Copper flakes fell from my hand and drifted away in the icy current. Engrossed by the dry, dancing scales, I crushed the thin skin of the leaf until it disintegrated into the stream below. Little flecks clung to shore of ice, I noticed.
The diffuse light from the clearing allowed for a soft shimmer on the bejeweled bank. A gentle winter had graced my temperate rainforest home. I lived here, but in a sense of breath and blood. I found myself in the frigid water, and the unfired clay beneath rotting humus, and even in the slate and sea-foam green shards littered between the trees.
A misty white dragon wafted from my lungs as I stood to leave the freckled shore. I left the sleepy stream and walked across the slick cobblestone bridge to delve into the warmer cover of the green, hairy giants. With leaves breaking at my feet, I gazed fondly at a semi circle of a fern. That particular sword had been a victim of mine, due to when I lustily swallowed new fronds during the languid warmth of spring. I pulled off two withered stems and flipped and wove them together in my reddening hands, so that their spotted bellies intertwined. I wrapped them around my wrist and turned them for a while, before letting them fall to the ground. I gave the ferns a final fluffing before returning my journey into the forest. The grey matte of the sky disappeared as it was replaced with the heads of trees and the delicate bodies of moss and lichen that clung to their crevices. A particular crustose mimicked wounds on some of the trees, pouring crimson colonies down their sides.
I had been walking among twisted feet for some time until I noticed a sudden warming and a slight sensation of a pulse. Did it emanate from myself? I felt it in my feet and arms, but as I clutched my neck in confusion, I found that the pulsing did not match my own heart. I stood in thick silence, focusing my attention on the feeling. Slowly, as if my toes harbored curiosity, I shuffled to the North. The path was constricted by fallen nursery logs, but even with a sense of uncertainty, I continued. As I passed by the numerous logs, moments later, I had realized what about them had unsettled me. The saplings sprouting from their moist bark had been drastically sharp, angular, and cruelly twisted.
The pulsing was stronger now, and I could feel it vibrating my body, as if I had just finished running up a great hill. With every few steps I took, a greater pulse would force it’s way through. I began to feel frightened, but the further I crawled into the forest, the more compelled I felt to follow the sensation. Unknowingly, I moved faster, and I ignored the way I awkwardly stumbled upon loose rocks and leaves and needles increasing in thickness.
I had to keep going; I had to know what was drawing me.
A hissing wind came from the North, and I gasped in repulsion. A choking, putrid smell, like old kusaya left in the sun, bit through the air. Wiping tears from my eyes, I started running blindly.
The pulsing had transformed into a constant, outrageous humming now. It felt as if my body was a thick hollow husk, and my blood had coagulated into angry hornets. It shook my body and weakened my knees as I ran. In the back of my mind, a tiny voice was screaming at me to turn back, but the vibrations and my feet frantically pulled me forward. Panic arose in me as I realized that I had no recognition of the area I was surrounded by. I didn’t know where I would end up, but I knew it was too late to stop. I crashed through the dense conifers, suffering gashes and bruises as I madly ran to wherever I was supposed to be.
I suddenly broke free from the forest and came to a clearing. The buzzing stopped, but I was painfully aware of my racing heart. Everything was still, silent, and heavy. I started to cry as I realized that I couldn’t hear anything, not even my gasping breaths.
Whispering crescendoed from the circle of trees surrounding the clearance, but I still couldn’t hear the air from my lungs, the shuffling of clothes, or the stomping of my feet. The whispers were tiny claws that scratched my hearing. I screamed, or at least thought I had, for them to stop. Heeding my wailing, they ceased.
Trembling from my flight and fear, my eyes flickered across the clearing.
My fear molded into dread. The clearing was devoid of life. Instead it was filled with sharp, slate grey rocks, the centermost were covered in a thick black ooze.
The ooze bubbled slowly from the edges of a pond filled with greenish, tar-like liquid.
I stared at the pond, transfixed by the popping, gaseous bubbles, as the feeling of dread and scent of decay filled me completely. The darkness of the trees matched the stagnant, opaque liquid before me, and I could no longer see beyond them.
I drew closer, until the rubber soles of my boots stuck in the viscous ooze. Still leering into the pond, I watched as it’s oily surface swirled with green and black hues as a single ripple emanated from the center.
Moments later, another ripple appeared, this time closer to were I stood.
And another, growing closer still.
As the last ripple burst to the edge of the shore, a pair of eyes breached the surface. They resembled large, menacing silverweed flowers. Calmly, they rose out of the surface, and the creature was revealed before me.
It was hideous.
It was a repulsive creature with the head of a lynx, the skin of a red-legged frog, and the body of a gargantuan mink. It slithered out of the pond towards me, snapping it’s teeth in a rhythmic fashion.
“Run”, I thought.
The creature wound itself around my legs and gnawed at my thighs. Searing pain tore through me, but I could not scream. First, a few slashes on the right, then several gashes on the left.
Satisfied, the creature with a sanguine smile drifted back to the pond, and I found myself following.
Black ooze clung to me, proving difficult for my dying legs to move, but slowly, I descended into the pond.
The liquid was so thick that I had to crawl through it. My eyes watered and blurred from the noxious gas scurrying to the surface.
It was so cold and numbing that I could no longer feel myself. Each part of me disappeared from my mind as I submerged myself further.
It wasn’t until I was up to my clavicles that the creature slyly looked back at me, before continuing our decent. Curious, I lifted my arm; my skin had started to disintegrate into the liquid below. Little flecks clung to the shore of ooze, I noticed.