Monday, July 11, 2011

Long Dead Lovers (Part Two)

Content Advisory: contains scenes that some people may find disturbing. The start of this story was posted on 2/4/2011.

Something moved to the right of her, catching her eye, and she spun around. In front of her, something on one of the tree trunks seemed to be moving, fluid flowing down its length. Her eyes narrowed. Was sap pouring out of it?

Natalie frowned and craned her neck forward. The bark looked as if it was rippling and moving down the tree-trunk; the grain flowing like water. Then the whole body of the tree-trunk undulated like the body of a snake and Natalie jumped back, her eyes wide, her hand at her mouth.

It must have been a trick of the light. She rubbed her eyes, almost comically, and peered into the shadows of the trees once again. This time, there was no mistake. The tree had moved position, the trunk slanting slightly differently, leaning to the left instead of the right. A branch that hadn’t been there before, now stretched out towards her.

It wasn’t possible. She was imagining these things happening, but why? Why did she think she could hear them call her name? Was this some kind of stress reaction—a delayed reaction to her boyfriend’s death?

Mark had disappeared, just abandoned his car and vanished into thin air. Though the police had mounted an investigation, no trace of him had ever been found and the case remained open. No one had ever figured out what had happened to him and it haunted her every day.

That was almost the worst part, the not knowing. It was something she had turned over and over in her head, searching her memory for any possible sign of depression or him being in trouble—anything. Yet they had started that day like any other; a kiss goodbye at the front door, with promises to see each other that evening.

His car had been found in woods, not unlike the one’s she walked through now.
Natalie tore herself from the memories, not liking the connection she had made with the place Mark disappeared and the one she was in now. Was that the reason for the things she was seeing? Had her subconscious dragged these memories from her and dumped her into mental crisis?


The whispering voice came again, calling her into the depths of the woods. She hadn’t imagined it this time, she was sure. She peered into the bushes. Her heart caught in her chest, her eyes filled with tears of fear, the world trembling.

The trees moved towards her, slowly and silently, like ghosts, seemingly unencumbered by the roots that should have tethered them to them ground.

She gasped and spun round, intending to run back the way she came, but the pathway was no longer there. Blocking her way, the silhouettes of skeletal trees stretched ahead, their forms like a street gang, aggressive and imposing.

“What the hell…”

Her mind swam with disbelief and she swayed, thinking for a moment she would pass out.

Then one of the branches stretched out towards her and rough twigs scraped against her face. She froze, her breath held, her body still. Again the image of skeletal fingers touching her cheek flashed through her head and it was enough to break her rigidity.

With a cry, she spun back around, but before her was an expanse of naked, winter trunks and branches. She was surrounded.

Oh, God. This wasn’t possible. Things just didn’t move like this. She must have wandered off the path and not realized it. Except she knew she hadn’t. Maybe she had already got home and now she was asleep in her bed, dreaming this terrifying thing. The walk home had been scary. It was only normal the result might be a nightmare.

A bark escaped her throat, its sound like the eerie cry of a fox in the empty night. Knowing she had no other choice, she took a deep breath and plunged into the woods, heading, she prayed, in the direction of the road.   

Natalie ran, pushing through the trees and bushes. Branches whipped back at her, wickedly thin, lashing against her skin.

She had no idea if she was heading in the right direction; she only wanted to be out of this situation. The trees loomed over and around her, imposing and claustrophobic. They were like giants surrounding her, blocking her way, leering over her as she ran.

Naked braches reached out like hands, grabbing her clothes and hands and feet. It was as if they moved with deliberation, snatching at her as she flew through their grasp. Her feet pounded against the rough ground, her breath gasping in and out of her lungs, the sound filling her head.

Branches tore at her skin. A sharp twig ripped her cheek open, just below her eye, and pain stung her, making her wince. Another branch caught her forehead and blood trickled down into her eye. Still running, she frantically wiped it away with the back of her hand, the red blood appearing black in the dark.

Panic was at her back now, pushing her along in a blind rush of adrenaline. How could she still be running through the woods? She should have burst out by now; either by the road, or by the train track. That she was still running through the trees was impossible. All of this was impossible.

 Her foot caught on a fallen log, and she catapulted over the top, landing in a heap on the other side. Sharp twigs stabbed into the palms of her hands as she tried to break her fall and her teeth snapped together. Pain speared up her ankle and she cried out again.

She was deep within the thicket now, bushes and tree trunks all around her. She felt dwarfed within it as, crying, she pushed herself to her feet, trying to ignore the pain stabbing up from her ankle.

Suddenly, from the undergrowth, a root lashed out at her, wrapping itself around her wrist. Natalie screamed in surprise and tried to pull her hand away, but the root—cold and slick against her skin—held on fast. The root tightened its hold and retracted, dragging her back to the ground. Pulled off balance, Natalie stumbled and sprawled on her back, a mewl of terror escaping her throat.

