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     Jerry yawned widely as he drove down the long country road on his way home from work. It was almost dark and he had to concentrate hard as the bushes and trees flashed past.

He had done this journey down the fast B road many times over the years, it had become a boring routine, so would this one be any different?

Then he noticed something odd - there were no cars coming the other way. This was the rush hour and there was usually a steady stream of them. As he rounded the bend, he found out why. The traffic in both directions had stopped.

He pulled up sharply and put on his hazard lights to warn cars coming from behind. He sat for a moment to gather his thoughts and then got out of his car and looked around.

He looked down the line of cars in front of him and there - a couple of hundred metres down the road, illuminated by headlights - was a large tree lying across the road.

 As he watched, cars were starting to do 3 point turns so they could find another way home, so Jerry followed suit, going back the way he came.

It was odd, he thought, there was no wind tonight, perhaps it was dead and the roots had rotted.

Fortunately, he knew of a country lane that would get him home, it was a long roundabout route, but he had no choice.

At last, the lane came into view and he turned it down. It was not very wide, but Jerry wanted to get home, so he kept up quite a pace. The setting sun was lighting up the sky in front of him a deepening shade of crimson. As he watched the changing colour, something else caught his eye. The branches of a large tree at the roadside were waving back and forth. As he watched, it suddenly occurred to him: ‘hang on, there’s no wind tonight.’

He was transfixed and as he passed beneath the branches, then he saw something else, which made his blood run cold. Hanging from one of the branches was a corpse on the end of a rope. As the tree leaned towards the road, the corpse swung towards Jerry’s car and he raised his arms and screamed.

Suddenly, the car was off the road, he could feel it bouncing across the verge and crashing through the bushes. A pain in his leg hit like a hammer, he was then knocked senseless as his head hit the door frame.

        Jerry did not know if he had been out for minutes or hours, he was wedged between the steering wheel and the door and could hardly move. If he did try, the pain soon stopped him. He turned his head and looked up through the branches that jutted through the windscreen and out of the side window to the stars in the night sky.

The car was on its side buried in the bushes at the side of the road. As he drifted from this world to the next and back again, he was suddenly aware of noises: Sirens, engines, voices.                                                 

There was a face at the side window and above the sky was starting to brighten.



He heard the clatter of tools, the wine of an angle grinder on the window pillars and then the roof was gone. There were comforting voices and arms that lifted him slowly from the car. Then at last the safety of a stretcher and an ambulance.

He didn’t remember much about the hospital until he woke up in the ward, he looked at his plastered leg and then started trying to work out if any other bits of him were broken.

The friendly face of the doctor put his mind at rest.

“Well Mr Bennett, apart from a cracked fibula and some nasty bruises, you’re not in too bad a shape.”

“Will I walk normally again?” Said Jerry in his best feeble voice.

“Yes, I’m sure you will, I’ll be around in the morning to see you and if you have had a good night we might send you home.”

“So soon?”

“yes yes, you will be better off at home, you need to keep mobile. No driving for quite a while though I’m afraid.”

The doctor breezed off followed by a gaggle of junior staff, leaving Jerry to ponder his fate. He knew his car was a right off and he knew work was not going to be happy about the sick leave he was going to need.

He laid back and tried to relax, but when he closed his eyes, all he could see was the corpse hanging from the tree. "It must have been an optical illusion," he thought to himself.


After his evening meal, he sat back and watched as the other patients chatted to their visitors. No visitors for him though, as he sighed and pondered his rather solitary life. 

When visiting time was over, it started to get very quiet in the small 6 bedded ward. He was getting bored and wished for a TV. As the light faded outside all he could hear muffled snoring from other patients and he watched quietly as the ward Sister turned off most of the lights.

As he lay there, he suddenly became aware of someone approaching his bed. He opened his eyes and there was an old man standing at the end of his bed. He was wearing scruffy work clothes and had a flat cap, which he held in both hands across his chest. 

“hello” he said, “are you Mr Bennett.”

“Yes, er, can I help you.”

“Well, it’s like this.” He said nervously, “I come from the village of Cranley, it’s very close to where you had your accident last night.”

“How do you know about that?” Said Jerry.

“Word spreads fast in the country.” Reply the old man, who looked curiously at Jerry’s injured leg. “You’re not too badly hurt then.”

“It could have been a lot worse I suppose, I might go home tomorrow.”

“Thing is, you’re not the first person to come to grief on that stretch of road. There have been a few over the years, over 200 years, truth be told.”



“200 years!” said Jerry, alarmed.

“Oh aye, us Cranley folk have long memories of what happened on that road.” Said the old man ringing his cap in his hands. “And they usually send me out to find out what happened to people like you.”

Jerry wasn’t sure if he wanted to know and he was also wondering how this man managed to get on the ward at all, he thought visiting time was over.

“So… what happened?” Jerry asked nervously.

“Well,” The old man’s tone assumed a mixture of eagerness and menace. “In the old days, that road was just a rough track which went to some farms. Cranley was just a hamlet where folk lead simple lives. Then one day a herdsman and his farm hands were minding their beasts, when they heard a woman screaming, they ran to where it came from and they found the dead body of a young woman, she had been brutally defiled and viciously murdered. Nothing like that had ever happened in Cranley before, she was a local girl they all knew and loved. The men were outraged and wanted justice.”

The old man went quiet for a moment, as if he still hadn’t got over the shock, two hundred years later.

