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Nature is said to be the holder of true beauty, there are people who swear by this and believe it so foolhardily. I believed this too for a time, I never knew of what was truly waiting for all of us in the places we expect to be our escape. I came to learn that nature, just like everything else, has two sides. I peered into the darkest shade that it could hold and my eyes have been stained ever since. This must make no sense to you at all, but I need to explain to you my story, I need to tell you about what I had found.
You see, I’ve always been an avid outdoorsman. In the forests and fields of grass is where I would find peace of mind. The natural world was my escape from the hectic life I was always surrounded by, there was just something about the open freedom of the outdoors that called to my soul. In my hometown I grew up next to a lush green forest, during those days I would spend hours trekking through every inch of it. I had gotten to know the land so well that I had created a map of it in my own head. There were times when I’d spot wild bear or moose, and up close they are rather terrifying but they still possessed that wild innocence that rang true for all wild animals.
It wasn’t until graduating my senior year of high school that I had left my hometown. All the memories that I made there in the trees and grass were left there to stay while I went off to college. It was a frightful experience at first, especially since more than half the women on campus were bombshells and all the guys were jock headed idiots. My first year there went by rather smoothly but I came to find that my parents could no longer afford to pay for my room and board. It was during my second year of college that I had to get a part time job, not to mention I had to ace all of my courses or the scholarship I received would have been for naught. It is easy to picture the stress that was pulsing through me, to make things ever more worse I still knew nobody at campus aside from another shut in like myself. His name was Richie, he and I were much alike and I guess you could even say we were friends. He helped me a little with my schoolwork and I helped him with his, we sort of bonded through that in a way.
I was about halfway through my 2nd year, I was on top of my studies and my job had become easy enough to where I could just blank out for the duration of it, but the stress still piled up day by day. When it finally reached the near breaking point I would do what I had done during my days back home. I would head into the forest preserve near my campus and wander around for a few hours. The forest near campus was vastly different from the one back home, but I had still figured out the layout of it. Just like magic, after I had finished my walk through the forest all of the accumulated stress would vanish from me. During finals I would often go into the preserve 3 to 4 times a week.
Then, there was one day when I discovered a new place in the forest that I never knew was there. I had passed through the exact area nearly a dozen times, and each time I saw the same tall oaks that pierced through the dirt and climbed vastly upward. But during this trip through the area I spotted it. I must have been a mile deep inside of the forest when I could smell this nauseating stench floating through the air. It smelt like the bloated raccoons we would find dead on our porches back home.
Quickly I came to see where the smell was coming from, in the midst of the other trees I saw one that stood from the rest. It was by itself, the ground beneath it had a dark and old looking color to it, and the tree itself was black. The bark upon it was falling off as if the tree had been dead for decades. The branches somehow were attached to the base and the roots were still firmly knitted into the soil beneath it. A tree this age should have fallen a long time ago, so to see it still standing threw me off. There were other things wrong about it though, things that made no sense to me. First off this tree was of a different breed, it was like no other tree in the forest and I had never see a tree like this one before. It didn’t even look to be natural in form; it had grown like a twisted mound of snakes. Upon inspecting the tree closer my eyes begin to water from the strength of the stench and I noticed a green like pus to be dripping from its sides along with maggots festering in the ground beneath it.
I gave the tree a single look around, it took me nearly 15 steps because of how massive it was, but upon reaching the exact opposite of where I started I found a carving in the wood.
‘Within the forests of the deep
Lies the king of worms
An ancient and prophetic beast
Inside his body is a grossly squirm
You can smell his rotten flesh
And taste it in the air
You can hear his maggots twitch
And can feel his longing stare
He seeks you
He needs you
Another king is born
For if you ever see him
Into the worm king’s throne you shall be sworn’
After reading the final word upon the tree I was struck with a burning headache. My head throbbed and pulsed with a heavy beating and it felt like someone was playing around inside of there with a hammer. The pain was so intense that I fell to the ground; the maggots wiggled around me hand as I stood up and violently shook them off of me. I stumbled my way through the trees, using them as crutches to stop myself from collapsing. To me the walk back felt like an eternity but upon checking my watch it took me only 20 minutes to get back to the car, and when I took my first step onto solid ground the headache vanished. All of the pain had disappeared and I felt fine. I stood there in the lot near the forest entrance where my car was parked, staring into the forest for nearly ten minutes. Watching and waiting I hoped to see something, I hoped to see some odd apparition but there was nothing. Perhaps the smell had caused the headache. I stopped pondering on the question and I got in my car, but as my head turned I swear I saw a black mass in the corner of my eye. I looked back but there were just trees and thick brush.
