Arborvitae

📅 Published on November 27, 2023

“Arborvitae”

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 8 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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“We’re gonna make this a tradition,” Jerry said confidently. The others in the back of the van could barely hear him over the music. “Arbor Day getaway.”

“We’re not, Jer,” said Sarah. Jerry gave her a wounded look, and she reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. “And that’s okay. Our tradition can just be the old suitemates getting together whenever. We manage it at least once every year. It doesn’t have to be a set time. It works out.”

“So far, yeah, but for how long?” Jerry jerked his head at the back of the van. “It’s not just the four of us anymore—which is awesome, don’t get me wrong—and schedules are already getting complicated. We started trying to sort this out in November of last year.”

“And here we are!” Devin piped up from one of the back benches.

“For how much longer? I’m serious. This is important to me. Graduation is staring us in the face, and then what? We’re not gonna see each other around campus. We’re not even gonna be in the same states anymore. If we don’t pick a weekend and make it sacrosanct, we’ll lose each other. The Four Top is through.”

Sarah shook her head and laughed at his melodrama. Thanks to social media, it took an active effort to lose touch with anyone these days. Drifting apart had been replaced by ghosting. If the four of them stopped getting together, it was going to be by someone’s intentional choice.

That wouldn’t even necessarily be a bad thing. Sarah loved this tiny friend group, of course. There was a reason that they’d stayed so close all through college. But it might be good for some of them to branch out a little further.

By “some of them,” she really meant Jerry specifically. Devin and Morgan were both doing fine, as evidenced by their partners, Nat and Adam, who they’d brought along for the weekend. They’d gotten into sports, clubs, frats—the standard college experience. Sarah herself had a thriving friend group assembled from her various writing classes. She loved the Four Top, but she didn’t live the Four Top.

Jerry, on the other hand, only seemed to have them. He didn’t go out on the weekends unless they brought him along. He didn’t join the gaming club. He didn’t try out for theater productions. Sarah knew he was interested in these things, but he was unwilling to do the work to get involved. He’d found his friend group, and he was done.

Honestly, she wasn’t sure that they would be doing Jerry any favors by promising to get together regularly once college ended. Only hanging out with them was fine for college, where they saw each other several times a week. Even though they hadn’t all been in the same dorm since freshman year, the campus only had a few thousand people on it. It was pretty simple to meet up, and if Jerry wanted to spend the nights that he didn’t see them alone in his dorm room, that was his business.

The problem was that it was all too easy for Sarah to picture Jerry doing the same thing after they’d all moved away. Going to work, refusing to make new friends, then coming back home to sit in his empty apartment night after night. Spending months planning for the next trip with his old college buddies. Looking forward to Arbor Day, of all things.

There were days that were okay to be excited about. Christmas. Birthdays. New Year’s. Arbor Day didn’t even come close to making that list.

Obviously the point wasn’t Arbor Day itself, but still. Sarah could just see Jerry telling new people, “Arbor Day is the highlight of my year.” That sentence alone would guarantee that he never made any new friends.

It wasn’t that she didn’t like Jerry. She did. She just didn’t want to be responsible for his happiness.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a large wooden structure overhanging the road, framing a rusted metal tollbooth in the middle. The sign overhead announced that they were entering Corusca State Park. The tollbooth was plastered with too many signs to easily read, but they all seemed to be rules and regulations for the park.

Jerry slowed to a stop and rolled down his window. A park ranger who looked about as old and poorly-maintained as the tollbooth itself squinted back at him from inside. He gave the van a disapproving glare.

“Hi, we’re here for the campsites?” said Jerry.

“Mm,” grunted the ranger. There was an awkward pause. He didn’t seem to have anything else to add.

“So—it’s like twenty bucks to get in?” prompted Jerry.

The mention of money finally stirred the man to life. He punched keys on an ancient cash register until the drawer popped open and the printer began spitting out a lengthy receipt. He accepted Jerry’s bill with another grunt and handed him the ticket.

“Put that on your dash. If you buy wood at the camp store, put that receipt on your dash, too. Under no circumstances are you to collect wood from the forest to burn. You got that? Not fallen trees, not dead branches, not a single twig. Understand?”

Everyone in the car had quieted down at the man’s sudden intensity. Jerry gave him a nod. “Got it. No wood from the forest.”

“I’ll be coming around and checking at night. If I see you with a fire and I don’t see a receipt for logs from the camp store, you’re banned from the park. No refunds, no waiting until morning. You pack up and get out right then. I don’t care if it’s 2 AM and half of you are drunk. I will throw you out.”

“Camp store wood only. No problem.”

The ranger stared Jerry down for another moment, then nodded and pulled a lever. The striped barrier blocking the road jerked upward.

“You kids have a good time. Welcome to Corusca.”

Everyone was silent for a moment as they drove off. Then Devin said, “I was a little unclear. We are allowed to burn wood we find?”

The entire van broke up into laughter.

“No? Did I have it backwards? It seemed a little open to interpretation,” Devin joked. “Whoo! I know park rangers are supposed to care about trees, but that was something else!”

“We are definitely going to the camp store,” said Morgan. “I’m not interested in getting stabbed by a crazy ranger tonight.”

“You’d better glue that receipt to the dashboard,” added Devin. “Our lives depend on that piece of paper, man.”

“What if the printer’s broken at the store?” asked Sarah.

“I will kidnap the store employee and leave him in the car to explain that we definitely bought wood,” Jerry said. Everyone laughed again.

Their joking continued as they entered the camp store. The man at the counter gave them a tired look, clearly used to hearing people’s comments on the dire warnings from the front gate. He simply tapped the sign by the register reading “CASH ONLY.”

