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My parents wouldn’t let me marry Harry. So, when they died in a car crash, I asked my granddad for his permission. He gave us his blessing. The only thing I remember about the church was the crooked tree tilting besides it.
To this day, the tree still stands there. When all plants sway with the wind, the tree remains still. Not even a rustle from the branches. No birds dare roam on it. Nothing on the tree dies on there because nothing lives on there.
After the honeymoon, he went off to Iraq to serve Queen and country, then returned in a casket. Poor Harry was cremated, his soul did not deserve it. He should have been buried like the good Christian boy he was. The only thing I have left of him is our son: Romeo. That boy is the only thing that keeps me going. I know what’s best for him, and I do my best to keep him away from the tree.
Bad things happen by that tree. Sprinkling Harry’s ashes by that tree are the biggest mistake of my life. It’s Satan’s tree. They need to cut it down, so Harry’s soul can go to heaven where he belongs. Satan taunts me every day with that tree like the butch kids in the playground. I look out by the window and scream.
“ROMEO! DON’T GO NEAR THAT TREE!” I climb over the window and dash the road. The stones prickle my feet as the pavement burns. He rolls his eyes and ignores me. I point at him. “DON’T YOU DARE IGNORE ME. I’M YOUR MOTHER.”
He pants as throws his backpack onto the branch and climbs to the top. He says nothing until he reaches the top. “And I’m not a child!” His tone is sharp and livid.
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when we loved each other. We went to every corner in Europe. We did it all together, even took drugs and alcohol together—it was our little secret. Everything was perfect until the money ran out. That was when the cracks started to show.
“Where do you think you’re going with that backpack?”
“You can’t leave!”
“I’m an adult now. I can do what I want. You have to let me go.”
“I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU!”
“Keep it down Mother,” Romeo whispers looking out onto the sunset. “You’ll wake the neighbours like.”
“FUCK THE NEIGHBOURS!” I yell, stepping closer to the tree. “I only care about you. So please…” The tears stream down my eyes as Romeo refuses to look at me. “Come down from the tree. It’s Satan’s tree. He will hurt you.”
“There’s no God or Satan.”
I gasp. The Devils have got a hold on my precious boy. No, please God, Jesus, and all the holy saints in the universe help me save him from his ignorance. After all the temples, churches and chapels we’ve been too, was it all for nothing?
“OUCH!” The pain from this heat is overwhelming, but nothing hurts more than having a non-believer as a son. I’m getting closer to the tree now, but I feel my feet being dragged towards its stalk. “Why are you doing this to me?”
Romeo finally lowers his head. He looks so much like Harry, that I can sense Harry’s possessed spirit mocking me as our son talks. “I’ve had enough of your religious bullshit. I’m fed up of being suffocated. People bully me and mock me ALL BECAUSE OF YOU. My life is a misery because of YOU!”
“Our lives were perfect once,” I remind him. “We could go back to the old days.”
“It was all fake.”
“NO!” I groan, feeling my voice crack. “It was all real!” I’m now an inch from the tree. I charge my fist towards it and launch it by the stump. I pull my fist back down to my side and see the blood oozing from the pours and splatter on my white dress.
A ferocious wind pushes me back on the road as cars swerve around me. My forehead clashes with the pavement. I pick myself up again and a lorry speeds through my street. Stupid drivers! Lorries shouldn’t be driving through this part of the village.
“ROMEO!” I scurry back to the blasted tree and see it’s back to it’s tilted position. “ROMEO? WHERE ARE YOU ROMEO?”
He’s is nowhere to be seen.
“He’s gone.” The sinister mutters echo through the tree.
“No, he can’t be gone.” I shudder in panic as I take out all my anger and energy out on the tree. “Bring him back! You better bring him back right now. Don’t make me shake you.”
“I’m not going to make it so easy for you.”
Gasping for breath, I collapse onto the grass. My arms are too tired to carry on, so I start kicking. “You can do whatever you want to me,” I hiss. “But don’t you dare harm him.”
“Then I have one simple task for you.”
“What is it?” My heart’s pounding so hard it could break out of my chest. I’m sweating like a pig. I might be tired now, but I don’t care. If it brings Romeo back, I’ll be willing to do anything. I’m trembling so much, I can’t get up. “Whatever it is, you need to tell me.”
