Dorian's Tree

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a short story called Dorian's Tree although it has a secondary title of "The Sorrow of Shiloh".

Inhabitants of the town of Shiloh gaze at the bizarre sight atop Warrior Hill-a charred tree trunk that they blame for their misfortune and their town's demise.

Thomas Saims, age 27 knows about this strange tree, a tree he has come to call Dorian's Tree-as he is to blame for the events that led to the destruction of the town of Shiloh.

This story is more drama than horror, but I think it has a little of both.

Enjoy...

Submitted: October 15, 2013

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Submitted: October 15, 2013

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DORIAN’S TREE

Or

THE SORROW OF SHILOH

 

Written: October 2013

 

 

They called it The Tree of Dorian (or Dorian’s Tree) and it had stood atop Warrior Hill even before the horrible events of that terrible night happened.  The tree had once been beautiful and had seen the birth of the town of Shiloh some 200 years earlier. 

 

But the tree was now nothing more than a rotted trunk of black charred bark.  At night the tree appeared like a grotesque dead body with the limbs spread open and reminiscent of a crucified man.  The people from the surrounding areas longed to cut the tree down-but they were too afraid to do so.  It all had to do with the story behind the tree and its horrific appearance.  The story itself begins like this...

 

[Shiloh, 1000 years earlier]

 

His name was Dorian Lee, and he was the only son of Bertram Lee, one of the wealthiest landowners of all of Shiloh.  The Lee’s owned a vast tract of land that bordered Warrior Hill and the edge of the town.  Lee owned cattle and horses and produced vast quantities of food that he sold to the people at reasonable prices.  Bertram also employed many workers for his ranch-and he was known as a good and just boss.

 

Yet Bertram Lee and his son had many who envied them.  One of these people was Thomas Saims-a 27 year old who was employed by Lee at the ranch.

 

Saims was young and had looks and was smart, but he used his talents in the wrong way.  He learned all that he had to learn at the ranch (where he had first started to work as a boy) and had worked his way up to one of the chief overseers at the Lee ranch.  He was one of Bertram Lee’s closest confidants and this made Saims aware of what he could gain from Lee. 

 

He and Lee’s son Dorian had practically grown up together at the ranch.  Saims knew that Dorian was special-it was something in the way he carried himself and it was also something that Saims saw one day when they were both 17. 

 

Wolves had broken into the Lee’s ranch and had attacked one of the Lee’s dogs-killing it.  Thomas had watched Dorian kneel beside the dog and touch it tenderly.  The wolves had still been around at that moment but had fled in fear when Dorian arrived. 

 

The dog had stirred when Dorian touched it and suddenly had stood up on shaky legs.  It had barked once and licked Dorian’s face and its tail had wagged happily.  Blood from where the wolves had bitten it still was smeared across its side.  But it was alive and well.

 

How could this have been when Saims was sure that the dog had been dead before Dorian had arrived? 

 

Dorian kept quiet most of the time and spent most of his days in the Lee House.  But things began to change when he got a little older-Dorian began to walk up to Warrior Hill and spend long hours just sitting there by the lone tree and thinking. 

 

Thomas Saims was too busy most of the time to worry about what Dorian Lee did up on Warrior Hill.  By the time he was 27 Saims was tired of just being a “chief overseer” at the Lee ranch.  He wanted more.

 

“That ranch should be mine,”-Thomas announced one day as he rode out to the cattle with his three friends Rick Lewis, Stan Wharton and Tucker Johnson.

 

“How do you figure?”-Tucker asked as he removed his hat to reveal his rust colored hair.  Thomas lit a cigarette as he motioned to the cattle and to the ranch.

 

“I practically run the ranch myself these days.  I have worked my butt off for this ranch and I have given my blood and sweat to make it what it is now.  Don’t you think I deserve to reap its rewards?  Besides, do you ever see Dorian helping old Pops run the place?”-Thomas motioned to Dorian who sat atop Warrior Hill not far from where the men were.

 

It was true-none of the men ever saw 25 year old Dorian Lee out in the fields helping his father.  Although physically capable, 6 foot 3 Dorian barely rode out with his father to oversee the ranch. The whole town of Shiloh barely had seen Dorian at all since he was a child.  He almost never went into Shiloh, but when he did start going, he caused quite a stir.

