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Hanging Tree

Monday, October 10, 2016

 

The fires died slowly as the rain began to drizzle down from the darkened heavens, the open field slowly dimming as one by one the fire pits washed away to nothing but a frothy mixture of ash. The field sat at the bottom of Gallows Hill, the one place in town that college students came to party, as they knew nobody local would bother them. After all, this was supposedly one of the most haunted places in all of Lafayette; who would go there willingly?

 

Sitting within her tent, Sandra shivered drunkenly at the thought of the hundreds of people hung from the lone willow tree up atop the hill. She was taking a Louisiana History course, and the professor was a huge fan of the stories behind this profane hill. Stories of religious and racial persecution, often leading to numerous people being strung up like puppets, kicking and screaming for as long as they could before the air was just… gone. David slipped inside the cover of the tent, shucking off his jacket as Sandra took another sip from her beer.

 

“Looks like the rest of the party is shutting down as well, almost everyone brought a tent.” David said, wiping off his face with his sweater sleeve. Looking at Sandra, and her concerned features, he paused for a moment. “What’s the matter? I didn’t track mud in here did I?”

 

“No, it’s just… I’m thinking that maybe partying where all these people died isn’t such a hot idea anymore.” Sandra said, shrugging her shoulders. The ebon-skinned girl had done her hair in a long braid ending at her lower back, and the rain was making it frizzier than she liked. “I mean, according to Professor Rogers they actually buried the victims out here too. Isn’t it strange to be dancing and drinking on top of someone’s grave?”

 

“When you put it that way, a little. But look, we aren’t going to make it to the truck anytime soon, and Brandon has the keys anyhow, so let’s just try and have some fun, okay?”

 

Sandra leveled a flat stare at David. “Are you finally coming on to me?”

 

David laughed, swatting her on the arm. “Sorry girl, you know I don’t swing that way. We’re just bunk buddies for the night, nothing more. You’re a bit too soft for my tastes.”

 

Sandra took another pull from her bottle of beer, folding her legs up to her chest. Resting her chin on her knees, she looked over at David with a half-smile. “Some Halloween party, eh?”

 

David shrugged. “I got a couple guys numbers so I’m not complaining.”

 

Sandra laughed. “A couple? You slut!”

 

“Hey, these were some seriously gorgeous men girl. And only one of them turned out to be straight.”

 

“How’d he react to you hitting on him?”

 

David winced at the memory. “Not very well. Called me a bunch of names and threatened to kick my ass.”

 

“Ouch,” Sandra said, draining the last of her bottle. “Do we have any beer left?”

 

Before David could answer, the front of the tent was ripped open, the rain now pouring in in a light shower, a crackle of lightning in the distance revealing three men standing over the two prone teens. The leader, a solidly built man with sandy blonde hair and striking blue eyes stood with fists clenched, wobbling on his feet as he drunkenly tried to stand his ground. In his hand was a bottle, and in his other hand was a length of rope.

 

“Grab him!” The blonde loudly said, causing his two buddies to lunge forward and grab onto David, wrestling him up into a standing position. “Now we’re gonna show you what we do to fags around here!”

 

“No, wait!” Sandra said, moving to stand up. Blondie pushed her down, spattering her into a mud puddle.

 

“Nigger, you try and get in my way and you’ll be next,” Blondie growled, grabbing David by the hair and leading them slowly up the hill, taking careful steps to avoid slipping in the slick deluge sliding down the hillside.

 

Sandra sputtered from her place on the ground, struggling against her inebriation to stand up. Finally clawing her way to her feet, she began making her way after the four men, shouting at them to stop and for someone to help them. The other tents dotting the field were either empty, or their occupants didn’t care. Either way, it would seem no help was coming.

 

The rain continued to come down in heavy sheets as they reached the apex of the hill where it stood. The Hanging Tree of Gallows Hill… a large oak with a single thick branch that jutted out, pieces of bark work away from the rubbing of toughened rope against its exterior. In a flash of lightning, Sandra could see four or five frayed ropes hanging listlessly from the branch, work away by the elements to almost nothing.

 

David struggled, spitting and cursing at the guy dragging him, only to have a beer bottle crack over the side of his head, putting him under. The blonde haired man laughed darkly, looking back at Sandra.

 

“This what you into girl? Queers? You like watching ‘em do each other or something?” The man asked, hauling David by his hair through the mud. He didn’t look to be breathing, but Sandra was a good distance away, and the way that the rain continued to fall heavily, pierced by sudden bolts of lightning to brighten the sky momentarily, did little to help Sandra tell what state her friend was in.

 

One of the two jocks, both with crew cuts and letterman jackets, threw the rope over the branch, one catching it on the other side, before beginning to tie it into a noose. Sandra shivered as it looked like he knew what he was doing.

