Dead Trees Give
No Shelter

by Dom Wilton

It’s late afternoon. In the bedroom, the paint is peeling off the walls. It used to be white, pure white. Now, it’s turned a sickly yellow, falling in flakes like ash to the bare floorboards. It seems as though the house is decaying, shedding everything which made it a home until just the skeleton remains. Timber beams are visible where the paint is thinnest, like bones in a necrotic limb. This house, it is just a roof and four walls after all. Everything else comes and goes. Tastes change. That vase which was in vogue last year seems so painfully hideous the next. A new face enters and tears down the wallpaper of the previous widowed occupant. The bed where she died is sold for something more fitting to the young couple. The old study, long unused, becomes the nursery for their child soon to be born. Even then, that sky blue room will evolve. Posters on the walls, clothes across the floor, candles, incense, girlfriends, boyfriends. Embalming keeps the form of a person, but does nothing for the substance. Everything that ends becomes new. That’s what we believe.

It’s comforting to think that someone will find use in what we leave behind. We show each other our favourite things just to see that same spark mirrored in another set of eyes. There wasn’t any blossom last spring. That was my favourite time of year. I don’t remember when the last blossom was. The ground outside was thick with a putrid mulch. I remember the smell. I remember the rain. It rained for weeks, maybe months. I’ve never seen rain like it. The few leaves that remained on the trees previously helped shelter the house, but they were gone. It was deafening. Then, one day, silence. I opened the door and stepped into the yard. You could barely call it rain. The water just hung there, gossamer-fine like time had stopped. There was no birdsong.

Under the windows I hung small boxes filled with fuchsias. They’re my only real addition to the place. I remember helping my mom plant them in the garden when I was small. I used to love the way they’d fall and cascade pinks and purples over the white fence. She said they reminded her of dancers. I still think of them that way, adding motion and texture to this old, plain house. That’s what life is. Anything less is just existing. Anything more is a luxury. On summer evenings I would sit in the yard until the blue sky was replaced by stars. There’s nothing in the world to make you feel so small and insignificant than being outside civilization and looking up at the stars. Our happiness, our suffering, our perfect little homes mean so very little when you put it into context. It’s amazing we do anything at all.

I never had children. It would have been cruel. I don’t think I have much affection to give to others. That’s why I chose to come out here. I’m quite happy being alone. I may lack affection, but I don’t lack empathy. All that talk of not wanting to bring children into a world with such a sense of impending doom seemed so cynical and hysterical. It’s just a protracted suicide. We can’t know the future for certain. Surely, it’s better to keep going, making positive changes, and hope for the best. We’re a pretty resilient species. For all their advocacy, I don’t think these people have really spent time out here. If they had, I’m sure they would think differently. Unless they are all like I am in lacking certain capacities, I find it hard to stomach the thought that someone could be so callous and self-important to deny future generations the chance to see what I see now. Even in this decaying state, it is still beautiful.

It’s painful looking out through the yellowing nets to see a world which should be so green. I don’t know if this is the same everywhere, but I can’t help feeling that it is. The last time I saw another person was some years ago, before all this. They hadn’t got lost, these two, they were just driving around, exploring. I liked that. They seemed friendly enough. The driver was a young woman about 23, definitely not older than 26. I assume she was just out of college. The passenger, a man of about similar age, it turned out was her fiancé. I asked them if they needed help, but they said they were fine. They just wanted to stretch their legs. They asked me about my home, how long I was living there, why I moved. It was nice to talk to someone. They seemed like they really were interested rather than just being startled by my presence. The way their hands searched for each other, wrapping fingers through fingers. It was love, pure and innocent. They must’ve stayed walking for a couple of hours. I said goodbye when I left them to do my laundry. When I came back, their car was gone. Only the tracks of their tyres remained in the soft dirt road. After a week of wind and rain, those too went.


It’s twilight now. It comes around quicker than you think this time of year. The shadows are long. It’s not just the house that seems skeletal anymore. My silhouette is rakish, like that of an unwelcome spectre in an old horror movie. The tree branches lattice the ground. They will for many more years until a strong wind comes or the rot sets in. I wonder if there’ll still be termites or woodworm. I saw a bird the other day out the corner of my eye. It was a fleeting glimpse, but I’m sure it was real. I’d hate for it just to be bugs that are left.

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