Short Story
                                               Family Tree
                                                                     By David George


     The marble-eye puppet on the shelf stared at him, transfixed upon his position. A cold shiver shot down
James Murphy’s spine as his eyes locked with those crystal blue marbles. The puppet remained
motionless yet James could not look away. It appeared to smile as he took a swig from his flask then
tossed it aside.

     I am getting to old for this shit.

     His pillow absorbed his head as he rolled over and groaned. The soothing warmth from the fire flowed
over his biceps as the tension faded and he sighed. Other than the crackling fire and a slight thumping
from his axe as it laid against his bed, there was silence throughout the cabin. But that puppet, the image
of the puppet stayed when everything else drifted away into the abyss and darkness came upon him.

     His dreams filled with the memories of years past when he swung his axe for the first time in Longview
Heights. His own sweat and tears were ingrained in every nail, and two-by-four piece of lumber that
surrounded him at night. Solitude was his only companion and the forest, his mistress, but a part of him
longed for his old life with wife and daughter, snuggled by the fireplace. Those were the good ole days
before the solitude took over.

     Cabin fever was a disease in these parts of the state and often brought on by such thoughts but he
knew the cure – A flask of Jack Daniels and a rugged looking doll with blue marble eyes. Awake once
more in his room, he twirled a picture of his daughter as he imagined her walking through the door in a
pink sweater and blue jeans but that reality was one month away and he wasn’t sure if he brought a large
enough stock of Jack Daniels to make it that long. Guess only time would tell.

                                                                                     ***

     A pile of empty flasks in the corner of the room was rustled into a black garbage bag as a rendition of
“The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” scared the solitude away. The forest leaves, rustled by the wind, drowned out the
unnatural racket from within the cabin as he muttered, “I better dispose of these,” as he tossed the bag out
the back window.

     “Daddy are you home?” Dorothy asked.

     “Over here ballerina,” James said as he poked his head between the polka dot curtains.

     His daughter wore a white dress with laced stockings and tennis shoes. A bracelet crafted of bottle
caps and string adorned her arm. Her hair was braided and two ponytails dangled from the center of the
crown of her head.  His heart pounded rapidly as he watched her beaming smile break through the early
morning fog.

     The more she pranced, the more the dust spewed from underneath her feet. Every time the wind gust,
the dust blew into her face. She coughed repeatedly then whacked the dust away with her hands and
continued to skip until she reached the log cabin.

     I beat it again.

     He rubbed the beads of sweat from his forehead with his sleeve and rushed outside.

     “Daddy,” she screamed and squeezed him tightly.

     “There’s my brave girl. How was your trip?” he asked.

     “Scary. I had to ride the bus by myself. Mommy and Tom went to discuss some business,” she replied.
“But I made it didn’t I Daddy.”

     “You certainly did,” James said.

     Business, I bet they are discussing business.

     “I see you still got the doll I carved,” she said as she twirled about.

     “I certainly do,” he replied.

     “Weee,” she said. “Can I see your big saw Daddy?” She gave a puppy-dog stare.

     “Sure, baby girl! But remember, never go there alone,” he said.

     “I know, I know, it’s dangerous.”

     “That’s right. When you are old and grey like me then you can use the big circular saw,” he said.

     Dorothy giggled and followed him into the shed.

     “Here it is. Just as shiny as when I first bought it,” he said.

     “Wow-wee it’s amazing. Can you turn it on?”

     “Too risky. It comes loose sometimes.”

     “Ah man, not fair!” Dorothy said and stomped her feet.

     “Here baby girl, I saved a piece of lumber for you,” he said as he passed her a square piece of lumber.

     Her frown morphed into a smile as she grabbed the wood from his hands, reached into her back
pocket, and pulled out her miniature carving knife.

     “You head back to the cabin and begin your work on your carving while I’ll head off to chop some more
trees,” he said.

     “Alright Daddy. I’ll be here when you get back,” Dorothy said.

     “I sure hope so,” he said and gave her a wink.

