Bogleech.com's 2015 Horror Write-off:
" Benthicket "
Submitted by Verruciformis
I think everyone can agree that spiders are fucking creepy, except, of course, for this godforsaken patch of the sticks.
Like, Jesus Christ, it’s freaky. The people here don’t kill them, hell, they won’t even pick them up and put them outside when they find them, they just leave them in the house. This is probably the spider capital of the world, too. No matter how much you dust, there are still cobwebs in corners after a week. You’d think they’d get sick of them after a while, but no. God, you slap one off the wall and they act like you just kicked a puppy. It’s fucking weird.
Besides the spiders, this little forested hellhole I’ve found myself in is pretty boring. It’s not small, really, not compared to the other towns (if you could even call them that) the highways run through. I mean, it’s got a few schools, and there’s a strip mall or two nearby. The only thing that made this place as big as it is is the fact that it’s “historic”, which is just a fancy way of saying that everything here is old as hell. Remember that boring school trip you went on in grade school to some bland old place that nobody liked, like Colonial Williamsburg? This is pretty much the same thing. There are a lot of people in old timey clothes who hang around old buildings and blab to bunches of jaded schoolkids in color-coordinated tee-shirts, and I will never, ever understand why the hell my parents even wanted to move here in the first place. They probably thought it was “charming”. I took them as the kind of people who like to have fun once in a blue moon, but I guess I was wrong.
The college, where I’m unfortunately stationed right now, is also nothing special. It doesn’t even have any real advanced classes. I’ll tell you, the residents are no great shakes, either. They’re all just as boring as the town. Really, I’m better off by myself. Nobody in this humdrum place is even worthy of knowing me too well. I’ll probably be moving again soon, anyway, and it’s just a waste of breath.
I’ve also found two fat wolf spiders in my lunchbox in the past week. So there’s that.
I have to say, though, there seems to be at least one thing that’s exciting about this old place. The explainers may be a bore, but the past itself is an enticing mystery. It’s a concrete fact that it managed to overthrow an invasion, all by itself. Not sure from who, or what country, I suppose nobody bothered to ask. The invasion began with scouts, and when the scouts didn’t return, a company was called. When the company didn’t return, an army was called, and the king himself came, but somehow, the town was left untouched. The population back then was about forty, at the most. How did they do it? We aren’t sure. History stops there.
Myth takes over, and the myth says that they didn’t. Not a single townsperson fought. However, it makes it explicitly clear that God and his myriad angels rushed from the woods all three times, defeated all the invaders they found, and retreated back to the woods in a single night. As for what actually happened to the armies, no one knows for sure. No one’s ever been able to find a single grave, or proof that they returned to wherever they came from.
That’s how the town of Benthicket got its name, after the fabled forest that surrounds it. Some old-timers still think the angels are in there. Some like to think the tale’s been edited a bit, and there aren’t any gods or angels in there, much less any specific god at all, but something else, something huge, something ancient. But hey, this town has always been full of storytellers. Quite a few famous authors are from here, despite its tiny size and remoteness. Who’s to say they hadn’t just made their own myth?
But, what if it was true?
I’d bet it’s why they’re so oddly respectful of the forest. I had the thought, I wonder if it’s still around. Maybe it’s some sort of cryptid, like the yeti or Mothman or whatever. Good enough for me. I didn’t have anything big going on for the next few days, anyway, why not take a look myself? It’s not as if there’s anything that’s more interesting happening. And hey, I might get my fifteen minutes of fame if I manage to get a picture of whatever the hell’s in here. I put a couple packages of jerky and a bottle of water into my bag, grabbed my binoculars and a lawn chair, and set out.
I found my spot with an hour or so of daylight left, and set up my chair across the street from it. It was late September, and the first few leaves were starting to change color. Just from watching it, the forest didn’t seem so bad. I watched a few deer flit about inside the trees, back a little ways from the road, and then go back inside. Birds landed in the trees and pecked about on the ground. A few spiders crawled onto my leg, and I swatted them off.
The last bits of daylight passed without a glimmer of anything exciting, and night soon fell. The streetlights turned on, casting a sickly amber glow on the trees by the curb. One streetlight about five hundred feet down the road flickered erratically every few seconds. Figures, they can’t even keep things in working order. Hours passed, with nothing interesting happening. I had forgotten to bring anything to do or anything to read, and I was feeling myself getting tired. I almost nodded off, but I was jolted back to alertness when I heard shuffling, slow footsteps coming closer to the road. I made sure I was hidden, and watched.
A grey-haired woman, her back bent from age, steps onto the pavement. She looks both ways, checks to see if any cars are coming, before she slowly shuffles across the street. She’s carrying an armful of books: new hardcovers, from the looks of it. She stops at the edge of the trees, and waits. What could she be doing…? I shuffle as quietly as I can manage from my chair, trying to get a better view. She looks down, finds her footing on the few craggy rocks leading inside, and steps into the dark woods.
I look down and check my watch quickly. One-thirty, on the nose. She takes a few steps, and stops. She says something, though it’s quiet and I’m too far away to hear what. A sudden gust of wind rustles the leaves on the trees. She stands still for another moment, whispering something else into the vegetation. Another gust of wind comes right after. She pauses, nods, and turns around, stepping out of the forest. She doesn’t have the books anymore. I never saw her bend over or move to put them down. What took them…? I’ve been sitting here all night, I haven’t seen anyone else go in, or anything inside move…is something else in there? I crane my neck to look through the trees as the woman crosses the street again.
Something flickers behind the trees. Something dark, something fast, something tall. Its shadow, even though I only saw it for a split second, didn’t look like any human I’d ever seen. This wasn’t a deer, this was…bigger. It was too long, too huge to even think of being one. I think tiredly, maybe it’s just a really weird buck, like a mutant one that grew up? Maybe a moose? Those get pretty big. But, then I remember: deer don’t scuttle. Every last bit of drowsiness leaves my mind as I realize, I’m dealing with some sort of monster. I’m not scared, of course…this thing apparently left that old lady in perfect shape, minus a few books. I’ve always been the curious sort, so I decide to go in after it. After all, a little adventure is just what I need in this boring place. If it won’t do anything to a little old lady, it won’t do anything to me.
Just to be on the safe side, I sit in my chair the rest of the night, watching the sun slide into view a few hours later. I wait until the streetlights turn off to pack my chair back up. I stand up, leaving my backpack and chair hidden behind a bush. They’ll be there when I come out. This town is full of nothing but a bunch of superstitious goody-two-shoeses, anyway. I don’t think they’d have it in them to swipe a lawn chair, a couple bottles of water, and a Slim Jim or two. I walk across the asphalt, to the half-dead tangles of vines on the other side. Here goes nothing.
