A Friend Indeed- Friday Flash

A Friend Indeed

By Melissa L. Webb

 

 

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“It’s only a field,” Lucy muttered to herself as she stared into the night, her eyes searching for the well-worn path in the overgrown grass.

“You don’t have to do it,” Kyle said from beside her. “You can take the chicken way out.”

Lucy rolled her eyes. They were in high school. They were too old for name calling. “Why don’t Shawn and Beth have to do it?” she asked, motioning to the other side of the field. Two more of their friends stood there, their flashlight beams bouncing around the grass.

“They’ve already done this,” Lisa said, banging her flashlight against her leg. “It’s our turn to prove ourselves.”

“This is dumb,” Lucy said, her heart hammering away in her chest. “Everybody in the neighborhood plays in this field. There’s nothing out here but weeds and trash.”

“Then why are you so afraid?” Kyle snickered. “You know as well as anyone there’s something wrong with this place.”

She did know. People walked through the field all the time. Kids spent long summer hours on their own out here, yet the field had a strange vibe to it. Something was off. That never left anyone’s mind as they used the place.

And no one dared entered it after dark.

No one except them.

“Come on,” Lisa snapped. “It’s not difficult. Just walk across the field. That’s all you have to do.”

Kyle nodded. “As long as you don’t look back you’ll be fine. That’s all there is to it. It’s a piece of cake.”

A shiver ran down Lucy’s spine. “What happens if you look back?”

Kyle shrugged. “No one knows. Either no one has, or….”

“No ones’s lived to tell about it,” Lisa added evilly.

“Only the brave walk across this place at night,” Kyle said, handing Lucy a flashlight. “Are you ready to be brave?”

Her eyes drifted back to the field, trying to see through the darkness coating it like a blanket. Anything could be out there. How could she be brave when anything could happen?

“Oh, please,” Lisa said, pushing past her. “I’ll go first. I don’t want to wait all night for a scared, little baby to take her first step.” She looked Lucy dead in the eyes. “You need to grow up if you want to continue to hang out with us. We don’t socialize with losers.” With that she stepped onto the path, her flashlight beam sweeping back and forth with each determined step.

Lucy watched, her breath caught in her throat. How could anyone think this was a good idea? The night paused, like a thousand eyes fixed on them, waiting for one wrong step.

“Hey, Lisa!” Kyle yelled, startling Lucy out of her thoughts. “Don’t look behind you!”

“Very funny, Kyle,” she called with a laugh.

Lucy couldn’t believe it. “She’s not afraid.”

“Of course not,” Kyle said. “She’s not a coward.”

Lucy glared at him, but held her tongue. What happened to her friends? They use to be fun. Now all they did was put her down.

Lisa reached the other side and waved her flashlight proudly.

Kyle waved his back, then turned to Lucy. “Are you ready?”

“I…,” she started, looking back into the dark field. “I don’t know.”

“Fine. I’ll go next,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Maybe once you’re left all alone you’ll be more eager to cross.” He stepped into the field. “See you on the other side.”

Lucy watched him go, dread building with every step he took away from her. Why were they so eager to humiliate her? Was this the only excuse they could find to ditch her? She knew she would never be one of the cool kids. She was too unsure of everything. She didn’t have the confidence the others had.

Sadness crept over her as she realized the truth. They did want to move on. They wanted to shame her into giving them an out.

Well, no way. If they wanted to stop being friends they’d have to tell her to her face. She wouldn’t let them use her fear of the field as an excuse.

She waited as Kyle triumphantly stepped on the opposite sidewalk, flashlights spinning like mad in celebration. Someone shone one in her direction, clicking the light off and on in three rapid burst.

It was now or never.

Lucy took a deep breath and pointed her flashlight on the path ahead. She could do this. All she needed to do was walk.

She took one step into the field and then another. She could imagine the look on her friends’ faces as she drew near. She refused to hand them a excuse for destroying their friendship. Let them be the bad guys.

A rustling stirred the grass behind her even though no breeze touched her skin. The night was calm. There wasn’t any reason for the sound.

