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The Willow

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It was a brown September afternoon and children were playing on Willow Tree Hill. One of these was Andy Duffy, and he was followed by a mass of giggling kids as he held a kite aloft from them.

After a short time, the wind got the best of him and snatched the kite string from his hands. He followed the kite as best as he could, but it got stuck in the branches of the Willow.

Andrew had only heard stories of the Willow. Creepy stories that his older brother's friends would tell him, stories about ghosts.

It was these same kids who pressured him to retrieve the kite from the Willow's highest branches. Despite the warnings of some of the younger ones not to, Andrew put on a brave face and started to climb.

Once up in the highest branches, he was surprised to discover the abundance of lost toys that had been stuck in the Willow's branches over the years--toy airplanes and baseballs and kites like his. He supposed that their owners had chickened out, persuaded by the creepy stories their older brother's friends would tell them.

But Andrew persisted, having seen his kite dangling from the highest branch. He straddled a branch between his shaking knees and reached out with one arm. He swiped at the string - once, twice. Children from down below began to jeer at him.

And then he heard something like tinkling bells coming from a denser cluster of branches. He looked that way and his heart skipped a beat. He slipped from the branches and tumbled from a great height, hitting the grassy ground with a hard crack.

It was due to these events that an emergency town hall meeting was held that same evening. Mrs. Duffy was sobbing, announcing to the community that because of Andrew's broken leg he would not be able to go skiing that winter with his friends, or be able to play baseball on the school team. The town sheriff suggested the old Willow, being a hazard to the safety of the town's children, should be cut down. The community roared in agreement.

It was then that an elder woman, the dark-skinned Mrs. Jones, stood up to her neighbors and protested that the Willow should stay, being that it bore historical significance to the town. Back in the 1920s, when the Klu Klux Klan was at large, the Willow was used as a hanging tree. As a result, eight black men were wrongly accused of crimes they did not commit and were lynched, hung from the tree before a jeering mob. Their eyes, ears, noses, teeth, fingers, toes, and genitals were cut off and handed out to the crowd as souvenirs.

Regardless of its significance, the town voted for the tree to be cut down. A demolition truck was scheduled to arrive within a week.

On the Friday evening before the demolition truck's arrival, the sheriff of the town received a worried call from Mrs. Jones. She claimed that she'd heard some sort of party happening on Willow Tree Hill. Figuring that the Willow was a hotspot for the town's adolescent population and that they were probably celebrating its last night standing, the sheriff drove out to the Willow, expecting to arrest some drunk teenagers.

He parked at the base of the hill and walked up. There were no lights at all, and to his surprise not a single noise to be heard. Nothing but what sounded like tinkling bells coming from the Willow's branches.

He turned on his flashlight and pointed it up the tree. He cried out in alarm.

Eight brown bodies hung from the branches of the Willow tree. They moaned, some of them weeping, others repeating over and over, insistently, "I didn't do it. I didn't do it."

None of them had noses or ears, and their eyes were just hollow sockets. When their mouths opened, there were no teeth to be found - only bloody gums. When they waved their hands, their fingers were just stumps. And where their genitals should have been, there was only a dark red hole in their jeans.

The sheriff ran back to his car and drove away. When he arrived back in town, he broke into the church and rang the bells.

Another emergency town hall meeting was held - this one in the middle of the night. Most of the citizens were still in their pajamas, shivering.

The sheriff came to the podium and spoke to the community. He urged them to save the Willow. When asked by the community why the sudden change of heart, he simply stated that the tree should be saved due to its historical significance.

Since then, there have been no parties said to have happened on Willow Tree Hill. And no children are to play there, either. It just silently exists on the outskirts of town, outliving the population, watching over them. However, it is said that if you were to walk by the hill at midnight, you might see the silhouettes of eight bodies hung from the branches.

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