Cherry, Oregon wasn’t my ideal choice of assignment in the first place. It’s beautiful country, sure, but it’s barely a town. Just a patch of forest, a bar, and some limp wooden houses. The company sent me and Kelly to look for rot because they wanted to buy the pine. Christmas was coming. Kelly was going to do the science and I was going to lift stuff.
Kelly was an asshole. Well, not really. But this is the kind of guy Kelly was: I watched a porno when I was a kid and in it, two guys were DP’ing some chick. The guy on the bottom, the one with backsies, he says, “Ok, let’s do this. I go on one, you go on two! One! Two! One! Two!” He was trying to manage a gang bang like ancient Romans might manage a slave ship. Kelly was that kind of guy.
He wanted to get to work right away. I was content to take surface samples and go down to the local watering hole, maybe check out some local trim but he had to go by the book. Got out the saw and started to work. I was sitting in the tent, drinking a beer, when I heard the sound stop. I didn’t think much of it; maybe he was taking a leak. After a while though, it was getting dark and I checked it out.
There was a tree, cut open, with what must have been some sort of syrup leaking from the cut. It was translucent pink and gray, like that stuff that sloughs off a fatty burger when you cook it. Some sort of rot, I thought. And reflected in the moonlight, there was a spot of white in the tree. No sign of Kelly.
Have you ever been out of the city? It gets dark. Like, no joke dark. I couldn’t see much and I’d had more than a few beers and I admit I was a little spooked. But I was curious. I grabbed the flashlight from my kit and looked closer.
The sap was visibly oozing from the cut in the tree. Have you ever seen Jurassic Park? Like the yellow shit that trapped the mosquito. Like that. And it smelled like cat box. The weird thing was the white spot. When I got close, and I know this sounds crazy, but I swear it looked like bone.
I thought I figured it out. Kelly saw this and got a big botany boner and ran off to use the phone in town. Probably thinking he’s gonna get a disease named after him. So I went to town.
The only place still open was the bar and there was no sound coming from inside. No music, no talking, no nothing. But the sign said open so I went in.
Everyone was staring at me, smiling. I mean everyone. The bartender, the gangly teenage shits leaning over the pool table. Some meth mouthed chick at the jukebox. All of them. I asked if they’d seen a little squirrely guy and the bartender just pushed a beer out towards me.
At this point, and I’m not gonna lie, I was a little spooked, so I left and went back to the tent. The company was sending someone in the next day to pick us up and I wasn’t about to go hunting around the woods in the rural dark either. So I zipped up my tent and went to sleep, assuming Kelly’d make his way back over night. Maybe he got a piece of tail or something.
Some raccoon or other critter woke me up a couple of times, sniffing around my tent and scratching at the flaps but I’m used to that. A guy in my line of work isn’t afraid of nature. The morning came around and still, no sign of Kelly. The company guy came and the weirdest thing was that when I explained to him that Kelly was missing, he just nodded. I was expecting a search party or at least some sort of reprimand for dereliction of duty. But nope, he just said something about the site working out nicely. I started to explain about the tree disease but that morning, the trees seemed to have moved. Or at least the one I saw wasn’t there. I mean, I knew I was drunk but I didn’t think I was that drunk. He told me not to worry about it and paid me. I even got a bonus. But that was the last time I worked for that outfit. I inquire sometimes, but they’re not hiring. I guess fewer people are buying real Christmas trees these days.