Lucy’s eyes locked onto the flashlights in front of her. She didn’t know what was behind her but she refused to turn around. Kyle said she’d be fine if she didn’t look back. She didn’t know if they’d been teasing her or not, but she didn’t dare risk it. It wasn’t like the field was a normal place.

She reached the center and took a deep breath. She could see her friends clearly. She was all most there.

“What is that behind you?” Shawn yelled, pointing with his flashlight.

Lucy started to turn, then caught herself. “Knock it off,” she yelled through clenched teeth. “It’s not funny.”

“Yes, it is,” Lisa called back. “You should see how funny you look standing there with your eyes about to pop out.”

“Why did you stop?” Beth asked. “Did the little baby pee her pants?”

“Aw, do you need a diaper change?” Kyle said with a laugh.

Lucy felt tears sting her eyes. When had her friends become such monsters? High school changed them and the thought sickened her heart.

She had half a mind to turn around and leave them where they stood. Who needed friends like these? She certainly didn’t. She could make new friends. Friends who didn’t treat her like dirt.

Lucy started to turn when she heard footsteps on the path behind her. She froze as ice settled into her veins. She was no longer alone.

“Who’s behind me?” she called, the shakiness of her voice betraying her fear.

“No one’s behind you,” Kyle called impatiently. “Stop being a baby and get over here. You’re almost done.”

“No, someone’s behind me,” Lucy insisted. “I hear them.”

“We’ll leave you here, Lucy,” Lisa snapped. “Is that what you want? Take a few more steps to prove yourself or we’ll leave you alone like the baby you are.”

Terror wrapped around Lucy as the footsteps stopped behind her. Something was there and her friends weren’t going to do anything about it. She tried to take a step forward but fear turned her legs to cement.

A strangled cry escaped her lips as she felt a warm breath drift over the back of her neck. “Help,” she managed to squeak out.

“This is lame, you guys,” Lisa said. “Let’s go. I’m done with this loser.”

They turned and walked away, heading away from Lucy when she needed them the most. She stood there, tears falling from her eyes, as despair fought the fear for control.

They abandoned her.

Fingers curled around Lucy’s shoulder as a voice whispered her name in her ear.

She spun around, pulling away from whatever it was. As her eyes swept over the path, the landscape changed around her.

Flames rolled across the field, churning in delight as ashes fell like snowflakes against her skin. Moans rose from the sea of fire as a chorus of screams tore through the night.

Black eyes stared out of a twisted white face as the creature who touched her drew its hand back. Its body was nothing more than shriveled flesh under the black leather it wore. It towered over her as it grinned down with a blood red slash full of teeth.

“Hello, Lucy,” it spoke. “I see you’re in need of some new companions.”

“Um,” was all she could manage to get out as the fire raged around them.

“Don’t worry. You and I will have lots of fun. We can even teach those losers a thing or two.”

A smile spread across Lucy’s lips as she felt her sanity slip away. She dropped to her knees, staring up at the monstrosity. “Hello, friend.”

 

© 2015 Melissa L. Webb

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Imp Woods- Friday Flash

Imp Woods

By Melissa L. Webb

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Have you ever seen an old rope swing hanging from one lonely tree? It hangs there, swaying slightly in the breeze.  Its seat covered with dead petals and leaves and you know it hasn’t been used in years. It’s a sad sight and sometimes you think they should just take it down.

They can’t. It’s there for a reason.

Along time ago, every patch of woods had a tree that stood away from the rest.  It was called an Imp Wood. That tree was feared because of the strange things that happened nearby it.

Animals would die. Children would disappear. Men would quake in their boots from the sights and sounds that emanated from that area.

It wasn’t like the tree could be avoided. Imp Woods were always within sight distance from the dwellings. You could look out the window and see it, mocking you with its ominous presence.

A few men thought chopping it down would help. It didn’t and they paid the ultimate price for their mistake.

Everyone who raises an ax to an Imp Wood died horribly within a few days.

People soon realized the only way to protect their homes was to appease these malevolent entities with an offering. It needed to be something that distracted them from their mischief.

