Jonathan Murphy was strong, brave, and clever. Jonathan stood up to bullies. Jonathan would be a hero when he grew up. He knew all of this in his heart. He didn’t know how it would happen, but Jonathan would be famous for how big and strong and brave he was some day. Jonathan would be like Neil Armstrong on the moon, or Mike Schmidt, or GI Joe. Jonathan was not afraid. He was not afraid of his dad. He was not afraid of the gigantic German shepherd on Browning Road that chased him when he rode his bike there. Most of all, Jonathan was not afraid of the tree outside his house. He just didn’t like to look at it. He didn’t like that it had a face.
Jonathan lived in the house on Cooperton Avenue, across the street from Amon Heights Elementary with his mom, his dad who worked at the Beauchamp soup factory, his three-year old brother, Christopher, and baby sister, Marie. It was a large red house, partially enclosed in hedges with a plum tree in the yard. One time Jonathan tried to eat a plum right off the tree, but after a single bite he dropped it when he saw a pink worm wriggling around in the fruit. Following that he didn't eat plums any more.
Aside from the worms he didn't mind the plum tree. At least it didn't look at him.
Along the easement between the street and sidewalk stood a great oak tree, almost as large as the one on Westfield Avenue. Jonathan liked the Westfield tree. It had a face too, but it had a jolly face, like a joyful infant. It didn’t bother him at all and he enjoyed passing it on his way to the five and dime store.
The face on the tree by his house was another matter entirely. It appeared large, bulbous, and threatening. It looked to Jonathan like a mean and hungry gorilla, like King Kong. He even asked an adult once, a lunch lady at his school, why the tree looked like King Kong, but she didn’t know. After that he never saw her again.
He hated walking home from school because he had to pass the monstrous face. Jonathan tried to create excuses so that he could walk the long way home and avoid the gaze of the freakish gorilla, but his house was directly across the street from school. There was no easy way to get around without seeing it. He made sure to remind himself each time he turned his eyes downward at the beastly visage that he wasn’t afraid. He just hated that ugly, roaring ape.
One Wednesday Jonathan was tossing a baseball in the yard with Kenny from around the corner. A tiny black car pulled up beside the tree.
“Is that your dad?” asked Kenny.
“No.” said Jonathan, dropping his glove and ball. “I don’t know who that is.”
A man climbed out of the driver’s seat and walked around to the passenger side. He was a little man in a charcoal gray suit. He wore a black fedora and had dark, prominent eyebrows.
He walked in a deliberate and exaggerated manner as if he were performing for an audience. Each step was grandiose and elaborate. When he reached the passenger door the man pulled out a rainbow colored umbrella. It stood out prominently considering the monochrome look of the man and his vehicle. Opening the umbrella, the man then opened the car door and a tall, thin woman exited. She had red hair, a white face, and wore a long white coat. She unfolded out of the tiny car that hardly seemed large enough to hold her. The man held the umbrella over her head as if to protect her from the rain, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The man escorted his companion to the tree.
The strange pair eyed the growth on the trunk.
“It is nearly a meter in diameter,” said the woman.
“Yes, and highly corrupted.” said the man. “Do you think this is an accident?”
“They don’t have accidents.”
“Then what has happened here? The others have never burgeoned so rapidly. If this is an intentional distortion on their part, then to what purpose?” the man asked her.
“I don’t know.” she said. “Perhaps they intend to get our attention.”
“Well, they have it. What now?”
“You haven’t spoken to Mister Chino?”
“My dear, your ex is quite frightening, even to me. I avoid him as much as possible.”
“That is wise of you, but he will find out about this and I am certain it will be worse if you don’t tell him sooner.”
“As you wish, madame.”
Jonathan realized that he and Kenny had been standing in shock listening to the couple speak. This didn’t feel very brave, so he spoke up.
“Hi.” his voice cracked. “Are you here about the tree?”
“Children,” said the woman, “Make them go away.”
“I think this is their home.” the man said, “Not much I can do without raising attention.”
“Fine.” she said, as she compressed herself back into the vehicle and closed the door.
The man shut his colorful umbrella and started to walk back to the driver’s seat, but Jonathan caught him by the sleeve.
“Hey mister.” said the kid.
“I beg your pardon, child.” said the man in an annoyed voice.
“Are you doing something about it or what?”
“About the teratoma?”
“The what?” asked Jonathan.
“The growth on the side of your tree. That is what concerns you, correct?”
“Yeah. What is it.”
“It...” began the man, “It is a distortion, possibly a portal. An ingress, if you will.”
“Do you know any kid words for it?”
“Children. Why am I even bothering?” the man said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “It’s a doorway, little boy. A doorway to a realm outside of our perception. A doorway that was opened by our voiceless adversary so that it may be born unto our world and wreak havoc.”
“Nevermind. Run along and play with your ball.”
“The tree is bad, isn’t it?”
“YES. It is very bad.”
“And you and that lady...you’re good? You’re here to stop it?”
The man climbed down into his car and drove away.
“Did you see that?” Jonathan asked Kenny.
“That man and his lady. He knows the King Kong tree is bad. And he isn’t even going to do anything about it.”
“What is he supposed to do? Does he work for the township?”
