When she screamed, it was high and terrified. One smooth bank of sound, rattling up in pitch.
"No one ever sees me, Mel."
"Melissa!" She shrieked and tried to climb. I know she did. I felt the leaves and twigs fall stinging on my face and in my eyes as I turned my head to look. But some dark forbidden sense told me she would never make it in time.
"You did, Mel. You saw me. You saw me when you slept. When you dreamt. You knew what I was before you ever touched me."
Anna paused in the tree, trying to decide whether to leap straight down or climb, tears on her face and panic in her muscles. That wild, irresistible girl. Afraid. She caught my eye, then, and I couldn't help it.
I don't know if she heard me.
I don't know if my words made sense.
"It's okay, Anna."
When the thing coiled through my middle moved, the pain came back and I screamed that same gargled sound. I dropped to my knees. And I bled.
I wish I could have seen the sky, instead.
But dying hardly ever happens when you want it to. And rarely in the way you need it to.
"You set me free."
That twisted little tree had sucked the wildness out of Anna. Had drained away her energy. But if we were to compare our losses, mine would be the greater.
Because it had sucked away my life.
There sits a tree on top of the hill at the end of the town. It is a little bent, a little out of shape. But everybody thinks about it, and everybody goes there. Where its bark is smooth and warm, people have carved their names and initials. Have tattooed its skin with their thoughts. And its easier to sap a little of all their lives to keep myself upright and waiting, instead of all the life of one of them.
There is a tree on the top of the hill at the end of the town. And underneath it, a thousand different graves all piled upon each other.