“Anyone have any bills on them?” Jerry asked. “I gave my last twenty to the guy at the gate.”

A brief examination of wallets yielded enough cash to buy one bundle of wood. Jerry eyed the small bundle suspiciously. “Well, guess it’ll have to do. Okay, let’s get to camp!”

A few hours later, the tents were up, the sun was setting, and dinner was cooking over the fire. Beers had been handed around, and everyone was lounging in chairs or on blankets, chatting and laughing. Jerry smiled as he let the sound wash over him. This was how life should always be.

He knew that the others would be willing to let their group split up after college, that they thought that was just the way life went. He was willing to be the glue that kept them together. These were friendships worth keeping, and in a decade or so they’d thank him for the work he’d put in to maintain their bonds. They had done too much together to let a small thing like geographical distance separate them.

Maybe Sarah was right about a specific weekend being a bad idea, though frankly Jerry thought getting together every Arbor Day to go to the woods was a fun idea. In any case, something to make sure they saw each other at least once a year was necessary. He had no problem with including Nat and Adam, and even kids once people started having them. As long as the core group all made it, they could bring anyone they liked. He would fight to the death to keep them together.

“I guess I know the answer to this, but—where’s the bathroom around here?” asked Morgan.

Her boyfriend Adam gestured broadly at the woods surrounding them. “Anywhere you like.”

“Gross. Did anyone at least bring toilet paper?”

“I did,” said Nat. “Come on, I’ll go with you.”

“Yeah, don’t use any leaves you find out there!” Devin called after them. “Those are the FOREST’S leaves. Touch them and die!”

“The fire’s looking good,” Sarah said, pointedly turning away from Devin. Ignoring his jokes was the only way to get him to calm down sometimes. “Aren’t we going to burn through all of our wood pretty soon at this rate, though?”

“Nah, I got some more,” said Devin, butting his way back into the conversation. At the look Sarah gave him, he added, “What? It was like one armful of fallen stuff. We bought the stupid wood like the guy wanted. He’s never going to know if we supplement it a bit. I put it all in first just in case he comes by to check the woodpile or something. All he’ll ever see is ashes and wood from the camp store.”

The trees all around the camp rustled, as if they’d all been shaken at once by a huge gust of wind. The fire never flickered, though.

“Looks like the trees noticed,” said Jerry.

“Stop it, both of you. If he does come by and you’re talking about the wood you stole, we’re gonna get kicked out. Sound carries well out here.”

A sudden cry came from the woods. Jerry stood up, looking around in the dark for the source. “Was that Morgan?”

“Probably a fox,” said Devin uncertainly. “Like Sarah just said, sound carries well. That could’ve been from anywhere.”

“We ought to go check on them. Just in case.”

“They’re fine,” said Adam. He waved at Jerry’s chair. “You worry too much, man. The woods are full of weird noises.”

On cue, the trees rustled again. Jerry forced a laugh.

“All right.” He sat back down. “It’s not like I can leave Devin to tend dinner, anyway. Not if we don’t all want to eat charcoal.”

“Hey!” Devin protested. “I’ll have you know that I—”

His words cut off and his hands flew to his throat. He suddenly stumbled backward into the darkness, vanishing into the trees almost immediately.

“Devin? Hey, Devin!” Jerry was on his feet again, charging in the direction his friend had disappeared.

“I swear the trees weren’t this close when we made camp,” Adam said, and then he too was ripped from his seat and dragged off into the woods. Sarah saw what happened this time. Some sort of branch or vine had lashed down from above to encircle Adam’s neck. From the cracking sound it had made as it yanked him from his chair, she didn’t think he was still alive.

She spun around, unsure where the next attack might come from. The trees were pressing in all around. The clearing in which they’d made their camp had shrunk to less than a dozen feet across. Trees were rooted in between their tents. They loomed ever closer, seeming to advance every time her eyes weren’t on them.

Sarah screamed as something grabbed her arm.

“It’s me! It’s me!” shouted Jerry. His eyes were panicked. His face was spattered with blood. “We gotta go. Devin’s dead! It had him up off the ground by his neck. I tried to grab for him, and it ripped his head off!”

“What did?”

“I don’t know! The trees! We gotta get to the car!”

The two fled for the vehicle, their fear mounting as they shoved their way through grasping branches. The trees were impossibly close, practically forming a wall. They ducked and thrashed their way through, holding each other’s hand in a death grip, terrified of being separated.

“I see it! I see the car!” Jerry’s flashlight beam bounced and bobbed, but in the wavering light Sarah also spotted the gleam of metal just a few feet away. She gasped in relief. They had almost made it! They were nearly safe!

They squeezed between two trees, the gap barely wide enough for their bodies, and stopped dead in dismay. The car sat directly in front of them, completely boxed in by trees. The forest grew so tightly around it that they could not even open the doors.

“What do—” Jerry began, and then rough bark wrapped around his waist. He and Sarah screamed in unison as branches grabbed and ripped them away from each other. Sarah’s nails dug furrows down his arm as she attempted to cling to him, but it was no use. Jerry watched her frantic, frightened face disappear into the night even as he felt himself lifted up and back into the trees.

His last thought was that he had failed his friends. It was almost a relief when the trees snapped his neck.

The ranger grunted when he found the abandoned campsite the next morning, with overturned chairs and the heavy marks of things being dragged into the woods. He’d heard the cries during the night. He’d already brought six saplings for the bodies he knew he’d find nearby.

The trees were always agitated after an incident like this. New growth helped to pacify them. Plus it would help the six latest arrivals adjust to their new home as well.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Micah Edwards


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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Pedro Bolas
Pedro Bolas
2 minutes ago

Why do the (((College))) amerimutts read like a bunch of teenagers?

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