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  • Writer's pictureJ J Hanna

If a Tree Falls - Short Story

Updated: Dec 31, 2023

© 2020, Jori Hanna

She smiled at her computer screen, watching the black boxes of code scroll as her computer did its thing.

“I’m in,” she said with a little chuckle to no one in particular. It was almost a little joke she had with herself. No one else was around, so she may as well be the stereotype. After all, if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

Part of her wanted to say “Of course it does, because science dictates that the sound waves will happen with or without receptors to pick them up.” But the other part of her knew that sounds were as much a social construct as anything else, and the actual sound the tree made would be up for interpretation with no witnesses to confirm that it did, in fact, make a sound.

That’s exactly what this was. A tree falling in the forest. A few lines of code draining a millionaire’s account, shuffling it through shell companies and untraceable banks and eventually back to her.

No witnesses.

No proof.

No sound.

Of course, there would be happy beneficiaries. She certainly didn’t need this money, though she’d keep a cut for her living expenses. But she’d seen enough of her friends drop out of college or move off campus because they couldn’t afford it. That money would be split between them at reasonable amounts, “donated” to Rutherford College and forcibly distributed via grants to her friends who needed them most.

The millionaire certainly wouldn’t miss it. Not really. They’d notice the money vanished, and make it back in a month or two. Meanwhile, her friends would be able to stay in school and have better lives than they would have had otherwise.

A victimless crime.

No one gets hurt, and people in need receive assistance.

It wasn’t her fault the millionaires she stole from were too selfish to use their own money in a way that benefited others.

She’d started to get some notice from Rutherford’s students. It started small at first, just little whispers here and there in the dining commons as people celebrated the fact they got to stay. They thanked God, they thanked fate, they thanked luck, and eventually, everyone began thanking the Grant Angel.

She never would have claimed that name for herself, but if the shoe fits . . .

The money finished draining from his account and she watched it bounce around the globe a bit, watching her bank account lists light up, drain, refill, drain, refill, shuffle some more, over and over until finally the money landed in her account. The average human living in America requires a minimum of $50,000 per year to survive. Taking Mr. Brentworth’s excess would cause him momentary pain, but he’d recover. He’d readjust.

It was for the greater good.

$950,000 had been freed for the benefit of the masses.

She set up the scheduled anonymous donations of $2,000 at a time, scheduled so she wouldn’t keep any of it. Call it a personal qualm, or maybe a stupid fear, or maybe a wise action, but the second she got greedy would be the start of her downfall. $2,000 was enough to make a strong difference but not enough to raise any flags. Rutherford College would distribute as necessary as the money came in, and she’d stay free to continue liberating funds from the other Mr. Brentworth’s of the world.

She closed her laptop and put it back in her backpack, leaving her little base and heading out to her car. If she stayed out too much later, her roommate might worry. There was no curfew, but she knew her roommate kept an eye out for her, “Just to make sure you don’t end up in a ditch somewhere.”

Casey had no idea where she went at night, and for her own sake, it was better to keep it that way.

For everyone’s sake, it was best if what she did at night never came out into the light.

Because if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound. Not really.


This story, segments of this story, and ideas from this story are not to be duplicated or replicated in anyway. This content belongs to J. J. Hanna alone.


Please note: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to real life events is unintended by the author.


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J. J. Hanna is a writer and reader from Colorado. She loves suspense stories above all else, and is currently working on a debut novel of her own. When she's not writing, you can find her cuddling with a cat, drinking a caffeinated beverage, and watching one of her favorite shows. Go find her on social media @authorjjhanna to keep track of her most recent reads, current adventures, and to get the most up to date news on all things publishing.

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