There the five of us stood, at the top of a steep slope leading down into the dead village, thirty houses laid out in odd rows, creating a labarynth of allies between the end of the path and the manor house. Past the houses, a small path lead away from the village, up a small hill, to the manor house, and standing beside it, a desolate sillouette against the back drop of a star filled night sky, was the Death Welcome Tree.
No one spoke, we just stared, even from that distance, the tree was an ominous sight, it always reminded me of an old Hag, its uppermost, black branches, had risen up, rather than out, intertwining with each other, resembling wild tangled hair, its two lower, long, thick and strong branches stretched out on either side, looking like giant, clawed hands, and its truck was twisted and contorted, resembling the cloaked lower half of a Hag or Witch!
"That!", Pete broke the silence first, "is one freaky fucking tree!", Tom and I giggled at him,
"You've seen it before??!!", I looked at him, confused but still laughing at his remark,
"Yeah, well.....I wasn't quite so..."
"Stoned?!", Sarah offered,
"Yeah, thats it!",
We all began to laugh, starting to enjoy the night again, all of us but Kate, that is. She lagged behind us, her head twitching nervously, jerking to the sides and turning back to make sure nothing was there, Tom turned back to look at her too,
"Hey, you OK, honey?!", he asked in his usual whimpering 'Kate I love you!' voice, Pete and I hate that voice so much!!
"Yes!", she snapped back, pushing past Tom and moving to stand by Sarah, who put her arm round Kate,
"Are you sure you don't wanna go back??!", Sarah asked out of concern, Kate turned to look at me again, why the hell does she keep looking at me??
"I'll be fine!", she replied dryly, turning her attention to the ground, and away from me.
"Are those houses safe??", Sarah asked, casting a doubtful eye over them,
"Sar", said Pete, "we ain't looking for a holiday getaway!",
Sarah looked as though she'd like nothing better than to hit Pete again, which she did seem to spend most of her time doing!
"So we going?", asked Tom, "or we walked all this way to stand here all night??!",
"Yeah, come on guys!", I said as happily as I could, truth was, a small part of me really did want to turn back at this point!
We started walking down the steep hill path, down towards the village, me first, then Tom and Sarah, Kate, with Pete bringing up the rear, trying to walk and roll another joint at joint, at the same time. As we reached the bottom, Sarah stopped, staring at the one floored houses,
"Its huge?!", she stated, "how did I never know this place was here??!!", she was refering to the village,
"Cos thats the kind of thing you put in tourist guides