The Demon Tree by Alisa Golden

The demon tree was swollen with bloom. We stepped lightly around it, not so much to prevent the demons from awakening, but because the demons had started ripening and falling, and we did not want to step in one. A boy approached, carrying a stick. Other boys approached, carrying bigger sticks. People pushing strollers hurried away, as did commuters in shiny shoes. Children craned their necks. Understanding that dark was brewing, idlers took up perches on signposts, leaned in doorways, and crouched on the tops of cars. The boys met at the demon tree and raised their sticks to strike. A finch veered in the wrong direction, and I flinched as a demon grabbed the bird out of the air and toppled out of the tree. The boys immediately set to work beating the demon, but every blow was reflected back on the boys. “You’ll never understand prison,” said the demon. When the demon opened its mouth, the finch flew out, released. We were thrown off balance when the roots heaved up through the stained sidewalk, cracking and cackling, finally free.

Alisa Golden has taught bookmaking and letterpress at California College of the Arts since 2005. Her work has been published most recently in Blink Ink, Split Rock Review, and Gone Lawn, among others. She is the author of Making Handmade Books and the editor of Star 82 Review.