“Plant seven heads on my branches and you will get your son back.”
“That’s right! It can come from any animal, human or monster. I just need seven.”
“Just promise me Romeo won’t be harmed.”
“He’s a special place now.”
“WHAT’S THE SUPPOSE TO MEAN?”
“Finally making peace with the tree I see?”
“What?” I glance behind me and see the Landlord standing over bringing shade with his muscular shadow. I bit my lip and point at the tree. “This tree stole my son. I’ve got to get it back.” All he does is chuckle and carries on smiling as if nothing is wrong. I roll over onto my knees and try to push myself up. “THIS. IS. NOT. FUNNY!”
“What a pity,” he whispers like it’s small talk and begins to unbutton his top. “I’m glad I found you. You’re just the woman I want to see.”
“And what do you want with me?”
“You haven’t paid your rent in four months.”
I cower before him and sink my head into the palms of my hands. I can’t pay the rent because I don’t have any money. By the time I pay for food and bills, I have nothing to pay rent with. “Please don’t kick me out, I can’t leave Romeo homeless.”
“Oh, I won’t kick you out.” The Landlord helps me to stand up and starts stroking my back. “I just want you to do one thing.”
“Just one thing?”
“That’s right.” He talks like he means business. “And you’ll NEVER have to pay rent again.”
“Why are you taking your clothes off?”
I don’t know his name. It’s normally my granddad that sorts my rent out for me. But he’s been away, I haven’t seen him in ages. He walks into the church by the tree and I follow him into a small chamber that only the priests have access to.
I come here every Sunday, I had no idea there was an underground chamber here. The Landlord sits on a marble throne stalk naked with his legs open. But it’s not his advances that terrify me, but what’s gathered around him.
The tables are littered with sex toys in every shape, colour and variety. Just looking at these shapes are enough to violate my innocent mind. Six priests all tied up in chairs. Latex dangling from the ceiling with their mouths gagged with rosary beads. I’m so offended: this is meant to be the temple of God.
The church is meant to protect us from Satan’s tree. This underground chamber is nothing but sinful filth.
“What is all this?” I cling onto my breasts and tiptoe backwards.
“Do I have to state the obvious.” The Landlord blows me a kiss. “I want a shag.”
“I... can’t.” I might be a widow. I may be free and single in the eyes of the law. But Harry lives on through Romeo. Harry is my first and last love. I could never have a physical attraction with anyone else other than Harry. I don’t want to do this. There has to be another way.
“Oh come on!” He winks at me. “Just a quick one.”
I got my eyes on the staircase. With my back towards the Landlord, I tell him, “I need to find my son.”
“Romeo’s a grown man—he can take care of himself.”
“You don’t know him.” I take my cue and leave. I have no time for small talk or foolish flirting. I have to bring my son back, even if means the end of me. After climbing five steps, the Landlord roars like a monster.
“Don’t go, I can help you.”
Charging back down, I see he hasn’t moved one inch. I bit my lip and place my hands around my back. Looking down on him I ask, “How can you help me?”
“These are dirty priests part of a paedophile ring.”
“WHAT!” Please God, get me away from these evil parasites. I can’t stop shaking. Please make it stop! Help me! Come on body, unfreeze! I’ve got to get out of here. My head is ringing alarm bells. “I have to…”
“They hurt Romeo,” the Landlord hisses, stroking his own body. “They did it all the time. They violated him as soon as your back was turned. Kill them, and everything will be okay.”
“You can’t accuse these holy men without proof.”
“Oh I have proof, just look at that book behind you.”
I turn around and find a bulging photo album behind me. I dread to think what sort of images lurk behind those crooked pages. As soon as I pick it up, it strains my arms and it drops to the floor. As the book opens by my feet, words alone cannot describe my urge to vomit.
“Romeo…” Tears stream down my face as I flick the pages. “What have they done to you. Oh god, there’s more.” I doubt that the other boys and girls in this photo album are over eighteen. The Landlord’s right. I didn’t believe him because he’s full of crap, but the one time he does tell the truth – I wish it was lies.
Now I know why he’s a non-believer. It’s not his fault. My cousin used to rape me all the time. I accept the fact that I must suffer for God, but I cannot accept anyone hurting my boy. Looking back at the Landlord, he reaches for something behind his chair.