She stared at her wrist in horror, unable to take in what was actually happening. Before she could react, another root licked up from the ground, lassoing her ankle, pinning her foot to the ground. Natalie screamed. All around her roots and young branches slithered through fallen leaves and mud, so the ground moved as if covered in a living carpet of worms, bugs and snakes.

Another root lashed at her left wrist, wrapping tightly around it and pinning her other arm to the ground. Flat on her back now, both arms and legs spread wide, she could have been on some kind of medieval torture board. Things moved and rippled all around, beneath her body and beside her face, crawling and snaking beside her. Above her head, the branches of the trees leered down, giants watching over the torture of a rodent.

Natalie screamed again and fought against the bonds, but her struggles only served to strap her down tighter. A fourth root, or branch, she couldn’t tell, leashed her other ankle.

“Help!” she screamed. “Somebody, please, help me!”

But all she heard was the rustle and creak of the branches, leaves and roots around her. How, with the strange acoustics, they sounded exactly like they were whispering her name…


She opened her mouth to scream again, but a root slithered out of the undergrowth and plugged her mouth, sliding down the back of her throat. Her reflexes reacted, and she gagged against it, but it made no difference to its downward journey. Now her screams were muffled, their sound muted against the thick rope of vegetation. Terrified, she thrashed her head back and forth, but nothing could dislodge the thing now prizing her jaws open and blocking her throat.

She shouldn’t be able to breathe, but somehow she could still inhale and exhale, despite the blockage. Her body just reacted; she wasn’t able to give anything any length of thought. Terror and disbelief filled all of her mind, certain she was trapped in some horrifying nightmare she was surely going to wake from.
Another root crept up her trouser leg, against the inside of her thigh, cold and slimy, like the rotten touch of a corpse. Her struggles increased with renewed force, knowing exactly where the vegetation was heading. Her screams were mere whimpers against the thick rope of root already jammed down her throat, snaking its way down to her stomach.

The other root slipped inside her panties and forced its way between her most intimate folds, penetrating her.

Inside her head, Natalie screamed.

The roots were deep inside her now, one reaching down, the other up, connecting her with the earth. She was still pinned down, still conscious and aware of everything happening to her, but her mind blurred with disbelief.

Beside and beneath her, grains of earth separated, making way for her form as if she was sinking into quicksand. Instead of pulling her limbs outwards, like being on the rack, the root around her ankles and wrists started to pull her down, dragging her into the earth.

They pulled her beneath ground, soil filling her nose, blocking her airways. She couldn’t breathe yet she was still conscious, still aware of everything. Her desire to take great, gulping breaths vanished, as if her pores were absorbing the oxygen now and she had no need.

Within her, the roots continued to spread. They crept and divided, throughout her internal organs and veins, into her bones, like a cancer eating away at her.
Externally, she was being stretched outwards, her limbs lengthening and elongated. Excruciating pain wracked through her, but she could no longer voice her agonies. Her fingers grew and lengthened, each knuckle becoming a nodule, the finger branching from the node. Her torso thickened. Legs and toes protruded, lengthening and spreading, seeking their way through the earth.

Then, to her surprise, she found herself pushing her way back up through the dirt, head first. She broke through crusts of earth, soil falling around her. The roots penetrating her were now a part of her, no longer an intrusion. She continued to push up, her strangely elongated arms reaching towards the moon, which still hung low in the night’s sky. The damp scent of autumn filled the air and the biting cold was such a relief she wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time. She was escaping, breaking free from whatever terror had griped her.

Yet somehow, her perspective was wrong. She was too high. The pathway snaked far below her now, a mere strip, its emptiness lit by the orange glow of the streetlamps.

The branches of the trees that had threatened her now grew around her like old companions. Growing up through them, she became skeletal, her own fingers now elongated and malformed, her knuckles and joints the protrusions of the branches.

A tree grew opposite, across the other side of the pathway. Something about it jolted recognition inside her. There was something in the shading of the bark, in the pits and knots of the wood. She saw the knots as eyes and recognized the imploring death in them.


She saw the man she had once loved, and there was no doubt in her mind that his soul was somehow trapped within this stilted and rigid form.

Natalie reached towards him, desperately, and he reached back. What were once her fingers clawed their way towards him, grabbing hold. His fingers felt like bones in her grasp, like hard, jointed twigs. She clasped hold of them, seeking solace in their gnarled touch. She tried to pull herself into his arms, but she was rooted to the ground.

Above the pathway they locked hands together, two trees with branches clasped together, creating a canopy which, in summer, would create a dappled shade for passers-by to stroll beneath.

But in the dead of winter the interlocking twigs would remind people of bones, like the clutching hands of long dead lovers.


Marissa Farrar

Copyright © 2011 Marissa Farrar. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.
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1 comment:

  1. Great story! This gives a whole new meaning to the term "tree huggers." The descriptive phrases of her transformation were fantastic.

    Blaze loves this!