The Old Oak Tree | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

The Old Oak Tree

THE LEGEND OF THE OLD OAK TREE By: Dallas G. Releford Kids are action driven and Jake Myers couldn’t wait until they reached Mt. Salem where they could get out of the SUV and get all the action they needed. The long drive down from Bangor, Maine had exhausted all of them but now they were within a few miles of their new home in Central Kentucky. His tired mind raced back over the many events of the last several weeks as he glanced over at his wife Linda. She had gone off to sleep just after they left Lexington and he didn’t have the heart to wake her up. The kids had finally quit fighting and were showing signs of winding down in the back seat but he had to remind them to behave every now and then. He hoped things would get better than they had been. His computer business had failed two years ago and he had had to take a truck driving job to pay the bills but they had still lost the house and just about everything else. His luck seemed to change when he was offered a job as manager over the computer operations for the trucking company. They had been living in a cramped apartment but when he was offered the job in Lexington, they had immediately decided to buy the farm near Mt. Salem. Of course the kids hadn’t wanted to leave all their friends but Linda was all excited about the prospect of starting a new life in a different environment. They figured that the kids would make new friends with little difficulty and things would be fine. Amy was only five and Lisa had just had her tenth birthday three months ago. They both were fine girls and Jake was happy that they were his even though their aggressive ways got on his nerves sometimes. When he finally found the road that led to their new home, he sighed a little and relaxed. He pulled the SUV into the front yard and they just sat there looking at the large, white farmhouse with the huge, round columns that supported the front porch. Linda could only imagine the pleasures she would experience sitting on that front porch on warm summer nights. The very thought brought back memories of visiting her grandparents in West Virginia when she was very young. Since the moving company had delivered all their possessions previously they decided to have dinner, put the kids to bed and sit on the front porch for a while before retiring themselves. Linda wanted to spend some time relaxing with her husband and enjoying the sounds, smells and activities of a warm summer night in the country. Her thoughts were of romance and other “womanly things” but among those thoughts were visions, hopes and dreams of having a place where the kids could grow up free of drugs and other dangers that they would face in the city. The promise of a good education for them was also s good selling point and one of the major reasons she had decided to move them to the country. As they relaxed on the front porch knowing that the kids were safely in bed, their conversation was interrupted when their attention was drawn to the huge Oak tree that grew at the edge of the large fenced in yard. Linda had commented about how beautiful and how big it was but just as the darkness fell they began to see small lights that resembled fireflies beneath the tree. “They’re just fireflies --- lighting bugs,” Jake told her but she had seen enough fireflies, even when she had lived in the city to know that something wasn’t quite right. They kept watching the lights but as it got darker, the number of “bugs” increased. “Those aren’t fireflies honey,” Linda assured him, “because fireflies are yellow and these are a light green and they don’t move around like fireflies do.” “I don’t know what they are,” Jake admitted. “Do you want to go down and see if we can figure it out? Maybe they’re just some kind of glow worms or something swinging from the limbs of the trees or maybe they’re on a web of some kind?” “I think that I’ll just observe them from right here,” she told him. “Maybe we can find out what they are on the Internet or something?” “Maybe so,” Jake agreed, “but it sure is interesting and I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life.” As they watched the spectacle completely confused, the number of the “fireflies” increased until they couldn’t even see the tree trunk anymore and the surrounding area was as luminous as a well lit parking lot at the mall. Suddenly and without warning, the “bugs” seemed to become part of the tree. The entire tree was so bright that it hurt their eyes to look at it. Jake stood up and walked off the porch staring at the tree in amazement wondering what was going to happen next. He didn’t have long to wonder. “Isn’t it beautiful?” Linda asked and Jake looked around to see her standing in the yard beside him. “Yes, it is beautiful but I just wish that I knew what all this is about,” he said seeming worried. The tree was far enough away from the house so that they had the entire tree and the night sky above full of twinkling stars in their field of view. There were many trees on their farm but even without the mysterious lights, the old Oak tree stood out from the rest. It was one of a kind. Its ancient trunk and ghostly limbs made a distinctive impression on those who viewed it. Linda and Jake were spellbound and hypnotized by the eerie green lights in front of them but neither one was really prepared for what happened next. The mysterious light suddenly shot upward until it was above the old