The drive back to my campus apartment was odd. The whole time I couldn’t shake this weird feeling, it was like the kind you get when someone watches you but for some reason it felt like the trees themselves were watching me. I felt like the whole forest was observing me. I could feel emotions surging through my body, anger and sadness and various others swept over me like I was suffering from bipolar disorder. It only got worse as I got closer to home; I began to hear whispers of my name originating from clusters of grass and bushes, the trees were speaking too, I could hear them grunt and groan at me. Insanity is what any sane person would view this as, but that wouldn’t make any sense considering the situation. Why now of all times would this be happening? Why would these voices and whispers suddenly pop into my head?
These thoughts along with hundreds of others raced around inside of me as I began to feel a sense of dizziness, my hands were still on the wheel and my car was speeding down the rode. My vision was getting hazy and my pulse was racing as I tried to stay awake. It wasn’t long until my eyes blurred completely and I fell asleep. But when I awoke I found myself sitting in my car with the engine turned off and parked out front of my apartment. I had no memory of driving there; I was still miles away from the apartment when I had blacked out. I should have crashed my car, to be here in front of my apartment made no sense. When my mind had finally settled I came to realize that the voices were gone, but a new horror emerged. My hands were gripped tightly onto the steering wheel and they were cold and clammy. A faint yellow tinted sweat dripped from them and I felt even more drip from my brow onto my lap.
I slowly got out of the car and noticed my clothes and seat were wet from my profuse sweating. I stood but my legs were shaky as if I had been standing on them for hours. I sat down in my bed and felt a huge weight leave my chest, I hadn’t noticed it but my breathing had been off and only now did it return to normal. I tried to get out of bed but my muscles were extremely weak. I was barely able to lift myself an inch before falling back into my bed. All of the lights were off and from my window I could see that the sun was setting, I tried again and again to lift myself but all I accomplished was tiring myself out. The lids of my eyes carried more weight than ever, soon they shut on there own and despite my best efforts I fell asleep in my sweat drenched clothes.
I awoke in the middle of the night to the same stench I had smelt in the forest. My eyes slowly parted the darkness away and basked in the shadows of the night. The smell was stronger than before; it made my eyes water and a lump formed in my throat. I listened to the silence and found the heavy breathing of something unnatural. It sounded like muffled gurgling you would hear of someone gagging on water. It bubbled and popped and grew closer to my bed. I tried to move but my body was still weak and frail. All effort in my body stopped when it appeared at the side of my bed. The only thing I could move were my eyes and they stuck onto the black beast. It stood tall enough to scrape my ceiling with its head, and its body was a tangled mass of vines and other plant like growths.
The only thing to signify that it was human were two eyes that burned deep in what I assumed was its face, but all I saw was more black and wet lumps. It stood over me for hours before it finally smothered me with one of the arm like appendages it had. I felt the moist and wretched tentacles reach inside of my throat and nose as I choked for air. I could not struggle as I felt the growths go deeper inside of me but mercy was shown to me for I did not endure it long before passing out.
The rising sun awoke me, I was still in my bed and I had found new energy as I stood up from it. I searched around my apartment for any traces of the beast and it wasn’t until I reached my front door that I noticed that the wood around it had nearly rotted away, and the doorknob was badly rusted. My knees gave out and I fell to the floor, my hands went through the wood and hit the concrete base, there was a trail from the door to my bed. The wooden floor was rotting as well. Before I could bring myself up I started to cough heavily and black liquid shot from my mouth and onto the floor.