     Dorothy giggled and headed into the cabin while he went off to work.

                                                                                     ***

     `The chipping and grinding of wood echoed from the corner of the room as two cases of Jack Daniels
slammed down on the kitchen table. Dorothy stabbed at the wood. Two marbles jammed into two perfectly
round holes and the masterpiece was complete.  Solitude lurked outside and the forest whispered, “You’re
ours once more.”

     “Here, I made this for you,” Dorothy said as she handed over her carving.

     “This is amazing,” James said as he twirled it around in his hands. It was a wooden male puppet with a
plaid shirt made from a piece of material ripped from his work shirt. It had a mouth that could open and
close and arms that wiggled as he twirled it.

     “I know the perfect place for this magnificent piece of art. I will leave it on the shelf next to the other,” he
said.

     “Weeee,” Dorothy said.

     “Time for you to head to the bus.”

     “Can you take me to see the big saw one more time before I go?”

     “Sure, little girl,” he said. He opened the shed door and let her take a gander around the room. Her
eyes twinkled and her mouth fell open as she gazed upon the groves in the saw. For a swift moment, he
started the saw and let it spin then quickly turned it off once more.

     “Wow wee! That was amazing,” Dorothy said.  

     “Ok, time to go,” he said as he walked away from the shed.

     She peeped her head out of the entrance and said, “alright Daddy, I will be right out.”

     “Well little girl, I’m gone to chop some wood. When you are ready, head down the hill and wait for the
bus. It should be there in 20 minutes,” he said as he pointed towards the hill.

     “Alright Daddy, enjoy your day in the forest. Love you.,” Dorothy replied.
      
                                                                                     ***

      Two sets of marble eyes watched James as he stretched out on his bed with an empty flask and a
crumpled picture of his daughter in his hand. The fire cackled almost like a witch’s laugh as he snapped
out of his trance. He wiggled and rolled back and forth upon the bed as the heat intensified. He reached
for a bucket with some water from the well and tossed it in the direction of the fireplace. As the flame
sizzled out, he heard a dim voice call out, “Daddy.”

     “Dorothy, is that you?” he asked as he examined his surroundings but she was nowhere to be seen.
Beads of sweat covered his forehead and eyes were bloodshot. He grinded his teeth.

     “Daddy,” the voice said again.

     “Where are you?” he asked.

     He received no response. Down on his knees he peered into the darkness underneath the bed. The
floor creaked as he crawled about. Total darkness with no sign of life was the only thing he saw.

     This is crazy.

     He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his forehead. His hands trembled as he tossed the
flask away and laid upon his bed. The reek of alcohol surrounded him but he was not bothered.  In an
advanced state of Inebriation, the trembling of his hand went away as his eyes became heavy. Without any
struggle, he drifted into the sandman’s world and darkness fell upon the cabin.

     Thump, thump, thump, echoed throughout the cabin. James catapulted out of his sleep. Sweat trickled
down his forehead and dripped upon the wooden floor as his legs quivered from beneath his sheets.
Thump, thump, thump, he heard once more as he rose out of bed and headed towards the front door of the
cabin. He leaned against the wall for support as he gradually opened the brown stained door.  Emptiness
greeted him. No crickets; no wind; just darkness.

     Thump, thump, thump, came once again. He jumped and turned around but there was no one behind
him. He noticed one of the wooden dolls laid upon the ground.

     “How did you get down here?” he asked as he placed it back on the shelf.

     He was met with silence. He breathed a long drawn out sigh.

     He wobbled his way towards the bed and stumbled onto it. His heart pounded and the water upon his
forehead went from droplets to long streaks which he wiped away with his sleeve of his shirt.

     “Daddy,” a dim voice said. He covered his face and ears with his pillow and said, “Go away! You’re not
real! Go away!”

     “Daddy it is me, your little girl,” the voice said. It was more prominent then before. He removed the
pillow from his face and discovered at the edge of his bed sat the puppet his daughter made.