tree. It became one huge mass of green light. The pulsating green globe just hung there above the tree for several minutes but gradually, it began to spin like a top until it looked like a huge funnel. Linda thought that it looked like a tornado that consisted of light but she hoped that wasn’t the case. Her worst fears evolved as the huge light was elevated higher above the tree until the swirling tail finally touched the ground near the base of the tree. Within seconds, it was sucked into the ground just as if it were dust sucked into a vacuum cleaner. Within a few minutes, it was gone. It was dark again and the two humans once again became aware of the crickets chirping and all the other night sounds. It was as it nothing had ever happened or that it was a regular routine for the little creatures of the night and they were used to it. There wasn’t any way they could prepare themselves for the trauma they suffered after the occurrence or for the apprehension of not knowing what was going to happen next. The next several days were spent unpacking and getting their new home prepared for habitation but the incident that had occurred only a few nights before was always on their minds. Not really knowing what to expect, they kept close watch on the kids but did not tell them about the strange incident. On Wednesday evening, Jake was in the backyard removing the trash, limbs and other debris the previous owner had left while Linda was watching the kids and preparing dinner. When he had finished the cleanup, he looked at the tall grass and weeds and cursed the person who had owned the house before. They had never met the previous owner because they had purchased the farm through a real estate agent. Jake recalled that something had been casually mentioned at the closing about the person that had owned the farm being sick. A lawyer who seemed more interested in Linda than he did closing the deal had represented the previous owner’s estate. Jake hadn’t liked him but he figured there wasn’t much that he could actually do about it. As Jake walked toward the tool storage shed where he kept his lawnmower, he wondered why he felt so uneasy about the place. There was something uncanny about it, maybe something evil and unpleasant? Whatever it was, he had never felt that way before and the insecurity that he now felt worried him. “It’s a little hot to be working so hard,” a male voice said and Jake looked up startled to see an old man with a long gray beard standing in front of him. For a split second, Jake felt strange, like he had walked through an open door and into some other time. Images of men in gray and men in blue fighting and dying flashed through his mind just like he was there in the midst of the heated battle. The hot summer breeze blew across his hot face as bullets that reminded him of bees zoomed all round him. There were other images of a house and screaming women and kids running all over the yard. Some were being chased by figures in blue uniforms. The blue clad figures hacked the women and the children to death with their long swords leaving blood all over the green grass. Some of the women were hacked to death while holding their crying babies in their arms and begging for mercy. Jake felt the pain of death all around him, heard the screaming and yelling and was terrified because he felt like he was part of it. “I say, it’s a hot day to be working so hard,” the old man in the gray uniform said again bringing Jake back to the present. Jake jumped, startled by his own thoughts. He was instantly confronted with another puzzle for which he didn’t have an answer. Who was the old man in the gray confederate uniform? Was he a figment of his imagination or was his diabetes acting up again? At first, he was convinced that it was his diabetes causing him to have hallucinations. His reasoning for that was that his blood sugar level had been high that morning and when it got that high, he usually had dizzy spells and he had trouble sleeping. Jake had attributed the high numbers to the stress he had been having from the moving and other problems. He had done the usual things trying to bring it down again such as getting lots of exercise and watching what he ate. But one thing after another finally convinced him that he really was seeing the old man and that he was real despite his ancient attire. For one thing, after he closed his eyes and opened them again, the old man was still there just as real as he ever was. Jake felt stupid as he pinched his arm (but he felt that it was entirely necessary) and almost cried out in pain from doing so. Finally convinced that he wasn’t having a hallucination or dream he decided to accept the fact that the old man was there and deal with it. “Can I help you?” Jake asked not knowing much else to say to him. “I was just saying that it was a nice day,” the old man said, “just a little hot to be working hard though,” he added smiling. “Keeps my diabetes under control most of the time,” Jake told him. “Oh,” the old man said not seeming to know what Jake was talking about. “Did you just move in?” “Yes, we just bought the farm and as you can see the previous owner left it in a mess.” “He got sick because he was stressed,” the old man replied glancing around as if expecting someone at any moment. “What was wrong with him?” Jake asked. “Did he have some serious illness or something?” “Just fear,” the old man explained. “Oh, I’m sorry but my name is Ben Thompson and what’s your name? It appears that we