It is 05h00 in the morning on his way to the gym. The sun hasn’t woken up yet and the streetlamps is casting concentric circles, trying to create an illusion of warmth. He yawns, as he turns his SUV into Oak. The huge trees lined the famous street on both sides, their empty white branches stretching into the dark sky, a tunnel of twigs. Here and there a desolate yellow leaf is clinging on for dear life.
The icy wind is seriously pissed off. Hissing, blowing and tugging ferociously at everything. A bully on the playground, bumping and pushing all the smaller kids, threatening violence. Even the evergreen trees of Mrs McMillian is handing over their leaves out of fear of intimidation. But it’s the big oak trees with their long fingered branches looming over the street that gives him the heeby-cheebies.
The trees are straining against the wind. Their branches swaying, creepily, its fleshless arms clawing at the crisp night air. And the sound. A weird creaking, an almost breaking sound echoing above the wind’s ferocious cry. The man shakes his head and laughs at his own imagination. His speeds up slightly, wanting to turn into Crawford Avenue, the main street.
While he waits at the stop sign, indicator flashing left, he looks into the rear-view mirror at the dark tunnel of Oak street. His heart skips a beat as his blood runs cold. Why is that one tree, second from the right, not in line with the others? Why does it seem that the tree moved forward, closer to the street? Has it always been like that? He squints, trying to focus and then his eye catches movement. He spins around in his seat to get a better view. Nothing. Only trees lining a dark street on a very cold and windy morning. Soldiers ready for battle, anticipating the instruction from their general. Ready for action.
He shudders. Damn, this wind is relentless. He drops the handbrake and his car edges to the left. He shakes his head again.
Mrs McMillian stands in front of her gate, with her nightgown tightly wrapped around her podgy figure. She came out with her just-woke-up look to see what the commotion is about. The wind tries to undress her and she tugs her arms around her bosom. No one knows what happened. She asked already. The neighbours are standing in small groups, trying to make sense of the accident.
They found his overturned SUV on her sidewalk. She wasn’t even aware of the crash, heard nothing, only realised something terrible happened on her front lawn when the red-bearded cop knocked on her door. They suspect the car overturned after hitting the curb, resulting in the loss of the kind young man’s life. She looks up at the trees and a chilling, ominous feeling runs down her spine. She shakes it off and decides she has seen enough before waggling back to her front door.
The man’s body had to be cut out of the vehicle as the one side of the car was pretty banged up. A long skid mark indicated excessive breaking before losing control. It’s a long, wide street, the most unexpected place for this kind of accident. Speculation runs wild, but whatever made the guy lose control, it left a shocked expression on his handsome face.
The sun is peering through the branches, while two women are guiding the grieving wife away from the wreck. The giant Oaks are still swaying in the wind, bearing silent witness to the tragedy, keeping the secrets of what really happened in Oak street.
As the paramedics lifts the body on the gurney, one of them stops and looks down the street. “Isn’t it weird that the soil and grass around those four trees seems to be disturbed,” he says.