I coughed stronger with each heave until eventually black chunks came flowing out and splattered across the floor. The black mush got all over my shirt and I ran to the shower. Once the water was warm enough I hopped in and washed it all off of me. It was sticky and hard to get down the drain, I continued to cough up more of it but it washed down into my tub. After minutes of coughing it finally stopped and I managed to squish most of it down the drain with my foot. I lathered shampoo into my hair and tried to get that sweaty feeling off of me.
When I ran my fingers through my hair it fell out in large clumps, I watched as it gathered at the drain, when I felt the skin on my scalp I stopped and got out of the shower still dripping wet. I dried myself with the nearest towel and as I rubbed it against myself peels of skin came with it. Underneath I could see all of my muscles and fibers but they were black and deep green. I got dressed in my bathrobe and ran out of my apartment, as I rushed through the halls I could hear people complaining of an odor. I ran past them and made my way up three flights of stairs before getting to Richard’s door. I knocked as loud as I could, the third time when my fisted hand hit the door I heard the bones snap as it hung on to a few pieces of skin. Richard answered and was shocked to see me in such a state. The blood ran from his face and his skin became as pale as my own, he grabbed a few blankets and wrapped them around me.
I could hear his voice but it didn’t make sense to me, I just heard noise. I formed the words “hospital” with my mouth but I could not hear if I had said them. The vibrations coming from my mouth were strong enough to slide my throat out of place; any further attempts to speak were impossible. Down the stairs we went as he held onto me. From the look of his face I must have smelt pretty terrible since he had his shirt over his nose. Students from other rooms came out to look at me as we got into his car and sped off racing to the nearest hospital. He rolled the windows down to rid himself of my stench and when he did this I heard the voices again. The trees were speaking to me, but this time their voices were clearer and their intent was understood.
“King of Worms, let us rejoice”
“Our lord and master”
“Protect us and watch us”
“Become our king”
The speaking wouldn’t stop, I heard a voice emit from each and every tree. We must have been going 60 MPH down the empty road when he looked over to me. I stared forward and watched as from the forest the black mass came and stood at the end of the road. We slammed into him and the car collapsed like a tube of toothpaste. My head slammed against the dashboard. I felt wet tentacles wrap around me as the sound of metal being ripped echoed through my ears. Richie’s head was smashed open against the wheel as chunks of brain blanketed the windshield. The cold vines wrapped around my legs and the stench I once hated seemed like flowers in a meadow. The sun was setting now and as it pulled me by my leg from the car I could see it much more clearly. Maggots were rampant across its body and dead animals protruded from his back with a half dead doe exiting his shoulder. My back scraped against the pavement as it dragged me into the forest.
Police sirens were heard in the distance and the beast let go of me. It escaped into the forest and the police gathered around the scene. Not shortly after an ambulance came to carry me the rest of the way. The doctors were shocked when their IV fluid turned black upon sliding the needle into my arm. When they wrapped a rubber cord on my bicep to expose a vein, the cord cut right through my flesh but no blood spilled from my body. Most of the nurses fled in terror as maggots pushed themselves from my pores. The doctors soon quarantined me and watched me decay from behind plastic sheets. I could no longer speak so one of the doctors gave me a piece of paper to write on. He left the room along with all the others to discuss my case. And in the corner of my eye I saw a black mass emerge from the shadows.
The beast had returned as its tentacles suctioned onto my legs again, it dragged me from my bed and set off my monitor. The doctors rushed in with blank expressions and watched as it dragged me away, when it finally took me into the shadows we were in the forest. It sat me up against the black tree I had discovered and melted away, it left behind only a crown made of roots and twigs. So now, using my only good arm I write this story. One of my eyes has melted out of the socket and the trees continuing screaming and raving at me. They announce me as their new king. But as my body rots so to does my mind, soon all of my memories will be gone, and most of them already are. The ones I grasp on to are of the events I laid out for you. Both a warning and a self-eulogy; I hope that in the end of all of this a person may find this paper. I hope that they read it and let the whole world know to stay away from the forests, to stay away from me.
For if your eyes lay even a glance upon me, if even through the corner of your eye you see my black mass, then you will start to change. Nothing will stop it, and nothing will end it, and you too will roam the forest as a slave to it, collecting the decayed until you yourself rot away and give the crown to another.
Credit To – Brandon Puff