I take a step into the forest. The brush crunches underfoot, but nothing else happens for a few moments. Another step. A bird chirps in the distance. Morning sunlight filters down through the leaves, tinting the place green. Okay. This isn’t so bad. I’ll go straight back in, then, and see what I can find. This is just a little roadside wood patch, anyway. It can’t be too big. I’m bound to hear cars zooming by sooner or later.
Most of the trees here are thin and white – birch, I think. Vines creep up some of their trunks, and small bushes and scrub brush cover the ground. Not too far in, there’s a large, flat, moss-covered stone slab with a few piles of rocks around it. It doesn’t lead me too far away from my path, so I walk over to investigate. The piles of rocks seem to be carved to look like huge stacks of books and scrolls, and are covered with spiderwebs, like everything else here. The slab doesn’t look like it was put here by chance, either. It’s hard to see through the moss and lichens covering it, but it looks like it’s carved too. What is this, anyway? Is it some sort of relic from the old days of this place? I mean, I know this town has been around since the year of dirt, so I bet it would’ve had more than its share of witches way back when. But now, I guess, the spiders have it.
It’s dawn, but it feels like the forest is getting darker and darker with every step I take into it, like there’s less and less sunlight filtering down. What light comes through the leaves tints the entire forest a deep emerald. The trees are larger and thicker here, and they’re probably some sort of pine or maple. Flat bushes and dead vines carpet the ground so thickly you can hardly see where you’re stepping, or what you’re stepping on besides brush. Small animals flit about in the trees, silently watching me, scurrying away if I come too close. I look up in the treetops, and see the thin white strands of spiderwebs. There are webs in the branches, webs knitting every leaf together. And, of course, there are spiders, enough to give an arachnophobe a heart attack. Some of them are of prodigious sizes, even though they’re too far up to see very clearly. I guess this is why they’re all over the place. This forest must be some sort of breeding ground for the leggy bastards. I sort of wish I had my lighter on me.
I realize, after a while, that the cobwebs must be so thick that they’re blocking out the sun. I mean, it’s nine o’clock, so there’s no excuse for the sun to be any less bright. I’ve seen pictures of trees that looked like cotton candy since there were so many spiders spinning webs on them, and I’ve already seen more than a few trees like that in here. The trees are changing, too, and now I’m surrounded by old, thick oaks and elms.
It’s almost entirely dark now. How does anything beside spiders manage to live here, with all these webs around? There must be an awful lot of them if it looks like the middle of the night. What the hell is with this place?
After a while of walking in almost horrible darkness, I hear a bird chirp, and squint up at it. It stays for only a moment before it flies off again. I don’t know if it was my mind playing tricks on me, or if I’m just tired, but…I could swear it had two heads. I try to shake it off and just keep walking, but I keep thinking about it. It’s just dark in here, sometimes that makes things look a little odd, right?
It’s almost pitch black, save for a few occasional specks of light. Fireflies, maybe, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blue firefly. I don’t hear any more chirping birds, but I can still hear creatures moving around, rustling leaves as they skitter up trees to get out of my way. I nearly whack my head on a branch I hadn’t seen, before I finally give up and take my phone out of my pocket to light the way. I squint as I press the power button. I hadn’t remembered setting it to be so awfully bright. No service? That’s weird. I had five bars not too long ago. As quick as I can manage, I turn the flashlight on. I almost wish I hadn’t.
For the brief second I saw it before I dropped my phone out of shock and ran, I couldn’t quite process what was in front of me. The only things I was able to make out were its eight glittering black eyes and eight too-long legs, massive, sharp antlers. Several jaws ran down the thing’s neck, drool running down its many chins. All I was reminded of were those deep-sea fish that live where nothing should. The legends are true, I thought as I ran, desperately trying not to run into a tree. This place, and everything in it, needs to be burned to cinders.
As I hurtled through, hoping to find the slightest bit of sunlight or finally break through and find a road, things started to appear high up in the branches of the trees. There are hundreds of small, blue bioluminescent creatures stuck to the canopy, casting a faint glow on their surroundings. I think I remember seeing something like them living in a cave in a documentary once…but why here? They only increase in number the farther in I go, and eventually, there are enough of them to cast a dim, eerie blue light down on the forest. I stop for a moment to catch my breath, looking around myself.
There is a single human molar sticking out of the tree next to me.
What the fuck…? This is some kind of joke, right? The tree itself looks oddly contorted, too…I can’t tell if it actually looks like a person or if my mind is playing tricks on me.
A squirrel – or at least, I think it’s a squirrel – scutters by, oddly elongated with way too many limbs, its face little more than a cluster of beady black eyes, with long, yellowed teeth sticking out of the sides of its neck. It looks more like a centipede than any sort of forest creature. Some sort of chipmunk, legless and long, is draped over a branch like some sort of fucked up tree boa. What I thought was two birds lands near it, but upon closer inspection, it’s just two bird bodies connected by the neck, with no heads to speak of. What the hell did I get myself into? What in God’s name is in here? How does nobody know about this horrible place, when it’s just off the side of the road?
There has to be a way out of here, there has to be another side…I’m already way too far into this hellhole, and there might be a break or a clearing up ahead. I stop trying to make sense of whatever horrible things are in here, and just start running again. I can at least sort of see in the faint light, and I grab onto trees as I hurtle through this horribly weird place. I notice, for a moment, that the tree bark has stopped feeling like tree bark. It’s smoother, and feels more like scales than wood. Not even scales…I think, for a moment, that it feels like fingernails; cracked, thick fingernails. That doesn’t make sense at all…but then again, what does? I’ve seen more horrible monsters than I care to see in a day. I don’t even want to think about whatever the hell is on that tree.
After what feels like hours of running, I stop suddenly at a large meadow in front of me. It’s still as black of the rest of the forest, dimly lit by the odd blue glow of the bugs on the treetops.
I don’t stop because it’s a way out.
I stop because there’s something in it.
It stands silently, watching me. At least its top half looks a bit like a human, but…it’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s too long, too thin, too sharp and bony to be any sort of regular person. Nobody has fangs that reach almost all the way down their neck. I can’t see its face well enough in the horribly dim glow to describe it, but what faint light there is glitters off of what looks to be way too many eyes. There’s too many arms. There’s too many legs. They all look broken and snapped in unnatural places. It’s pale, like a cave animal that’s never seen the sun. I want to run, but this thing is going to catch up to me easily. I’ll trip on a root and it’ll have me. Oh god, there really was a monster in this forest. There was and I was the lone idiot who went in after it. Oh god, I’m going to die. I’m going to die and this thing is going to kill me.
