300 Word Writing Challenge -- #51 (October 2023) -- VICTORY TO THE JUDGE!

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Yozh

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USA
Historic Farmstay at Yggdrasil

Spend your next holiday at the oldest farmstead in Norway—the cradle of Norse culture! Observe wildlife you won’t see anywhere else on earth right outside your window Enjoy fresh milk from our hornless cow with your hot breakfast. Wonder at the oldest tree in all of Scandinavia right in the center of it all!
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Visitor Reviews:

4 STARS-- Learned of this place from Norwegian Tourism Board. Real “Old Norse” charm. It lived up to the listing. Idyllic setting for watching wildlife. Fresh milk from cow on-site. Saw four stags by the big tree, plus an eagle and some kind of large lizard. We even saw a rainbow! Would have given five stars, but a noisy squirrel keep me up all night.

3 STARS-- OK, it does deliver everything that’s in the brochure, but felt like they weren’t prepared for guests. If you’re going to run a family farmstay, then you need to put up a warning sign about the dragon. Wife got quite a scare when I tried to take her picture by the big tree! Also, the website said there would be a horse, but when we asked the owner just showed us a tree. He might not speak English.

2 STARS—Hubby and I brought the grandkids so they could try milking a cow, but there was a big creepy guy following the cow around drinking from the udder.

1 STARS-- Do NOT bring your kids here! My three-year-old found an actual eyeball lying around by the big tree, then some snake tried to bite her.

0 STARS-- HUMAN HEAD IN THE SALTLICK.
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Notice: Yggdrasil Farm is currently closed to visitors due to unexplained tremors. Please check back.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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blah - flags. So many flags.
THE GIFT

“There. At the rock.”

“You’re sure?” the inspector asks. “You’re not saying that because you looked at her picture?”

I don’t deny seeing Tamara’s missing picture: everyone has. It’s been circulating the town for days but, wherever she is, no one knows.

“It’s where she hung out when she was alone.”

Since there’s no cinema, or coffee shop that will serve teenagers after 6, there’s nowhere other than the rock or the scrawny woodland near the water’s edge, home to many rats. I kind of like them, but they creep Tamara out.

We reach the rock. Shaded by a tree, it’s striped bare, a ribcage stencilled onto the stone, bare as my heart with Tamara missing. I sit on it, but nothing happens.

I squint at the inspector. “Quit staring. You’re putting me off.”

He moves out of sight. I hold Tamara’s t-shirt tight. Her mum thinks I’m a kook but she was desperate enough to let me borrow it.

I’m in darkness, surrounded by a mouldy smell. Water slaps in the distance. I’m sure there are rats. I know there are spiders, near big enough to be rats.

“Sonny, do you have anything?”

I hold my hand up, silencing the inspector. In the distance, someone mentions Sonny, but I’m too tired to do anything about that.

“She’s close.” I get up and walk towards the water, tapping my foot until I find a soft patch. I fall to my knees, and there’s an old wooden panel, rotten through. I pull moss back from it, revealing the snug-trap and, in there, a sneaker, one that I know.

“Tamara?” I say.

She groans; that means she’s alive. My hand tightens on her t-shirt. She’s alive. For the first time, it feels like my talent really is a gift.
 

Christine Wheelwright

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Oh Canada!
The Forest

I was terrified when the trees first appeared to me in human form. Not only was it unexpected, but their manifestation was far from perfect; skin the hue of bark, knots for eyes, limbs angular and disjointed, remaining more like branches than flesh and bone. I ran back to my planetary research pod and cowered there while the creatures lurked outside whispering that they meant no harm, their voices soft like a breeze through leaves.

Eventually, of course, I pulled myself together. ‘I am a scientist not a child’ I told myself, and here was an opportunity to study a sentient alien species the like of which had never been seen before. I went outside and communed with them, learning all I could while they, in turn, expressed great curiosity about my world and others within the known Galaxy. As time went by, they mastered the human form and texture to perfection, along with voices, mannerisms and social behaviors. I could almost forget their true nature but every morning at daybreak they would revert to wood, only animating again at dusk, twenty hours later. Once, I joined them - by what strange mechanism I know not - standing as a tree through the day.

When loggers arrived they thought I had gone mad (well, six months alone in a research pod can do that to you). There were so many, I was unable to stop them and by evening a thousand trees were gone.