 

 Their leader, the blonde haired man, took a moment to lift David up and punch him severely in the side of the head, before kicking him a few times while he was down in the watery mud puddles. “Faggots and queers don’t deserve no better than this girl, you best understand that.”

 

Sandra didn’t know what to do. Gallows hill was well outside of any cell reception, and even if she called her friend would die before anyone got here. And it’s not like the jocks would receive any of the blame; they were on the football team, practically untouchable here in the south. Sandra dropped down to her knees in the mud and closed her eyes, clasping her hands in front of her.

 

Please, she prayed, please have someone, anyone, stop this!

 

“Getting on your knees won’t help you girl, though I imagine it’s how you got into our school in the first place.” The blonde said crudely before looking back at his friends. “Is the noose ready yet?”

 

“Almost JT.” The jock looping the noose around itself said confidently, apparently unhindered by the rain.

 

“Good, because I wanna get home before this storm gets really bad, I can’t imagine dri-whoa, what?” He said, turning to walk, only to be caught on something.

 

That something turning out to be a skeletal arm, withered vines in place of tendons holding it together. It had a firm grip on the pant leg and, as he stumbled, it gripped his ankle tightly, causing him to cry out.

 

Another arm came up from the muck, reaching towards the heavens as lightning struck far in the distance, revealing at least a dozen more emerging from the watery top soil. Skulls emerged, spilling maggots from their eye sockets. Dirt was washed away from their yellowed bones as they rose, groans on the wind. Slowly, much to everyone’s horror, they rose from their muddy graves, hunched and ancient.

 

“Hanging…?” One hissed, it's mouth devoid of any teeth, mandible cracked.

 

“Hanging.” Four others confirmed, a mixture of hissing voices and angered tones.

 

The dead converged on the group as one, three dead per living person. The blond haired jock punched one of the dead square in the face, sending bone shards flying, but the wiry vine-like muscles held the skull aloft and at the ready. Over the course of thirty seconds, they’d pinned every standing person in the mud face down, their vines snaking from their own bodies to bind hands behind the assorted back. One large skeleton, this one with many deep set scars lining his bones, moved amongst them all, a vine growing from his wrist and twisting, thorns sprouting from it as it went from a harmless sprout to a hateful whip in a matter of seconds.

 

The large skeleton lifted David by the front of his mud covered sweater. He leaned in and looked him over, before shaking his head, an errant wood roach flying free from the motion. “No hanging.”

 

He dropped David onto his back with a splash, where vines emerged to hold his arms and legs in place. Why, Sandra couldn’t say.

 

The large one moved up to her and now that he was close she was amazed to be staring into milky white eyes! He leaned in, his features clearly masculine, and seemed to stare into her eyes for an eternity. After what could have only been a few seconds, he broke his gaze and leaned back. “One of us!”

 

The other dead mumbled between each other but fell silent as the large skeleton swerved his gaze over them all. He turned back to Sandra, waving the three undead holding her away. The vines on her wrists crumbled as she moved, granting her freedom.

 

“Who hurt who?” The skeleton asked, clearly enunciating as best he could without lips, his eyes glowing faintly at the question.

 

Slowly, Sandra pointed out the blonde haired jock, who was standing silently at this point, one skeletal claw holding his head up by his hair. He started cursing and swearing, calling her all sorts of names.

 

The large skeleton didn’t miss a beat, turning and bringing his hand up in a wide arc. Sandra could feel the brush of the thorns as the whip lurched over and around her, before he lashed it down across the front of the racist jock. Blood flowed freely as the man howled with the rising thunder, the three skeletal assailants holding him in place, preventing him from moving. The large skeleton took three long strides up to the thrashing man, grabbing the jock by the face to force him to peer into his milky eyes.

 

“Listen pecker-wood, and listen close. I hear you say any of those words again, you get ten lashes. Now we’re going to set up the noose for you and your friends, and you’re going to die tonight. Now you can die without being whipped, or you can die with a raw bleeding back like I did. Your choice.”

 

“F-fuck you nigger!” The man ground out, the other skeletons laughing at his vigor and bravery in the face of death.

 

“That’s ten lashes for cursing at me, and ten for that… word.” The tall skeleton growled, leaning back up and motioning for the skeletons to ready the man. Clawed hands ripped through his leather jacket, peeling it from his smooth, defined back, before locking his arms and forcing him to his knees, one of them moving in front of him, hands on his knees to look into the bigots eyes nice and close.

 

“Start counting,” it wheezed as the whip came down, slashing into the unblemished back with a startling crack akin to the thundering skies above.

 

Author's Note: Welcome to the Blog Hop! I'll be dropping a link to another blog involved and leave a review of the stories or articles I find there, along with a link so you can go on over and pay them a visit. Almost all of us have giveaways, mine will be announced this evening for everyone to enjoy. So be sure to hop on over to Clarissa Johal's website to get the dig on what graveyards you'll want to haunt for the next five days.

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