It says something. I can’t tell what, but I feel whatever the hell it was. Even trying to understand it gives me a hell of a migraine. I start feeling dizzy and light-headed, my brain making like it’s trying to rip itself out of my skull. Oh god, I think. I can’t faint. I’m dead meat if I do. I can’t f
I slowly, groggily wake again, dumbly surprised that I’m even still alive. My head still hurts, though the ache has lost its edge. I realize, sort of dully, that my arm itches a bit. I try to lift my other hand to scratch it, only to find that I can’t move my arm. What…? I try it again, still nothing. How about the other one? No. Legs? No. I open my eyes, and immediately close them at the first sign of light. Good god, I need an ibuprofen. Wait, what? Light? Am I not in the forest anymore…? Ignoring the pain in my skull, I look down to see just what’s stopping me from moving.
I’m wrapped in something white and stringy, stuck to a wall.
Oh god, it must have me.
It’s probably waiting to eat me. Fuck the headache, I have to get out. I have to get out of here before this thing catches on and does something awful.
I thrash and struggle, trying to loosen the cocoon, but I freeze when I hear a voice come from someone, just out of my field of vision. It’s smooth and sonorous, but an absolutely unplaceable accent tinges its words.
“Oh, stop all that wiggling about, it won’t get you anywhere. I know how to spin a proper web.”
“I said,” It scoffs, “I know how to spin a proper web. Haven’t you seen the forest you just took a leisurely jaunt through? Made all those webs myself. Hell, made the whole thing myself.”
I look around, trying to find who’s speaking. I nearly shriek as I notice what can only be the monster from before, sitting in what looks to be a rather comfortable chair, frowning at me over a fairly new crime novel, two of its four shaggy, furred legs folded over the others. Its long, shining black hair is greyed at the wrong ends, and like the rest of its fur, it shimmers faintly purple. It sighs, pushes itself out of its chair, and puts the book it was reading down on top of a table with a heavy thunk. It has way too many joints, and I almost gag at its broken-limbed movements. Its clothes—a violet tailcoat trimmed with gold braid and a slightly bloodstained deep red cape —give it the look of a terribly anachronistic noble.
It walks over to me slowly, its long, black claws scratching on the wooden floor. It’s unnaturally tall, and it has to lean down quite severely to even be close to my height. I can’t tell where its eight glassy, solid black eyes are pointing, but I can’t help but glance nervously at the massive fangs erupting from its jaw. It must have seen that, and it raises an eyebrow, slowly.
“I do hope you’ve a good reason to prance right on in to my forest unannounced. You’ve interrupted a particularly interesting bit of this book, you know.”
It backs up a bit, crossing its first pair of arms, waiting for me to say something. I do my best to suppress a fresh wave of nausea. I try to apologize to it, and nothing but a squeak comes out of my mouth. It sighs, shaking its head, as if this is commonplace.
“I thought so. I get many the…intrepid adventurer…who haplessly stumble in when they hear rumors and such.” I don’t particularly like the thinly veiled insult, but I’m not in much of a position to protest. “Since you decided to waltz in suspiciously close to my regular offering, I can only assume you saw the silhouette of something odd in the trees and decided to investigate. A stupid move, if I were to be frank. Haven’t you ever watched one of those ‘horror films’? You even got the living daylights scared out of you by a sweet little sleipdeer! Just wanted to give you a ride, maybe see if you were alright after you clocked yourself on a tree branch like, what’s his name? George of the Jungle? You dropped your lit communication brick and everything! Really, you’d be quite dead by now if I truly were some horrid, ravenous beast, tripping all over yourself like that. Goodness gracious me, you were just about as helpless as a broken-legged chicken in an occupied fox den.”
“So…so if you’re not going to kill me, why am I stuck to this wall…?”
“Ah, right. I suppose you don’t know, then. I guess only the meatiest of the rumors made it to you.” It pauses, sighing as it half-mumbles to itself. “It’s so awfully hard to tell non-locals apart now, what with travel being what it is…they come back smelling like different places, and you can never be certain…I should probably explain myself.”
It walks away from me, and faces the back wall of the cavern. The wooden wall is covered with a huge, elaborate tapestry, depicting a king and armies of knights being slaughtered and eaten by monsters, which the beast looks over fondly. I glance up towards the cavern’s ceiling, and it’s adorned with several elegant chandeliers, made of still-bloodstained knight armor held together by webs. Lights that look unsettlingly organic hang just over the sides, thin, gauzy things that look like bug wings sticking out besides them. It starts to speak again, repeating a story that had undoubtedly been told many, many times to a lot of unfortunate schmucks like myself.
“Before that blasted noisy road was made, there were only two ways to get past this town. One either went through my forest, or was forced to scale the mountains. Surprisingly enough, the mountains were a far more popular choice, since everyone and their mother knew there was a beast in the wood that hungered for human flesh, and the mountains had no such threat. Which, I admit, was true. Humans are just my natural prey, you see. You wouldn’t fault a lion for hunting zebra, after all. But…” It pauses, smiling to itself, “I found myself growing rather fond of them after a while. They are such a knowledgeable little species. So clever, and most could concoct quite a story. Perhaps I felt a little remorseful of my peculiar eating habits, and so I decided to offer a wager to those I captured. If they succeeded, I would let them through my forest without harm, and if they failed, well...you seem smart, I imagine you can put two and two together, no?”
I gulp. It turns back towards me, a dissonantly serene smile on its face. Its eyes glint hungrily, and so do its fangs.
“The wager is this: tell me something that I do not yet know. It may sound simple, but do not take it lightly; I’ve been collecting knowledge for thousands upon thousands of years. There are very few tidbits that have escaped me.”
It steps forward, its back straight, its head held high.
“Do you see, mayfly? I now present you, as I have countless others, with this little challenge of mine. Do you accept? I do so hope you will. You look to be an interesting sort. It would seem a shame to eat you.”
I’m going to be breakfast if I don’t come up with something. But, I know I’m as sharp as a tack. All of a sudden, I get it. I know something it doesn’t, for sure. I grin right back at it.
“Of course,” I say. It raises an eyebrow.
“Oh…? So very confident. Pray tell, what knowledge have you?”
I tell it my name.
It raises an eyebrow, and a slow grin stretches over its sharp, bony face, revealing several rows of translucent, needle-like teeth. Its top lip splits in half with its smile, unlike anything I’d ever seen, a cruel sneer lurking behind it.
“What an interesting choice. You must really think yourself to be as crafty as they come.” It laughs, humorlessly. “How stupid.” Its grin lingers, and it leans in a little closer. “One’s true name is the most foolish thing you can possibly give away when dealing with magical beings. Luckily, I am the furthest thing from a fae, and neither am I the sort to use names in my craft. Do consider yourself fortunate that I did not already know you, else my fangs would have already been buried in your neck.”