That night I asked, “Why didn’t you appear to them in human form? They mean to make furniture of you and send you to the far corners of the Galaxy!”

“All those worlds, imagine that!” they sighed, and at last I understood.

The next morning the loggers found an extra tree, although they wouldn’t have known it.
 

Starbeast

Benevolent Galaxy Being
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Earth Orbit
MALUS
The Tree That Came From the Backyard

(click) …now back to, Creature Cops.

“License and registration, please. What’s your name?”

“Trent.”

“What manner of plant are you?”

“Ent.”

“Where are you from?”

“Kent.”

“What’s that money on your front seat?”

“Rent.”

“Malus. Turn off the TV. We need to talk to you.”

(click) “What’s cooking, good looking?”

“You came in for a glass of water, then promised to leave after you’ve rested. That was five years ago. Within that time you’ve broken furniture, racked up phone bills and you’ve done nothing but lay on the couch eating peanut butter with honey sandwiches while watching television. The wife and I had a discussion about this. We’re asking you to vacate the premises.”

“Mr Larch. Forgive me. I’ve overstayed my welcome. You both have been so nice to me.”


Mrs Larch burst into the room, screaming. “Aieeeeee! A spaceship from another planet landed in our backyard. Four silver color suited monsters, with fire blazing skulls, and long arms came out. They ate the neighbor’s giraffe, then trampled my flower garden.”

Mr Larch gasped, “Not the flower garden?!”

“Yeah. No fresh tomatoes for our salads.”

“Despicable flaming skull aliens. Wholly guacamole! Those creatures are lumbering toward our house.”

“I’ll handle this.” Malus dashed outside and turned a water hose on them which extinguished their burning heads. The monstrous astronauts threw up their arms, then fled away like whimpering gibbons. The tree returned to the Larches. “They took off in their ship. I guess I’d better go too. Farewell my friends. I’ll replant myself in the backyard.”

“Malus, wait. We’ve reconsidered. You can stay.”

“Really?”

“Really. Our home is yours too. You can watch all the TV you want.”

“Yippee!” He hugged the Larches, then turned on the radio. “Cool. Thunder Kiss 65, by White Zombie. Let’s dance!”
 

M. Robert Gibson

is encumbered by a cumbersome cucumber
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The Bois De Mort

"Ah here we are," I announced triumphantly. "The Bois De Mort. The guidebook recommends a visit."

"What? The Dead Wood?" frowned Jasmine. "Doesn't sound very inviting."

"Apparently it's famed for the carvings on the trees," I continued reading. "The guidebook also warns about staying on the path and not touching the trees."

"OK, then. We'll have a look."

We entered the wood and ambled along a winding path, studying the trees.

"Look," I said, pointing, "there's a bee on that twig. And a butterfly. What craftsmanship."

"Look at that," Jasmine pointed at another tree, "it looks like a real squirrel on that branch. Very realistic."

We continued deeper into the trees, marvelling at the hundreds of carvings of insects, birds and mammals.

Suddenly Jasmine stopped. "That's strange. Listen."

"What? I can't hear anything."

"Exactly. No birds. No insects."

"Probably frightened by our enthusiasm," I grinned.

We reached the middle of the wood and its magnificent centrepiece. An ancient, gnarly oak.

"Ugh! That's creepy," frowned Jasmine. "Those look so real."

The whole tree was virtually covered with bas-relief human faces, from babies to pensioners.

"It's fantastic. I've got to get a photo of this," I said. "Go on, you stand next to it. Maybe lean on it."

"What about the warning of not touching the trees?"

"Oh, they probably don't want tourists taking home any 'souvenirs'."

I turned to walk back up the path in order to get more of the tree in frame, but a loud cracking, like a branch snapping, stopped me in my tracks. I whirled around and Jasmine had disappeared.