A child came up with the answer. They needed to bring laughter and delight to the tree. It needed to become a place to have fun.

Rope swings went up all around the world and Imp Woods lost their Darkness. You could still feel a presence, but the danger was gone. Whatever inhabited the trees seemed pacified by the swings.

Things quieted down and time moved on.

Cities formed and the trees were cut down to make room for the urban developments. Imp Woods became forgotten. They were nothing more than folk tales handed down through the generations. Their Darkness was no longer relevant to society.

As the cities grew, people started to realize it was a bad thing to cut down so many trees.  They began to crave nature once again.

Slowly, people began planting trees. These trees were placed here and there, any where people thought they might look good. They were no longer part of a forest or grove, they were only trees standing alone.

Lonely trees seek company and nature brought back what humanity had once overcome.

Death, violence, and disappearances run rampant through our cities. We shudder and weep because of it, but we have no idea that it’s our own fault. We’ve forgotten to make our offerings.

The Imp Woods know that.

So, tell me, is your family safe in this world? Can you sleep sound at night knowing your home, work, and schools are free from any lonely trees?

If not, maybe it’s time to buy some rope.



© 2015 Melissa L. Webb

The Eye- Friday Flash

The Eye

By Melissa L. Webb

 

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I sneezed yesterday. It wasn’t particularly loud or long. It was just a normal something-tickling-your-nose sneeze. I guess I wasn’t paying attention or something, because I forgot to close one eye.

I know you’re saying that’s not possible. Our bodies automatically close our eyes when we sneeze.  Well, something went wrong. One of my eyes didn’t close.

I didn’t do it on purpose. It was an accident. I was just going along, minding my own business, when I sneezed, and my right eye stayed open.

A terrible pressure built up behind it, causing it to bulge. I thought it would shoot clean out of my head, but a few terrifying seconds passed, then I blinked and the pressure was gone.

My eyesight in that eye was blurry, but it hadn’t shot out, and that’s all I cared about at that moment.

I ran to my mother, to tell her what happened, but she took one look at me and screamed.  My eyeball was bight red.  She said it looked like I was staring at her through a pool of blood.

We raced to the doctor, my mother convinced I was dying.  I wasn’t.  My eye didn’t even hurt anymore.

He told her I was fine.  He said I burst the blood vessels in my eye, but that wasn’t anything to worry about. The blood would go away on its own. As for the blurriness, I’d strained the eye and it needed to rest.

He taped a gauze pad over that eye and told me to wear it for a week. With rest, my eye would be as good as new.  Better even.

Boy, was he wrong.

Everything was fine during that week. There was no pain and my mother kept me home from school. I got all the TV and ice cream I wanted. It was like a mini summer vacation.

Then my week was over.  It was time to remove the gauze.  At first my vision was still a little blurry. I couldn’t make out anything I was seeing with that eye. After a few days, the blurriness went away and my vision was as good as before.

That’s when I wished my eye had shot out of my head.

Everything looked different with that eye.  I could close my right eye and see things like I always did.  A lamp.  A vase.  If I looked at it with my right eye open and left eye closed, it would be different. A burnt lamp. A shattered vase. Nothing was the same.

Things got worse the more I looked. I saw my brother’s bloated corpse floating in the hallway when I knew he was standing there, alive and talking. I saw my cat, Tigger, hanging from a tree from his own entrails even though he was only climbing it.

The images were driving me insane. I put the gauze back on, determined to wear it forever if I had to. I had seen enough.

My mother cried, begging me to take it off.  I was fine. I didn’t need to disable myself any longer.

I tried to make her understand. I wasn’t disabled with the gauze on.  I was better.  If I didn’t look through the eye, I wouldn’t have to see what really was.

My mother’s worried that I might be losing my mind. I’ve told her what I’ve seen.

The world behind the world.

Everything I’ve seen is real on a different level than we know. It’s waiting for us there. I’m sure of this. I don’t know why my messed up eye can see it, but it does.

Mom doesn’t believe me. She hopes that I’m looking for attention, but deep down she’s worried the sneeze gave me brain damage. I wish that was the case. I’d be able to sleep at night.