It reaches toward my neck with its spindly fingers, and I flinch. It sighs, rolling its eyes.
“Oh, do calm down, you bold little wayfarer, you.” It says, incredibly sarcastically. “I may hate that answer with the vitriol of a thousand white-hot stars, but I’m an entity of my word, at least.”
I look down, and I see that it has a strand of silk clutched between its sharp black claws. It gives the silk a firm tug. The cocoon comes undone, and I topple over, my slight tumble padded by the thick blanket of silk on the floor. I scramble back to my feet, still shivering a bit out of nerves. It looks down at me for a moment.
“Ah. You must still be a tad shaken. Do sit for a minute, you look as if you’re about to fall back over.”
It waves its hand, and a rather ornate chair comes whooshing across the cavern, followed by a similarly decorated wooden table. The spider-thing sits back down in its large, fur-covered armchair across the room, the table parking itself in front of it. The chair butts up against the back of my legs, and as soon as I sit down in it, it speeds across the floor, stopping just in time for me to be comfortably pulled in to the table, with this great thing facing me. It turns its head for a moment to look at the stacks of books besides it, and it picks up an old cast-iron teapot that was perched on top of a purple paperback. I’m still not used to the way its arms move. It turns its head back to me, sloshing the liquid in the pot around a bit.
“Tea?” It asks.
“The hot kind. Would you like a cup or not?”
I sigh, and nod. A metal tankard suddenly appears in its hand, and it dumps the contents of the teapot into it. It sets my cup on the table, and it reaches over for its own, which rests on another pile of books by its chair. Curls of steam rise from the mug as I pick it up and take a sip. It tastes kind of odd, but I won’t say anything. If it wanted to kill me, it wouldn’t have waited to poison my tea. After a few moments of silence, I speak back up.
“…I never knew there were any magical things around here. It just seemed like a boring old town.” It chuckles.
“Very few of you mortals do.” It takes a swig of its drink. “And besides, there are far more wonders in this town than just myself. They know how to keep themselves hidden, and they do a very good job of it.”
“Well, what are they?”
It gives me a knowing grin.
“That, dear mayfly, is a secret you will find out soon.”
The monster and I spoke for a long time after that. Hours, maybe…I couldn’t tell. It didn’t turn out to be as horrifying as I thought, really. Sure, it eats people, but at least it’s fair.
It told me about magic, and to be honest, I couldn’t have been more interested. It did a lot of blabbing about the history and proper use and the different kinds, which I honestly didn’t care much about. I think it said one kind, the one it used to make me faint, was a language forbidden to mortals or something. Something about incomprehensibly unpleasant deaths, something else about fatal syllables. Whatever. It didn’t apply to me, so I didn’t bother listening. Though, it did say there was another kind…one anyone could use, and surely “anyone” includes me.
When we had finished talking, it walked with me back out of the cavern and back into the dark forest. It showed me what we had been inside of: the biggest tree I’d ever seen, as wide as a skyscraper and seemingly just as tall. It pointed out several other massive, but slightly smaller trees, connected to the main one by tunnels of spider silk and vines, everything cast in a pale aqua glow by the millions of blue bugs hanging from any surface they could get a grip on. All the other trees in here are huge, too, and it seems to have made a small city out of them. It tried to tell me more about its home as it walked with me back through the forest, but I had bigger things on my mind.
It walked me back to a part of the forest that had just enough sunlight for me to see where I was going, and stopped, reaching into a pocket on its fancy jacket.
“Ah, before I send you on your way, I figure I should return this to you. Here,” It places my cell phone back into my hand with its long, bony fingers. “I retrieved the electric box you dropped before. It was making this annoying beeping noise at me, presumably since it said that it was running out of ’battery’.” It makes air quotes around the word battery with one pair of arms. “I hope you do not mind that I took the liberty of enchanting it. It shouldn’t run out of light anymore, I think.”
I look up at it, a little oddly. So my phone is magic now? I don’t know if this thing knows what it’s doing with machinery, so I turn on my phone. It had something like 20% battery when I came in, and…huh. Would you look at that, it says it’s got a full charge. It grins proudly when I notice.
“See? You’ll have no more problems with the irritating beep noises.” It chuckles. “Being a mage certainly has its advantages. Anyway, now that I have returned your lost item,” It pats me on the back cheerily. “You, child, should get yourself back home before your parents begin to worry. Should you wish to visit once more, my forest and I are not moving anytime soon.”
I turn to tell it that I’m not ten, and find nothing but trees next to me. Huh. Disappearing into thin air spontaneously must be a monster thing, I guess. I shrug, and walk back towards the distant sound of cars.
Over the next few days, I began to hatch a plan. Forget the cryptid thing. That ship has sailed. What I’m interested in is the magic. The only problem is that I need to get it talking. Not so hard. I’ll definitely get this thing to tell me something useful, and I think I know just how. It only mentioned this in passing, but before it went on a boring tangent about innovation and technology it brought up the fact that food’s been scarce recently. Not many come in who aren’t able to tell it some sort of new tidbit of knowledge. It said something about the deer being more than enough, but I’d bet it isn’t content with just those.
Of course, just about anyone from this place is dull enough that they would probably do, but I think I have just the person.
Meet Rebecca Bossart. She’s pale, like she hasn’t seen the sun in months. Her hair is frizzy and wiry, and her bangs almost always cover her eyes. She almost never speaks, and when she does, her replies are short and mumbled. I never see her hanging around with anyone, either, only on her laptop or reading some ratty paperback, one of those trashy teen romance novels. Nobody ever talks to her, either.
All the better, then.
It was almost too easy to get in with her. I asked to go out with her after a little while, she responded with a shrug and a mumbled “yeah, sure, I guess”. She nearly never spoke over the weeks I spent trying to get close, just nods and mutters and short gestures for the most part.
One crisp morning in November, I decided to set my plan in action. I would take her out to dinner the next day, and then, I’d bring the thing in the woods a little take-out. It won’t be able to refuse, and it’d have to reward me for my hard work. Soon, I thought, I’d be doing God-knows-what with my newfound wizarding skills, or wielding some sort of enchanted artifact.
The day comes. I dress better than usual (not for her, mind you), and she shambles to my doorstep in frayed jeans and that same old baggy tan coat that looks like it’s never been washed. We walk a few blocks silently, stopping in a semi-decent sushi restaurant. She never once speaks, just orders by pointing at the menu to the waitress, who nods excitedly. “Oh, me too, honey!” She says, for some reason, before promising she’ll return “in a jif”, and walking back into the kitchen. I look down at my menu to the spot where Rebecca was pointing at. There’s no food item there, just an hourglass-shaped symbol with eight lines coming off it.