“Disgusting isn’t it?” he says to me. “But it’s okay because I got this sword for you.”
“It looks magnificent.” The patterns on the handle bring colour into this dark room. The blade dazzles under the dim lights. It fits perfectly in between my hands and I feel like a warrior. God is looking down on me, smiling. The good lord is giving me some of his power.
“HOW DARE YOU HURT MY SON! YOU ARE ALL FUCKING TRAITORS! I PUT MY TRUST IN YOU!”
“GO ON ANNIE!”
One big spin around the room and the floor became flooded with blood. Six heads rolled over towards the Landlord’s feet. What have I done? I’ve become a murderer. Lord have mercy on their souls, and please have mercy on me too.
“WHAT A SHOW!” The Landlord claps his hands and kicks all of the heads out of his way. “THAT WAS A REAL TURN ON.”
“They were demons… God will be proud of me.”
“Don’t kid yourself,” he says, wanking like he’s watching a porn show. “You’re just like us.”
“I’m nothing like them – OR YOU.”
“I guess it takes one to know one.”
“Are you saying you’ve done it too?”
“I couldn’t help myself.” The way he grunts makes me heave. “Your son’s so cute with his little cuts and bruises and retarded autistic ways.”
I clench the sword’s handle tighter. “HE IS NOT RETARDED! AND HE DOES NOT HAVE AUTISM!”
“Oh, you’re so cute when you’re angry. Come here and let’s get naughty.”
These heads will come in useful for the tree, but I need one more. I fake a laugh and a smile for him. “Yeah, I’ll be naughty. So naughty I will blow your mind.”
“I look forward to it.”
I refuse to look below his waist. I keep my eyes on his face, his beautiful face. What a shame his soul is putrid and ugly as fuck. “I would never fuck you in a million years.”
Another asshole bites the dust. It’s a good thing I’ve got my big beach bag with me, but I’m not sure if I will be able to fit all seven heads in there. My whole dress is ruined, I paid a lot of money for it, but I hope I can get all this blood washed off soon.
I slip onto the floor when I reach for the Landlord’s head. I’m lucky that the sword slides to the other side of the room making a nice dent in one of the priest’s forehead. I’ve killed seven people tonight. It’s going to take a long time for that to sink in as I get them all in my bag.
It’s a good thing my purse is waterproof.
I think a human head weighs about ten pounds. It’s a big struggling carrying seven of them up the stairs and backs out onto the church. The load gets lighter as the blood leaks out, but my ache still burns from the aching sensation.
The cold air greets me as I go outside. At first, I feel relieved and happy until I see Satan’s tree looking as sinister as ever. I chuck my bag by the tree and throw myself on the floor. “Here’s the heads.”
“Oh good! What are you waiting for? This isn’t over yet, you have to plant them.”
“Will you wait!” I snap. “I’m tired. I need to rest.”
The tree roars in my face and the sensation brings me back up onto my knees. The fatigue is gone. I shove all seven heads on the branch and wait. “So now what?” The tree ignores me. I kick it twice. “Listen to me, you can do whatever you want to me, but I just want my boy back.”
The tree opens his mouth again and spits Romeo out with his backpack. I hug him and try to wake him up. He’s cold. He’s unresponsive. He’s dead. His nostrils clogged with heroin: my heroin. He must have thought it was cocaine and overdosed. Did I really do all of this for nothing? No, he can’t be dead. There must be another way. “Don’t worry… I’ll bring you back.”
I open his backpack and some drugs behind all his clothes. I have adrenaline shots in my purse. They’re all ready to inject, I just have to stab him. I know drugs are bad, but this isn’t just any old adrenaline. It’s been blessed by God. If you get your drugs blessed by God, it makes it all okay.
I inject the adrenaline shot into his heart. I waited for every last drop to get into his system. He should wake up, just like how Mia Wallace did in Pulp Fiction. But nothing is happening. “I’m a failure.”
“You stole everything from me!”
I crawl around Romeo’s corpse, trying to find out where that sweet and sad voice is coming from. There’s a hologram of a pregnant bride in the middle of the road. I don’t know who she is.
“How could I have stolen everything from you? I hardly know you.”
“If you had treated him better, you would have known exactly who I am.”
“Everything I did, I did for him.”
