The Old Man in the Trees

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I’ve heard it said that some people simply experience more strange events and occurrences than others. Almost like they’re a magnet to the supernatural. I, unfortunately, happen to be one of these people. So, naturally I have seen enough horrors for this lifetime and many more, I will try and recant them to you when I gather enough courage. But for the time being, I will leave you with this one encounter. One that still causes me to draw the blinds every time a storm rolls in…

I live in a small town in Alabama. It’s not to big and not to small, essentially the perfect size. The town was built along a river to allow steamboats and barges to pass through and deliver goods and such. My property is located along said river. It’s actually situated on the banks of a slough, it’s basically what a small, short off shoot of the main river is called. Having said that, a stones throw from my front yard is the slew and off to the left a bit is the main river. Across from my home and on the other side of the slough, lies the forest. My nearest neighbor is a good 15 minute drive up the dirt road, but a quicker 8 minutes by the water. All this to say, I’m pretty well isolated out here.

I was coming home from a trip out of town around dusk when I heard the first warnings of a storm. Through the radio, the weather man was warning others to cancel their plans and stay safe for the night, the usual stuff. I paid it very little attention and proceeded on home. I pulled onto my property just as the first drops of rain were hitting my windshield. I exited the vehicle and gazed out over the river at the dark grey clouds that were rolling in. I exhaled and walked onto my pier. I enjoy sitting outside under the shelter of my pier as a storm rages on. Don’t ask me why, but it’s some how peaceful to me. The lighting and thunder have never scared me, I simply brush it off. I pulled up a chair and sat down. Then began to fill my wooden pipe with tobacco, tamp it down, and light it.

The storm was in full swing now. Trees were swaying and the wind began to shape white caps on the water. I exhaled a long puff of smoke and closed my eyes. Listening to the sounds of the forest around me. Breathing the musty smell of the river mixed with my smoke. I was totally relaxed. I was jerked back into reality by the sound of a branch snapping in the trees across the slough. I opened my eyes and looked over… nothing was there, as cliche as that sounds. I was still looking out towards the woods when I heard a second snap. It then dawned on me, that the way I was sitting, combined with the roof of my pier, was preventing me from seeing the tops of the trees. At the time, I thought that a few branches had broken loose due to the storm. But I still wanted to confirm my suspicions and rule out the possibility of it being and old tree just beginning to fall. I rose from my chair, walked to the end of the pier and looked up.

I was half right, a few branches had indeed broken loose. But the wind wasn’t what made them fall. There was a naked old man in the tree. His eyes were completely gone, just sockets left. He appeared to be about 80 judging from how wrinkled his skin was. He looked like a hermit, long and matted hair as well as a beard. Skinny arms and legs, and his rib cage was visible. But what really made me lose my breath, was the way he was standing. He was completely upright in the middle of a tree branch, several stories in the air. He wasn’t reaching out an arm to support himself, he was just balancing on that skinny, unsteady tree branch. No normal person, could do such a thing, not in the middle of a storm… No one.

My jaw dropped. Subsequently, my pipe fell out of my mouth and into the river below. Hissing as the hot tobacco met the cold water. I stood transfixed on the man. We were looked in each others gaze. Even though he had no eyes, I could feel him staring directly at me. My palms began to sweat and my heart began to beat twice its normal tempo. I was unable to look away from the unearthly sight before me. So we just stood there for a while, until I began to hear my heartbeat in my ears. Something about that sound snapped me out of my trance-like state and I covered my eyes with my hands. I took a few deep breaths, and lowered my hands, truly expecting and hoping for him to have vanished. The man was still there, unchanged. Still balancing on the branch, still staring at me. I began to search my mind for any reasonable explanation for what I was seeing. I searched and searched. Nothing made sense. I continued to stare at him, wondering what he wanted, why he was there, and if he wanted to hurt me or not.

I would never get any answers to me questions. Looking back now I can see the error in his choice of tree to stand in. He picked a pine tree, their branches are very brittle and break away easier than other trees. And that’s exactly what happened, The branch he was standing on broke loose. He began to fall several stories to the ground, but he never impacted. The branch crashed into the forest floor, but the man did not. I searched the branches from my view point on the ground and saw no trace of the man. It took me another few minutes before common sense kicked back in. I scampered off the pier and ran towards my home. Slipping a few times in the fresh mud from the storm. I bolted into the house and slammed the doors closed, locking them. After I drew all the blinds, I sat down on the kitchen floor, caked in mud and soaking wet. I tried to make sense of what I had just seen. I was terribly confused and frightened. I didn’t feel threatened by his presence, then again I surely didn’t feel comforted. It was purely and simply disturbing. I had no idea what he wanted or why he chose to reveal himself to me in that way. As much as I wanted answers, I knew I would never get any. I slept with the lights on for at least a month after that, never being able to fully let it go.

It’s been a long time since this happened, but my counselor has convinced me that by retelling this story, it might help me heal. I have to get a few more tales off my chest before I’m able to move one with my life, but those will come at a later date. Thank you for listening.

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