I woke this morning to the sound of chainsaws and to my horror found the powers that be were cutting down the branches of the tree outside my office window. It’s not in my garden so there was nothing I could do, but watch as it was stripped of its lush branches. Hours later its been reduced to a stalk, its limbs jutting like skeleton arms towards an unforgiving, grey sky. I know some will think, “So what, it’s just a tree,” but its not. I watched it grow over twenty years from a sapling to a might elm. Its branches was home to countless generations of birds. Their nests now lie like dark blood spots on the green grass and the owners circle the stump in confusion. Not only did it hang with leaves and blossoms, but in its youth it was a climbing frame for many of the neighborhood boys. If I close my eyes I can see them hanging upside down by the ankles, glossy hair swinging as they screamed with life and laughter. Those little faces are lost to me now, the boys all grown and scattered to the four corners of the world. I judged the seasons by its leaves and watched as it grew from bud to green, then orange, red and gold. It will, no doubt, recover and come to life in time, but I will miss its familiar greeting, when I open the blinds each morning and the birdsong. Ah, that I will miss most of all.
In most of my writings I combine history with horror. Not a hard thing to do as history provides us with more gore than our fragile senses can handle, but something struck me as really odd and a little bit scary last week. When I was researching my novel Whispers, I travelled to a few of those dreadful industrial schools that the catholic church were wardens over. I went to these long-abandoned places for the atmosphere and to get a sense of what the tiny prisoners must have felt when walking through the echoing hallways. All traces of the children have disappeared, except for the markers on the numerous graves. The saddest thing of all was the read the inscriptions, some proclaiming that the child lying beneath the earth, “Died as a boy.” That was all, no date of birth or death, but I digress. I do so, because the horror of that time has been bleached in to my soul and its memories make me angry. Anyway, to get back to what happened. I was reading the Sunday papers and there was an interview with one of those invisible children. He’s a man now and still bears the scars of what happened to him. His story is like so many other that I’ve heard, but there was one thing that made the hairs on the back of my neck rise. He mentioned that twice a year, every year, a child disappeared. I wrote about this very same thing. I am now left to wonder at how much I wrote was fiction?