The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Look Around Once in Awhile
by Nicole e. Castle
You follow Leigh into the woods. It’s almost dusk but she wants to show you something. She’s odd but good looking. You’ll humor her until you can get her back to your place.
“I grew up in these woods. I’d spend hours out here. Looking up at the sky, playing in the stream. I’d steal my mom’s Coca Colas and cheese curls and have a picnic.”
“It’s kinda creepy.”
“I’d come here, prop myself against a tree, and read books until sunset. The animals were my friends. They’d watch me and I’d talk to them about the novel I was reading. We’d have our own book club.”
“Didn’t you play out here with your real friends?”
“I didn’t have any.”
“Kids pick on quiet kids.”
You figure now is a good time to show her your softer side.
“I know. That’s why it took me so long to talk to you. At first I thought you were a mute. Then I figured you wanted to left alone.”
“I would talk more if people weren’t so distracted. So into their phones.”
“Ha. What do you mean?”
“I mean, they’re obsessed with these…machines. What about just sitting quietly in the corner or under a tree? Actually thinking about life? About nature? Look at all these fireflies that are dancing in front of us and you haven’t even mentioned how beautiful they are.”
“They are a part of nature. They are part of this amazing world and everybody just has their heads down all the time. Honestly, it makes me sick.”
“Um, okay. Where’s this spot you want to show me? Then I think we need to head back . . .”
“You don’t like being out here with me? Thought you liked me?”
“You’re kinda weird. This forest is weird. And for the record, I love, love, love my phone.”
“It’s more important than human interaction? More important than the beauty that surrounds us all the time?”
“Yeah, sometimes. So what? Christ, you act like your 70 years old!”
“I think I misread our connection.”
“You think? It’s getting really dark. Let’s head back. Unlike you I didn’t spend my childhood in the backwoods, howling with the wolves.”
“What I want to show you is right up here?”
You wonder if there is any way to salvage this evening. Probably not.
“Oh, come on, Leigh, time to go. We can get coffee or something at that indie coffee house you like.”
“You haven’t even noticed the moon, have you?
Nope. Not worth saving.
“Fuck the moon. I’m done with this.”
You start heading back the way you came. But you notice the full moon now. It’s so bright you can see the path clearly.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be weird,” she calls behind you.
You pause. She is hot. But hot, strange, and crazy? You can’t deal with that. Time to go. You look over your shoulder and she hasn’t moved. She’s looking at something higher up the hill.
“Leigh. Come on. I’m not fucking around.”
You notice the shadows have deepened. Even with the moon, it’s hard to see in front of you. Or behind.
“Leigh! Goddmanit! Where are you?”
“Do you notice the woods now?”
“Yes, they’re awesome. The coolest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. Can we go?”
“You don’t really see the ancient trees, do you? Do you see my friends? They’ve come out to watch.”
You see the animals of the forest have formed a circle around you. They sit silently. Their eyes bore into yours.
From the sky, you hear flapping wings. A large black bird heads straight for your face and plucks out your eyeball. You fall to your knees, clutching your gaping socket, shrieking, blood pouring onto your chest, onto the tainted ground.
“Leigh, what the fuck have you done? Help ME!!!”
You feel a rumbling in the ground beneath you. Worms work their way out of the dirt, centipedes and grubs. You feel tiny pinpricks in your legs and try to rise.
You know that Leigh doesn’t care what is happening to you. You will have to fight your way out alone.
You stagger down the hill, your feet numbing from the bites. You hear them following, coming quickly behind you. Hooves, claws, padded feet. The animals.
And you hear Leigh in the distance, talking in hushed tones.
“I promised I’d bring her to you. A meal fit for a king. Are you proud of me?”
A raven’s call answers her.
Fiction © Copyright Nicole e. Castle
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
More from Nicole e. Castle:
Bram Stoker Award-winning editor and author Michael Knost gave his online writing students an opening sentence and a closing sentence and asked them to write a story Between the Lines.
Every story opens with: “Kelvin pressed against the wound as blood seeped around his hands.”
And ends with: “Watching the train disappear into the night, he brought the flower to his nose before tossing it to the tracks.”
This anthology is the amazing results.
Now, prepare yourself for the wonders you’ll find BETWEEN THE LINES.