 

One cold evening Dorian Lee appeared in town and knocked at the house of old Rudolph Stenner.  The old man gazed out at Dorian in utter astonishment and confusion.  Dorian’s almond shaped brown eyes gazed at him and then moved to look at Frederick Stenner-Rudolph’s youngest son who lay sick in bed since four days ago of a fever.  Unable to return to work at the Lee Ranch, the Stenners had fallen on hard times.

 

Rudolph watched Dorian move towards his son and kneel beside him on the bed.  He removed his glove and touched Frederick’s forehead-it was burning.  The young man stirred and moaned in delirium. 

 

“The fever is killing him,”-Lee murmured.  Old Mr. Stenner grasped his hands in despair.

 

“We have tried getting Doc Webber to look at him-but he is out of town until the day after next!  My son is dying and we don’t have any money to take him anywhere else!”-he moaned.  Dorian turned to him and said softly-

 

“You don’t need any money, Mr. Stenner.  I can help your son.”

 

Rudolph Stenner looked at Dorian Lee in surprise.  “You can cure him?”

The next day all of Shiloh took notice when Frederick Stenner showed up for work at the Lee Ranch-completely cured of his aggressive fever.  Rumors started to spread about Lee.

 

There were other cases not long after the Stenner case.  Dorian Lee seemed to cure others in Shiloh-from broken bones to dog bites and fevers.  He cured Kenneth Dougherty’s daughter Sophie, and Paul Jarenson’s son Jonah-who had been bitten by a rabid dog after the 8-year old boy had wandered into a neighbor’s farm.

 

The inhabitants of Shiloh weren’t sure what to make of Dorian Lee’s gift.  Was his ability to cure truly a gift from God?  Thomas Saims smirked whenever he thought about it.

 

One evening Saims followed Dorian to his favorite spot up on Warrior Hill.  He saw Dorian standing next to the lone tree at the top of the cliff-the sole inhabitant of Warrior Hill.  Without turning, Lee said-

 

“I was expecting you Thomas.”

 

Saims’ eyes scanned the empty hill and his eyes fell on Dorian again.  “Were you really?”

 

“Yes...I saw you following me.  Actually, I have seen you looking at me from down below when you work at my father’s ranch,”-Dorian said as he and Saims sat down on the raised roots of an old sawed off trunk.  Thomas then asked with a sly smile-

 

“Is there anything you don’t know?”

 

Dorian’s brown eyes gazed into Thomas’ hazel ones as an unspoken moment passed between them.  Dorian then looked away and asked-

 

“Why don’t you ask me what you really mean, Thomas?”

 

Thomas’ hand touched Dorian’s knee gently as he waited for Dorian to stand up in shock.  But instead of shock, Dorian looked away without any reaction.

 

“I think you know Dorian, you know exactly what I want...”-Saims murmured watching him closely to see if he flinched or pulled away.

 

“I know that you think you know what you want Thomas, but in reality you are so confused by your own greed that it clouds your mind,”-Dorian said standing up.  He turned back to look at Thomas, his arms crossed over his chest.  “All you can see and feel are your own wants and desires-for money and power.  And all you think about next is how to satisfy these wants and desires.”

 

Thomas stood up and exclaimed-“Is that wrong, Dorian?  Life itself is about satisfying one’s own desires and wants...no matter what they are!  I have wants, of course-don’t you?”

 

Dorian looked away-“I don’t want to control every piece of land in Shiloh, if that’s what you’re asking.”

 

Thomas black hair blew in the cool wind.  “Why would you when dear old dad controls it for you?”-he smiled.  Dorian turned to face him as they stood side by side.

 

“So it is true then-wealth is your prime motivator in life,”-he sighed.  Thomas adjusted his sword which he wore in a finely encrusted sheath-a gift from Bertram Lee.

 

“I am human-I want money and all it can buy.  I want to be rich-like you,”-Thomas touched Dorian’s face with his gloved hand and felt Dorian turn away.

 

“I am not rich, Thomas-my father is,”-Dorian pointed out.  Thomas spun around clearly exasperated by Dorian.  He shook his head in disgust.

 

“Why are you so damn difficult, Dorian?  I tell you...we can build something here!  We can build something big-something amazing!  You have the tools but you are afraid of using them!”-Saims exclaimed.  Dorian looked down at his boots and answered-

 

“I am not afraid of using what I have.  I heal the sick-that is my talent, my purpose.”

