The air was wet that evening and the cold wind that had been blowing for weeks, had turned sharp, like ice that night.
When they found her at dawn, her face was frozen to the side of the tree this time, her eyes glaring widely to the horizon. She was dead.
The stars shone in the sky, blinking with each gust of wind. The trees swayed. She had found a fascination in the night sky since childhood and it was always figured that this is why she went walking each evening all alone. She was warned not to go without company, she was warned not to go into the marshes, past that crooked tree. Few of us knew that she liked the darkest spot for the brightest stars.
3am, Lydia awoke, stirred in her dreams to follow the light flickering in the garden outside her window. The manor was a dark place with wide hallways and damp soaking through the walls in all of the disused rooms on her floor. The stench of the rotted wood kept to the west wing but it headed east inches each day. Ethel, the housekeeper, was too old to replace, and even if she did go, there would be no one who wanted to replace her, locked up with Lydia each day and night.
You see, Lydia had been “an odd child” since her childhood. The people in the surrounding towns had heard about the terrible incident that resulted in her little brother Adam’s, death. She ran home from the woods that afternoon and it was only when they all saw Adam’s small hanging limbs slung over the horse that same night, they turned their heads in fear of the little dark haired sister who didn’t speak a word.
Her father brought back his body from the woods. The townspeople lined up burning lanterns for his soul.
Lydia stared from her bedroom window, vaguely upset, but honestly feeling very little at all at the picture of Adam and her father. The house noticed. Whilst her mother and father despaired in the months after Adam’s death, losing nights and days to tears and suffering, Lydia heard echoes in the house and chased them all day down hallways and into rooms. The banging of her heavy run was heard all over in the house, except in the night.
At night Lydia was silent, her body lifting from the creaky floors, hovering above and pushed forward through the air as to not make a sound.
Her parents would awake to find her in the mornings sprawled out on the reception floor and even at times curled up on the west stairs. She was never rousable until later in the mornings, where she would get up and play. This pattern continued into her youth. Her parents were too distressed to notice.
It was a dreary November night when Lydia heard a whispering and followed a flickering light into her garden. Barefooted she walked to the marshes. A gust of wind lifted her and drove her body acceptingly over the wet marsh, her toes dragging along the mud, her toenails filling with blood. Lydia could not make a sound, it was forbidden by the whispers, and after all those years, the whispers were her friends.
The whispers showed her the stars, showed her the earth, and most importantly, they taught her how to feed it, her darkness. A consuming darkness that fed off the earth and starlight. A darkness that trusted the whispers and needed them to stay alive.
The whispers led her to the same place each night- the crooked tree and every morning she would wake up by that old crooked tree, making it home before the others would wake.
Adam was there, and a handful of other children that climbed out from its trunk each night, playing and spinning and running off to lure animals to the predator.
By dawn the branches of the tree would snap and break form, reaching out like a mother’s arm in every direction, pulling back her children from the woods. They screamed and Lydia watched them, their hands dragging through the wet grass, not being able to hold on, just as Adam couldn’t those years ago when the whispers asked her to bring him to them.
There was only one thing on Lydia’s mind at night, her hunger and her darkness. The tree would never move in day time, only when Lydia was there. Only when the whispers told her to go.
For some years Lydia felt the tree become a part of her. The whispers became the sound of her own voice. It was on a cold icy night that she finally let her body sink into the bark, and was encapsulated by the darkness completely, renouncing the last of her light.