I ran back to the oak, shouting her name. Thinking she might be hiding, I ran around the tree, and saw, to my horror, the carved face of my beloved staring back at me.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
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Waiting Under the Tree
The sign appeared overnight.​
WAIT UNDER THE TREE
MY DARLING
Vandals smashed it. Next day it was back.​
The authorities removed it. Next day it was back.​
No one was ever seen putting it up. Cops patrolled, but saw no one. But every time it was taken down, next day it was there again. Every time it was defaced, or splattered with muck, or painted over, next day it was pristine.​
Everyone talked about it, wondering what it meant, where it was from, who was behind it, what tree?​
Ruth knew. The message was for her. From her mother, whoever she was. Or her father. Whoever he was.​
They would come for her. Whether they were exiled aristocrats as some claimed, or revolutionaries as others insisted, or aliens, or fairy folk, or simply people who’d given up, so they’d left her where someone might take pity on a mute child with nothing but a name pinned to her coat.​
They would come for her, claim her. Then she would belong.​
Because she didn’t belong. She was different from the townsfolk. She couldn’t cope with their noise, their busyness, their strangeness.​
So every day after school, every weekend, she went to the great oak at the edge of town, sat and waited.​
While she waited, she watched the town and its people. She watched the tree and the creatures which called it home. She watched the land and its life.​
And she wrote. Stories of the town, of the tree, of the land. Stories which made the townsfolk laugh and cry and think.​
The years passed. The stories continued. The stories sold. She bought a home. She found a lover. She had children. She belonged.​
The sign vanished.​
And in another town, where another lonely child despaired, a sign appeared overnight.​
 

paranoid marvin

Run VT Erroll!
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The Custodian


We first met as I ambled through woodland near my home. She appeared to be talking to a tall, elegant, elm. "Are you a tree hugger?" I enquired jokingly.

She considered a moment. "Hugger? No. That would risk damaging their bark. I'm a...  custodian." Then frowning, "Who are  you anyway?"

I gestured in the direction of my house, "I'm new to the area. I find these secluded places kinda relaxing."

That softened her demeanour, and we soon became friends... perhaps more than friends. Daily I visited the woodland, usually finding her relaxing beneath a tree bough.

We'd sit and chat, sharing the food and drink I'd brought. She asked many questions about me, only reciprocating with vague answers when asked about herself.

And we were getting along swimmingly, until that day.

I arrived earlier than usual, and couldn't find her anywhere. Slouching against an old oak, I pulled a penknife from my pocket and foolishly carved our initials inside a love-heart on its trunk.

Almost instantly she appeared, tears in her eyes. "What have you done!?"

"It's nothing," I blurted, "only a scratch."

"Nothing? You've wounded him. Look, he's bleeding," she raged, indicating the leaking sap. "I thought you were different from the others."

"He? It's a tree," I replied. "And what others?"

"You'll see," she said, now smiling unnervingly.

At once my feet became rooted to the ground; literally rooted. Green tendrils covered my feet, slithering up my legs, my torso, piercing the skin. Slowly, painfully,  inexorably coating me in a wet, gooey mixture of moss and bark. Until what was tree and what was me became indistinguishable.

"Don't worry dear," she whispered, "I forgive you." Then noticing crimson buds hanging from my branches, "Oh, you're a cherry tree; I've not had one of those before."
 
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Ursa major

Bearly Believable
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Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
Do you ever wonder what inspires your dreams? Or why those dreams that are similar follow the same underlying pattern as their predecessors?
The latter may suggest your mind is looking for some solution to a problem, or a way of dealing with an issue, that’s been bothering you. My experience is that the more persistent those dream sequences are, the less likely their real-life stimuli can be resolved.
But what is my experience? After all, anecdote’s plural isn’t ‘data’.
I read minds. I don’t know how, particularly as there’s no single site in a person’s brain that brings what I read together coherently. But I can.
There are three drawbacks.
I must be close by.
I can’t do it while the subject is awake. When they are, there’s too much going on, even if they’re unaware of all but a small portion of it.
I must limit my time with the subject, if only to escape detection, so I often have to read a brain that’s dreaming. If they are dreaming, most of what I’m receiving (that’s in any way coherent) are dreams.
“So what?” you might ask. “You can do things that others can’t.”
True. But I’ve found dreams unsettling. Not because of their content, though some dreams can be quite horrific… though they don’t bother me.
The most horrifying to me couldn’t be more peaceful: a women standing, perfectly relaxed, under a tree within a circular bed of packed-down soil.
You had this dream last night. Others have had it. The first time I saw it, there was no woman. She has gradually become more substantial across the hundreds of people whose minds I’ve read.
Last night, she said, to me, “I’m here.”
Will you introduce me to her?
 
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The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
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NOT VOTED YET?


YOU'VE MISSED THE WEEKEND


BUT THERE'S STILL TIME
TO VOTE!

MAKE TIME TO RELAX
AND READ
SOME EXCELLENT STORIES

THEN GO VOTE!


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which must all be cast at the same time


 
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