This girl just keeps getting weirder.
Apparently, the symbol means that you get a nearly uncooked hunk of tuna. She eats in silence. After we finish, I try to pay, and I’m going into my wallet as she slips the waitress a fifty-dollar bill and mumbles, “keep the change”. What?! That was only like, twenty dollars worth of food! I open my mouth to say something and she interrupts me, still only speaking barely above a whisper.
“She’s a good waitress. She deserves something nice.”
…Whatever. I don’t have time to sit and get change from this shitty restaurant anyway when there are bigger fish to fry. Time to get moving.
After we leave the restaurant, we take a walk by the edge of the forest. I casually mention how I wonder what sorts of things are in there, and how big it is. She nods slowly, turning her head towards the trees. I tell her that it’s still light, it probably wouldn’t take very long to go see, we’d be out by sunset.
“Should we?” She replies, flatly.
“Well, yeah, I’d go myself, but I think it might be more fun with you around.”
She thinks for a second, and shrugs.
As we step through the vines and into the trees, I can only think, I’ve got her now.
We walk deeper and deeper, and the light starts to fade. Slow as she is, she seems to notice. “Hm. A little early for sunset, I think,” is the only thing she has to say on the subject. She doesn’t seem to care that we don’t turn back.
Soon, the forest is pitch-black, and we begin running into those little, glowing blue bugs on the treetops. Her hair must really be in her eyes for her to not notice them at all. I almost wish she’d say something about them, or the weird animals, or the spiders or webs, if only to break the silence, but I know, when I see a familiar break in the trees and a gaunt figure with too many limbs lurking inside, that it won’t be silent for much longer.
We stop at the entrance to the clearing, a smirk plastered on my face. “Oh my god, what IS that?” I say, if only to make sure she notices the thing that’s about to kill and eat her. She remains silent and stoic as she raises her head, looking straight at it. There’s not a gasp or a flinch from her, but after a moment, the corners of her lips twitch into a faint smile.
Wait…why’s she smiling…?
The monster hears us and turns around slowly, a serene smile on its face as it rests its hands behind its back. Its posture is regal as it’s ever been, but I feel contempt behind that expression. It locks eyes with me, and the corners of its thin lips twitch up, not unlike Rebecca’s.
At that moment, I feel a hand grip the back of my neck so hard that I flinch, long fingernails digging into my skin. The hand is attached to an arm, an arm clad in a dirty tan jacket…
Rebecca turns her head to me at a wider angle than a head should be able to turn, mouth firmly stuck in a terrible rictus. She looks wrong, she looks so very wrong in the bugs’ dim blue glow. Her entire body looks too long, her arms bend at slightly incorrect points, even her blunt teeth look sharper somehow. Her eyes shine solid black in the half-light, and things I’d never noticed glitter under her wiry bangs. All of a sudden, she begins to shift and change. She’s still horrifyingly proportioned, but now even more gaunt, her hair pulled into a long, black ponytail. All eight of her inky eyes gleam hungrily and triumphantly, a light, jagged scar across her rightmost eye stands out against her very dark skin. She wears a glittering set of armor, too bright to be silver, etched with hundreds upon hundreds of intricately detailed screaming figures, wearing everything from those ruffly collars you saw Shakespeare in to tee shirts and jeans. I hope those aren’t…
I try to take a step back, and before I can move, thick vines lash around my ankles, solidifying into wood in moments. My eyes flick back and forth between her and this thing, trying to find out just what is happening here.
She turns her head back to the monster, and bows it slightly. Her voice is louder, clearer than it had ever been before, with some sort of unfamiliar accent, sounding like all accents and none at all, tinting her speech, a sneer in audio form.
“Granter of Wishes, Feaster in the Dark, Forest of Night, our most beloved parent! Tonight, I bring to you my spoils!” I open my mouth to protest, and I shut up as she digs her claws into me further. The monster’s grin widens, and I’m even more aware of its needle-like teeth and the thick, black fangs that protrude from its jaws like a sabertooth tiger.
“Splendid. You are again without match in your hunting prowess, Khet. Many congratulations and many thanks to you, my first and dearest daughter. Shall we?” She nods, enthusiastically. Dearest daughter…? This nasty thing has kids? She wrenches me out of the thought by yanking my head sideways towards her mouth.
She hisses one tiny syllable, that same horrible thing I heard the first time I met the beast, and I lose consciousness in a flash of blinding pain.
I sort of wished I wouldn’t wake up after that, but, well, here we are.
I’ve woken up in a dimly lit, circular room that, much like the other room I’d seen, appears to be in a hollowed-out tree. Just like the first time I found myself here, I’m pretty solidly stuck to the wall by thick webs, though I seem to be even more stuck than before. As I come to again, I realize that there are other things stuck to the walls with me.
To my left and to my right, there are two people…or, at least, I think that’s what they are. They must have been here for a very long time, as the tree has grown around them. They’re halfway sunken into the walls, and what would have been shoots grew into thick wooden shackles, covering most of their limbs and faces. I hold my breath as I stare at one, and then the other. Both of their chests still move, ever so slowly. They’re still alive…? Oh god, I feel sick.
Before long, I hear the distant, soft sound of footsteps. Something’s coming, and I feel as if my heart is about to break through my ribs and burst out of my chest. I can’t do anything but watch as it strides closer and closer, accompanied by the armored woman and a small crowd of robed figures, several of whom are carrying unnaturally huge, fireflies on their arms like awful, chitinous parrots.
By the light of the bugs, I can see a mass of vague shadows far lurking behind them in the hall. Too many eyes to count, belonging to things I’d rather not know too well, glint hungrily in the distance. Nearly as soon as I notice them, I hear them too – gnashing teeth and scraping claws and barely-suppressed laughter. Something pushes through the crowd- I can see the gap moving up to the front. Whatever it is breaks the front line, and I realize that it’s a group of six tiny children. Sets of wildly varying spiders’ eyes glitter on their pudgy faces, their grins, though missing teeth, look as terrible and sharp as any other monster here. They all stare at me for a moment before turning back to their group, tittering and laughing, speaking to each other in hushed whispers. One will occasionally sneak a sideways glance at me before going back to chattering.
Why are they…?
The monster must have noticed I was distracted, because it pops up right in front of my face, uncomfortably close to me. I jump, and everything behind it grins a little wider, though that horrible placid look on its face doesn’t change at all. I wince, screwing my eyes shut and half-yelling without thinking at all.
“Oh, god, please don’t eat me-!! I’m not-- I’m not edible! There are better people than me to eat!” It tilts its head slightly, that serene expression fading into a cruel smirk. A hush falls over the crowd.
