Vegan Vampire Attacks Trees! by Jenny Howard

For years I’ve been what society calls a “tree hugger”: a regular EPA local meeting attendee, a recycle-crazed neighbor, and I’ve given out seeds for kids to plant on Halloween for the last six years. My name is Tony Arbor and, needless to say I’m not everyone’s favorite guy on the block. Last year though, when the trees were being gnawed on, causing them to break, fall, and crush cars along I-17, the Holly Ridge community turned to me to find a solution. But the culprit sat right here in my living room: she’s my sexy, blonde, curly-haired wife, who's sipping coffee and reading the funnies. She's also a vampire.

Don’t misunderstand: this isn’t a tragic story of death and the consumption of human beings, nor is it intended to be a frightening tale of life with a bloodsucker. Elizabeth, my wife, has never tried to eat me or any of our guests, because she is a vegan vampire. She consumes trees, plants, and other photosynthesis-loving objects.

I met her on a Tuesday while I was strolling through the park, admiring the rather large oak and through my daze, I heard a small cry. I looked away from the tree and there she sat, alone on a bench, crying because she had a splinter in her lip.

“Now,” I said, “how does this happen? You haven’t been kissing trees?” She blushed and looked down at the ground; I know now the reason: that she was choking back laughter. You see, she hadn’t been kissing trees, but had been chowing down on a narrow twig when a sliver became jarred in the side of her bottom lip. After a few seconds of foot-shuffling silence, I told her about my experience with wood and offered to take her home where I could remove the sliver.

I drove her home where I very carefully removed the beautiful splinter, jarred it, and it has sat on our mantle ever since. After we’d been married a few months, I started noticing leaves in her hair, dirt stains on shoes that had been clean. And an unmistakable smell of pinewood on her breath. “It’s my mouthwash,” she claimed. “Pine is the new mint. My dentist said so himself.”

One night I quietly followed her out of the house. She slipped into the woods, with a speed and sense of direction of having done this before. And I lurked, silent, behind a distractingly immaculate pecan tree, and watched as my dainty wife tore a thousand pound tree from its place in the soil and begin to chomp on its limbs.

Leaves flew around my head like mosquitoes and the sound of her teeth against the hard wood was like a dentist's drill—it shook my body. The lips that I had kissed each night were now littered with the debris of the disaster she had created.

I watched her straighten her blouse, pull a twig from her perfectly white teeth, swallow it, and head back to our home. That magnificent, innocent, perfectly growing pine tree! Gone! Gone! My head spun as I watched the scene over and over in my head. I felt betrayed, sick, and heartbroken. How many trees had been destroyed at the hands of my beloved?

Hours later I found myself back in the house, I dragged myself into my bedroom where Elizabeth lay in bed, happy, content, and full bellied. I crawled in, inching as far from her as I could, and went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up early, unable to feign sleep any longer; I walked around the house and noticed the things I should’ve noticed all along: small bite marks on the coffee table, rips in the wood paneling that Elizabeth had insisted upon all those years ago, and bags of hickory wood chips that I assumed were for cook outs. Though meticulously covered and patched, my wife had acted as termite throughout our home for years.

Later that day, I went to the weekly local chapter meeting of the EPA. When they began to talk about an all-night hunt to catch the animal destroying the trees, I hung my head in shame, having previously always been the most outspoken at these meetings. Elizabeth and I were the first to volunteer to host benefits and children's days. I got fired up about paper companies and spoke out openly about the people in our neighborhood who refused to recycle, leaving “Please save me” stickers on their doors with drawings of sad X-mas trees. Naturally, I had been tapped to solve the town-wide problem. Now I froze. Slowly, I looked up, trying to appear firm, determined, “Sure,” I said, “let’s catch this bastard.”

That night the volunteers and I went out looking for my wife. Our hometown team of volunteers looked like a bunch of witch hunters with their improvised defensive gear. Andy Slim, a third grade teacher who lived just down the street from us, had what appeared to be a colander atop his head, and a baking sheet across his chest like a bullet proof vest. There were lanterns, baseball bats, a vast array of homemade contraptions with which to capture the creature my one hundred and ten pound wife.

