The forest was formed by layers of wet leaves. It started at the top, where they were still attached to the branches, and moved down, the layers gaining more and more moisture as the ground became closer. The ground itself was far beneath out feet, under mud, moss and rotting leaves and bark. Where possible, we walked across the branches, trying to keep our feet dry. The further we moved into the forest, the more we had to weave through the twisted branches that kept us up. The others were scared. It was the first time either of them had been chosen to poison a carnivore tree. I was the experienced person despite my young age. I had initially been chosen because I could wind thought the branches better than anyone else in the village. When I heard an animal squealing, I knew we had arrived at our destination.
There was a grassy hill rising from the swamp. Only one tree grew on the mound, but it had vines running between and around its branches. It looked inviting, a good spot to rest and drink before pressing on again through the forest. But that was what it was supposed to look like.
The squealing became louder and as I looked at the tree I found the source; a wild brown pig was dangling from the tree, its belly exposed and raw. The vines that held the pig up had thorns along it that pierced the skin enough to drink the nutritious fluid inside. There was no escape for the pig and soon enough, he would grow still.
We moved across to the island. With no mud on our feet, the vine could not smell us. If we didn’t brush it, we could get close enough to the tree to poison it. I moved in first, slowly, watching each vine as it twisted around under the tree’s leaves. I reached the trunk and signalled to the next person who would go to a different side on the trunk. As the second and third people arrived at the trunk, I looked up.
There they were. The missing people from our town. Wrapped in vines, pale, with skin hanging off them in places, and still. All of them still. Some had eyes that no longer saw, but most looked as though they were asleep in their cocoon of vines.
We had to work quickly. The vine would not like the threat we presented. We each started to drill a small hole into the trunk of the host tree, spaced evenly around the circumference. The pig began to squeal louder as it worked to free itself from the thorns. Its life was over. Even if there was escape, it was bleeding and would become prey to something else soon enough.
With the drills removed from the tree, we each brought a small vile from a pocket close to our bodies. We could each see the others. I made sure I had their attention before nodding and quickly getting to work. The stoppers were pulled from each vile and the contents poured into the holes in the host tree.
The tree and the vine became still for a moment. No wind could have disturbed it. The vine lived off the tree as well as the creatures it caught and would be all too aware of the poison in its system. The pig stopped squealing as it hit the ground and ran. I threw the empty vile on the ground and picked up my knife, ready for the dash to escape. This was my third poisoning, but it never became easier. I slashed at the vines in front of me as I struggled to move beyond its reach. It was a big tree, and the vine was mature. A yell from the other side confirmed not all of us would return to the village this day.
I was almost free. Almost back in the forest when the vine caught me. It grabbed my leg first, then my hand as I tried to free myself. It pulled me back towards it, towards more of the tentacles. The poison we put in the host tree would take three days to work; I didn’t have that long. I tried to be still as the vine wrapped around my body and up my legs. I was lifted off the ground and raised amongst the others from my village who had been caught by this particular tree. The thorns pricked my skin but it was not the thorns that hurt. I closed my eyes and thought of lying safe in my bed at home as the vine sucked the life from me.