's 2017 Horror Write-off:

The roses of life and the forest of song

Submitted by DiplodocusDinosaur (email)

The woman with no name scrambled through the thick mass of hissing vines and brambles, coated in sharp thorns. The leather and cloth jacket she had made herself, covered in patches representing things she no longer remembers, snagged against the oppressive greenery. There was a long traveler's stick tied to her back, a stick that her father had said once belonged to her mother. She began to think about her father again, and she remembered why she was out here in the forest, feeling the grease dripping off the leaves and onto her heavily clothed skin. For, despite the greenery, it was cold, colder than anywhere the woman with no name had ever been. She thought of her father, lying in bed back at home, slowly dying from a disease that took first his toenails, then his toes, and finally his feet, all rotted away and churned by the worms into thick dust. The roses of life, he had told her, were the only things left in their homeland that could ever cure the infection before his eyes and brain rotted out of his head. So, she had set out to find the roses, in the place that her father had never let her go before. The Forest of Song.

Her memories and reminiscing were ending by a humming burble coming from her left. As she turned to hear what had caused it, she felt her skin burn, and she was left with a feeling that her skin was turning into jelly. She spotted the creature that was emitting the horrible, but oddly musical noise. It was a large slimy shape, about the size of her father when he had been strong. It was bulbous and round, and looked like it had been more formed out of clay than it had been born. There seemed to be something sloshing around inside, like the fruits filled with porridge that had been her favorite treat when she was young. Something inside that was burbling and humming words that did not know the meaning of. Something about the noise sent a shudder down her spine. The noise, somehow, deep in her mind, told her something. She didn't know how she knew what it meant, but she did. That noise was coming from a human being. She could only do one thing, faced with the horrifying aberration. She ran.

It had been hours since she had saw that, that thing. She still could swear that buzzing and humming words were following her through the singing forest. She was bleeding badly now, from at least a mile worth of scrambling on the barbed and greasy vines. The earth here seemed to want nothing more than to drink her blood. She felt sick from the very air here. There was nothing she wanted more than to leave the accursed place. The vines continued to hiss melodiously. She couldn't tell how long she'd been in there, for brown branches, almost hand-like in the dim light, crowded the sky, making it hard to tell whether it was day or night. Luckily though, it seemed that there was a place nearby where she could see the sky. There was a massive hill of the horizon, and all the vine and branches seemed to flow from it. It seemed to be the heart of the forest, and if there was anywhere that the roses of life could really be found, it was on that mountain peak.

After what felt like an hour, she had reached the base of that great vegetation-filled peak. She was feeling nervous, for she had heard the humming burble several times as she had made her way to the mountain, and she had been forced to duck into the spiny bushes, where, despite the sharp thorns, she was most likely considerably safer. But any unpleasant memories were promptly shoved aside by the beauty of the massive peak.

Indeed, it was probably the most gorgeous sight she had ever seen, with thorn-covered vines rising high into the air. She was about to climb the majestic mountain, when she put her hand into the wrong part of one of the massive thorns. Thick red blood began to run down the vines of the plant. As it did, the whole of the forest began to shudder, as if some horrible being had begun to awaken. Something formerly obscured by the clouds slowly began to move down to her eye level. It was a bulbous, horrible head, greasy and covered in horrid multi-colored warts and blemishes. Its massive, red, distended lips, filled to the brim with thousands upon thousands of needle-sized and needle-like teeth. Although the creature was horrible, something other than its face had caught her eye. The vines of the plant could now be seen to be covered in roses, bright red and glorious even in the dim light. It seemed that, whether she liked or not, she would have to stay near the plant longer than she wished to. For it seemed that the horrible plant before her was the subject of her quest.  But before she could think of what to do to it, whether she climb or try to scare it away, the plant spoke.

"Hello little lady," it said, "What brings you to my forest?" The woman with no name couldn't help but be charmed by the creature, for its voice was melodious and enchanting. She explained to the creature why she had come, and that she sought the very roses that grew on its pockmarked skin. When she was the plant exclaimed, "All you want is to save your dad? Sweetheart, I can do anything, if you do me a small favor in return. And if you do, you're gonna get it!" The plant was still for a few seconds, and the woman with no name could have sworn that for just a moment she could see a look of desperate, hungry cunning on its massive face. But then it laughed and laughed and laughed, and then it began to sing.