I led them far from where I’d seen her last, hoping to avoid the awkward stand-off that would surely follow the capture of Mrs. Elizabeth Arbor, committee member of “Trees are friends, not paper!” and devoted wife to the EPA local chapter treasurer.

“Over here!” one of my companions shouted. My heart shrank deeper into my body, surely beating straight through my flannel jacket.

We stood before a fallen tree, the unmistakable doing of the “animal” for which we were searching. It pained me to recall the scene of Elizabeth's inflicting such damage to the pine. The searchers separated to cover the perimeter; as I took a left to search, I saw her, hiding behind the roots of the collapsed and dying oak, trembling and poised to run.

“Anything over there?” asked Brandon Linen, a newer member of the EPA, but no less motivated than the rest of the search party. I looked into my wife’s eyes as she awaited my answer, knowing it would decide her fate. She stared back into mine and with the smallest shrug of her shoulders and a raised eyebrow, she silently mouthed, “I love you.”

I know I should have chosen my wife over a tree—a large, mature, and wonderfully aromatic tree that would never dance with the wind again. It was as though she sensed my hesitation, I heard a twig break beneath her shoe, and in an instant, she was gone. Before I had the chance to give her away, everyone turned in her direction. All we saw was a small hourglass figure running into the thick trees. We all ran into the darkness after Elizabeth and I knew we wouldn’t catch her, because she had been running these dark woods for years.

After an hour, we gave up looking. “Did you get a good look at the perpetrator?” another leading member of the search party asked me. Luckily, the woods and night sky provided cover enough for her to escape, unrecognized by the people who think they know her so well.

I hesitated: she was my wife. I loved her and she was who I had to go home to at the end of the day.

“No,” I answered him, “it was dark and that son-of-a-bitch was fast. Maybe we scared it off though.” I vowed to plant a tree as soon as I had a chance, I had to right this wrong to Mother Nature—I don’t want to get stuck on her bad side. Grudgingly, they all headed for home, hopeful that tomorrow’s hunt would be more fruitful.

I knew that if I just talked to Elizabeth, got her side of the story, that I could stop her without involving my overzealous fellow environmentalists who would surely be out for a conviction, if they even got close enough to notice it was she before brandishing their weapons.

I wondered what would happen when I got home: I had just seen Elizabeth tear a hundred year-old tree from its roots without messing up her nail polish. I was one hundred and fifty pounds myself, imagine the damage she could have done.

I pulled into the driveway, meandered slowly up through the yard, fumbled with my keys. And as I opened the door, I saw her cooking dinner in the apron I’d given her for her birthday: it had a willow crocheted on the front, and its weeping limbs were now very appropriate for my mood.

“Welcome home, Tony,” she said in her sweet accent. “Any luck?” She peered into my soul, I think, daring me to challenge that she had been at home all night, frying chicken, mashing potatoes. She knew very well how the search had gone, that she'd seen me; I, her. We talked about my boss, about the Girl Scout whom she’d bought cookies from that day, about the possibility of dinner with my in-laws later in the week. I just never worked up the nerve to say, “Hey, I saw you eating trees last night.”

That night, I went to bed with Elizabeth, knowing she would get up in the night to scavenge, and hoping to catch her once again and confront her—but this never happened. She dozed next to me through the night, and while I looked into her beautifully sleeping face, I remarked the tiniest splinter in her lip, and I smiled a little, recalling the day we met: she was exactly the woman I had married all those years ago.

At breakfast, as I prepared toast and eggs for her, I saw Elizabeth slide into her chair at the table. “What’re you making?” “Just toast. Did you want some?” I didn’t want to look directly into her eyes, I didn’t want to talk about what I’d seen. I wanted to make her toast and I wanted her to read me the stupid comic strips without compelling me to address that my wife was a hybrid between a termite and a Cullen.

“No, it’s okay,” she said. “I’ve been gardening, so I’m full,” she said with a sideways grin. I turned around, pulled her to me, and kissed her; I poured my heart into her lips, silently pleading with her to not destroy anything that I loved so much. She leaned over the counter with tears in her eyes and took a bite of toast.

My name is Jenny Howard and I live in Houston, Texas. I just finished up my junior year at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and am now studying at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.