Author's note: This is an entry for Whitix's Summer 2016 Creative Writing Contest

19th February 2009


I thought I would let you know that I’ve been at Mum’s the past few weeks sorting through everything. I want to apologize for not saying anything at the funeral. David shouldn’t have said what he did, but you've got to understand that he's the youngest and it's been very hard on him. You always were the favourite, and the rest of us couldn't help but be a bit jealous.

But it still wasn't fair for me to just stand back and let him speak to you like that; and I want you to know that I'd like to try and fix things between us. So I thought I’d pass this onto you, as just a little peace offering. It’s your birth certificate. You'll have to forgive that it's come in an envelope with some other stuff, but it's all dated the year you were born so it might be relevant. It's just I didn't have time to go through it all, and I thought you'd at least appreciate having your birth certificate somewhere safe and sound where you can find it easily.

Let me know how things are going out there in Asia, and if there's anything else you'd like me to post over to you, okay?

With love from your sister,

Sarah Nettleworth


16th November 1959

Dear Angela and Liam Nettleworth,

I would like to thank you for your gratuitous donation to the institution. However, I must emphasise that the service I, and the other Archivers, have offered to you is unrelated to my ‘day job’ as the museum’s curator. I trust that you realize the actual payment owed to me and my associates at the Archives is still due, and that you have not mistakenly made a donation to the wrong institute.

Nonetheless, as a sign of good faith I would like to direct you to a safe at the bottom of the Crossroads Manor found in the Hebrides of Scotland. The Manor has long since burned to the ground, but if you are persistent you will find that a basement still stands, and that somewhere within that basement is a safe. Once the Archives have written to me to confirm receipt of your true payment, I will deliver to you the key to the safe. Within that safe are the full three volumes detailing the true name of The Shimmering Tree. Vocalization of this name will summon the tree. Exact pronunciation is not important, but it is not recommended that you test the limits of common sense. A simple phonetic oration will be satisfactory.

I cannot stress to you enough that you will need a third person whose absence from society will not be noticed, otherwise one of you will act as the initial host for the tree. You need only look at the desired host during the final page or two of the readings to designate them as the desired vessel, but nonetheless you should be careful not to accidentally designate somebody else. Below, you will find a detailed description of the tree compiled from notes found in the Archive, although some details have been drawn from my own experiences as an Archival observer.

The tree is made of bone, muscle and nervous tissue, and will spring up out of the flesh out of whoever has been marked as a host. Its incubation is barely a second in length. The designated individual will stop what they are doing, and occasionally emit a small sigh, or groan, suggesting confusion or even just indifference. To the observer it will then feel like an explosion when the tree emerges from the body, as it is almost always noisy, and violently fast. Although it is important to note that what this observer witnessed was not necessarily destructive or staggered, but was instead the smooth and fluid transformation of flesh compressed into a remarkably short period of time. It is not uncommon to vomit during this initial stage of growth. Where, anatomically, the tree will emerge from, and the exact nature of its composition, will vary significantly from person to person. The archives note a preference for the torso, but this observer has seen it spring up from an array of other locations.

The tree will then take several minutes to grow to full size after the initial growth, and often resembles a fleshy coral. The colours observed can change, but they typically feature metallic purples, blood reds, and putrid greens. This slowed period of growth is the second stage. During this phase the tree will also assimilate the flesh and tissues of any nearby mammalian species, and if in desperate need, it will also consider the assimilation of lower order animals such as flies and spiders. During this second phase of rapid growth it will typically expand to around sixteen feet in height, although its exact size can vary considerably. Importantly, the tree has been known to exhibit restraint in certain situations where the necessary construction materials are limited, as it will avoid the complete annihilation of the host if possible. In one case where an infant was the host, the tree grew to only three foot in height.

The host, meanwhile, will undergo distinct and separate transformations. They will typically fall to the floor, given the force of what is occurring, and lay flat while their nervous material is ejected from their skin as an outward growth. In particular, tendrils will extend farthest from areas of greater sensitivity with the greatest lengths emerging from the fingers, toes, facial features, and genitals. This nervous material will branch out in a fractal pattern, much like the roots of a tree, and make contact with as much of the external environment as possible. During this period the host will usually vocalize tremendous distress for as long as it is physically possible. The archives note that it is typical for the tongue to swell up and become part of the extending nervous tissue, which will block the passage ways and prevent further vocalizations. Interestingly the tree will manipulate the host’s structural composition, creating new airways, in order to avoid asphyxiation.

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that one should not come into contact with these nervous tendrils as they are responsible for the tree’s assimilation of extraneous matter, and are surprisingly agile and aggressive. It will usually be necessary to vacate the area and return later once the second stage of growth has stopped. After this, between the second and third stages of growth, is a period of inactivity during which the tree will be amenable to conversation.