 

Thomas laughed and turned to leave but stopped and looked at Dorian one last time.  “You surprise me, Dorian.  You have all this money, a huge house and estate as well as looks and you choose that!”-he pointed to the town of Shiloh below.

 

“They don’t care for you!  They think you’re weird-and now I think that you are too!  You are hopeless Dorian!”-Thomas added angrily as he left Warrior Hill.

 

 

___________________________________________________

 

Dorian Lee knew what Thomas Saims wanted, and he knew that he was cold-hearted and greedy.  Not long after this encounter, Thomas Saims tried to convince Bertram Lee that he (Saims) and not Lee (Dorian) should control the Lee ranch and estate after Bertram was gone.

 

“You know Dorian wasn’t made for running the family business!  Yes, he is talented and caring...”-Thomas sighed as he ran his hand up and down his fur cape and added-“but do you really see him running the ranch?”

 

Bertram Saims listened to his chief overseer without suspecting anything.  He had known Thomas since he was a boy.  “He is my son-my only son.  How can I deny him his inheritance?”

 

“You wouldn’t be denying him anything-at least not anything that he really needs,”-Thomas protested innocently.

 

“But you are telling me to exclude him from my will!”

Thomas hazel eyes looked away, upon realizing that getting what he wanted wouldn’t be as easy as he imagined.  “No, my lord,”-he said using Bertram Lee’s noble title.  “What I am trying to tell you is that Dorian would be better off in Shiloh itself-helping people, curing them!  You have seen his talent, no doubt?”-Thomas added.  He saw Bertram turn towards the town of Shiloh and begin to think.

 

“Your son is a healer-not a rancher!  He wouldn’t know the first thing about cattle, let alone handling delicate money matters!  Would you want your son to lose the ranch due to mismanagement?”-Thomas continued.  His goal was to try and convince his boss that if he were to leave the ranch to Dorian he would lose everything due to ignorance.

 

“I could run the ranch for you sir!  Well...I could run it for Dorian, of course.  We could live like brothers and I would run the ranch!  Dorian wants it like this, you know.  He trusts me-as you should, lord,”-Thomas added sounding humble and true.

 

Bertram Lee was nagged constantly by Saims for weeks until finally he agreed that he’d consider looking into the plan-and change his will.  But he had to talk with Dorian first.

 

“Why do that, sir?  Dorian has enough aggravation on his mind to add this more thing!  Hasn’t he been called into Shiloh to visit this man who has the fever?  Do you know how contagious that is, lord?”-Thomas asked beginning to get upset. 

 

Bertram looked away-worried for his only son.  Thomas was telling the truth here, but exaggerating to make his case. 

 

“Dorian doesn’t need to know this right now, sir!  Let me worry about it and I promise to run your ranch to the best of my abilities!”-Saims pleaded.  Bertram looked at Thomas with a strange expression of realization, and suddenly Thomas knew what he had to do.

 

When Dorian came home that night on horseback he saw a group of men waiting for him at the ranch’s entrance.  Among them were Thomas and his men, all who carried torches.  Saims eyes glittered under the flame’s light and he observed Dorian.

 

“What is it?  Why is everyone here?”-Dorian asked confused.  Thomas smiled briefly but quickly it disappeared.

 

“It’s your father...he is...dead.”

 

“What do you mean dead?  What happened?”-Dorian asked as he jumped off the horse.  Thomas placed a gloved hand on Dorian’s shoulder and said in a low voice-

 

“It’s horrible...he...”-he took a deep breath and said-“he fell off his horse...his neck broke...his ribs...I am sorry Dorian...it is horrible.”

 

Dorian looked at Thomas for a full second or two in silence-and at that moment Thomas felt as if Dorian could see right into his soul.  But then he turned away and went into the house.

Bertram Lee’s neck had been broken, but not by a fall from a horse.  Dorian knew that Thomas was lying.  He felt it like a cold breeze whenever he looked at Thomas. 

 

When the will was read, Lee felt the sensation that Thomas was hiding something grow stronger.  He escaped from the town hall as soon as he could and fled the curious eyes of Shiloh towards Warrior Hill, where he hoped he could find some solitude.  But minutes later he sensed he was being watched.

 

“I knew I’d find you here...by your tree-Dorian’s Tree they should call it,”-a voice said.

