's 2019 Horror Write-off:

An invitation to tea

Submitted by Lhegg Wormburger

My parents always ask me why I never go for walks in the woods anymore. Of course, I can’t tell them that I only ever went out there to smoke pot in the first place, but even more than that I cant tell them, or anybody else, why I never went back.

It was a brisk autumn afternoon when I was 15 and I took a short walk into the woods to sit down on my favorite stump and light up a joint. I had taken a couple of hits when I heard a rustling sound in the distance and wondered if it might be a deer. One of the best parts of smoking in the woods was getting to watch the animals go about their business. I heard the sound again, but it sounded louder this time- much bigger than a deer. My stomach dropped. Could this be a bear? What are you supposed to do when you encounter a bear? Do you freeze up or do you make yourself look big? