Up the tree
Up the tree, down the tree. Up the tree, down the tree. Freeze. There are eyes on me. If I don’t move, then I won’t be in danger. Up the tree…where’s the food? Shit, I don’t have any food. That’s not good. Down the tree again, and across the yard. There’s gotta be food somewhere. I was sure I had some, but I don’t know where it went. Keep crossing the yard. Freeze. What’s that noise? It’s loud. The large, roaring monster consuming the grass before me. It hasn’t seen me yet. I’m still safe. Crap, it’s looking at me. Run away. The little versions of those monsters chase me. Try to catch me to touch me, put their weird looking sausage mandibles all over my body. They call to me in words I don’t understand. I just stare back at them. They do realize I don’t speak their language, right? No matter how high pitched their voices get, I cannot understand them, unlike that tiny hairy beast that yells at me constantly, telling me to get the hell out and that it’s his home and that he’ll kill me. He says it so positively, yet his words are filled with malice. Where’s the food? The monsters are inside but thankfully they did something right and left a huge container of food outside. Seems like kind of a waste, but I’m not complaining. The smells mesh together to form something not very pleasant, but hey, food is food. Take the food, go back across the yard, and up the tree. I’m now safe in my home.
The Forest Trail
I wish I’d never set foot outside that day. I wish I’d stayed home. Ever since that day, I’ve felt a strange emptiness, like a part of me is missing.
It was a gentle fall afternoon and I wasn’t trying to do anything, like usual. Well, anything except moving as little as possible. I was snuggled under a huge blanket with my snacks and my phone, and I had just decided on what show to binge on Netflix for the sixth time.
Suddenly, my friend called and told me about this really cool forest path they had found. They decided they wanted to explore the path and wanted me to come along with them. I, of course, told them they sounded insane; it was bad enough that it was almost dark out, but now they wanted me to explore a path they had just found. Absolutely not.
I should’ve declined and continued watching my show. I should’ve ignored their pleas and persistence, made a decision on my own… but I didn’t. Instead, I got up from my comfort cocoon and put on a coat and pants, then went outside to wait for them to pick me up.
We drove for what seemed like twenty minutes before finally pulling into a parking lot of a seemingly abandoned building. My body was screaming for me to ask to go home, but my friend looked excited, so I shrugged those feelings off and put them in the back of my mind. I tried to convince myself that it would be fun. I was led through the abandoned building before we stopped at a large hole in a wall leading out to a broken rusty fence followed by a seemingly empty stretch of wood.
This is when I finally opened my mouth to protest.
“I thought you said this was a forest path,” I said. “Not a creepy, abandoned, broken-down building.”
My friend only smiled and replied, “Oh, there is a forest path! It’s just a little out of the way.”
“Out of the way?” I blurted incredulously. “This isn’t just out of the way. This is the type of place people go to get murdered. Have you never seen a horror movie?”
My friend looked confused. “I have,” they said, then turned and made their way through the hole.
Reluctantly, I followed, as I didn’t want them to get lost or worse. We crouched under the broken rusty fence and explored deeper into the woods, and as we walked, my nerves started to settle. The forest was pretty; the evening air felt nice on my face. Plus, my friend seemed to know where they were going. A smile slowly crept onto my face as I silently enjoyed the walk. It was quiet and peaceful. The building we had walked through was now gone from view, but I wasn’t worried. As a precaution, I had been marking trees along the path with tiny bits of glow-in-the-dark tape just in case we got lost. As we walked, it slowly started getting darker, and my nerves started to rise again.
“Shouldn’t we start heading back before it’s too dark?” I asked, a hint of worry in my voice.
“Ah, we’ll be fine!” they responded. “We still have plenty of light left! Besides, you’ve been leaving a trail of tape, right?”
That did little to reassure me. “But what if one of us gets hurt and we have no cell service?”
“You don’t have to be here if you don’t want to.”
“Of course, I don’t want to. But I can’t exactly leave you behind. I wouldn’t forgive myself if something happened to you.”
“You’re worrying too much. I’ll be okay; I promise.”
Despite my friend’s claim, I still felt uneasy about leaving them alone, so I swallowed my fear and continued forward, when suddenly my friend broke out into a run.
“Hey! Wait! Slow down!!” I called as I chased after them.
“I think I see something up ahead!”
What did that mean? My heart pounded against my chest. I just wanted to go home.
Suddenly, we came to a clearing. We both stopped to catch our breath and my heart refused to stop racing.
“Woah! Check it out!” My friend pointed into the clearing, and what I saw made me sick.
Before us was a large stone cube covered in symbols, darker even than the unwelcoming woods around us. Around the stone were dozens of faceless human statues. They were all different sizes and body types, each sporting different bodily expressions.
“Woah,” my friend said, before casually approaching the murder cube.
“Isn’t this so cool?” they said with an unhealthy amount of excitement in their voice.
“Cool? It’s terrifying!! I don’t think we should be here!”
“Think I should touch it?” my friend asked with a grin.