 

Dorian saw Thomas staring at him from a distance but he didn’t answer.

 

“Aren’t you happy old Pops left you his whole estate?”-Thomas asked as he leaned against the lone tree atop Warrior Hill.  Dorian again said nothing and Thomas lit a cigarette and sighed.

 

“Ah well, you don’t have to tell me...but I guess...”-Thomas’ voice drifted off and fell silent.  Recently he had set himself a new goal and now Dorian Lee and his ranch were becoming but a muddy blur.

 

_____________________________________________________

 

 

Thomas Saims had a new goal-and that goal was named Amelia Durham, who happened to be the daughter of Mayor Durham, one of the richest and most powerful men in all of Shiloh.  Thomas of course wasn’t after Amelia’s heart, but her money. 

 

“Marry her and I will be all set...”-Thomas murmured silently to himself when he saw her.  He had made this his top priority now that he had failed to obtain the Lee ranch.

 

“She doesn’t love you and you know it,”-Dorian stated later on as they sat atop Warrior Hill one evening.  Thomas laughed as if what Dorian had just said had been hilarious.

 

“Does it matter?  I don’t love her either!  I don’t even like her, Dorian-not even one bit!”-Thomas laughed and waved the comment away.  He stood up to go away and stretched.  He felt Dorian’s eyes on him and turned around.

 

“What is it now?”-he asked annoyed.  Dorian looked away but didn’t say anything. 

 

Did he know about Thomas’ secret?  Did he know he had killed his father?  All these questions Thomas suddenly thought as he observed Lee.  Thomas said as he left-

 

“I am leaving!  Good-bye Dorian, why don’t you go back to your great big house and enjoy all of your money?  While you are at it, why don’t you go down to town and heal all of those damn fools that look up to you as if you were a god!”

 

Dorian cried out angrily-“Stop saying that!”

 

Thomas said through clenched teeth-“It’s true though...”  He gazed at Dorian’s fine features and imagined himself running his hand through that lush dark hair. 

 

Once they had shared something-what had it been?  Had it been a hope or a dream?  Thomas couldn’t remember what it was now. 

 

Yet greed had been stronger than that fragile dream.

 

“You are the lucky one Dorian...you were born to have it all...”-Thomas whispered next to his ear.  Dorian didn’t turn to look at him as he said softly-

 

“How can I have it all when my father is dead...and I have lost all that mattered to me?”

 

He finally turned to Thomas and gazed intensely at his 6 foot 1 frame.  Thomas remained silent as they seemed to recall the same memories.  Thomas finally turned away.

 

“Good-bye Dorian...”-Thomas sighed and left.

 

_________________________________________________

 

Thomas Saims had planned it all-he would woo Amelia Durham as quickly and efficiently as he could force himself too, and then he would wed her in a quick ceremony-forget the festivities!  He would use his “influential” ways to make her give him full control of the wealth she would no doubt inherit from her father upon their wedding day.

 

But things were not to be, for not long after Thomas’ encounter with Dorian at Warrior Hill he realized something that enraged him. 

 

Amelia Durham refused his marriage proposal.

 

She stated that she barely knew him-aside from the rumors she had heard about him.

 

“You have quite a reputation here in Shiloh, you know,”-she said one evening after he finally convinced her to go on a walk with him in the outskirts of Shiloh.  She added-“I have heard things about you that frankly scare me.”

 

“Scare you?  Honey, I am completely harmless!”-Thomas protested as they sat down in a flowery field below Warrior Hill.  Amelia stared at him in her red dress and shook her head.  Yes, she thought Thomas Saims was handsome-who wouldn’t?  But she didn’t trust him-besides he gave her a strange sensation whenever he looked at her.

 

“Would you want to marry me if I wasn’t the mayor’s daughter?”-she asked suddenly.  Saims looked past her at the Lee house in the distance. 

 

“Of course I would want to marry you darling!”-he answered lying.

 

She turned towards the Lee ranch and said softly-“Maybe I should marry Dorian Lee.  He’s a bachelor, isn’t he?  He is good to his community-he heals people...I heard he healed 10 people alone this year!”

Thomas crossed his arms across his chest.  “You’d be crazy to want to marry him,”-he said coldly.