I’m hiding in my room, the gauze on my eye, and the lights off. Monsters lurk in the world behind the world. If I can’t see anything, I won’t have to know what’s out there.

My parents are deciding what to do with me. They want me see someone.  I don’t want to see anyone.  I’d rather not tell them what I see lurking over everyone’s shoulder.

© 2015 Melissa L. Webb

Prologue- Friday Flash

Prologue

By Melissa L. Webb  

A man stood in the center of a greenhouse, his eyes sweeping over the plant life thriving within. Thousands of flowers dazzled in the cascading sunlight. Their colors and smells mingled together, creating a sensory experience no one in all the Realms had ever encountered.

It was a paradise, one that had been nurtured into existence over the span of the man’s lifetime. It was one of his most prized possessions and no one but him could have ever created something so breathtaking. What he was seeing should have brought him great joy, but it did not.

He was not happy at all.

Something was wrong. He could tell by the way the flowers stood, their leaves curling inwards, like a small child seeking comfort from a frightening world.

These were his children and something was wrong.

“Don’t be sad,” he spoke, his deep, rich voice echoing around the sun-filled chamber. “I’m here.” He walked up 
and down the rows, touching the plants as he went, yet his reassurance did no good.

The plant life was sulking and it hurt his heart to see it.

“Please cheer up,” he said, trying once again to raise their spirits. “I’ll bring you a treat after supper. That should please you.”

But it did not, and this confused the man.

Before he could speak any more encouragements, the doors opened, and a boy stepped in. He made his way into the greenhouse and took a knee at the edge of the man’s feathered cloak.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, Your Majesty, but we have secured Data Town and all its labs,” the boy spoke quickly. 

“We only found a few members of the Undergrowth hiding among them. They were taken into custody and have just arrived. Would you like to speak to them?”

“No, no,” the man said, gesturing for the boy to rise. “That won’t be necessary. A few weeds among the harvest is to be expected.” He clapped a reassuring hand against the boy’s back. “I’m sure they won’t be any trouble. Have the Gardeners tend to them as normal.”

“As you wish, Your Majesty,” the boy said with a nod, turning for the door.

“Ash,” the man spoke his retainer’s name, stopping him in his tracks.

“Yes, your Majesty?”

“Is there anything odd going on in the Sorrows today? Anything I should be aware of?”

The boy looked thoughtful for a moment and then shook his head. “No, Your Majesty. Everything is as usual. Is there a reason you ask? Is something bothering you?”

“Not so much me, Ash. It’s my plants. Something has them worried. Are you positive nothing is cultivating out there?”

“No, Your Majesty. No one has picked up any word of an uprising. Ever since Percival disappeared, the Undergrowth has been nothing more than children playing at war.”

The man laughed, deep and rich. “Good. Let’s keep it that way. Now, if only my plants were in a better mood.”

The boy looked around, taking in all the colors before him. “Have you promised them a treat?”

The man nodded.”Yes, of course. Have the Gardeners send over a prisoner after dinner. The plants do love their dessert.”

The boy nodded again. “As you wish,” he spoke, once again heading for the doors.

“Oh, and Ash?” the Thorn King called before the boy could slip away. “Make sure it isn’t an Empty. I do love it when they scream.”
© 2015 Melissa L. Webb

Soulless in Seattle Launch Party!

You are invited to the official Soulless in Seattle virtual book launch party on Tuesday, September, 2014.

 

revised pais sis cover

 

 

The party will start at 5pm PST on the Facebook event page as well as at the Melissa L. Webb Facebook fan page and on Twitter using hashtag #SISbooklaunch.

 

So stop on by at any of these places on September 25th after 5pm and get the latest news on the release, sign up for giveaways, and chat with me.  I hope to see you there!

Alone- Friday Flash

Alone
By Melissa L. Webb

                                                      Alanya_old_house

Something about the house felt different when Kara awoke this morning. She couldn’t put her finger on it as she got out of bed, but that feeling was there, heavy as a mallet slamming into her. Something wasn’t right.

