So we hit a milestone on Monday, without even realising it! Mondays short story was the 200th short story posted to this blog. That’s right dear reader, we reached 200! I was planning on doing something to mark the occasion, but I unfortunately didn’t notice until after the fact. However, on further reflection I decided that I won’t do anything, not until I reach 250. So really the only point of pointing it out at this stage is because I’m proud I’ve managed to write and post so many short stories. I remember when I started I wasn’t sure how long I would keep going. I think it’s pretty awesome to have gotten this far!
My monday was pretty tiring, I went to the doctor after college for a check up and I’m doing fine, (yay!), college itself was pretty fun, the classes were very enjoyable.
Just wanted a quick second to brag a little! Thank you to those who’ve been reading from the beginning and thank you to new readers too, both kinds are very much appreciated!
On with the show!
It had been a long day and he was tired. He was up early, with the dawn, and worked until well after nightfall. He had expected to have to work tomorrow too, but he was given the day off and it was a relief. He would sleep well tonight and probably late into the morning. He had work to do around his own home too. He had volunteered to help but he did not expect everything to go on for so long. They had gotten through most of the work at least, a lot of the trees have been removed, as well as a large amount of bushes, they had been chopped up too. They had given him dinner, Tim and Sandy were extremely grateful, promising to get him something as thanks, he refused as he knew how much they were struggling, though they had insisted. He hoped that if they went forward with their idea, it would be something small, he would feel guilty if they went all out. He had offered help out of kindness rather than hoping to benefit somehow. He wasn’t sure what time it was and he didn’t want to know, he felt that if he saw the time, how tired he was would truly hit him. As it was he walked in a sort of daze, only knowing where to go because he had walked the path many, many times before. The woods were dark, but he did not find it unnerving, the moon gave a little light so he was able navigate with relative ease. The woods were silent, though he did not notice, too focused on the thought of a quick, hot shower and a soft bed.
He didn’t notice the gentle glow that began to fill the woods, not until he stumbled into the clearing. It was that which surprised him first, not the light, nor the bulging sacs, but rather the new space that had never existed before tonight. He froze, looking around the clearing, frowning, had he gotten turned around? There should be trees here, like everywhere else, he looked back the way he came and saw the woman, a rock that was in a vague womanly shape, he was definitely on the right path. He turned back, then looked at the trees, squinting at the light. He rubbed his eyes, making sure it wasn’t just some kind of after image, but it wasn’t. They were there, quite clearly. Orbs, growing out of the trees, that were emitting a soft yellow glow, highlighting a web work of dark lines that could be parts of the tree branches, or some kind of vein-like structure. He approached the tree carefully, looking at the ground, he didn’t want to trip, not if it meant falling into one of those things. Now that he was closer, it appeared as though there as something inside, what it was he could not tell, the skin of the sac was translucent. He squinted, trying to get a clearer look, maybe it was some kind of fungus, some new mushroom, but that didn’t seem right either. He could see now it appeared as though the darker lines were tree branches, either holding it or supplying it with nutrients. He looked around at the other trees, each one had orbs, they were all different sizes, some trees had only one but most had several. He reached up slowly to touch it, but before his hand rested on the sac he paused and drew it back. It could be anything, anything at all and he didn’t want to end up poisoned or something. He stepped backwards, wondering what he should do. The longer he stood looking at them, the more awake he felt. He moved into the centre of the clearing and squatted down, looking closely at the earth. It was clear where the trees had been, patches of muck amongst the grass, tufts of weeds that had been growing near the trunk, but that was it. It appeared as though they had simply vanished. He would have expected the earth to have caved in slightly, moved down to take the place where roots had grown, but it did not appear to have happened. He released his breath, realising he had been holding it, then breathed in deeply. That is when he smelt it. Sweet, with an unpleasant tinge, like burnt sugar, something hiding just below it. It must be coming from the orbs, what ever they were. He wasn’t sure but he thought what ever the relationship was with the tree, it was probably parasitic, the orbs leeching off the trees nutrients. Maybe that was what happened to the trees that had vanished, the orbs had consumed everything the trees had, then moved onto other trees or were destroyed with the tree. He felt the soil where one of the trees had been, the soil felt warm, unnervingly so, the ground around it was cold, without realising it, he rubbed his hand on his jeans. He stood again, then moved closer, there was definitely something inside the sacs, he saw it, moving. He shivered, wondering if it was the embryonic stage of something, then he looked around, alarmed at the thought. What if they were some alien creatures or something older than recorded history, revived. He could see something dark moving inside the closed orb, swimming inside. He looked around again, then started to walk back to his house. It would be safe there, he could ring someone and tell them what he found, show them. He didn’t know who he’d ring, after all what could he say? Some strange creatures are growing in the woods? Maybe the police or something, say he thought there could be a chemical spill, that might work. It wasn’t true, but he would be taken much more seriously. He walked thirty feet, his eyes already used to the light, before he stumbled over a branch, he paused for a second, trying to let his eyes adjust, when he looked behind him, the glow was still there, but maybe it was something else, his imagination perhaps. He turned and began to walk back to them.
