O TANNENDOOM • by Folly Blaine

The scraggly Douglas fir bristles with anticipation as a man and woman finally stop before it in the Christmas tree lot.

“Really, Rob?” The woman sighs a puff of steam, glances around at thicker, taller pine, spruce, and cedar trees. “Don’t you think this one’s a little sad?”

“Sad?” The man rubs the needles between his fingers, inhales.

“Like that Charlie Brown tree we’re all supposed to believe is a metaphor for Christmas spirit. Like adding tinsel to a dying thing somehow makes it festive.” She crosses her arms. “My ornaments won’t fit.”

The man grips the trunk, shakes. The tree clutches at the pieces of itself until the shaking stops. Hardly any needles fall, but the effort sets Thurisaz, the rune of chaos, tingling on its trunk. The tree has grown so weak.

The man considers. “We’ll get two,” he says, at last. “A big one for the family room and this one for my office. It just needs love, Diane. Someone who sees its potential.” He touches his wife’s arm. She pulls away.

As the man loads the tree into his car, the tree risks a cautious bite. Hot and salty human sap oozes on its needles. Seed-memories bloom of bogs and mist, squamous beasts of air, of sea, of torchlit tunnels fed by roots for all grotesque and swollen ones to sweetly writhe in feculence.

Thurisaz burns.

Tonight the tree will creep from its base and find the couple warm in bed.

And then the human sap will flow.

And the tree will grow again.

Folly Blaine writes fiction, narrates short stories and audiobooks, and shoots author portraits in the Pacific Northwest. Folly served as the Podcast Manager at Every Day Fiction from April 2012, until she resigned in June 2014, to attend the Clarion West Writers Workshop. As Podcast Manager she produced 116 weekly episodes. Her web site is at www.follyblaine.com.

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 average 4.3 stars • 41 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    Delightfully creepy. I may need to keep a closer eye on my own Christmas tree.

  • What a clever, creepy story; tidily and sparingly written leaving all the horror in the cracks for our imaginations to unearth. Erm, those artificial trees – they’re ok aren’t they?

  • Stephen

    Can I give this tree to my noisy neighbours?

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    I think it a real shame that such a clever concept was abandoned so early.

    The title, the first few paragraphs and then the one filled with overheated description made me think this was going to be a piece of comic horror.

    The discord between the couple, and the wife’s contempt both for the tree and her husband opened the door for a resolution of savage retribution.

    A longer piece might have shown the tree biding its time, growing new roots (I’ve actually seen trees in a watered stand do that), perhaps being planted outside or in a patio container, and making the world shake….

    I didn’t vote. I’m always sorry to see talent underemployed.

    • I have to disagree, Sarah, that may be the story you would have written but this story is a tiny gem of understatement with all the elements you mention rustling in the wings for us to half-hear. I like this story and I may well have liked your version too. They’re different and I have room for both.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        My comment was a little ambiguous, I guess. I saw two potential paths–the one implied by the title, which, with the “O,” gave a sense of dark humor, or the one suggested by the dark unhappiness in that marriage.

        As it is–a preliminary sketch that suggests at great possibilities.

        • Because the title is a play on ‘O Tannenbaum’ a German Christmas folk song, I’d say the ‘O’ is not necessarily indicative of anything. I didn’t take it as such anyway and I found the hints of the side issues you mention enough to give the story its supportive undercurrent.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Yes–it was a very clever play on that carol, which gave a very particular undercurrent. I was sorry to see the story stop before reaching either of two possible destinations.

            The paragraph of lush description was perfect for black humor but melodramatic otherwise.

            Sort of like a box of rich chocolates from which only one, or at most two, pieces should have been selected…

        • JAZZ

          My darlin’ Lit. Prof would probably accuse you of over-interpreting this great story. It hit all its marks. And you’re comment ….underemployed talent ……was that really necessary..?

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Okay. I am on the tree’s side!

    • Stephen.

      Me too!

  • MPmcgurty

    I did not expect that. “The tree clutches at the pieces of itself until the shaking stops.” First sign of something not quite right. Brilliant.

  • I am no rune expert, but I thought that the Thurisaz rune represented a giant. That distracted me a little. Not sure about the relationship to the tree in the story either. I get the vibe of creepy, but lost the interest in the husband and wife before the story ended.

    Thanks for the story.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      The rune choice was plausible; you’re right about the name meaning, but the wider implications of the rune’s meaning do embrace chaos, as well as regeneration, conflict, and evil or dangerous intent.

      • I did a little more reading on the subject of the rune. Plausibility–I now get. I still wanted a connection with the husband and wife or even how the rune might have been connected to the tree.

        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

          Male sexual energy, conflict, vital energy…
          I think chaos and regeneration fit the tree nicely. And I think the theme here could have made a smashing longer short story or even a novella, since there were so many dark directions open for exploration.

  • Rose Gardener

    My favourite part was, ”…the tree risks a cautious bite. Hot and salty human sap oozes on its needles. Seed-memories bloom…” What a great description of a scratch from the tree’s perspective – with added undertones. Great stuff!

  • Patrick Mahon

    Brilliant! Scary, weird and wonderful. Everything I want from a horror story. Thanks Folly!

  • S Conroy

    Well creeped here. I would have preferred Sarah’s suggested ending, not because I don’t think this works – it definitely did for me and there is some 5-star writing in there; it’s just easier to handle averagely creepy human nature than things that go bump in the night.

  • A perfect choice for a flash piece. Yes I would have wanted to read more. But I can’t discount the story because of its concise nature. I loved it.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I was hoping this story would move into super-creepy territory. I felt it ended a bit abruptly, before realising its full potential. That said, the characterisation of the couple, in so few words, was excellent.

  • Oh, that was just wonderfully creepy! What a great, original choice of POV. Great stuff.

  • Thank you everyone for your feedback and thank you for reading my story. Happy holidays!

  • Paul Friesen

    I was actually wondering if the tree ate
    both the husband and wife, and just the wife.
    First I thought both of them, but then I thought the husband maybe
    purposely got the tree to get rid of his wife.

  • Samantha Memi

    It’s given my spider plant evil ideas.