“Oh, please.” There’s venom in its voice, and its mouth twists into a disgusted snarl. “I would sooner shove a fistful of soil in my mouth than dine upon filth such as you. I am insulted that you dare think I would stoop to such a level.”
“F-filth? But I—“ It makes a noise like a cicada hissing, baring all of its awful needle-teeth at me, the stink of old blood and something acrid heavy on its breath. For a moment, I see its face distort, angles harsher and harsher, getting more removed from what had only vaguely counted as human-ish. Its voice is harsh and booming, the terrible accent looming heavy in its words.
“Do not dare act so flippant, mulch! You know as well as I what you have done!” Oh, no. No, it can’t know about [ ]. How could it? How could it ever? It notices my confusion and laughs, humorless and dry.
“Of course I know! How do you think I found out, worm? The poor dear was practically itching to hand you over to me! [ ] trusts me to serve justice, and I shan’t disappoint! You should be wary of who you so wantonly harm…or perhaps you were from the start. You plan, you scheme, luring others into your carefully constructed trap… You have always thought yourself the spider, but now, you are nothing more than the helpless fly caught in the web of something far greater! The enchanted phone, the myth, the books brought by the old woman, the promise of magic, all were naught but carefully crafted bait to bring you to me!” It pauses, and the smirk has returned to its face.
“You’ve quite the history, don’t you, mulch? You really showed your true colors today, when you tried to murder an innocent woman, and for what? The mere suggestion of something you could use for your own personal gain? This is a running theme with you, isn’t it? You don’t care if you hurt and traumatize others, so long as you get exactly what you want out of them in the end… Shameful. Absolutely shameful, you are.”
It turns to face me, its chin held high, a terrible, toothy smirk spreading across its face.
“As I said, I would not grace you with the fate of being my dinner. However, there is someone who is substantially less picky than I…” It backs up a few steps, slamming its hands on the wall beside my head as it leans in, its flat nose pressing against mine. It’s as uncomfortable as you can get. The chatter from the crowd in the hallway resumes, grows louder and louder, more excited. They stomp their feet rhythmically and begin to chant in that odd language, cheering it on, growing rowdier and louder by the moment.
I feel something wickedly sharp and sickeningly long stab through my shirt and drive itself deep into my abdomen, screaming in pain as it slides effortlessly through viscera. The crowd behind it erupts, making a terrible, triumphant din that echoes through the long hallway. It’s over in an instant, but still, all I can feel is blinding, white-hot pain. The beast laughs quietly, slowly backing away from me, murmuring a tiny sentence to itself.
“And so, the feast begins...”
It turns towards the crowd, who immediately quiet down, though their excitement is still at a fever pitch. Where its spinnerets should be, there is instead a long, thin spike, slippery with my blood.
“My dearest children, it is again time! Gather your siblings, from far and wide!” It throws its arms up triumphantly, gesturing at the myriad spider-people. “The feast begins!” It shouts, immediately drawing wild cheers from all attending. Every single member of the crowd turns around, half-running back out of the halls. Some are even singing, in that unearthly language… The monster watches them go, its tone quiet once more, smiling fondly at the rowdy horde as it streams out.
“Ah…how excited they all are. These occasions are always such great fun...” It walks a few steps away from the wall before turning its head halfway, looking at me out of the corner of an inky black eye.
“I suppose it is too bad that you will not be in attendance, then.”
Without another word, it strolls out with the rest of the crowd, leaving nothing behind but an empty room, and the thick haze of dread.
The wound still stings ferociously, blood still leaking out, staining my clothes and tainting the air with its ferric stench. Drops fall, pooling on the carved floor, the wood beneath me stained a deep reddish-brown, presumably from countless others who had the same horrible thing happen to them.
I wait, wait for hours, wait for poison from the sting to destroy me from the inside out, wait for something, anything to happen…but nothing comes. Nothing rips through my flesh, no venom paralyzes my lungs or stops my heart; I can’t even hear anyone moving in the halls far outside the chamber. The wound has long since stopped bleeding, the blood on my clothes turning dry and brown and stiff. Silence hangs heavy in the air.
I’m so horribly alone.
I feel my insides start to squirm. I know it’s only the fear gnawing at me. That’s it, that’s all it’s been for the past few hours. My guts have been churning since I felt claws grip my neck. This is nothing new.
All I can do now is wait. Wait for possible organ damage from the wound to kill me, wait to starve to death or die of dehydration, wait for the monster to come back and rip me to pieces with fangs and claws and venom, for real this time.
I don’t know how long I’ll wait.
It feels like forever since I got put here.
Suddenly, the sound of footsteps comes down the hall, several sets, clopping along at a quick and giddy pace. High-pitched voices echo down the wooden passages, and I hear them long before I see their owners.
“But, Boooooooow, can’t we just go back to the partyyy?”, A first voice whines.
“If y’keep bellyaching, I’m gonna putcha in a headlock and drag y’ behind us, sixteen-eyes! When’re we gonna get another chance like this, huh?” The sound of a distant noogie is heard.
“Yeah, jeez. Twig’s right, Hook, this ’s special, real special. We’re goin’ back soon, but we might ’s well, while everyone’s wrapped up. The other ones chickened out, ‘n we can’t have less’n half of us, y’know.” This voice is calmer, more even.
“Yeah! Then we ain’t the Gaggle! You wouldn’t let Bow an’ me go it ourselves, right?” This one gets a bit of an aggressive tone there. I can hear the other one nervously stutter out a “n-no”.
The footsteps grow closer and closer, until three faces poke around the wall in a cartoonishly well synchronized way. All three are children, the very same children that pushed their way to the front of the crowd before. The first one I see—who I can only assume is Twig, from how caked in dirt she seems to be—is grinning like a maniac, one front tooth missing from her smirk. She has multiple massive, round eyes that wrap most of the way around her face, something I think I’ve seen on a picture of a jumping spider. Next to her can only be Hook, looking nervous and gangly. He wears a four-lensed pair of glasses that could have only been custom-made over tiny eyes the size of dimes, and a too-big striped turtleneck. The third, with a great big red plaid bow on her head, is most likely Bow. She looks startlingly like Shirley Temple with the curly blonde hair and matching dresses and accessories. The only thing that ruins it are the eyes. Oh, god. Her eyes are massive and take up a good two thirds of her face, are solid, unreadable black, and are absolutely horrifying.
They stare at me, for a few, long moments. Bow decides to step forward, and the rest follow her closely. After a few long seconds of silence, Twig laughs once, looking back at the other two.
“Ha ha, yeah, this guy’s definitely lunch.” Hook scoffs, giving Twig a pointed glance.
“Amma said they weren’t gonna eat ‘im, though! Weren’t you listening? They don’t have parties like this just for eating people, dummy! Don’t you know anything about the Eightfold Raven and the Infinite Swarm?”