“I don’t know. He said the tree was a door.”
“A door. Ha.”
“What’s so funny?”
“A tree ain’t a door. That man was funny.”
“I don’t think it was funny.”
Kenny went home and Jonathan went in for dinner.
That night he had strange dreams where he was being chased around a supermarket by a man in a gorilla suit. He ran down all of the aisles but everywhere he turned the gorilla was waiting for him. When he was finally cornered his pursuer fell down in front of him, with a rainbow umbrella sticking out of its back as if it had been stabbed. Dark red blood pooled around the creature’s body. Looking up Jonathan saw a man in a colorful outfit made of stitched-together cloth, his face painted like a clown. At first he was relieved to see that the beast had been defeated, but when the clown-man lunged toward him, Jonathan woke up, screaming.
He looked over at his brother, Christopher, asleep in his toddler bed. Christopher didn’t know about the monsters that lived in the tree. He was just a baby. Jonathan knew that the weird people with the colorful umbrella weren’t going to do anything to help. He couldn’t tell his parents either. If he tried to wake them up dad would be mad. That was almost as scary a thought as a monster face growing out of a tree.
Jonathan would have to do it himself. He tiptoed down the stairs in his pajamas and slipped on his shoes. He knew exactly which steps to avoid so he wouldn’t wake up dad. He quietly opened the door to the porch and crept outside, stopping only to grab a hatchet and a flashlight from dad’s toolbox.
The tree was dark, but there was a full moon and Jonathan could see just fine. He walked to the tree and put his hand on the bark. It was warm, like the skin of a living thing. Jonathan felt like the tree was breathing. He was afraid, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. He was Jonathan Murphy, the bravest boy in the world. He was going to chop down the King Kong tree. He raised the hatchet over his head and brought it down with all his might, but the blade only bounced off, leaving a small dent in the bark. Jonathan tried again, harder this time, but the result was the same. He tried a third time, putting all of his weight into the swing, but the hatchet just wouldn’t bite. It was as if the tree was made of steel. Jonathan was exhausted. He leaned against the tree, resting his head on the rough bark. He felt the tree pulse beneath him, like the heartbeat of a sleeping giant. And then he felt something else, something slimy. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his flashlight.
The tree was covered in fat, writhing maggots, each one was nearly a half-inch long.
Jonathan backed away and nearly fell on the sidewalk. The gorilla face opened its mouth and Jonathan could swear he heard a groan as millions of disgusting larvae spilled out of it and onto the ground, worming their way toward him. The hatchet clanked on the pavement as he ran back to the house and shut the door tight behind him.
He didn’t even try to be quiet when he ran back to the bed and pulled the covers over his head. Christopher stirred in his bed, but fell back asleep.
Jonathan could still see the maggots writhing in his vision, even in the pitch black under the blanket. He remembered he had the flashlight and switched it on.
Three maggots were crawling on him.
He yelped as he smashed them in his bare hands and jumped up to run into the bathroom and run a bath.
“What the hell is going on out there?” dad grumbled from his bedroom.
“I need to take a bath.”
“Well, be quiet for frick’s sake.”
Jonathan stripped and got into the tub. He washed all of the maggot goo off himself and sat in the hot water for a few minutes.
When he got up to towel off he thought to check his pajamas for any bugs he might have missed.
He nearly convulsed when he found one, nearly three times the size of all the rest, fat and white. That was when Jonathan realized it was not a maggot.
Jonathan had seen maggots before in the garbage can. His dad blamed him for not taking the trash out fast enough and letting it sit and attract them.
The maggots he’d seen were plump, and pale, and wriggly, but this one was different. This maggot had a mouth.
A mouth with sharp little teeth.
He covered it and his pajamas with the towel and stomped on it as hard as he could.
Then he ran downstairs without even stopping to put clothes on and tossed the maggot infested bundle into the garbage. He tied up the bag and tossed it out the kitchen door.
Realizing he was naked Jonathan tiptoed back upstairs. As he reached the landing that led to the second floor he saw the door to his parent’s room was open. The bathroom was shut, but the light shined through the crack under the door.
Not wanting to be caught running around naked and get the belt, Jonathan slipped back into his bed and hid under the covers until morning.
Before school he ate his cornflakes and tried to forget what he’d seen the night before.
Mom was feeding Marie and Christopher was sitting in his highchair with a pile of Cheerios.
Everything felt normal.
When he left to go to school dad was headed to his car for work.
He passed the tree as he walked to the crossing guard. He scanned the area for maggots but didn’t see any. Gathering his nerves Jonathan looked up at the face.
IT WAS GONE.
There was just a gaping black hole where the gorilla face had been. Jonathan stood up straight and smiled. He’d done it! Somehow he’d vanquished the King Kong tree! He sprung up and down as he strode along the pavement and smiled at Kenny who had just arrived at the crosswalk.
He looked over as his dad drove by and waved.
As the car took off down Cooperton avenue Jonathan could have sworn he saw a maggot the size of an orange clinging onto the bumper.
Intro and outro theme
Music Provided By Mediacharger
Artist: Darren Curtis
Track: Demented Nightmare
Background Music Provided By Mediacharger
Music Created By : Myuu
Song Title: Growing Shadows