 

“Why would I be crazy?  Lee is a good man-are you?”-she asked annoyed.  Thomas stood up angrily and gave Amelia a look so icy that it made her flinch.  He grabbed her shoulders and yelled-

 

“I am a fine man-better than anybody in all Shiloh!”  He pointed at the Lee ranch and hissed-“And let me tell you something else girlie, Dorian would never marry you!”

 

Amelia shook herself free and cried-“How do you know, Thomas?”  She was about to say something else when she saw Thomas’ expression.  She put her hands to her face and said quite shocked-

 

“My goodness...”-she murmured.  “It is true then...the rumors are true.  And here you were trying to marry me?  Have you no shame Thomas?  No shame at all?”-she turned to leave and cried-“Wait until I tell father!”

 

These last words infuriated Thomas so much that he launched himself upon Amelia and dragged her to the ground.  She screamed horrified as he punched her and muffled her screams with his hand.

 

“I was wrong about you, Amelia Durham!”-Thomas hissed as he removed his sword from his hilt.  She covered herself in terror as Thomas raised the sword above her head.

 

Everything had fallen apart-everything!  His whole plan was ruined-again!  And now this rich piece of trash was about to ruin his life completely by talking to the most powerful man in all Shiloh!

 

Thomas’ fury pulsed through his veins-and he stabbed Amelia repeatedly without waiting to see if she had stopped breathing.  He finally stopped when he noticed that Dorian was watching him from Warrior Hill.

 

What followed next would become a nightmare of violence and death-and would leave a serious stain on all of Shiloh.  Thomas Saims, afraid that Dorian would speak out against him about what had happened with Amelia, gathered his friends together-just as he had done when Bertram Lee had been killed.  They took Amelia’s butchered body and flung her into Lee’s stables, then called upon the sheriff of Shiloh.

 

Lies were concocted and a posse created.  Thomas’ friends swore that they had seen Dorian Lee following Amelia that evening-and that they had seen him stab her.  Why no one pointed out that Amelia had gone out with Thomas that evening was bizarre, as to why the mayor’s daughter was walking alone that evening to be attacked and killed.

 

Thomas lied all the way to the mayor, telling him that he and his men had been attacked by Dorian and that he had taken Amelia forcefully from them.  The proof was there in Lee’s barn-with the murder weapon hidden under the hay.  Mayor Durham believed these lies-as did the whole town of Shiloh.  The town had quickly forgotten how Dorian Lee had once helped them and instead focused on how “strange” Dorian had always been.  Wouldn’t murder be easy for Dorian?  Amelia Durham had spurned him-refusing his advances and so he had killed her.  This was the only logical explanation for what had happened.

 

An angry mob broke into the Lee house –they broke windows and chased away frightened servants and grabbed Dorian and dragged him outside-chanting “Murderer!”  Dorian protested his innocence but his protests went ignored.  He was beaten and dragged towards Warrior Hill where he was tied to the lone tree that he had so many times stood under to observe the world below.  All the while Lee attempted to reveal the truth about the identity of Amelia’s killer, but Thomas had Lee gagged and beaten into semi-consciousness. 

 

When Dorian blinked himself back to awareness he saw torches approaching from down below.  He also saw Thomas and his men had made a hangman’s noose and had attached it to the tree’s top limbs; they wanted to hang him.

 

Dorian stared at Thomas in horror and shook violently to try and get himself free.  The gag fell out and he was able to shout-

 

“You liar!  You are the killer Thomas!”

 

Thomas stared at him and moved in quickly to place the noose around Dorian’s neck.  He slapped Dorian hard across the face and hissed-“No one is going to believe your lies!”

 

Dorian shook his head as the torches drew nearer and the sounds of the people’s chants grew louder.

 

“Murderer!”-they cried.

 

Thomas tightened the noose around Dorian’s neck and heard him ask in a hoarse voice-

 

“Why are you so cruel?  Why are you so cruel to me?”

 

Thomas gazed at Dorian in a sad way as he answered softly-“I am not being cruel, Dorian.  I am actually helping you.”  He leaned in and added-“Do you know what they want to do to you?  They want to burn you!”

 

Thomas motioned to the burning torches in the background and saw Dorian’s frightened eyes widen.

 

“See how much they love you?  See how much they appreciate you for curing them of their little diseases?”-Thomas asked as he turned back to look at Dorian.  Then he added for good measure-“See the thanks that you get for helping them?”

 

Dorian felt it then-he felt the hatred in the people’s faces and the desire for blood. 

