Monday, 29 September 2008
The witch tree
He took Rosy down to the edges of the lake, right where the river and meadows are subsumed by its shimmering potency, and made her sit close to him in the shade.
In the glade they felt tiny, small specks of colour within the green which rose up in leafy tree and wooded hill and even in the reflection of the water.
And just as she was relaxing and leaning back onto his chest, Vincent pointed out the witch tree.
He held his arm straight out in front, in a strong gesture toward the strange mass of vegetation growing up before them. He asked what it reminded Rosy of.
She looked for a few seconds, laughed and remarked that, to her, it seemed like one of Hannibal’s great battle elephants, rearing up, ready to crush and trample the Roman soldiers that lay before it.
He smiled and nodded, sagely, saying he was glad that she could see a creature of great potency there. Vincent however, saw a more troubling image in the strange growth of the old tree.
“It’s like a monster or a demon, there,” he said without looking at Rosy. “I’ve often thought so. Witches have always gathered there, for their Sabbaths and to mark days of great power. They’ve made many sacrifices, throughout the centuries, and the tree has grown strange and powerful, perhaps taking the form of one of their icons, their dark masters.”
Rosy smiled sweetly at him and bit her index finger. “That’s a lovely story,” she said, throwing a stone into the water, “You do take me to the best places!”
Realising he had failed to scare the girl, Vincent began to laugh. “You’ve never been here before in your life, have you?” asked Rosy, to which Vincent shook his head, grinning and scratching his eyebrow.
“In which case,” continued the girl, “I propose we take off all our clothes and swim over to inspect your ‘witch tree’. Once there, those dark pagan powers might overcome us both and then you can ravish me, if you like?”
Rosy turned her back to Vincent and began shuffling out of her jeans. Soon her milky body was preparing to step into the cool river and swim across.
“Are you coming in,” she called behind her, “Are you coming to join me, beneath the witch tree?”
But Vincent didn’t want to get up. His mind wouldn’t let go of the image he’d created and the grinning demonic tree snarled over the water at him.
How ridiculous, he thought, to grow afraid of a story of one’s own imagining. But the power of any story lies in the imagination, in the mind’s eye of the beholder, and this story had somehow reduced him to a shiver.
“I don’t feel like swimming,” he called from where he lay, “I think I’ve caught a chill.” And Rosy laughed like she never believed a word he ever said, and frolicked and splashed in the quiet summer afternoon, loving nature and loving her freedom, beneath the boughs of the old witch tree.