The Tree was Bare, Black Against the Orange Sky

Week two of the Cliffside Village Writer’s Group unearthed some pretty interesting stories. The second prompt we used was ‘The tree was bare, black against the orange sky‘. The prompt can be used at any point in the story. Here are two stories that came out of it.

Story by Genevieve

The tree was bare, black against the orange sky. It stood apart from the others and the way the bench was angled made it seem like the only tree around. Sandra sat watching it, not merely looking at it the way she had used to but really watching it. The gentle movements of the skeletal branches shifting in the breeze. The weightless way it danced finally free of its leaves, as if it waited all year for the moment it could unburden itself and rest. She watched as it boldly cut its shape out of the sky, claimed its territory and fought against the encroaching darkness. Sandra wished she could be as unburdened as the tree, Wished that she could dance weightless against the autumn sky, apart from everything.

James sat down beside her and handed her a coffee breaking the moment. “How long have you been here?” He asked shivering visibly as he clutched his hot coffee like a life saver.

Sandra shrugged and thought I have been here through all seasons, I have watched the tree grow.

“You know everyone’s been looking for you?”

Again Sandra didn’t respond and the silence stretched further than the shadow of the tree and she listened for its sounds.

“I know you’re grieving,” James began tentatively, “but you’re not alone.”

Sandra took a sip of the coffee and knowing he wouldn’t just leave said, “I know but we used to come here to watch the tree and I never understood until now.”


Story by John

“We staggered out of the barn. The rain had stopped and Martha was still bleeding from the shoulder. We were both shaky and disoriented, but hunger was driving us out of the place that had been our shelter against the Grave boys for a few desperate hours.

I had wanted to stay put until nightfall, but we had to do something. We needed help. Up the hill to the left an emaciated cow looked at us blankly, next to a tree. The tree was bare, black against the orange sky.

I ran back to the barn to get one of the empty paint cans we had seen in there. Together, we clambered up the hill. The cow moved away slowly and chewed at some weeds. I motioned to Martha to get behind a rock as I dragged myself forward face down. I caught up to the bony beast at last and slowly raised myself up to pat its haunches and stroke its neck. Its udder was not very full, but it was worth a try.

On my knees, I tugged at the underside as gently as I could. Hallelujah. A faint ting sounded as precious milk began to flow. the cow was restless, but I was able to keep at it, working steadily until about two inches of rusty looking milk was sloshing around the base of the paint can. After ten minutes or so, less and less milk would come out.

That was enough. I patted her one more time and rushed back to Martha. I held the can to her mouth and she held it open, making a whimpering sound as she gulped it down.

I took a last gulp of what was left there. And that’s when I saw the red eyes. Five pairs of red eyes moving from behind the tree. Circling, hovering closer and closer…