Genre: Sapphire and Steel
Word Count: 683
Happy Halloween, my friend!
The night was dark, except when the moon broke free from its cloud cover. For their part, the clouds were doing the best they could to hide everything from view. It didn’t help that the wind whipped both sky and earth with a cold, biting sting.
Steel resisted the temptation to shiver and merely adjusted his internal temperature. The truth was he did better with cold than heat, but for some reason, this place dug at him.
“Sapphire, where are we?” He tripped over a dried grass, but his partner took no notice.
She was too busy trying to stay upright herself in her heels. Something caught her toe and suddenly she pitched forward. Only Steel’s quick reflexes save her.
“Thank you, Steel.” She shook her head and her shoes morphed into flat boots.
“You are welcome, but you haven’t answered me.” He had to raise his voice over the booming surf. “Why are we here?”
“That.” She pointed to a tree. It stood alone and bare of leaves, which, for the time of the year was hardly surprising. Even Steel could sense that a change of the seasons were soon upon them.
“I don’t understand. A tree?”
“Not just any tree, Steel. It’s called the Death Tree.”
“The Death Tree?” Steel’s voice betray his sense of disbelief. “They dragged us out here for legend.”
“Not them, me. I had to see it.” Sapphire walked a few feet from him and stared out. Beyond them, in the night, the sea surged and fought with itself in a constant battle of tide and time. “In 1900, along this part of the Texas coast, there was a terrible hurricane here. Weather forecasting was more of a guessing game, then, but they detected it first seat of the Windward Island on August 27. No one thought much about it, but it roared ashore a few days later, leaving between 6,000 and 12,000 people dead, most of them killed here, due to a storm surge of between eight to twelve feet above average and left over 10,000 people of Galveston, nearly a third of the families here, homeless. It was cited as the worst natural disaster to ever hit the part of the country.”
“And?” Steel shifted restlessly. He was a man of action and this standing around chaffed him.
“It wiped out this entire coast, except for this tree.” Sapphire walked to the tree and reached out to touch its rough bark. “Ten years later the bodies of three men were found hanging from its branches. No one knew who they were or how they got there, but each one had had their throats slit.” She toed the ground beneath her foot. “The earth was saturated with their blood and after that. In 1920, several children vanished for a week. The search was exhaustive, but nothing was resolved. Two months later, their bodies were found stacked here.” Her touch became a caress. “People started calling this The Death Tree after that. In 1930--”
“Enough, I get the picture.” Steel raised a hand to stop her. He walked to the crest of the hill and the moon peeked out. Below him, there was a drop of several feet down onto wave-crashing rocks. “You still haven’t said why we are here.”
“Time for what?” He looked over his shoulder at her and his eyes widened. The moon lit the tree so perfectly that a skull was formed with its branches. He was going to say something to Sapphire and that’s when he realized she was racing towards him, her arms outstretched.
Then he was falling, heading for the rocks and the pounding surf.
Steel sat up abruptly and Sapphire looked over at him, a slight smile on her lips. In front of them, the voices droned on and on. Assignments were being handed out to the junior teams.
Are you all right?
No matter, They didn’t notice.
“Sapphire and Steel.” They stood simultaneously. “There is a tree on the Galveston coast…”
Steel, what’s wrong? You’ve gone as white as a sheet.