“So, the men spread out to look for the villain, they knew he couldn’t be far and sure enough, they found the man. He was washing his bloody hands in a nearby stream. He wasn’t a local man, he was from foreign parts, no one could understand his tongue, The fellow tried to protest his innocence. But the men had decided he was guilty and he was condemned to death. A rope was thrown over the branch of a nearby tree and he was strung up there and then. He swung there, kicking and twitching, it was like nothing they had ever seen before.”

The old man paused again, as if trying to take it all in for the first time. The silence was broken only by the sound of the other patients sleeping.

“You know what I saw don’t you?” Jerry said suddenly, not really wishing to know. The old man looked up, but just carried on with his tale.

“The men watched the dead man swinging on the end of the rope, praying he would stop moving. When he did, they did not know whether to be pleased or disgusted with what they had done.”

“The next day, the whole village was in mourning, but there was worse to come. About mid-day, a horse came down the street, It was ridden by an officer from the local militia. He asked to speak to the family of Daisy Fletcher, because one of his men had admitted killing her and he wanted to condone the family.

It turned out that the man could not be brought to justice because, riddled with guilt, he 

had thrown himself onto his sword.”

The old man moved a little closer to Jerry and almost whispered.

“The villagers were sickened by what they heard, but then a very strange thing happened, the hanging tree began to wither. The leaves started dropping to the ground, until the tree was completely bare.


Then the bark began to peel from the boughs and the trunk. The branches began to snap                       and fall to the ground. One day later the tree had rotted back into the soil from where it had come from and had taken the corpse with it.” His eyes were wide with emotion, as he paused to gather his thoughts.                                                                       

“Over the generations, this story became local folk law. And what has kept it alive is the

tree, you see the tree spirit is still out there, trying to exorcize its guilt of killing an innocent man, by being a giver of justice.”

The old man looked deep into Jerry's eyes. “Yes, I do know what you saw that night. Are 

you are a bad man!” He almost shouted at Jerry.                                                                             Jerry pulled the sheet up to his chest, as if it would protect him. “No, I’m not a bad 

 man, I don’t know why the tree spirit would have it in for me!” The old man stepped back.

“Is that so.” he said,

“I think you had better go before Sister catches you and I don’t even know your name.”

“I will take my leave now; I have said my piece and my name is Jethro.”

 With that, he walked slowly into the darkness.


 As promised, the Doctor came to see Jerry the next day.       

“Well, I hear you had a good night’s sleep.” Jerry sighed quietly “So I think we will discharge you today, we will organize a carer to look in on you, just to make sure you are coping, and take it easy.” And off she waltzed. 


Jerry dragged his plastered leg out of the Hospital entrance to the waiting taxi. 

“You look like you have been in the wars mate.” Said the driver with a grin, as Jerry struggled in. He had to lay his leg along the seat because he couldn’t bend it. He sighed with relief as the taxi pulled away. He just wanted to get home and relax. But the thought of having a carer made him feel old, ‘I think I will be doing my own bed baths thank you.’ He thought.

As they drove along, he had a thought and asked the driver to take a detour to where 

He had had his accident. 

The taxi pulled up onto the verge and stopped. “Is this the spot?” Said the driver.

“Yes, this is it.” He said thoughtfully, looking around for the tree, but it wasn’t there.

‘It must have been an illusion’ he thought. He almost asked the driver to carry on, but then 

decided to have a proper look.

He opened the car door and dragged his leg out onto the road. He then limped across 

the lane to the spot where the tree had stood, just the other side of a low hedge. He lifted 

himself up and looked over. At first it just looked like a grassy, weedy, fallow field. Then he 

leaned over and looked down. There was a circular patch of dark soil, about 2 metres 

across. Not a thing was growing there, not a single blade of grass. It was dead. He had seen 

enough and went back to the taxi.


At home at last and he slowly limped up the steps into his house. He just about 



managed to pick up the mail, not easy with a straight leg. ‘That's a good start’ he thought.                                                                   

He went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, then he decided that he needed cheering                                                                         

up, so he poured himself a beer instead.                                                                   

Once settled in a chair, he grabbed his laptop to do a little research.

There was a local historical society, if anyone would know about the murder of Daisy Fletcher they would.

At first, he had no luck, but as he dug deeper, more obscure legends began to surface 

and eventually- there it was. The tale of the hanging tree, a mythical tale of a tree that was 

trying to redeem itself for hanging an innocent man, by trying to kill bad people.

There was the story of a man who staggered into a local pub, clothes ripped and covered 

With bruises. He said a tree fell on him, but no fallen tree was found. Turned out that he 

had poisoned his wife. 

It had been written in a very tongue-in-cheek way, but certain bits caught his eye. 

Like the idea that trees can communicate underground and that the man who was hung 

was a traveller, which explained why the villages didn’t understand his accent.

It said- to feed himself, he had caught a rabbit and had just skinned it when he was

confronted by the villagers. Which would explain why he had blood on his hands.

The last ‘fact’ he read sent shivers down his spine. The name of the herdsman who found the girl was Jethro. 

It all made sense now, ‘no wonder I didn’t hear the door to the ward open and close 

when the old man left.’ He thought.

It felt a bit surreal that he was taking this seriously. ‘So, the tree spirit asked the tree on 

the main road to sacrifice itself in the name of justice.’     

He glanced out the window at the beautiful sun set and heaved himself out of his chair 

to have a look. He opened the French doors and lifted his leg over the step and out onto the 


Taking a deep breath of the fresh evening air and having a swig of beer. He then looked 

down at the flagstones and quietly addressed the dismembered corpse beneath them.

“So, Julie, was it you that summoned the hanging tree, can’t say I blame you. Well, I’m 

sorry to say you failed, still, better luck next time.” With that, he had another swig of beer 

and watched the sky until it was dark.

                                                                      THE END


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