's 2017 Horror Write-off:

It has many arms

Submitted by Gozuforce

I can't remember that at all, but I think I had already met the Branched One years ago.
At least It seemed to have recognized me. But when It started appearing in my dreams right around my twenty-sixth birthday, I really believed my subconscious had simply created a weird recurring dream.

I always have a hard time describing the Branched One.

It's always sort of blurry, like how everything in a dream is hard to really pinpoint. It's possible the creature takes different appearances depending of where the dream happens. Maybe It is black, with long eyes that don't really fit in the face ? It's tall. Taller than I ever was, at least. But how much more, I can't tell.

One thing I know for sure, the reason that name stuck when thinking about It, is that the Branched One has many arms. A massive swarm of long thin angular sticks.

They must flourish on Its sides, all the way down to what should be the monster's pelvis (does It have legs? I can't remember. It has a crotch, somehow I am certain of that). And a few come out of Its back, elongated grabbing tools that can still reach as far as the others arms. Of course, all that means the Branched One has a lot of fingers, fingers It likes to touch me with.

The first dream in which I recall seeing the Branched One, I was in a saltshaker forest, and It came out of behind a tree.

Before I could react, the creature had grabbed me by the shoulder, and It greeted me.

"Well, Good day! It has been a while, hasn't it? Look at yourself!"

At this point, It pinched my cheeks, two hands still keeping me in place.

"You have grown so much ! I almost wasn't sure I found you !"

Walking around me, carefully inspecting my whole body, It had a chuckle.

"But of course, I always know when it's you."

It started laughing, and while still in Its hilarity, the creature snapped Its fingers with all Its hands, making that surprisingly loud noise, and I woke up.

I felt powerless afterward, as if the Branched One had been violating me.

I know that Its words don't seem threatening, but they got to me because of Its voice. It was similar to someone whispering into a microphone, a strong volume but unvoiced. At the same time, that voice wasn't human. The sound reminded me of wind blowing the sand in a desert, if that make sense.

What's more, the tone was all wrong. It had a slow talk, emphasizing every syllables, and all the sentences were in the same series of inflexions,

starting low, then a bit higher in the middle, and then low again. It kind of sounded like It was trying to talk to a child, but not knowing how to emote.

One thing is consistent about the Branched One, it's the way It would appear in my dreams.

I would have a dream, something ridiculous, like potatoes telling me that their cat is a surgeon, but actually the cat looks like a banana with a tongue, that kind of deal.

Then, from the background, in which It was hidden, the Branched One walks front and center, pushing or otherwise silencing any other character, taking absolute control of the dream. It looks at me right in the eyes, occupying most of my line of sight, and then talk. Once It is done, It just snaps Its fingers and wake me up.

The first six dreams or so, the Branched One's conversation was pretty much the same, how much I had changed, how I grew, how It was happy to see me again. But then, It started focusing on how cute I was as a little kid.

I told my therapist about the dreams around that time. By the end of that session, we had determined that It was certainly a manifestation of my fear of aging. For a while, I was fine with that explanation, since it made sense, and that meant It wasn't real. And while the Branched One still came back during my dreams (of course, It did), as long as I could believe that subconscious fear of time was all there was in the creature, the encounters didn't feel as bad anymore.

Then Its subject matters started shifting again. From saying things like

"Do you remember how cute you were back then ?"


"You were just adorable !"

to having phrases like

" I wish I could see as you were back then "


"Don't you miss your childhood ?". All

And It got more insistent on touching me, numerous arms grabbing and pinching, stroking, giving caresses that felt very wrong. I didn't know what to do, so for a while, I just kept going on with my life, trying to ignore that feeling of being... Well, I guess you could say I felt stalked.

I finally realized I had to actually avoid the Branched One that one night It said

" Great news! For your next dream, I'm going to make you adorable again."

Then, I knew I wasn't safe. I couldn't allow myself to trust dream and reality were different things any longer. So I started, with coffee and some pills, to only allow myself short naps, and kept out of the dream-state, knowing I would not like the next dream.

But after a few dreamless nights, the Branched One managed to come back anyway. While I was doing my groceries, I saw It in the glass of the ice-cream shelf. It didn't look like It was reflected on it as much as the creature seemed to be inside the glass. It did not talk, It did not walk, It just waved at me with many of Its arms. That must have been enough of a shock to give me a blackout of the whole day because that's the last thing I remember of it. I might have fainted, but I can't be certain.

Waking up back at home, in my bed. It was morning, according to the light. From the start, something was off.

I could pretend I first thought the bed and my room had gotten immense, or that I was victim of an optical illusion.
But I knew. I knew already the Branched One had done Its job.

I felt like crying. I stayed still a bit, tears running to my cheeks. Maybe half an hour went before I found the courage to move, to get off the mattress. My heart had sunk deep in my chest, but I walked to my wardrobe nonetheless, and stopped at the built-in mirror, to face my new reality.

I did see the childlike appearance I expected, and the pink dress was not really a surprise. But it took me some time to process the details.

You see, I didn't really pay attention to the itches I felt on my body since waking up. I simply absentmindedly scratched my forearms. But in front of the mirror, I saw where it came from.

 I expected the Branched One to put some curse on me, or throw a spell, something magical, to turn me into a child. I certainly couldn't have anticipated the homemade surgery.

And so, while I forced myself not to look at the red blotch the mirror indicated in a corner behind me, one thought ran in loop on my mind, that disgusted me more than the result itself.

The Branched One's hands have been inside me.