They were still there, no more trees had vanished, not as far as he could tell, he decided he would go home now that he was sure, but he made no effort to move. Really, how many people see something like this? It might be dangerous but he could be the first human to witness this in thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of years. He approached one again and ever so slowly he placed his hand onto the orb. His first impulse was to snatch it away. It was warm, surprisingly so, and it was also pulsating, very, very slightly. The surface was deceptively smooth, when he kept his hand in one place it felt solid and as though it had been polished, but when he moved his hand it felt gritty almost. He took his hand from the orb and looked at his palm, there was no difference in colouration, it appeared as though nothing had come off onto his hand, he half expected his hand to be covered in yellow, perhaps a kind of pollen, but there was nothing. The warmth seemed to stay on his hand for a little longer, then dissipated.
He didn’t know how long he was looking at the orb, entranced by its glow, when he heard the noise. It was strange, almost similar to tearing fabric, followed by a steady dripping noise that grew faster and faster. The tearing noise again, this time followed by a splash and a squelch. He spun around and started looking at all the orbs, looking for the deflated or deflating one, but they all looked the same. He looked back at his own and felt the surface, pressing it slightly, there was a slight give, but not much, it hadn’t been this one, nor any that were visible from the clearing. There was a faint rustling noise, like something sliding through the grass, before the sound stopped. Nothing had entered the clearing. His heart was beating wildly, he tried to calm himself but it wasn’t working. He should go home, that would be best. God only knew what was inside these things. He took another look at his orb, it appeared to have grown bigger. He began to walk away, then he saw it on the ground, a puddle of liquid, glowing softly. The smell of burnt sugar was stronger here, he knelt down near the puddle and, seeing a small stick, he picked it up and prodded the puddle. Nothing happened. He dipped the stick in fully, wondering if the end would dissolve or morph or burn, he lifted it up, a large amount of the liquid clung to the stick before it slowly started dripping, each drop left long strands, like syrup, even the strands glowed, the smaller ones appearing to be strands of blond hair. It seemed to have great elasticity. He dropped the stick and stood, looking around, he scanned the ground but there was nothing, no tracks, no creature. It must have been his imagination. Of course, that’s all it was. Now was a good a time as any to leave, better maybe. He started to walk. He got a little further this time before turning. He could always search the area a little more, there might be something on the ground, some kind of seed that had rolled from the pod. He thought what ever was inside the sacs had been moving, but he could have been mistaken, it could have been multiple seeds floating in the liquid. He took a step towards the new clearing and stopped. No. He’d get home and call someone. That was the important thing. He stood where he was, frozen by indecision. He started walking towards the clearing, a sudden breeze cleared the air, this was ridiculous, he should go home and call someone. The breeze died and the scent returned. Yes, he’d go home, call someone, clean up and go to bed. In the morning he’d know more. He smiled, this was the right thing to do. The smile died. He was in the clearing again. He didn’t remember walking towards it.
That noise, again, ripping fabric, it seemed wetter, he spun, looking for the source, it seemed to be all around him. His orb was slowly decreasing in size, though it didn’t appear to have opened, he blinked, his orb was gone. Golden liquid on the ground. How much time had past? He didn’t know, it seemed like dawn was approaching, the sky turning a soft red. He shivered, it was cold here, he hadn’t noticed how cold it had been. He turned slowly, a few of the trees were gone, more seemed to have orbs on them.
He blinked, it was so bright, when had it gotten bright? More trees were gone, the clearing was getting larger, he tired to move his legs, he couldn’t. He looked down, there on his hand, one of the orbs. He lifted his hand closer to his face and felt it, it felt like he was touching himself, he squeezed it and yelped in pain. It was part of him, a complete and utter part of him. He squinted in the daylight, there, over there, what was that? He squinted, it looked like a person, he tried to call out, but no noise came, he waved his arms, trying to attract their attention, they were standing still, not even looking at him. Panic, bright and surging, he started to struggle, he had to get home, get to the hospital, anywhere but here he needed to get away, oh god it was on his hand oh god what the fuck what the fucking fu-
Darkness. How long had he been here? His mind was slow, sluggish. He looked at his hand again, to check on the lump, it wasn’t there, he sighed in relief, it was so dark now, he could see orbs, they were further away then he expected, he reached out to touch the skin, see if there was any trace of the orb. His hand moved through air. The fuck? He tried again and again. Then it hit him. His hand was gone. Completely and utterly. He felt around, finding the stump, his arm ended at his wrist. Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus his hand, his hand was gone. The skin at the stump was smooth, no scars, it was as though it had never been there. He looked down again, trying to see what was holding him, why couldn’t he move? He felt nauseas, faint, he leaned over, ready to vomit, he retched.
Daylight. He was standing again. How long had he been here? Standing? The ground around him was devoid of trees, the closest tree was at least six or seven hundred feet away, they were going so quickly, how could the trees be disappearing so fast? There were more people around him, none of them moved, he waved at them, but none responded. There, over there, it was Sandy, he was sure of it. He tried to call out again, maybe if he really tried, he took a deep breath.
Darkness. He stood, knowing no more, rooted to the spot until eventually his body could no longer support itself and he collapsed to the ground. Around him the orbs continued to spread, growing outwards.