Student Short Story
by Loren, age 18, Mauritius
I felt it creeping through my body, that indescribable sense of terror, running through my veins like ice. I could even smell its pungent odour permeating the air, the smell of wet earth and decay. It tickled my nostrils. I was laying in a forest and I could feel the dirt on my skin and underneath my fingernails, as I brought myself to my hands and knees. The leaves had turned to ash-grey and I could see every speck of dust with my naked eye. Pine trees stood tall all around me, reaching out to the milky, white sky, but something was amiss. The forest had lost its voice, the birds were not singing, the crickets has stopped their incessant chirping and even the rustling of leaves had been silenced. My body soon became heavy with dread and as I looked below, I stilled at the sight before me. A thick layer of black mould blanketed the ground beneath, it had spots of yellow fading away and it turned almost powdery with the touch of my hand. It continued to grow, festering onto my skin as I scrambled back, clawing at the ground behind me.
Making my way onto my feet, I searched around for any sign of life. Despite the rigid cold air, I felt beads of sweat forming on my brow, dampening my skin. Malevolent eyes glared in the darkness, creeping, waiting and before I knew it, I had broken into a run. My chest heaved with every intake of breath and the branches lashed at me, splitting skin. I didn’t know what I was running from, but I still put one foot in front of the other, until I stumbled to the ground and darkness overcame me.
The bus’ engine roared and sputtered black smoke as it climbed the rocky hill. Each bustling bump and turn shook me to the core, rattling my bones. I paced my breathing while clutching my backpack with a deathly grip; it was the only thing I had taken with me from home. The scene outside the window passed by my unseeing eyes and I turned to watch the passengers with mild interest, observing their lacklustre gazes and slumped forms. My back tensed and the cold grip of my fingers tightened with the memory of my nightmare. I couldn’t shake away the feeling of foreboding that had come over me, it had plagued my mind and invaded the monotony of my life. I didn’t know when my journey would end and that created a deep-seated fear in me.
Walking through the bustling, inner city, I surveyed the nameless faces in the crowds. I observed the grim lines of their mouths, their drooping eyelids and their frowns set in stone. They would all go home tonight to celebrate the coming of rebirth and then as if it had never happened, they would all fall back into the bleakness of reality, putting their moulds back onto their faces.
Not long after, I found myself retracing my steps to the bus stop and as I sat down, I noticed the little boy sitting at the far end of the bench. I smirked at the way he was diligently attacking his ice cream. His pudgy, little hands were covered with the sticky substance. He looked at me and his plump cheeks grew pink as he smiled, so I smiled back and with it came a deep sense of loss. I felt a familiar sensation creep up my spine and I jumped to my feet, startling the boy. With watery eyes, he stared at the splotch of ice cream on the pavement.
I felt myself moving away and I didn’t bother to take note of where I was heading, as long as I didn’t look back. After a while the ground beneath the soles of my shoes became softer and the air around me grew thicker. Still lost in thought, I failed to realise where my path had brought me, until I came to a halt in the midst of the forest. It was the same one, except this time it was alive. Rays of light filtered through the dark, earthy green of the forest, glistening on dewdrops that clung onto the leaves. Deep undertones of amber, crimson and emerald married together, breathing life into the earth. I let my hand run along the rough bark of the trees as I delved deeper into the shadowy woods. Despite its vibrancy there was a stillness that I admired in the forest, a balance.
I took off my backpack before climbing over the thick buttress roots of the trees, it was too heavy to carry further and I would come for it later, I thought. Soon after, I removed my shoes that had become soggy with wet dirt. I came upon a clearing, scarce of light. That’s when I noticed a monarch hovering over my head, its fiery colour had dimmed in the darkness, emphasising the raven streaks in its wings. It fluttered down to something in the heart of the clearing, moving closer I realised that it was a kaleidoscope of monarch butterflies. They flittered over something as high as my waist, their wings flapping vigorously. I tried peering through the gaps to see what it was, but to no avail, so I moved even closer and waved my hand over the swarm. They exploded into an array of golden hues and flew away from the object, but what lay there had left me cold to the touch.
The deer was immense, it had to have been around five feet tall, but now its carcass lay cold on the ground. It was a sight that had left a disturbing sense of unease, its once proud antlers were now crestfallen, its flesh was falling from the bone with decay and it eyes shone bright with the last remnants of life. Standing there, in the middle of the forest, I knew. I knew that I had no control over what was to come. I knew that sacrifices would be made, blood would be spilt and I would be at the centre of it all.