I remember the first time I ever saw a tree person change. It was midnight. The silver-white lady was in the center of the sky and the entire world was darker than the pitch that bubbles from the ground where our guardian lived.
My brother, A’Dyn, and I were running patrol, to make sure no overzealous fanatics Guardian always talked about had found their way to our kingdom, when something in the air shifted. Even my human form sensed it. My eyes ran over the edge of the Bone Forest to check for what caused the shift. My brother nudged me and silently gestured toward a tree that had begun to shake.
I nodded, and slightly miffed that he'd seen it before me, stepped closer to examine the tree. I noticed nothing unusual about it when a tree next to the first began shaking. I took a step back as the shaking became harder and faster. Cracks appeared in the ashy bark. The cracks widened with the sickening sounds of bones being crushed beneath a heavy weight. Ashy pink skin blobbed through the cracks, splintering off bark.
I stood transfixed, not quite understanding what I was seeing, but some instinct deep within shrieked at me to turn wolf and run.
Bark continued to splinter off the trees as a high pitched scream cut through the air. My brother and I fell to our knees, fists held tightly over ears. As I looked up, the first tree tilted and slowly pulled its thick roots out of the ground with a series of sharp pops. With a thick squelching sound, the worm-like roots writhed and squished together, forming a large foot almost the same size as my legs put together. The shrieking started again, the high-pitched sound tearing itself from inside the tree as fat, cracked lips appeared on the surface of the tree. A’Dyn and I looked up at the tree people. I didn’t scream. I wanted to, but their face was so awful, it paralyzed my body and I couldn’t do anything.
Their faces were the same, but one was male, and the other was female. I could tell by the skin coloring. Males have darker skin, like soot, while females’ skin looks closer to white ash.
Their faces were ashy grey, with dead green eyes, the right one close to their forehead, and the left near their nose. Their nose was mashed into their face at the top, then crudely and abruptly stuck out from their faces as if someone had grabbed the end of it and pulled out hard. Random pieces of diseased bark stuck to their skin, and their lips cracked as they moved them, because they were bark and nothing else.
As the tree people took a clumsy step forward, A’Dyn kicked my leg, telling me we needed to go back to the castle, now, before the tree people saw us. I quickly shifted back into a black wolf and ran after my brother away from the tree people, back to the castle, our home.