I’ve always been afraid of loud noises. When I was a kid, the sound of fireworks would freak me out. I could never enjoy light displays because I would be cowering in the corner the entire time. It was the same with parades. Whenever a fire truck would whoosh past with its sirens, it didn’t matter if it was decorated with cutesy Christmas lights. The sound would send me running.
To this day, I’m still scared of thunder and lightning. My boyfriend teases me about it all the time. He tells me there’s nothing to worry about because we’re safe inside the house. Nothing bad can happen to us.
Except it did.
A few months ago, there was a really bad storm. Rain pelted the house. Wind rattled the trees. Lightning illuminated the sky. My boyfriend fell asleep without a problem, like everything was fine, but I stayed up the entire night. I saw it happen. I saw lightning strike a tree outside our window. It peeled a long strip of bark straight off the trunk, like it was slashed with a giant knife.
I examined the aftermath in the morning. Up close, I could make out a weird symbol in the bark. It wasn’t written in paint or blood or anything supernatural. It was just a darker shade of brown spiraled across the light brown of the bark.
I snapped a picture and uploaded it to my social media. Then I Googled a description of the design to see what it meant. It had to mean something.
“You’re like one of those people who think they see the face of God on a burnt piece of toast,” my boyfriend said, not taking it seriously at all.
After coming up with nothing on my internet search, I assumed he was right. I forgot all about the design. I didn’t think it was relevant when a knife slipped from my hand the next morning and slashed open my foot. Or the next week when my boyfriend got into a fender bender and broke the bumper off the car. Or the next month when he lost his job, when my older sister got arrested, when our pet rabbit died, one after the other.
A million bad things kept happening in a row, but that was life. Bad things happened all the time. It sucked. It hurt like hell. But I didn’t think there was a deeper reason.
But then, the other day, someone sent me a DM over Instagram. I didn’t recognize the name on the account, so I clicked through some of their photos. There weren’t any selfies or group photos. They only posted weird stock images. Occult images. Graphs. Charts. Sketches.
Their message to me said: “I don’t know you. I don’t know what you’ve been going through since you posted about the lightning storm or if you’re even still alive to read this right now. But that design is bad luck. You need to chop that tree down or you’re going to be plagued with an endless hell.”
My body went cold. I typed back a message, asking them for more information on the symbol, but they never replied. I even commented beneath some posts, urging them to check their DMs, but they never got back to me.
I had no idea whether there was any scientific basis for their claim, whether they were simply trying to fuck with me or earn a new follower on their weird website, but I’m not taking any chances. We’re having the tree cut down tonight.