The return of a tree to the centre of our village brought more than just foliage back to our lives…
Something odd happened when our new tree was planted in the centre of the village.
The period of mourning had gripped us all and left us at a real loss; for weeks we had all neglected our responsibilities. The children, without the cane and stern eyes of the school master, had lapsed into unruliness. Similarly, the men had slid into a state of listless solipsism.They kicked up the dust in the town square, starting conversations with initial enthusiasm and forgetting them a moment later. In the meantime the fields grew to be just as unruly as the children, whilst the womenfolk sat upon the same dust, kicked up by their husbands, allowing their homes to grow dirty.
However, with a tree at the heart of our village centre, life as it once was returned to Hillam. The children were ushered back to the school house, the men returned to the fields and the women returned to the cottages to make their homes.
The weeks passed and slowly, but surely, order was restored to our village. We all found peace and comfort in returning to our preordained positions in life. The village elders inspected the sacred tree on each passing day, always mindful of how easily it was neglected before. Their daily findings were of much curiosity to members of the younger generation, who were perhaps less enamoured with the tree than their parents. They tested and teased their elders by questioning basic facts of the tree like: ‘How could it look so similar to the last dead tree?’ and ‘Why hasn’t it grown since we planted it?’
For each of these questions, the elders had an answer. ‘It is Winter, that is why the tree hasn’t grown.’ ‘All trees look alike, this is simply a similar tree.’
But the young were not satisfied. They decided to find out more about the mysterious tree salesman and how he had happened upon such a similar tree, so soon after the demise of their last one.
Three travellers set forth on the road from Hillam. They left in the dead of night, for fear of retribution from their elders; with knapsacks tied together from scraps of spare bed linen they scurried away supplies and made their way east along Hillam Common Lane. These three youngsters were excited to be leaving the village, but also fearful, they had not met outsiders before and had often been warned about the danger of straying outside of the village grounds.
They found the answer to their question sooner than they expected. The youngest of the group, his eyes as keen as Hillam Mustard, spotted the salesman’s truck parked behind a low-lying hedge. Thrilled by their discovery, the group crept off the road and into the adjacent field, wary of danger but eager for answers. The truck was empty, with only a few loose twigs suggesting that the vehicle had ever been used for the purpose of transporting a tree in the first place.
To have come so far (nearly a whole mile) and to discover that they had wasted their time was a crushing blow. But all was not lost – underneath a seat, one of the intrepid explorers discovered a business card directing them to their next destination in the distant land of Gateforth…