The tree utilizes a series of pipes and organs appropriated from the host to pass air over its frills, and tendril covered branches. These small cilia like projections are able to vibrate at a range of frequencies, and will produce a remarkable visual and aural effect of sound and light, which corresponds to the tree’s speech. It is wise to ensure that the tree has emerged from a host who speaks a common language with yourself. If you do not do this then the tree will essentially be unable to converse in your own tongue, and there will be a language barrier. It is not wise to waste the tree’s time. You should submit a request quickly, but if you cannot - due to aforementioned linguistic problems - you should leave and return quickly with another host who can speak the same language as yourself. It will not take long for the tree to appropriate the correct linguistic skills from your second offering. You can then initiate your right to a request.

Regarding requests: The tree is able to grant limited requests regarding reincarnation, recollection from past lives, precognition, and the location of lost objects. The location of such objects can be presented in any format, including annotations on a map (bring a pen if this is your intention). The tree also possesses other skills but a request must specify exactly what it requires. It is not possible to ‘browse’ the tree like a catalogue, and so without a comprehensive list of what else the tree can achieve, which, sadly, the archive does not possess, it is suggested that one should adhere to those I have suggested here. Otherwise you might risk becoming another offering.

Once the request has been satisfied the third stage of growth will initiate. The tree will proceed to manipulate the host further and prompt the growth of several large veiny, membranous sacks proportionate to its size (typically eight foot across once inflated). These sacks will inflate with a gaseous matter distinct from normal air, which when heated by the tree, using means unknown, will provide it with a means of escape via flight. The tree will usually demonstrate a terrifying capacity to reorganize inorganic matter during this stage, as it will quickly and fluently dismantle any and all obstructions using its branches and roots during the ascent.

Exactly where the Shimmering Tree comes from, and where it goes, remains a complete and utter mystery. It does not require a physical precursor, and as far as this observer can tell it seems to occur as a result of spontaneous matter reorganization. How it achieves this is beyond comprehension, but it has been suggested by older members of the Archives that the tree is the result of an unknown entity’s will being imposed upon reality; twisting biological material into a desirable form, from unknown and unseen dimensions.

This is important to consider as the tree does not actually require summoning to enter our existence, and has been known to emerge spontaneously from those who have abused the rights to a request. As part of our earlier correspondence I have made it clear to you that you might wish to gather large quantities of ammonia and copper for use as a deterrent should the tree seek to use you as a construction material, but if the tree’s intention goes beyond the mere opportunistic seeking of flesh, it will be worth considering self-termination. The repellent will only eliminate the current instance of the tree, and can only delay the inevitable. The Shimmering Tree is not deterred by distance, or time, and if you invoke its wrath either during, or after the summoning (through abuse of the gifts provided), you will never truly be able to escape your fate as long as you are alive.

Exactly what qualifies as an abuse varies. Historical examples of unsolicited growths found in the archives list a Scottish Presbyterian preacher from 1639 who used his gifts to oppose King James VI’s reformation of the Bible, a traveller from the 1940’s who tried to convince a child that Santa Clause was real, and a stock broker in 1949 who wrote a book about economic theory that heaped endless praise upon unregulated markets and capitalism. The current theory is that one should avoid attributing the nature of your successes and gifts to any single thing other than the tree itself, whether it is a fictional person or an ideology. It is well known amongst those who have performed a successful summoning of the tree that one should instead attribute any new found success, or talents, to “hard work, perseverance, and faith in a higher spiritual power”. The ambiguity of this phrase has, so far, never been known to invoke the tree’s ire.

Finally, I would like to highlight to you that the tree itself, despite the myriad of rules that surround it, is surprisingly amiable and quite conversational. It seems to enjoy the acquisition of knowledge, although it most certainly possesses eclectic, and unpredictable, tastes. Archives indicate that the tree once engaged in a several hour long conversation with a young man regarding the taxonomical classification of sea cucumbers. Do be careful, and don’t allow yourself to become enamoured as the tree will not hesitate to assimilate individuals who stray too close, or who have appeared to let their guard down.

Ultimately, I wish you luck in your quest, and I sincerely hope that you have the good sense to keep this letter with you, and to strictly adhere its advice. Whatever it is you request from the tree, I sincerely hope it brings you the happiness you seek.

Yours faithfully,

Albert Tyllingham

P.S – I have just become aware of the letter that you wrote to me not long ago describing your intentions and potential request. I have decided to amend this note to my letter before sending it in the hopes that it may have some impact.

Alas, I simply cannot say whether what you have asked is within the tree’s powers to grant, but considering its capacity to manipulate flesh I imagine that it is. However, the risk of such a request is positively enormous. I am aware of the sheer pain and tragedy you have experienced as a couple, and I must send you my condolences. But I would be derelict in my duties to you, my clients, if I did not highlight the potential for disaster in asking the tree to reverse your miscarriage. I beg you to reconsider.

Written by ChristianWallis
Content is available under CC BY-SA

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