The Hanging Tree

She was humming to herself as she watched the tree branches sway in the breeze.  It wasn’t anything she had heard at daycare, or anything that Mommy had taught her at night as she was falling asleep.  It was something she heard in her head when she listened very hard and closed her eyes very tight.  That was when she heard it the loudest anyway.  It seemed to always be there, just barely, playing in her little ears.  She’d hum along and if anyone asked, she would just say that she made it up just the way she says she makes everything up that happens to her.

“ELIZABETH!” she heard her mother calling for her.  Why was Mommy home? She wasn’t supposed to be home.

“Elizabeth!!”

“Over here, Mommy!”  she yelled in her high pitched little voice.  There was no point in trying to hide the fact that she had been up in the tree today.  Everyone keeps telling her she is too little to be way out on the branches but they don’t seem to understand that the tree helps her; it guides and protects her.  It’s her tree.

“Elizabeth! What happened to…” her voice trailed off and she stared up at the tree.

“What happened to what, Mommy?  What’s wrong?”

Mommy grabbed Elizabeth by the shoulders and gave her a little shake.  The tree seemed to shudder in response.

“How did your dolls get up in the tree, Elizabeth?  Why are they hanging from the tree? and WHAT HAPPENED TO GRANDMA?!”

Mommy was hysterical now.  Her eyes were welling up with tears and her skin had goose pimples on her arms, but she didn’t let go of Elizabeth’s shoulder’s.

“Mommy.  My dollies were bad.  They hurt grandma.  That’s why I hung them from the tree.  I ran after each and every one of them and put them in Milo’s dog cage.  I rolled Milo’s cage down here in my Red Rider wagon, and one by one I climbed up the tree and hung each of those little bastards by their wretched little necks!

“ELIZABETH!”

“But Mommy, it’s true!  They deserved it.  They hurt Grandma!  I couldn’t wake her up.  They were jumping all over her, scratching her and yelling.  Grandma was crying.  I yelled at my dollies and they ran.  I had to bring them down to the Hanging Tree, Mommy.  I had to!”

Mommy picked Elizabeth up into her arms and ran to the house where she slumped onto the couch crying and not letting her daughter go.  It was quite some time before she called the police to tell them that somebody had attacked her own mother, but first she had to make sure Elizabeth was up in her room where she wouldn’t be telling stories of deadly dolls and Hanging Trees.

After the police left and the body had been removed, Mommy laid in her bed wondering exactly what had happened.  She listened as Elizabeth hummed to herself from her bedroom next door.  She wanted to ask more questions but figured she would just get more nonsense and fairy tales.  She had so many questions…who hurt Elizabeth’s Grandmother?  Where did Elizabeth get the rope with actual nooses to hang her dolls?  How did she get up so high in that damn tree?  So many questions just made her more and more confused and scared.  It was quite late when she finally fell asleep listening to Elizabeth still humming that song.

Elizabeth

“Mommy…Mahhhhmmmmeeeee,” Elizabeth sang as she stood over her mother.  Elizabeth poked her mother’s forehead with her tiny, little finger trying to wake her.  She was getting restless.  It had already taken long enough to drag her out of bed and down the stairs; she would never get her to the Hanging Tree without a little help.

“MOMMY WAKE UP YOU CUNTING BITCH!!!!!”

With that, Mommy woke with a start, wide eyed and confused.  She was bound at the wrists and ankles and gagged with some kind of fabric.  She tried to scream and tears came to her eyes as she looked at Elizabeth with questioning eyes.

“Don’t worry Mommy.  Don’t be scared.  Its all going to be ok.  I just need your help.  Can you help me?” Elizabeth asked in her tiny voice.

Mommy shook her head violently up and down.

“I need you to crawl into my Red Rider, Mommy.”

Mommy looked at Elizabeth questioningly and with alarm.  When Elizabeth used the Red Rider yesterday, she had taken her dolls down to that damned tree and somehow hung each of them by a noose.  What was she doing?  What was happening?  Who was doing this to her daughter?!

Elizabeth started humming again; humming the same song she had hummed since she was two years old.  She rolled the Red Rider over to Mommy and stared at her.  Mommy mumbled through the doll dress that had been shoved in her mouth.  Tears streamed from her eyes as she shook her head no.

Elizabeth reached for the closest thing to her, a ceramic elephant statue that Grandma had given Mommy, and cracked Mommy right in the head with it.  There, no more noise.  Guess it has to be done the hard way.  Elizabeth did all she could to get Mommy into the Red Rider then started down the trail to the Hanging Tree.  As she got closer, she saw the branches reaching to her- welcoming her.  Her dollies were still hanging from their own little nooses.

Upon reaching the trunk of her tree, Elizabeth found the noose that was set aside just for Mommy.  She fastened it around Mommy’s neck and stroked her hair.

“Now don’t worry, Mommy.  Everything will be ok.  This won’t hurt a bit.  The Hanging Tree loves us; it loves ME.  It told me that all of the bad things you have done will be forgotten and you’ll go right to heaven where you can be with Daddy and you can watch me all the time.  I’ll be just fine.  I can live here.  The Hanging Tree tells me what to do.  And the lady in my closet is really nice Mommy, she sings to me and tells me secrets.  She loves me too.”

Just then Mommy regains more of her consciousness as she realizes what Elizabeth is saying.  She tries to scream, but as her eyes widen to protest, the Hanging Tree zips the noose up and around one of it’s branches.  Mommy’s neck snaps loudly and her eyes stay open as she sways with the dollies in the branches of the Hanging Tree.

Elizabeth sits next to the tree trunk, places her hand on the bark, and starts to hum.