“Burn him!”-someone yelled.

 

Thomas looked at Dorian and shook his head sadly.  “They hate you...they have always hated you.  But I don’t...actually I never did.”

 

Dorian knew that there was some truth in Thomas’ words.  The people of Shiloh did hate him-they believed that he had brutally slain the daughter of their mayor.  But Dorian hadn’t-Thomas had, and he had someone managed to convince the whole town of his innocence.  What did Thomas want?  Why was he doing this to him?  And why was he intent on torturing Dorian mentally with his words?

 

From somewhere in the crowd a shout rang out-“Stop this madness!  That man is innocent!”

 

It was Frederick Stenner, who had run up to Warrior Hill to try and stop the lynching of the man who had helped him before.  He and his father Rudolph tried to shove past the mob but they were violently held back.

 

“Dorian couldn’t have possibly murdered Amelia Durham!”-Frederick shouted as he was pulled back and shoved to the ground.

 

“Silence him!”-Thomas hissed to one of his men.  He turned back to Dorian who stared at Saims with a look of hate. 

 

“You are the murderer, Thomas.  It was always you,”-Thomas heard Dorian say through clenched teeth.  Thomas gazed at Dorian’s bruised face and for a moment imagined himself crying “Stop this madness!  Dorian is innocent of this crime!”  But the thought quickly escaped him as the torches closed in again.  He touched Dorian’s face and whispered-

 

“I am just helping you, Dorian...don’t ever forget that,”-he said and actually believed his own statement, then stepped away as the order was given to hang Lee.

 

After the hanging of Dorian Lee, the angry mob (led by Mayor Durham and Thomas) moved down Warrior Hill towards the Lee ranch and burned the house down completely.  The Lee cattle and horses were given to Thomas and his men as a sign of gratitude for their help in apprehending a murderer. 

 

The Tree of Dorian or Dorian’s Tree (as the lone tree atop Warrior Hill became known later) would become a symbol of the town of Shiloh.  The tree would remind them for years to come about their cruelty and the innocent blood they had shed.

 

___________________________________________

 

Thomas Saims became rich and influential through his association with Mayor Durham, who gave him the land that Bertram Lee had once owned.  Saims built a gallant new house above the Lee ruins and ran his ranch with the help of many men.  He was set to wed soon-to a wealthy gal from another town-and everything seemed perfect finally.

Thomas would finally get all he ever desired.

 

One evening as the sun was beginning to set over Shiloh, Thomas happened to look out his window that looked out over Warrior Hill and saw something that disturbed him. 

 

He saw a body hanging from Dorian’s Tree.

 

Thomas blinked then looked again and saw the hanging body was gone.

 

The next day began the troubles at the Saims ranch.  Workers began to suffer accidents all over the Saims property.  There were minor accidents such as when two workers fell off ladders and really severe ones as when four men were killed in a cattle stampede.  Something had spooked the cattle just as the men were delivering them into the Saims ranch.

 

To add to these accidents, workers at the ranch started to get sick-they complained of strange flu-like symptoms and fevers that took many out of work for weeks.  Cattle and horses also started to get sick-and within weeks almost all of Thomas’ herds were gone.

 

Thomas was beginning to think that someone had cursed him-and he believed this even more when the soil in his ranch began to change.  Once fertile black soil was turning sandy and salty-and this in turn began to kill the crops that still had a long way to go before they could be harvested.

 

“Are you telling me everything is dying?”-Thomas cried to his friend Tucker Johnson.

 

“Everything is wilting away!  The corn is infected with some weird fungus, the potatoes are rotted...sorry Thomas, but it seems that you’re going to lose everything within a matter of weeks!”-Tucker exclaimed showing Thomas a green potato.

 

As a baffled Thomas tried to understand what was happening to his crops and land, other problems began to present themselves, this time with the house itself.  The house he had built over the Lee house ruins had been constructed out of the finest, most durable woods, but not long after he had been informed about his dying crops, Thomas saw the cracks appear in the ceiling of his home.

 

Cracks were appearing all over the walls-some so big that they ran from the top of the ceiling to the bottom of the wall.  The side balconies cracked too and finally fell to the ground a few days later-barely missing Thomas by inches.  The front porch came next-caving in from side to side; when Thomas and his men went to inspect it they realized the wood in the porch had rotted away.  Their eyes then inspected the wood that made up the whole outside of the house-it was then they realized that it was all rotting as well.

