When Max Pilgrim awoke that Sunday morning he had no idea what was instore for him. The day before he had spent in his garden preparing to fell the large, and very dead tree at the bottom of his garden. He planned to build a summer house down there. A place where he and his wife could enjoy their retired summer afternoons drinking ice cold drinks and looking back towards their Victorian era, grade II listed cottage, complete with its ornately kept garden. His wife's pride and joy.
Max had cleared the area and had over the course of the last month sprayed the trunk with a liquid that was supposed to make the act of felling all the more easy. It was 10 o clock when he walked down the garden, whistling to himself, axe slung over one shoulder.
The tree loomed over him, its trunk black as the night. It had been rotten for years, and was only ever a question of time before it came down. Even the branches seemed to be mouldy. Leaves and vines hung from its twisted finger like branches in wet clumps. There was even an odour of decay that seemed to hang in the air around the tree.
Max set the axe on the ground, leaning the handle against his leg as he donned his thick workmans gloves and prepared himself for the task at hand. He didnt plan on having the tree down in one day, he was too old for that now.
Max took one last look at the tree. He didn't know why, but he was suddenly overcome by a strange urge to leave it alone. To allow it to stand as long as it dared. It was actually with a heavy heart that he picked up the aze and placed it against the trunk. The bark looked leathery, worn and tired. It even gave slightly under the weight of the blade being pressed agianst it.
It took almsot an hour of heavy and somewhat clumsy chops before the axe made any lasting indentation on the tree. The spray had apparantly turned the bark anything by soft, for Max stopped several times to inspect his progress or lack thereof and it had indeed turned leathery. Sweat stung his eyes and his joints called out in stiff displeasure when he finally stopped after seeing the bark finally split, relvealing the oddly white wood beneath.
Leaning on the axe, Max wiped his face with a handkerchief from his pocket and rested, breathing heavily. It was going to be harder than he expected.
The day wore on, the sun moved across the sky and Max continued his work. By the time he decided to call it a day his watch told him it was 15:45. His clothes were soaked through with sweat, and there were blisters on his hands despite the gloves. He had made good progress though, there was a decent sized gash carved into the tree. He stood back and admired his work. His mind still being dogged by a strange feeling that he should stop.
"Tomorrow you'll come down big fella. Enjoy tonight, I'll give you that one for your years of service." Max spoke to the tree, slapping it on the trunk as if he were talking to a friend.
He turned and walked away ... well limped away would be more accurate, his left side was a blaze of pain, which he hoped would disappear by morning, and only served as notice that age was certainly catching up with him. He turned once more to look at the tree, which he thought he could hear moaning, and saw a dark red sap leaking from the gash in its flank.