     “How is this possible?” he asked as he grabbed the puppet in his hands.

     The puppet’s mouth moved and said, “Call Mommy.”

     He shook the puppet violently and said, “This can’t be.” He then placed it upon the shelf.

     He closed his eyes and counted to five then opened them once again. The puppet displayed a smile
as it said, “Call Mommy.”

     “Uggh,” he said. He glanced at the empty flask and said, “This is your fault.” He reached down,
grabbed the flask, and tossed it aside.

     He reached for the satellite phone he kept nearby. He dialed his wife’s phone number and after two
rings his wife picked up. “Hello. Who’s calling?”

     “It’s me, James. Did Dorothy return home on the bus?” he asked.

     “No, I thought she was with you,” Janice said.

     “No, she left on the…” he said but was interrupted by a male voice in the background on the other side
of the line.

     “Who is that?” the mystery man said.

     “Oh, nobody at all. Wrong number,” Janice said. He heard a loud bang within the phone followed by
dial tone shortly afterwards.

     “Stupid whore!” he said. His face was blazing red and he tapped his left foot repeatedly. There were a
few moments of silence as his heart raced and under his armpits burned. His breathing became shallow
and rapid.

     Where is my daughter?

     “Shed,” the puppet said.

     That was right, the last place I saw her was inside the shed.

     He darted to the door and swung the door open. The cool night air sent a shiver down his spine. The
moonlit sky revealed its cast of stars which displayed a magnificent show of sparkles all around him. The
door of the shed swung violently back and forth as the wind went from a breeze to a gust. The clouds
moved inward with the wind and hid the stars in the sky similar to the way a stage curtain would hide the
actors after an encore performance.

     James rushed into the shed and latched the door shut behind him. No light existed. He remembered he
always kept a flashlight on the first shelf to his right. As he swung his arms about, small clunking sounds of
cans hitting the ground could be heard in swift succession. Liquid splashed each time he took a step and
his hands became wet and sticky. The sounds of the splashes reminded him of puddles of water after a
light rainfall but he knew it never rained for weeks. The wood sent splinters into his fingers as he rubbed
his hand across the shelf surface. A thin hard plastic brushed against his hand and he smiled.

     “Bingo! Here it is,” he said.

     He reached for the flashlight, grasped it with his right hand, and turned on the light.

     He noticed the axe he had fastened to a wall mount now rested on the floor; the cans of food that were
stored on the first two shelves were scattered about the floor and worse of all was the smell of decay.

     As his eyes adjusted, his mouth dropped wide open as blood and guts splattered the tools, saw and
wooden flooring. His daughter’s arm and left hand were completely severed from her body. The blade of
the circular saw was dug deep into her severed arm. Her right hand grasped an axe which rested near her
body. Upon closer inspection, he noticed her bracelet was caught in the circular blade’s teeth. Her blood
pooled upon the floor where he stood. When he shone the light on his hands they were also covered in her
blood.

     He became catatonic as he watched the black flies enter and exit her nostrils and eye sockets. Water
trickled from the corner of his eyes and down his cheek as he imagined her in her dress as she sang the
Itsy-Bitsy Spider.

     Why didn’t I make sure she got on the bus?

     He remembered the voice he heard earlier and it all made sense now. Dead daughter, the female doll
on his bed, the thumping. He knew what he had to do. Finally he would beat the solitude once and for all.
“We will be together soon my little girl,” he said.  

     Loud screams soon followed from the wooden shed as the sound of grinding metal and bone echoed
throughout the forest then silence fell upon the forest once more.

     The male wooden puppet carved by his daughter turned its head to the left and stared at the female
puppet. The female puppet remained quiet. The male puppet said, “Now little girl, we can spend an
eternity together.”
About David George

I have been writing stories
since I was seventeen. I
currently am working on
my first novel. I am in
Newfoundland and write a
variety of horror short
stories. A previous story I
written appeared in the
anthology created by
Severance Publications.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.