She padded through the empty house on her way to the bathroom. She couldn’t figure out where these feelings were coming from. Sure, she lived alone. That was enough to make anyone paranoid, but she had lived there for six months.

Six months was way too long to suddenly feel creeped out.

She hurried about, quickly getting ready for work as she tried to brush the dark thoughts from her mind. There was no place for them. She was an adult. Adults didn’t get freaked out, especially when it came to being in their own home.

Kara poured herself a cup of coffee and let the warm, caffeine-infused liquid flow through her soul. She tried to rationalize her feelings as she stared into the steaming mug. Some forgotten dream was haunting her mind. That’s all this was. She needed to let the morning sun burn away such thoughts. A woman afraid to live alone was doomed to live in someone’s shadow forever.

That wasn’t her. She was good at being alone. She even thrived in it to some extent. She wouldn’t let some ridiculous feeling shatter her solitude.

She grabbed her purse and locked up, heading to the car. Rays of sunlight danced around her, driving back the morning chill as she warmed up the car. A small laugh escaped her lips and a foolish feeling washed over her as she sat there, taking in the surrounding day.

Kara couldn’t believe how spooked she had let herself get. She needed to learn to let her dreams go before getting out of her bed if they were going to do this to her. This was her home, her sanctuary, and there was no reason that would change in one night.

She slipped the car in reverse and glanced up at the house one last time, a smile still on her lips. Her foot came down hard on the break and the smile faded. Something moved in her bedroom window.

Something black with red eyes.

It watched her, tilting its head side to side, as if gauging the amount of fear it caused.

Kara wanted to scream, but she was frozen in fear, her hands locked tightly on the steering wheel. She didn’t know what she was seeing, but she knew it was watching her back with a terrifying purpose.

In a blink of an eye, it was gone, leaving nothing but a fluttering curtain. An eerie reminder that the shape wasn’t imagined.

Tears flooded her eyes, silently slipping down her cheeks as she backed out of the driveway. Her solitude was broken, her life shattered in an instant, because something had changed over night.

The nightmare hadn’t plagued her sleep last night; it began the moment she woke up. That was the reason everything seemed so wrong. She was no longer alone.

© 2014 Melissa L. Webb

 

 

Little Lost Girl- Friday Flash

LITTLE LOST GIRL

By Melissa L. Webb

English: shadow of a girl Dansk: skygge af en pige

English: shadow of a girl Dansk: skygge af en pige (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The white blur moved gracefully above the city, dropping low here and there as its search continued. It listened for the cries and sighs, for the discontented and the hollow. It needed to set things right, to give peace to the youth who so deserved it.

A sob echoed through the night, the tortured sound piercing the white shadow’s heart like thousands of tiny daggers. It jerked to a stop, instincts taking over as it flew straight to a window and perched on the sill, drowning in the sorrow contained within.

A girl sat on the edge of a bed. Teardrops glistened in the moonlight as they streaked down her face causing the shadow to gasp. It had never seen anything quite as beautiful before. Or quite as tortured.

Her chest heaved with an unknown burden as another cry escaped her lips. She was suffering. Another innocent had fallen victim to the cruel society around her. A society that used and abused their youth, turning then into nothing more than dirty, discarded objects. Children weren’t human beings to this world. They were property.

The shadow slipped through the open window, causing no more noise than a single breath. It moved near the girl, aching to free her from the pain.

“Why are you crying?” it asked her softly, knowing it really didn’t matter. It would stop whatever was troubling her.

The girl sat up, her bright green eyes going wide as she took in the white shadow. “What are you?” she asked, pushing herself away from it.

The shadow stood there, confusion plaguing its mind. Couldn’t she tell what he was? “Well, I’m certainly not a little white bird.”

She frowned, not daring to take her eyes off it. “What are you doing in my bedroom?”

“I heard you crying. I came to help you.”

She slid back to the edge of the bed, curiosity getting the best of her. “What do you mean? How can you help me, shadow?”