“Eeeeeeeew!” Twig scrunches her face into an exaggerated grossed-out expression.
“Hey, don’t blame me! It’s science!”
What…what does that mean… I think I know, I think I’ve known this whole time already, but I desperately want to be wrong. I open my mouth to speak, and I’m surprised at how hoarse my voice has gotten.
“Excuse me, I…I have to ask…what are you talking about…?”
All three of them give me an unamused look, exchanging glances among themselves. Bow says something to them, in that odd language.
“…Saa’je heshej Xeshelen s’a aasok? T’o P’rhk-sejm—” She pauses, and turns her head vaguely towards me, but I can’t tell where she’s looking. “—sokot’h hossat?” Twig nods.
“Y’t…s’n’gaha nghot-p, ij Bh’atpeg.” She cackles. “P’rhk-sukp ha, nej’sfantej-xosen!” Another bout of wild laughter. Bow cracks a smile. Hook seems unamused as he chimes in, tapping his foot impatiently.
“Saa’je heshej nq P’rhk-sejm ha-sho, r’as-heshej na skedhu? Tet ssa dhal ma’q g’aa-t Zsyzs-ha’ekhaatn’aeq, na-tet sa P’rhk-bhhek. Q’as?”
The other two pause, thinking it over for a few long moments before nodding in agreement.
“Q’as, q’as, ij Ho’ocqba, P’rhk-bhhek na snooohk-huu. R’as-heshej ssa skedhu.” Bow says, and in an oddly synchronized fashion, they all turn and leave at the same time, disappearing back down the hallway, the faintest hint of music drifting from somewhere deep in the tree.
Twig turns her head to look back at me, and sneers.
i was right
oh dear god i was right
it HURTS IT HURTS IT H URTS I CAN T I CANT MOVE I CANT ITS RIPPING RIPPING CHEWING ITS WAY OUT OUT OUT OU
Ah, the party is going spectactularly. Of course, I would not have it any other way. Some of my children are missing very important things to have traveled the way to join us for this celebration these past three weeks, and it would be the shame of all shames to disappoint them.
Curious? Well, aha, I figured as much. I won’t trouble you with the traditional title of such an event, as one of the characters in the word has proven fatal to your kind in the past, but I shan’t leave you in want of the details. Comings (the somewhat loose English translation of said title) are quite possibly one of the most joyous times for my children and I. Imagine, if you will, one of your “baby showers”, combined with a particularly lively masquerade and a family reunion. I randomly choose one of my children and switch places with them, changing my appearance through magic so I take their exact shape. They don a traditional costume, and we both return to the party, I as a common attendee, and them as the temporary king. It’s always a hoot, as you humans say, and it’s quite nice to be just another attendee for once.
Through my magic (and quite a bit of very loud and supremely lively music), no one tires as the days pass. The first week or so is more focused on catching up with one another, as my children share stories of what has happened since the last party. After then, it’s a bit difficult to hear properly over all the music. All the dancing and singing and feasting reaches a fever pitch in the third week, every last Spiderling excitedly awaiting a new addition to the family. On the last night of the third week, my disguised child and I shrug off our costumes, and the room falls to an expectant hush.
Inevitably, a single, distant scream cuts through the silence, and I know, this is my cue. The crowd parts for me as I leave the room, walking down the corridor to again meet with the vile creature my hunters hauled in.
As I see him once more, three weeks later, he is pale with fright, eyes wide, looking down at the floor and screaming inarticulately at what lay upon it, seemingly not noticing the gaping hole left in his stomach by very thing he is screaming at. Perhaps he is too shocked to care. I stoop down and pick it up, cradling the thing in my arms. His eyes follow it up, still shrieking himself hoarse at the terrible sight before him.
It is a grub, fat and white, eyeless and wriggling, with a gaping maw full of teeth, which, though flat, were thin and sharp as a swords’ edge. Vague outlines of facial features and pudgy limbs gave it a shape not unlike a human baby, and sharp, black hooks like claws sprouted from its flesh in rings, skin streaked with blood. I am still unsure if it was its uncanny looks or the fact that it had just chewed a crater through him that had made him scream so. Either way, it was quite entertaining to see.
“Honestly, haven’t you any manners, or do you just enjoy screaming at babies?” I sigh, shaking my head.
He babbles, incoherently.
“Well, then, you should’ve listened more closely. I basically told you what was going to happen, honestly. Couldn’t have been any clearer.”
He mumbles fearfully as he looks at the larva in my arms.
“I hope you thought about things other than that while you were tacked up. I hope you thought about [THE INCIDENT], and regretted it a thousand times over. Not that regret would have made a lick of difference. Honestly, it’s about time one of my children made a meal of you.”
I pause, feeling another twinge of disgust as I remember hearing [ ]’s tale. I won’t recount any of it, as I have sworn myself to secrecy on such matters. What has been told, or even implied, of the story thus far, I have gone back and erased, in order to further preserve that secrecy. All you must know is that what was done was more than enough to merit my aid. Take it as you will.
He looks up at me, eyes wide and fearful and teary. Seems he has been doing some thinking with that tiny little brain of his. I regard him with disdain.
“Neither her nor I forgive you. What good is an apology made under threat of death? None. It’s not as if you could’ve expected any mercy anyway, you were doomed to this fate from the moment I and my hunters heard about you.”
Humans…humans can be so kind, and so gentle, and yet, true cruelty lurks behind the hearts of some. It is enough to sadden even one such as I.
I suppose my situation bears some explaining, heaven knows this miserable lump of meat hadn’t told you anything of use. I assume you understand the gist of my services from the story so far. I visit the unfortunate, I listen to them in their time of need, and if I can…remove a source of pain for them, I do my best to.
You may think it odd for one as old as I, to whom time and space is meaningless, to still care about such things. Absorbing somewhat of a sense of morality, different for every species I care for and every world I set up shop upon, I feel, not as the ancient being I am, but as a fellow member of their kind. After all, who among you would not be disgusted upon hearing the world’s myriad horrors? Is it not easier to have an understanding soul to speak your mind to when you are anguished? Is it not also kinder to throw away the life of one who only brings harm than to leave them be, leave them to fester like a terrible pox, and have them sicken more and more? The mark of a hero is mercy, but true mercy may not be the peaceful, bloodless situation many might idealize. It may be a vicious truth, learned through aeons of living by tooth and by claw, but it is truth nonetheless.
I can see no better use for my time than making the briefest of lives more comfortable. I have eternity to spare, what is eighty or so years to me? It is comparing a mayfly to the sun. Perhaps I am a fool, but mine is a folly I will gladly continue. It is, after all, important to pursue whatever satisfies you, and I have enjoyed my work since I started it.
