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Who Knows What Evil Lurks? : We do. Think killer mushrooms. Think crafty spiders. The winning entries in our scary story contest will leave you begging for more. : Trees

October 31, 1994|ALEXA BELL FOSTER | Foster, 36, lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Stephen, and their 10-month son, West. She is a doctoral student in clinical psychology

Even though Ricky was only 7, he always seemed to know what people were thinking. When his father came home from work angry, Ricky was always waiting with a special drawing for him. And when Molly was fighting tears because that bully down the hill had called her "fatty," Ricky somehow knew to find her and slip his hand into hers.

Everyone thought Ricky was special, called him "amazing, really." Even Johnny had a particular tender spot for his little towheaded brother.

Ricky adored his family too, and he especially loved the big family outings to the stream or the picnic field. He was always the first one out of bed on outing day. But not this day. He didn't care for the excursion. It was just over to the pine forest, where Dad had planned to chop the winter's firewood. Johnny liked to go along and practice his axmanship. Even Molly thought she'd tag along and help. Ricky loved to see his Dad work, see the capable hands do things that only strong men can do. But still, he didn't like to see those trees fall--or hear them plead for mercy.

No one knew this about Ricky, but he could hear trees talk. Oh, not in words, but in sounds that had meaning. He could hear them growing, and counting the years they had been on Earth. He could even hear them talking to their young. They often encouraged Ricky to grow. "Stand tall! Reach for the skies!" they'd tell him. Sometimes when he got an A on a spelling test or something else hard, he'd think of the trees and know they were proud.

So when everyone was still eating breakfast, Ricky headed out into the chilly morning by himself. He thought he'd visit a special place he'd found near the stream. He'd talk to the trees and nestle deep into the grass. He'd get his clothes dirty, but Mom would understand.

As he walked to his spot through the forest, he sang a little song he'd made up long ago.

God of the wind,

God of the sea,

Turn me into a giant pine tree!

He laughed to think of himself as a tree, taller than tall, looking down on everyone like they were little dolls. Soon he saw he was walking by a wonderful old tree, a big knotty pine that he thought of as an old friend. Smiling, he ran to the tree and embraced it.

Soon, it was time to continue his walk--but something was wrong! His fingers were stuck to the bark! As he struggled to free his hands, he felt roots envelop his feet. His legs and arms were pinned! His cheeks and chest were glued down too--he couldn't even turn his head!

Suddenly, he felt himself being drawn sharply inward. He couldn't see, and there was a terrible whooshing sound. He was shooting up, stretching, being pulled beyond endurance. He felt his body harden and his neck freeze to attention. Strange appendages grew out of his middle.

It wasn't until his vision came back that Ricky began to panic. Pine cones encircled his head and sharp green needles brushed his eyes. Looking down, all he could see was dirty brown bark, covered with lichen and bugs. A bird tore at the flesh of his side, looking for worms.

"Oh, God, please make me a boy again!" he silently screamed. "Don't leave me in this tree! I want to be a boy! I want to go home!"

Suddenly his heart leaped with joy. It was Dad, coming to the rescue. He was walking quickly, almost trotting, with a look of urgency in his eyes. Johnny and Molly were with him and they were nearly running to keep up.

"Hurry, Dad, hurry!" Ricky strained to shout.

Finally Dad reached him and gave him a long, loving look. He put his big, warm hand on Ricky's frozen leg and gave it a reassuring pat.

"Lots of firewood in this one," he said. And he raised his ax.

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