 

“What is happening to this house?”-Thomas shouted upset to his friends as they inspected a deep depression that had appeared in the living room of the house. Rick Lewis and Stan Wharton looked at each other before answering-

 

“The wood is rotting from the inside out,”-Stan answered noting a crack in the banister that led to the upstairs. 

 

“Rotting-are you serious?  That wood is brand new and the best money can buy!”-Thomas complained.  Stan shrugged as they kneeled to inspect the floor.  Suddenly a loud groan was heard and the floor split open in two-sending Stan crashing down below.

 

Stan Wharton was badly injured and taken away as the others met outside the dying property of Thomas Saims.  They had to decide what to do next.

 

“This is bad-really bad-it’s as if someone cursed you,”-Tucker remarked shivering.  Thomas looked at him upset.

 

“What the hell are you talking about?”-he asked angrily.

 

“Haven’t you seen all that is happening to you?  Your house is rotting before your very eyes-soon it will fall in on itself!  The crops are practically all dead as are your cattle and horses.  You lost pretty much all your workers due to disease and accidents!  What more proof do you need, Saims?”-Tucker asked very pale.

 

Rick Lewis nodded in agreement and added-“Did you know that you aren’t the only one with bizarre bad luck?  Everyone down in Shiloh is down on their luck these days-bad waters, bad crops and diseases.  And you know what else, Thomas?  Everyone Dorian helped cure is suffering worse than others.  Well, everyone but the Stanners,”

 

This was true, as Thomas later found out.  All of those who had turned against Dorian and had had some part in his death were suffering from bad luck.  Rudolph and Frederick Stenner though, were not.  They were the only family in Shiloh not affected by bad crops or ill health.

 

Something made all three men turn towards Warrior Hill and the lone tree that stood atop it.  By now that lone tree had a nickname-Dorian’s Tree, for there he had died not too long ago.  It stood as a silent reminder of the horror that all of Shiloh had committed.  It was a silent observer now, as the three men felt they were being watched as they talked.

 

They decided to climb Warrior Hill and when they arrived at the top they were shocked at what they saw.  The tree-once so alive and green now was a shade of black-from the bottom of its trunk to the tips of its branches.  The tree had somehow lost all of its leaves-and the trunk itself looked as if it had been burned.

 

Thomas gazed at the black charred trunk and thought-“We didn’t burn him...I convinced them not to burn him...so why is the tree charred then?”

 

Tucker turned to Rick and said nervously-“I think it’s him...it’s Dorian Lee.”

 

Thomas shook his head-“That’s ridiculous!”  He touched a hand to the tree’s black trunk and pulled his hand back in shock.  The trunk felt hot-as if it was burning from the inside!  Tucker looked at Rick and reached down to touch the tree.  As soon as he touched its hot trunk he yelped-

 

“This is crazy!  The trunk is hot to the touch!  It feels as if it was burning-or alive!”

 

___________________________________________

 

The men fled down to the valley-and Thomas went back to his dying ranch.  He couldn’t decide what to do.  Was he really cursed?

 

He began to believe in a curse when things only continued to get worse.  He noticed physical changes that began to torment him-his once lush black hair began to thin and fall.  His face-once smooth and pale became blotchy and scratched.  He began to suffer strange itching around his neck and used a mirror to observe it.  He gasped when he saw a red ring around his neck reminiscent of rope burns from a hang-man’s noose.  He recalled that Dorian had a similar wound when his body was removed from the tree on Warrior Hill.

 

When his friends saw his neck wound and his appearance they panicked.  They begged Thomas to go into Shiloh and tell the sheriff the truth. 

 

“You have to tell the truth, Thomas!  This curse is madness!  Do you know that now my house is sagging and cracking at every corner?”-Tucker wailed.  Rick nodded.

 

“I’ve lost all my poultry since Dorian was killed.  Now my crops are starting to rot too.  You tell us then how this isn’t a curse!”-Rick cried.

 

Thomas stared at an axe lying next to the barn and didn’t answer.

 

“Just look at the place, Tom!  Look at the death and listen to the silence!  Look at all of Shiloh and look at the people!  We have to tell the sheriff what happened before it’s too late!”-Tucker hissed.  Thomas suddenly shoved Tucker into Rick and grabbed the axe.  He stormed off towards Warrior Hill while a bewildered Tucker and Rick looked on.