“I can free you from the sadness. I can take you to a place where you will never be treated badly again. A place where you will never grow old. It’s a place where you will have no responsibilities or expectations. A place where you can simply be you.”

A ghost of a smile now haunted her eyes. “This place…no one will yell at me? No one will ask things of me? I can do what I please?”

The shadow nodded. “Yes. This world will have no hold on you there. You’ll be free.”

She got up from the bed, her excitement at the offer no longer contained. “You can take me there? Right now?”

“If that is what you wish.”

“Oh, I do,” she said, practically jumping up and down. “I want to be free of my parents and their rules.”

The shadow sped around the room, bouncing off the walls with delight. “You and I will have so many adventures.” It stopped, looking down at the girl. “Are you sure you want to leave this world? You can’t come back once it’s done.”

The girl stopped, seriousness creeping into her face. She was quiet for a moment before looking back at the shadow. “I won’t have to be sad anymore, right? I can be free?”

The shadow moved closer. “Yes, I promise no more sadness, little lost girl, for I have found you.”

A smile spread over her lips. “Then let’s go.”

The shadow swept forward, reaching out for the lonely child. The girl waited for its embrace, thinking of all the lovely adventures in store for her. They’d fly to its world together and start the life she always dreamed of having.

Her smile faded as soon as the shadow’s hands made contact with her. They sank into her chest like wisp of smoke, tearing at her insides. Pain swept through her and she gasped, dropping to her knees.

The shadow stared down at her as its fingers dug into her core. The look of terror in her eyes displeased it. It wanted to free her from the pain, not add to it, but it knew this was the only way.

It ripped its fingers free, a blue glow sticking to them, coating them with a shimmer that pulsed brightly.

The deed was done. It had saved her.

Her body fell to the ground with a thud. It lay still, a pale shell no longer tortured by the world.

The shadow leaned close to the body, holding the girl’s essence close to its chest, shielding it from the sight. “Don’t worry,” it whispered, “death is the greatest adventure after all.”

Holding it’s prize close, the shadow turned and flew through the window. It was eager to show the girl its impossible world. Another lost soul for his collection.

It rose above the city, soul in hand, and headed for the second star to the right.

© 2013 Melissa L. Webb

Better Safe Than Sorry- Friday Flash

 

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY

By Melissa L. Webb

tree

 
It shouldn’t have been possible. There was no rot. There was no lightning. No earthquake. No wind. The tree simply fell apart for no reason.

I stood there, staring at it in disbelief. How did a perfectly good tree come apart at the seams? The wood inside was a nice healthy color and sap oozed in several different places.

I kicked the fallen piece. It was solid and heavy, my boot barely causing it to move.

Something wasn’t right. This was one of my prized apple trees. I took painstakingly good care of it. There wasn’t a single thing wrong with the tree. It should be in one piece.

I glanced at the base of the tree, where the separation started. Four protrusions of shaped wood stood out of the raw wound. They were no bigger than pencil erasers. I’d never seen wood grow like that before, but nothing about this seemed normal.

I went back inside and got my camera. I needed to chop the tree down, but I wanted pictures first. I needed documented proof of this strangeness.

I rushed back out and started snapping pictures. No one would believe me without proof. As I bent to photograph the protrusions, I nearly dropped my camera in shock.

The bumps weren’t the size of erasers any more. They were now the size of the whole pencil. They attached to a larger bump and included another chunkier pencil shape.

It looked like a hand.

A wooden hand now stuck out of the split wood.

I looked around me. This had to be a joke. I’d been set up. Someone came and split my tree and now they were trying to scare me.

Well, they picked the wrong guy to mess with. Anger flared in my chest as I turned back to the caved hand someone obviously glued to the tree.

My anger died instantly as icy fear took over. Another hand accompanied the first one.

I backed up, wondering if I was going crazy. This wasn’t a joke. There wasn’t time for someone to attach the other hand. What was going on? This was insane. Thing like this didn’t happen.

I turned around again, the hairs on my arms rising instantly. I felt I was no longer alone. Someone was messing with me. I was sure of it. But this time I was beginning to think it wasn’t a human.

