Atlas Place Writing Prompt #2: The Twisted Trees of Alticane

It’s time to get writing again!

Atlas Obscura is full of places and foods that can send the imagination reeling. Let’s lean into that creative spirit and use some of the world’s most amazing places from the Atlas Obscura database as prompts for your original fiction! We’ll occasionally be presenting amazing places and images from the Atlas to inspire your short fiction, poems, and other creative responses (please note that any responses will be subject to the same rules and conduct guidelines as the rest of our forums). We’ll provide the location, you provide the story!

“The trees were too polite, and soon they become hopelessly, breathtakingly tangled.”

Saskatchewan, Canada’s Twisted Trees of Alticane are a small grove of malformed aspens that have inspired local legend and botanical inquiry ever since their discovery. The bizarre aspens look like something that might grow in a haunted cemetery or The Upside Down, really they’re just a genetic anomaly. Learn more about the trees, and then tell us a story in the comments!

"The branches were very polite. Growing together from the trunk of a spindly Canadian aspen tree, the early years were easy. Each branch had the room to grow out, grow up, and reach for the sun as was their want. They all just wanted to give back to the trunk that gave them life. It was all incredibly selfless.

But one season, during which the hot sun and nourishing rains saw the tree’s branches grow with a vigor they hadn’t had since they were buds, two of the branches almost grew into each other. All of the branches wanted to see their neighbors succeed because they all wanted the same thing: to grow so that their trunk could grow for everyone. But these two branches, one named Stephanie because it’s a nice name, and the other named Borgle because tree branches aren’t generally in the habit of taking on names so a made up word sufficed just as well, didn’t quite know what to do when presented with a situation where they might have to hinder a trunkmate. So instead of interfering with one another, Stephanie and Borgle each altered the course of their growth so that they didn’t run into one another, curving over and under, exchanging pleasantries and minor apologies as they passed in the natural way that tree branches talk to each other.

Of course Stephanie and Borgle weren’t the only branches that experienced such a conundrum that season. All over the tree, branches were coming into near collision with one another, and having to bend and shift to keep growing like they all wanted to. Habble and Atlanta swung upward, the Beef Twins ran parallel until one twirled back in on itself. Crompton and Ives reversed their progress, creating a pair of interlinked bends that would never become unlinked so long as the tree lived. Over the next few growing seasons, the entire tree murmured with friendly niceties and mannered shifts of bark and wooden flesh.

After a few years, it had become apparent that the endless, patient politeness of the tree’s branches had become something of an issue. Unlike the angular, straight branches of the aspens just across the road, the tree that was home to Stephanie, Borgle, Gift, Czmxnvb, Bess, and thousands of other branches had become a bizarre tangle of limbs. A Gordian knot of overly considerate botany. But even as the tree matured, it’s branches never lost their thoughtful nature. As a new branch sprouted from Borgle’s skin, naming itself Justin6, it too adopted the tree’s defiant kindness, contorting through and around its nearby fellows. And so it went as the tree continued to sprout and grow.

Humans came to attribute the strange, crooked growth of the small grove on a mutation of the roots, when they weren’t blaming it on supernatural forces. But the tree didn’t really care. It was just a tree, trying to be kind to itself, becoming beautiful and flawed in the slow, slow process."


They were only twisted if
You insisted upon
The necessity of
Growing towards a single Sun

But there were other Suns
Stranger, rarer, obscurer
Throwing darker lights
Which may yet be drunk

I cannot tell you how to slantingly dance
To the music they and I alone hear
I can only say that when you hear it
You will know

And you will then choose
Whether horror is
Othered love
Or not


So good!


Czmxnvb is a pretty awesome name for a branch, by the by.

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