(An aside, but can you believe that he kept calling me “it”? I told him what to use and he ignored me like the awful little mite he was. Didn’t tell you, either. Probably wasn’t even listening. I am an ancient entity beyond all imagining, damn it, and all I wish is to at least be addressed in a respectful way! I don’t think it’s too much to ask. Hell, I don’t even ask people to preface my name with “g’aa-t” even though leaving it off is considered unthinkably rude by literally every other Xeshek. They’d have your head if you had the gall to drop their prefix. Honestly, I’ve half the mind to bring him back and kill him again for that. Dearest reader, I know you’re a bit more sensible, so do me a favor, if you will. Please, refer to me with singular they pronouns. If you take issue with that, well, I advise you to please dislodge your head from your colon.)
(Anyway, as I was saying.)
He begins to weep and wail, harder now than before. It gains him nothing. I tilt my head at a purposefully jarring angle.
“Is that your only response, then?”
I turn slightly, making it look as if I were about to leave. My neck cracks loudly as I look back at him. Dramatic effect, you know.
“Ah, and before I forget…you told me your name, but never once asked me mine. A bit rude of you, but…we have been so long without, and a belated introduction is an introduction nonetheless.”
I briefly wonder if the Spiderlings will be able to get the stains out of the wood this time. Maybe it is in poor taste to do this, and perhaps it is, as they say, overkill. But really, he had it coming.
My language, and the language of my kin, is older than the very stars. It had existed long before the tiny pieces of the universe decided to go their separate ways, and it will still be when the last vestiges of warmth flee from every last inch of the void, and all is still. Unfortunately, humans, like many other species, were never quite biologically suited to hear some specific parts of it.
So, when I speak my name, my true name, it is no surprise what happens.
His eyes go wide as saucers, and with all the remaining strength he has, he rips himself free of the silk shackles, falling down from the carved wooden wall, madly clawing at his face and neck, choking out sounds that may have been attempts by his mind to process something that beings like him were never meant to hear. He has not heard the common shortened syllables, instead, he has bore witness to a truly ancient name, unable to be understood, or even processed by his kind.
You see, dear reader, human brains can’t quite handle the stress of having to try to even vaguely decipher a noise of that caliber as words, and so, the body goes a little…haywire. All the neurons work themselves into a tizzy trying to solve this unsolvable mystery, and forget to do anything else. The body seems to get the idea that perhaps it should show the poor thing some mercy in the face of something so incomprehensible, and thusly tries its best to get the offending thought out. It works of its own haphazard volition, trying to relieve some of the pressure in the skull by self-trepanation, which, as humans are not very strong and cannot punch holes in their skull by themselves, usually leads to a lot of thrashing about and useless scratching. Usually, the brain is too focused on solving the word that it forgets to tell vital organs like the heart or lungs to work, for just a little too long a time. Sometimes the brain destroys itself in the process. Some, however, succeed in the bashing, and oh, how interesting – it would seem as though he was one of those lucky few. At least those ones are quick compared to the others, if not substantially gorier.
He had torn the flesh from his own scalp down to the bone with his fingernails, which had grown longer with the time he had spent upon the wall. I had been keeping my old iron kettle on a nearby table, and, noticing its bulk, he had snatched it from the stand and used it to clumsily cave in his own skull, finally ridding himself of the chaos in his mind.
The massive, armored fireflies that light the room immediately swoop down to drink the blood from the floors, dueling over the chunks of grey matter that they so seldom get to enjoy. Soon, the hunters will come back for the remains. Khet will add another well-earned figure to her armor, the hunters’ irewolves will eat like kings tonight, and I, for the tenth time this cycle, will really have to scrub my favorite teapot.
The grub in my arms chirps happily at me. I smile back down at it, gently tapping what may well be its nose with a finger. It gurgles and trills, a big, silly grin stretching its face. Ah, grubs. It’s always a good day when I get to see a new one.
I wonder, which story shall I tell dear little Ij first?
Ah, sadly, it seems as though my time with you, dearest reader, is fast approaching an end. I should have hoped our first meeting would have been more savory, but, as the saying goes, shit happens.
Well, I wouldn’t like to be entirely useless to you, so, if you would, allow me to share a few bits of wisdom.
First, not to be a downer, but I'd like to remind you that your species, and all others, are doomed to extinction.
One might like to think they can outlast it, but that is simply not true. It might be through evolution making an entirely different species, very far removed from your idea of a human. It might come through the sun’s relentless expansion, burning all before it to cinders. It might be wiped from the earth by a plague, or a disaster of massive scale. It may even be eradicated by other humans. An odd thought, isn’t it? Every species is bound to extinction from the moment it mutates into something new, whether it is by the whim of chance, or of nature, or of the cosmos themselves.
Which, of course, is why it is wise to live every day as if it were your last. Celebrate all you can, even if it is only you. Of course, if you cannot right now, please do not fret. I understand this is impossible for many, as their present situations will not allow it. I am trying my very best to help ease some suffering, but please understand, there is only one of me. It is nice to make others happy, but please, do not forget yourself.
Second, many things have such slim chances of happening that we do not tend to register them as being possibilities. Look at your planet, for example. It is hovering happily in that tiny, tiny space between a heat death and an icy grave, in that slim thread where life can thrive. The chances of this particular place being in a good spot are small. And life, existing in so very many forms, on this one rock? The odds keep going down, but yet you have won a sort of cosmic lottery without knowing it at all.
There are so, so many different ways in which the atoms comprising you could have possibly been arranged. You could have been an asteroid, you could have been a trash bin, a bed-bug, a tremendous plant that reeked of rotting flesh. Perhaps you could have been stardust, a featureless and gelatinous blob of skin and fat from the primordial pits of a long-forgotten planet, an obelisk, a piece of chewed gum under someone’s shoe. And yet, you managed to become a sentient being, with a brain that thinks and knows and creates, and does all things oddly, but marvelously.
You are a vast improbability in a sea of vast improbabilities. Less things than you think are truly impossible.
And lastly, perhaps think twice about making your main source of knowledge on cosmic entities some racist who was petrified of vegetables and sea life.
If you dream of the pitch-black woods, fear not. Walk into the web-lined trees, and keep on towards the center, even though it may be hard to see. The fauna may look frightful, but they are still gentle. They are part of me, as is the entire forest itself, and I would not hurt you. Come, walk into the biggest tree. Pull up a chair, or, well, it’ll pull itself up. I’ll put some tea out for you, your favorite kind.
After all, I would love nothing more than to make your acquaintance.
g’aa-t Zsyzs-ha’ekhaatn’aeq S’n’gh!etoqz; Forest of Night, Granter of Wishes, et al.
But, please, do call me Ha’e.