I needed to get rid of the tree. That’s all there was to it. Nothing could mess with me if there wasn’t a tree.

I glanced at the tree and almost screamed like a girl. A carved wooden face peered out at me. It remained motionless as I stepped forward.

With each step, I was convinced the thing would blink its eyes and come alive. It didn’t though. It remained frozen, nothing more than a statue, as I moved even closer.

I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew I had to stop it.

I turned and sprinted for the barn, dropping the camera along the way. The pictures didn’t matter any more. Only ridding myself of the tree did.

I grabbed my ax and raced back out to the tree. I lifted the ax high above my head and froze. The thing was gone.

The split was the only thing there. The sent of apples filled my nose as I peered closer at the raw wood. It was as if the figure had never been.

I lowered the ax, wondering if I had indeed lost my mind. Too many long, hot hours working in the sun. That’s all it was. I was seeing things.

Nothing peered out at me. Nothing freed itself from inside my prized tree. The world was as normal as it ever was.

I looked at the fallen piece of tree. Maybe the tree was sick after all. No use risking the health of the other trees.

I raised my ax and started to chop. Who knew what might happen if I let it live.

 

© 2013 Melissa L. Webb

 

Death Lands- Friday Flash

Redwoods-Little Creek

Redwoods-Little Creek (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DEATH LANDS

By Melissa L. Webb

The man climbed across the charred ruins. The burnt flesh of the fallen redwood trees cracked under his weight. He didn’t know where he was, but he struggled forward, trying to free himself from the hellish landscape.

Acrid smoke hung heavily in the air, causing his lungs to labor. His body slowed without his consent, but still he did not stop. He couldn’t. Stopping would be the end of him.

He wiped filthy tears from his eyes, tears that seemed to burn more than his lungs did. When his sight cleared, he saw the bits of metal for the first time.

They were giant and hollow, looking like pieces of a knight’s discarded armor. However, no knight the size of this armor ever walked the earth. The pieces made the man feel no bigger than an ant playing near some child’s toys.

He couldn’t identify any of the parts except for the eyeholes. Large empty spaces where optical orbs should be stared back at him. They seemed to mock the man as he scurried by.

What had happened here? Had he stumbled across the aftermath of a battle? Was this the death lands of some futuristic race, or was it something worse? Something closer to home?

The man couldn’t think about that now. He needed to keep moving. He needed to find away out of this mess. The dead would have to stay dead.

But as he hopped over a chunk of wood, the black soot staining him worse than before, he heard something under his feet. A slithering sound echoed around him.

The man realized with pure horror that he wasn’t alone after all. Something was moving below. Something that squirmed under the metal and the wood. He wasn’t in the aftermath after all.

The battle was still going on.

Darkness blurred next to him as the wood rattled. Something was moving close by, like a shark waiting for its victim to make a mistake. It slowly entwined itself into a metal piece. Its movement caused a hollow thump to rise up around the man.

He stopped, fearing his heart might seize in his chest. He didn’t want to know what the thing was, but he knew there was nowhere to go. It already knew he was there.

Something peered out of one of the eyeholes from deep inside. A hissing sound rattled the man’s teeth as the thing watched him. Neither one moved. They stayed there, locked in silence as decisions were weighed.

The man knew he couldn’t stay there much longer. He needed to move. He needed to put as much distance between the thing that lurked and himself.

He stopped thinking and ran, hurrying back the way he came. More movement rattled the wood around him as he flung himself through it. It wasn’t just one of those things. They were everywhere, including under his feet.

The man didn’t stop. He kept his body moving through the ruins. Tears from the smoke and fear coming fast and hard. He didn’t know why he was there. He didn’t even know where these death lands were.

He had fallen asleep in his bed. He should be there right now, back in the normal world of work, bills, and family. This was insane. This place couldn’t exist.

Maybe that’s all it was. Just a dream. A horrible nightmare brought on by too much meatloaf before bed.

And…maybe that giant mouth that had popped up in the blacken debris in front of him wasn’t really going to eat him.

Maybe.

© 2013 Melissa L. Webb