The next ebook that can be scooped up for free is much shorter than the previous novellas. The Red Tree is free today through Friday (July 23). If you’d like to scoop up the book, click here.
A description of this story…
While rain falls for weeks, the Engler family invites friends over for an evening of dealing with cabin fever together. And when the spring sun arrives, the Englers celebrate by walking in a wooded park, where they encounter a red tree away from the trail. Guesses abound as to why the tree is red when none of the other trees are.
Life returns to normal for most of the Englers. The father, Calvin, decides the red tree was a sign for him to make changes in his life and property. Changes the family and neighbors don’t quite understand. But some family members can be eccentric, and others learn to roll with it.
A short story about family, experiencing the mysterious, and letting your imagination loose.
Even shorter than the story is its excerpt, which can be found here.
Shipwrecked, we searched the island for other people. Found none. Instead, we saw many colorful plants and birds, and several chattering monkeys (which could’ve been the same monkey following us).
Strangely, we discovered big marbles all over the island. Theories bounces around us survivors about the purpose of the marbles. Some thought they were decorations, along the lines of Easter Island statues. But we found no evidence of settlements. No ruins of houses or pottery or hunting implements or boats.
As for me, I couldn’t shake the feeling we were being watched. I voiced that concern, but the others laughed and said I had a desire to be on a “reality” TV show. That is far from the truth. I prefer privacy. And I didn’t mean producers of a reality show were watching us. I meant aliens.
Before becoming pregnant, Laura spoke all her secrets and dark desires into the box, locked it, and stored it on the top shelf of the bedroom closet. She had also confessed some secrets and desires to friends. But nobody had heard all of them. Until the box. She hid the key in her sock drawer.
Months later, tapping made Laura think a mouse was in the closet. She peeked. The box was twitching to the side, tapping against the wall.
Laura shrieked and stumbled in retreat, until the backs of her legs touched the bed. Her first thought: a monster was stuck in the box. Another part of her brain called that notion crazy and said a mouse must’ve gotten inside the box. But how? The box was metal, not cardboard that a mouse could chew through.
She ran to the kitchen pantry, retrieved the broom, poked the box with the rounded end of the broom’s handle. If a mouse was inside, wouldn’t the little thumps of the broom against the box scare it? Yet the box didn’t stop moving. It kept twitching, so it tapped the wall.
Another run to the kitchen, this time to underneath the sink to retrieve a garbage bag. She held the bag open below the closet shelf with one hand, and she swiped the box off the shelf with her other hand. Swiping the box quickly to touch it as little as possible. As if the box was hot and would’ve burned her. In the motion, Laura didn’t see or feel a hole in the box. It looked intact.
Once the box dropped into the garbage bag, Laura cinched the top of the bag and wrapped a twist-tie around the neck.
The garbage can in the side yard wouldn’t do. Laura was worried the box would’ve kept twitching, and Henry would’ve investigated. She was convinced no mouse was in there. And she was scared of what strangeness the box held. Had her confessions given birth to a ghost? That was far-fetched. But so was a box capable of moving on its own.
Laura placed the garbage bag on the passenger seat of her car, and drove out of her suburban neighborhood, to the stretch of businesses. At a fast food restaurant, she drove to the back of the parking lot. She stopped the car, tossed the bag in the dumpster.
Back home, Laura felt lighter. Relieved. She wished she could drink a glass of wine to help calm her nerves, but her swollen belly was a constant reminder of the doctor’s instruction to not drink any alcohol.
So she turned on soft music and sat on the couch and breathed deeply and told herself to try to forget about the box and stop guessing what was inside.
The words were loud and unexpected in the city square. The words surprised me. Everyone else sitting at tables in the cafes seemed surprised, too. We looked around to find the source of the words.
“I repeat, get up and form a line on the south side of the square.”
A few people spotted him first. As they said, “Over there,” other people turned to see the speaker of those words.
A man in a gray suit and tie and fedora stood by the fountain at the square’s center. He held a microphone plugged into a speaker on the stone ground.
“We will begin inquires shortly,” the man said. “They will proceed more quickly if you are organized about it.”
Ridiculous. Because the man wore a suit and tie and fedora, we were supposed to follow his instructions? Must’ve been a prank or street theater — something like that. Around me, people muttered, asked each other what was going on.
“I haven’t made myself clear,” the man said. “This is not voluntary. A new government program has begun. We are questioning citizens to ensure only true patriots live in our beloved country. Anyone with anti-government views will be sent to a special school, where they can learn how to become true patriots.”
Even more ridiculous. This had to be fake. A film school student was completing an assignment. Any moment, the student director would appear next to guy holding a videocamera. All part of some strange art film.
Soldiers marched from the south entrance into the city square. I didn’t recognize their gray uniforms. They weren’t dressed like the soldiers I had seen on the news. Nor were they dressed like police officers I had seen. Their automatic rifles could’ve been movie props. I don’t know.
People buzzed around me, their repeated asking what was going on grew more worried, more frantic. Some people sounded panicked.
Men and women in gray suits entered the square from the north entrance. They carried desks and chairs, which they set down and arranged in a row.
The original man in the suit said, “Anyone who does not comply will be sent to the special school. They will be taught how to follow instructions and how to become a true patriot.”
A few people stood and walked to the south side of the square. That was all it took. More and more people got up from their chairs and joined them. Me among them. We formed a line, a quiet line, and watched the soldiers who watched us. We waited for the next instruction.
We thought the monkey was taking a well-deserved long soak in the bathtub, but when water streamed under the bathroom door we knew the tub had overflowed, then we yelled for him to unplug the drain, and he replied with giggles, so we picked the lock and had to do it ourselves.