N exercise 2.10 – horror setting
Looping tendrils of sticky vines dangle from the low canopy, grabbing at the skin of passers-by. They write and judder on contact with flesh. Numberless small creatures make their homes in this dark canopy, nestling in the black and private crevices of ancient trees gone from life to stone. I hear the occasional call, a squawking noise or tinny screech filter through the foliage. These calls rarely go unanswered.
The ground is covered with damp plants and heavy leaves. I wade through them, taking care not to catch my skin on the plants’ unnaturally jagged edges. They’re serrated like the sawblade to which my father lost his life in the mill. They rake at my delicate neck, exposing red lines of the finest calligraphy. My blood’s exposure to the air seems to awaken something in the beasts of the forest, for their hooting grows louder, more intense. I feel the weight of their infinite gazes settling upon me, a shroud of stone weighting me to the needle-strewn floor.
The smell of sweet sap fills my nostrils, clogs my throat. Its tang is unplaceable but stirs in me memories of childhood nightmares, of thrashing in sweat-soaked sheets, shooting up in bed with a scream. The sap oozes from the mottled trunks around me, from deep, etched wounds in their bark, gashes leaking a viscous amber goo that almost glimmers in the failing light. Stumbling over some concealed obstacle, I brush against the sap and it leaves my skin tingling, burning as with sun exposure, and I feel the cells within twisting, mutating, degenerating. Scraping it off proves impossible; I try with a leaf but it only spreads the sap.
Racing from the sky, the sun abandons me. The forest is thrown into a shimmering monochrome, and my field of view diminishes. Leaves and branches crush in around me as though all of these woods were crawling to meet me, to suffocate me with love and affection. The creatures in the trees grow louder. There is no moon. I thought I knew the path.