I shook my head violently at the question. “No, you shouldn’t touch it! What If it’s dangerous?”
My friend only laughed. “It’s a rock! How dangerous can it really be?” And with that declaration, they laid their hand on it. Nothing happened…
“See? It’s not a big deal!” They laughed triumphantly, but those laughs quickly turned to screams as stones slowly built up around their body. Their eyes were filled with fear, they tried to move but couldn’t. They reached out to me for help but no matter what I tried, I couldn’t do anything. I was crying, and they were crying, screaming in pain as the stone covered more of their body, until suddenly the screaming stopped.
I stood up, now facing a faceless statue that reached out to me. I shivered at its eeriness. I wanted to go home. I couldn’t remember coming out here all by myself. I don’t even remember how I had found this place to begin with; all I knew was that the stones were creepy, and I wanted out. So, I followed a tape trail back to the building and continued walking until I was at the empty parking lot. Not a single car was in sight, so I called an Uber home.
Since that day, I feel like I’ve been missing something. My body feels like someone cut something out of it, and I can’t figure out what that is… that part of me is back in the forest… but I’m never going back there. There’s nothing of importance to me there.
My favorite time of the year is coming up. Finally, a chance for me to express myself and be who I want to be! The world is so beautiful around this time as well! The leaves change from green to red and orange, like the trees captured sunset in their leaves. People bundle up and decorate the world with scary things. I’m especially excited this year, since I was chosen by the great ones. I’ve always dreamed of being picked. Jealous, I’ve watched friends and family be chosen. Able to serve their purpose. Taken from our home and given a new one full of love and joy. They must love their homes so much because none that have been picked have ever come back. And why would you want to? It’s an honor to even exist around them. I can’t believe they finally chose me. I’m on my way to my new home now. When I get there, they show me around a giant room, which I soon learn is something called a kitchen. I love how gentle they are with me. It makes me feel incredibly special. I know things are going to be perfect. After a while, they leave me by myself. Probably didn’t want to overwhelm me since this is all new to me. I am tired though, so I find myself nodding off, in my new house. It is warm, full of light, and much nicer than my previous home. I wish things would stay this way.
I don’t know how long I was asleep, but I eventually woke up to the feeling of a sharp pain near the top of my head. Startled and groggy, I have no idea what is going on. I can’t see anything; it is much darker than before. I have been moved from my spot in the kitchen and now reside on some paper on the floor. I am confused and the pain won’t go away. I start to panic. I want to call for help but I don’t know if anyone can hear. That’s when I feel them…hands on my body, holding me down as the pain spreads in a circle around the top of my head. I scream in agony, but my screams fall on deaf ears. I can feel hands removing the top of my head…reaching inside me and removing my insides. Ripping out my guts and casting them aside…I am helpless as they hollow me out, each scoop causing searing agony that I can do nothing to lessen or prevent. Then the pain returns. This time on my body…They carve triangles onto me. Each movement erupts in ceaseless agony across my entire body.
Why are you doing this? What did I do wrong? Is this a punishment? I thought I was good! Please stop! PLEASE!
This is what I try to scream. I want to beg for them to stop, beg for this nightmare to be over, but my pleas are only met with the sounds of joy and laughter. The carving stops and I can feel empty spaces where my body used to be. I’m not whole anymore…Perhaps the punishment is done…but then comes the worst part: the fire. They put it inside me, resting the fire on where my insides used to be. My body burns. The pain is unbearable, it takes all I have to not pass out from it. But I am terrified that if I fall asleep again I will wake up to something even worse. I can’t take it. The pain from the fire spreads throughout my body, entering the empty spaces that are carved away, causing searing agony. It is too much, and I find myself going unconscious once again. I don’t know how long I am out this time, I want to wake up. I am having a nightmare.
That’s it! This isn’t real! I’ll open my eyes and everything will be okay!
And that’s when I feel it. Cold. Biting at the holes and the flame inside my body. Freezing the exterior of my body. I shiver and open my eyes. They cast me out of my new home. I am forced to sit at the doorway of warmth without being able to feel it. I desperately want to be back inside. I am even willing to forgive them for what they have done to me.
I’ll apologize for being bad. Please just let me back in. I forgive you for punishing me!
But they ignore me, my pleas not even reaching them. They keep me there, outside in the cold, for days…weeks…I lose track of time. As time passes, I can feel myself getting weaker. My once-hard exterior is now soft and weak. I have lost my natural color, becoming a sickly greenish brown. The searing pain I felt the first day I was chosen is long gone and replaced by emptiness. I long for the days I had the fire inside me. As much as it hurt it kept me warm.
And that’s when it happens: one of the great ones picks me up. Finally! My punishment is over! I am being allowed back inside the warmth and safety of my new home! Yet we aren’t going towards the doors to the home, but to the woods. Suddenly I feel myself being lifted into the air…then I am flying. As I fall towards the ground, I see the broken and rotten bodies of those I was jealous of previously scattered across the forest floor…I’m not jealous anymore.