It was supposed to be a simple job. But as the chainsaw stopped and the bits of dust settled, she saw the troubling look on his face.
He was frozen in place and had turned pale – as if a ghost had emerged. Their eyes finally met. He stuttered as he said, “Go back inside. Call the police.”
Christine Battersby looked out the kitchen window as she made her morning coffee and enjoyed the rising sun.
Her little backyard had a single, towering apple tree. But it was ancient – a gnarled memory of the long-forgotten monastic orchards that used to populate the Back Hills area. But the tree was special in another way.
Her family had owned the house and land since 1980. She had watched the area around them slowly change.
Families grew, neighbors moved in and out, and business thrived or failed. The tree was a comforting constant. But now, as she stared at its branches, she noticed something worrying.
The battered tree started to discolor. Branches bent and cracked. The baskets of beautiful red orbs were now almost none.
Christine rubbed her aching hands – painful arthritis. It was as if the tree knew she was aging and reflected her pain. What happened next made her innocent musings skyrocket into a panic.
It wasn’t just old wood anymore. A small patch of disease appeared from the roots and crawled up the trunk.
Strange white fuzz bloomed and the fruit turned into mushy lumps. It was dying. But what did that mean for her? She quickly picked up the phone and called for help.
Specialist Glen Conway came in and inspected the tree. “Sorry, but we have to cut it down,” he said.
Christine sighed with disappointment. It might have been silly to some, but it felt like putting down a family pet. The man pulled out his chainsaw. Little did they know, the tree had one final “fruit” to bear.
She watched from the kitchen window, thinking about the memories that had rooted in that very yard.
All her special pies would be gone too. But as Mr. Conway got to the diseased sections, Christine felt dizzy and faint when he rushed to his truck to change the simple face mask to something else.
The new mask was something heavier – like out of a disaster movie. He also started to bag certain parts, almost like a miniature, black quarantine.
Was the tree that sick? Humans could get ill from things like black mold. So, could tree fungus and other diseases have the same effect?
Mr. Conway revved the chainsaw, struggling to get through the lower sections.
However, just before the last piece, she heard the motor suddenly stop. The lowest part of the tree was completely hollow. Whatever had happened morphed the man’s expression from surprise to fear. He slowly stepped away. His face went bone-white.
Christine opened the door so she could take a look, but he held out his hand. “Stay inside. Stay away from the windows.”
She watched him run behind his truck and pull out his phone. She sat at the kitchen table, biting her nails. His muffled voice floated over the wind. She heard one, terrifying word – “explosive.”
Minutes seemed like hours until he came back in. By then, she was a mess.
Her heart and stomach were in her throat. “You won’t believe this,” he said, “but there’s an old grenade in the stump.” Christine let out a small scream and steadied herself from passing out. A grenade? But how?! That tree had been there forever!
It wasn’t long before cruisers pulled in and police started to roll out yellow tape around her property.
There she sat, in the middle of a crime scene – brewing coffee for everyone who showed up as well as begging for information. One officer was kind enough to snap a photo for her.
Indeed, in the middle of the dusty, hollow trunk was an old, crusty grenade.
But it wasn’t just any regular ammunition. It was a WWII relic. One officer stood at her door while another protected the property for the entire night. “Why can’t you just take it out now?” she asked. The officer’s answer was troubling.
The specialist who would remove such things wouldn’t be available until morning.
All they could do was pack sandbags around the trunk and make sure any “historical-item-thieves” didn’t try to take it. It turns out that hidden WWII ammunition wasn’t an abnormal find. The revelation kept her up all night.
Christine sat on the sofa, thinking about all the moments she had been so close to something so dangerous.
Every time she had nudged it with her lawnmower or watched her children climb it – the idea made her nauseous. What else was hiding and waiting below the layers of rock and dirt?