She shakes her head and looks down on me like a criminal. I can’t argue back – I am a criminal. “You got him dragged into drugs and alcohol. You kept treating him like a child.”
“I WAS PROTECTING HIM!”
“The one that hurt him the most was you. I’m carrying his baby. He proposed to me.”
“I’m so sorry. I promise I will bring him back.”
“It’s okay, I’ve got him now!”
The hologram changes into Harry with his military uniform. My mouth drops open. It’s bittersweet. I’m happy to see him again, but sad when he says he has his son now. “Harry… I need to get him back.”
“He’s dead like me, you can’t change that!”
“Yes. I. Can!”
“I know you lived a horrible life. It was painful watching you fuck everything up. But Romeo is in a better place now. And we’ve got a grandchild to look forward to. My only regret was not being able to save you from the clutches of Hell.”
“I can get out of it myself, I’ll show you.”
“Is that so?” The hologram changes again to my cousin – the very person I hate the most. That wicked and sinful whore that got everything that was coming for her when cancer consumed her.
“What do you want?”
“I just popped by to see how my beautiful cousin is doing?”
“You’re the reason why this has all happened!”
“Really?” Even in death, she still has her ways of taunting me. “We were young and experimental. And it was fun: you loved it.”
“Tell me, Kathleen, how does it feel to burn in Hell?”
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
“No… not you!”
“Your tantrums won’t change the truth. Your son died because of your selfish actions!”
“He’s not dead!”
“I have reserved a special place in Hell for you.”
“No! I don’t belong there.”
“You are going to Hell. Accept it. Embrace it.”
“I will atone for my sins. I WILL GO TO HEAVEN!”
The hologram shatters. I run out into the road and I don’t know why. I just feel like it’s the place to be. There’s a shining light coming across me. I run towards it, hoping it’s God giving me salvation. As soon as I touch the light, I bounce back and onto the pavement.
It turns out the light was coming from a police car. I play dead as the driver hops out of the car and spits on my cheek.
“Well Mrs Cross, I knew you were dodgy, but I didn’t think you could kill your own son.” The pain travels from my head to my toe. It’s all on the right side, but it’s fine. By God’s grace, I can pull through this. The cop is still talking to himself. He must be alone. “Well, what do we have here. Nine dead bodies including the killer.”
I hear his shoes squelching against the grass. “Poor lad. I was too late to save you. It’s okay. Justice has been served. What? He’s breathing? He talks through his phone and I smile. I’m so happy. Romeo’s alive. It works! “We need an ambulance right away. We’ve got 7 decapitated heads on a tree, one body and one unconscious young male who is…ugh!”
What was that explosion? I don’t want to get up in case it’s another cop or something more sinister. I can smell smoke. The footsteps are coming towards me. A syringe rolls over to the other side of the road and splashing into a puddle with a fire’s reflection on.
I roll over and see my son – alive and well.
“Hey beautiful!” I’m so happy, I don’t care if I’m drenched in blood or if the church has been set on fire. I reach out for him. “Can you… help me up?”
“We’ve got to get out of here,” Romeo tells me.
“I’ll… get my backpack.” The cop’s been knocked out. I don’t know how the fire started. I don’t remember seeing any candles. Romeo closes his backpack and puts it back on his back as if nothing had ever happened. I crawl to my car and grab my keys out of the door. Romeo opens the back of the car. “I think I should drive.”
“I didn’t know you could drive.”
“There’s a lot of other things you don’t know about me.”
He helps me into the car and belts me up. “I know what those priests did to you. I’m sorry I’ve been such a terrible mother over the years. Romeo, can you forgive me?”
“Yeah, I forgive you.” Romeo gives me a big hug. He closes the door and hops into the drivers’ seat. Another slam and the sound of the engine roaring makes me feel happy. We’re finally getting out of this godforsaken place.
I don’t know or care where he’s taking me. With Romeo, my world is whole again.
FIRE BREAKS OUT IN LOCAL CHURCH
Police are searching for any information regarding a fire that broke out in a small church in Woodburn Village last night. The body of chief inspector Jack Hash along with seven decapitated corpses was discovered on the scene. Police are still trying to identify the bodies and are treating the case as murder. The tree that stood besides the church was untouched by the flames, reasons for this are unknown.