 

As he climbed the hill he turned back and saw Rick and Tucker running off towards Shiloh-no doubt to spill their guts to the sheriff.  Thomas grimaced and turned back-he had work to do.

 

He saw the blackened tree, now only a charred husk of a tree with only two lone limbs that spread out like two arms-all the other limbs and branches had fallen off.  Thomas stared at the tree-was this charred grotesque tree the source of his bad luck?  He had lost everything he had gained after Dorian’s death-everything.

 

“Maybe you are responsible for everything...”-he murmured as he felt the axe’s cool smoothness under his fingers.  Grunting, Thomas raised the axe and sliced into the tree’s trunk full force.  He jumped back when he saw blood starting to pour out of the slice-as if from a fresh wound.

 

Thomas then saw someone appear from within the tree-an event so shocking to Thomas that he fell backwards and passed out.  As he came to minutes later he knew exactly who he had seen-Dorian Lee-the man Thomas had betrayed

 

Dorian kneeled next to Thomas-his face was the paleness of death and his neck still showed the red rope burns of the gallows.  His once warm brown eyes now seemed dead and cold as they stared down at Thomas as sounds were heard coming from down in Shiloh.

 

It was an angry mob heading their way-shouting “Murderer!” and carrying torches.

 

Dorian turned to look at the mob then turned back to Thomas and said softly-“They are coming for you, Thomas.”

 

Thomas dragged himself up, his frightened eyes wide as he saw the mob approaching ever closer.  He looked around for a way out but saw he was trapped up in Warrior Hill with no escape.  His back touched the gnarled tree trunk behind him and he turned when he saw something swinging beside him.

 

It was a hangman’s noose tied to the tree’s limb. 

 

Dorian’s eyes were also on the noose.  “They are coming for you, Thomas-they blame you for their bad luck.  They know what you did...and they want you...”-Dorian stated.

 

Thomas started to hyperventilate as the torches drew closer-then he heard Dorian’s voice state-“They want to burn you, Thomas.  They want to burn you for what you did.”

 

Dorian sighed as he observed the mob reaching the top of the hill. 

They hate you...but I don’t, actually I never did,”-Dorian whispered as he gazed down at a shivering Thomas. Both men stared at each other; Thomas’ eyes glimmered as he realized what was happening-life was repeating itself.  He shook his head and attempted to say something but couldn’t.  Dorian helped him up and said gently-

 

Don’t be afraid Thomas...I am only trying to help you, don’t ever forget that

 

When the mob arrived and finally made it to Dorian’s Tree they found Thomas Saims hanging from the tree-dead.  The mob, not satisfied with the death, ran down into the valley to the Saims ranch and burned what was left of the house and land. 

 

_______________________________________________________-

 

 

 

After these events, no more crops could be grown in all of Shiloh as they all died away.  No houses could be built in Shiloh either, as they always splintered and rotted and caved in on themselves.  People eventually abandoned Shiloh-calling it a cursed town.  No one dared to move in either-and thus the town and the surrounding area remained abandoned for centuries afterwards. 

 

Not long after Thomas Saims’ death, people in Shiloh stared at the bizarre sight atop Warrior Hill.  They didn’t know what to make of it.

 

They saw two burned out tree trunks atop Warrior Hill where once there was one.  The blackened trees had their limbs spread outwards as if reaching for each other and seemed to be gazing down at the town of Shiloh in silence.

 

Not long before the last inhabitants of Shiloh left, Frederick and Rudolph Stenner gazed silently at the bizarre sight atop Warrior Hill.

 

“Isn’t it strange how a tree can just appear overnight?”-his father asked.  His son nodded.

 

“Pop, this whole town is filled with bizarre occurrences.  This tree is just one of them,”-Frederick stated as they climbed their wagon once more.

 

Two dead trees alive in Warrior Hill where once there was only one.Right after this bizarre occurrence, the Shiloh inhabitants gave the new tree a name-and it was appropriate too.

 

They called it Saims Tree-and it has stood side by side with Dorian’s Tree ever since that awful night when Shiloh died. 

 

People avoid visiting the area at night-even now. 

 

People still feel something isn’t right with those charred trees-for when they touch them they burn the skin to the touch.

 

The trees on Warrior Hill are haunted, many say.


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