Zip’s house with the pecan tree had been around for six generations. The tree had always been there. It woke in the spring, bloomed, dropped pecans and slept every autumn. Nobody noticed the tree lived eternal, neither old nor young.

Zip, now a widow, fathered a daughter named Gina.

Rain fell from a sky as dark a gray wool suit. Zip sat on the porch with Gina, watching it drop. Lightning shattered the pecan tree. A cloud of electricity flooded out from the blast, knocking Gina from her chair. Zip, feeling sudden pain in his chest, took his nitroglycerine. Ears ringing, Gina stood and stumbled under the porch. Fog flooded the streets. A person stood at the base of the tree.

“Glashal.” The person said.

Wizard: a tree shattered by lightning

Glashal had skin as dark as Gina’s, and thick, black hair rolled into a tight bun on top of her head. Her black skirt and matching blouse were stiff and worn. Eyes studying Gina’s face, Glashal barely glanced at Zip. A parody of life crawled through the fog, slimy tentacles lashing out. Glashal hit it with a rock. The smoke gray creature shattered into a puddle of ooze.

“The tree will die at sunset. When that happens, this world will fall to the Ven.”

“Ven?” Gina said.

“Predators that eat people. I can only protect one of you.”

“Protect me.” Zip said desperately.

“I will.” Glashal said.

Gina didn’t have time to feel betrayed. Glashal raised a glowing hand, Zip froze in place. Countless Ven roamed the fog. No two looked alike, as if somebody’s nightmare had vomited a thousand malformed concepts of evil incarnate into the living world. Terrified neighbors stared out their windows. The Ven would soon force their way in.

Motionless, Zip stared into mouths crowded with teeth. The pain of being torn apart was mercifully short. Gina heard skin tear and bones crunch.

“You said you would protect him.” Gina said.

Glashal spoke gently. “He will live through your children.”

Hearing this, Gina smiled.


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