so the Tree, which originally had been in the centre of the park, was now located in a remote, little-frequented corner, surrounded by a neglected gravel path. The bench situated near it was steel, so it had not rusted, and although plants grew up its legs, it still was a good seat. Most who came to this area did not stay for long though, at least because of the strange fact that the Tree's branches were in perpetual motion, regardless of whether or not the wind blew.

Jacob, Marley, and Rebecca—Jacob's girlfriend—were three of the few who came to that corner. The three teens sat under the Tree and talked about football, school, and, inevitably, the Tree.

“Hey, guys,” said Rebecca, “d'you know that my granddad swears blind that this old oak tree is haunted?”

“Yeah, sure it is,” snickered Marley.

“Hey, perhaps my great-aunt knows your grandfather,” said Jacob to Rebecca, “She says that the tree puts a curse on anyone who hurts it!”

“Yeah, right!” snorted Marley, “I'll carve my name into it, then it'll know who to curse!” He chortled, and pulled out a penknife.

As Marley etched his name into the bark of the Tree, Rebecca stared up at the Tree and shuddered. “It's really spooky how those branches are always moving, isn't it?” she murmured.

Inspector Jones walked from his car towards his officers, who were standing underneath the Tree. He shivered as he thought of what the dog-walker had found. A pool of blood, a baseball cap, a few scraps of cloth, and a penknife driven deep into the tree-trunk at the end of the L in the carved letters MARL. A junior officer turned towards Jones as he ducked under some of the Tree's low-hanging branches.

“Look what we found Sir,” he said as he thrust something towards the Inspector. Jones looked down at the severed hand, which had a tooth deeply embedded in it. Jones took a deep breath and addressed the officer. “Constable, you may think me crazy, but ...” he trailed off.

“But what?” prompted the officer.

“That tooth—it looks like it's made of wood,” said Jones. The officer had no chance to reply, because at that moment the great, restless boughs of that ancient, mysterious, accursed Tree came swinging downwards, ready to continue satisfying its terrible hunger for flesh.

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