forgot to introduce ourselves.” “You’re absolutely right Ben,” Jake said starting to feel a little more relaxed in the company of the old man. “We didn’t introduce ourselves and that’s rude, I suppose. My name is Jake, Jake Emery. I believe that you said the previous owner was sick with fear. What exactly did you mean by that Ben?” “Some of the neighbors wanted him to cut down the old Oak tree in the front yard but he wouldn’t do it. They kept pestering him until he went insane.” “Why did they want the Oak tree cut down?” Jake asked. “So the spirits can escape,” the old man said, “there’s a mass grave under that tree.” “Mass grave?” Jake asked both surprised and puzzled. He couldn’t believe his ears. He turned around and looked at the old tree. There were almost as many limbs without leaves as there were with leaves. If there were graves under the old tree then it meant that they had to be over a hundred and fifty years old. “Mr. Thompson, how do you know that graves are beneath the old tree?” Jake asked but when Ben didn’t answer, Jake turned around only to find him gone. “Ben, where are you?” Jake yelled loud enough for Ben to hear him just in case he had wandered off somewhere. When Ben Thompson didn’t answer and he didn’t see him Jake searched the property but Ben Thompson was nowhere to be found. Puzzled, Jake pondered the problem of Ben Thompson’s disappearances as he finished cutting the almost knee high grass. He was angered when he found out that it was too high for the lawnmower to handle and he had to resort to cutting it with the bush hog. It was old and quit running frequently but by nearly dark, the job was finished. Linda had already put the kids to bed by the time he got around to eating his dinner. She had called him several times but he just wanted to finish up the work before he went into the house. That was one reason but the other one was that he kept hoping that Ben Thompson would suddenly appear and explain a few things to him. That never happened so Jake settled down to eating his now left over dinner but the mystery still bothered him. Who exactly was Ben Thompson and how had he disappeared so quickly. Linda sat at the table drinking a cup of coffee watching him eat wondering what was on Jake’s mind since he wasn’t saying much. “You must have worked real hard to work up such an appetite,” she said, “but don’t forget about your diabetes and eat too much. Just remember that you shouldn’t eat too much before going to bed. You don’t want to push it.” “I’m fine,” Jake assured her. “Honey, do you remember anyone saying anything about a neighbor named Ben Thompson?” “Not that I can remember,” she said. “Why?” “I had a visitor in the backyard while I was working,” he informed her. “What kind of a visitor? Who?” Linda asked. “I didn’t see anyone out there and I looked out there several times while you were working to see if you were okay.” “He was there,” Jake said. “He just appeared, said a few words and then disappeared when I wasn’t looking.” “That’s strange,” she replied thoughtfully. “What did he say?’ “Well, he was saying something about the old Oak tree out front. He said that the last owner went nuts because the neighbors were constantly harassing him about cutting the tree down.” “Why that’s strange. I wonder why they’d be concerned about an old tree in someone else’s yard?” “I have no idea,” Jake admitted, “But he did say the tree was growing over a mass grave and the spirits of the dead couldn’t leave because of the tree.” “Maybe that’s what we saw the other night?” Linda reminded him. “Maybe we saw the spirits trying to leave the grave but couldn’t? Don’t you remember Jake that the tree lit up, something left it and then went back into the ground.” “Yes, I remember that,” Jake said, “but the man said that his name was Ben Thompson and that he was a neighbor. The strange thing is that he was dressed in a Civil War uniform. He was dressed as a confederate general.” “That’s eerie,” Linda said. “I can check on the Internet and see if he lives around here then I guess I’ll check to see if a confederate general with that name served in the Civil War.” “Good idea,” Jake told her pushing his plate back on the table. Before either of them could get up from the table, they heard a scream from the bedroom where the kids were supposed to be sleeping. “The kids --- something wrong with the kids,” Linda yelled running toward the bedroom. Jake wasn’t too far behind her. The children’s bedroom was located down the hallway next to their bedroom. As they left the dining room and ran through the living room, it was like they were swimming through an electrical storm. The entire house was immersed in a pale, green glow and it felt like they were swimming through a sea of static electricity. Casting their fears aside, they rushed down the hallway to the kid’s bedroom. They could still hear them screaming but it seemed like it took them forever to reach the door. The door disappeared just as they reached it and the only thing they could see was the green light that surrounded them. Just as Linda started to yell for the kids (even though she was almost too scared to yell) they suddenly appeared running from out of the light like two frightened little deer. Linda had her arms round them in a few seconds but things were happening so quickly that she didn’t have time to say anything. Before they realized what was happening, they found themselves falling through the light. Then after several more seconds, it felt like they were being pulled upward and the sudden change in direction made Linda nauseated. Just as suddenly as the incident had occurred, it all ended. None of the family members had been able to exchange words during the occurrence because it happened so rapidly. When it was all over, they were standing on the wet lawn looking up at the old Oak tree and a million stars above them. “What happened?” Linda asked not knowing what might happen next. “I don’t know,” Jake answered, “but I have a funny feeling that it has something to do with that tree.” “Yes, that’s pretty obvious,” Linda agreed. “What are we going to do Jake?” Linda asked getting frustrated with the entire situation. “Should we cut it down?” “Not just yet,” he replied thinking. “Do you know how much that would cost? I want to find out some more information before we do something like that. I guess they’re trying to draw our attention to the tree, but I don’t know much about this except for what the old man told me.” “Well, they sure have my attention,” Linda said. “I think we should be doing something because I don’t want to put these kids in danger as well as us.” “Why don’t you get on the Internet and see what you can find out?” The kids finally went off to sleep on the couch in the living room while Linda and Jake sat in front of the computer monitor searching through dozens of web sites in an attempt to find anything they could about the mysterious soldier in gray. “Well, we don’t have anyone living around here by that name,” Linda informed him. As she searched through some of the information that she had pulled up, she suddenly noticed a reference to a person named Ben Thompson on a history site. “But here’s some information on a Ben Thompson that lived during the Civil War.” As she clicked on link after link she pulled up an increasing amount of information about Ben Thompson and the period of time in which he lived. “Look Jake,” she said pointing at the computer screen. “There’s a little information about the massacre in one of the local papers archives. It seems that a small army of Federal and Confederate troops clashed on this farm on April 14th, 1862. A family that ran a boarding school here owned the farm at the time. There were forty-five people present when the battle started. It goes on to say that apparently, the Confederates got the worst of it and were slaughtered. There weren’t any survivors. A Major Kennedy of he Union Army claimed that the inhabitants of the farm were rebel supporters and killed everyone including women and children. After the killing stopped, the major became afraid that he would be charged with the murders so he ordered a mass grave to be dug. The Confederates and the civilians were all buried in the same grave. The grave hadn’t been found at the time this story made it to the local paper. The officer was never charged with anything because he and most of his men deserted and went west never to be heard from again. The information in the story was told to the paper by a couple of soldiers who were nearly insane at the time. They claimed that the ghosts of the people they had killed constantly haunted them. Their story was never taken seriously.” Linda sat back and relaxed a little glad that she had been able to clear up some of the mystery. It was like a tremendous weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Well, so at least we know that a massacre of some type took place here and that Old Ben was probably one of those that was murdered,” Jake said thoughtfully. “So, I guess that we’re paying to have a tree cut down in our front yard. Is that what you think we should do?” “Yes, of course,” Linda told him. “If it will help those poor people to get where they’re going then I’m all for it. It’s really sad that they had to go through all that but maybe we can make it up to them now.” “I hope so,” Jake replied, “because we moved here to get some peace and quiet but so far it has been anything but peaceful and quiet.” Three days later the tree cutting service removed the entire tree and filled in the hole left by the removal with fresh dirt. Linda remarked about how much the piled up dirt looked like a freshly dug grave but Jake shrugged his shoulders and walked back into the house. They kept watch on the area wondering if they would actually see something happen but nothing extra-ordinary occurred. They were sitting on the front porch just a little after the sun went down talking with the kids when all of a sudden; the entire area around where the tree had been began to turn green. “Look mommy,” Amy yelled, “Fireflies!” The green glow on the ground soon became one huge, green globe that floated above the ground making a crackling sound like that of firecrackers heard from a distance. “I think something is happening,” Lisa said getting up from the swing where they had been sitting, “and I’m not sure that I like it.” “Just keep calm,” Linda told the two girls, “because I don’t think they intend to harm us.” As they watched spellbound, the huge green ball lifted up and sped away into the heavens only to zip back and circle the house several times before zooming off into space where it disappeared among the stars. “I think they’re happy now,” Linda said putting her arm around Jake’s waist. He put his arm around her and they stood there in the yard with the two girls wondering where the folks in the green light had gone and if they would ever see them again. The End
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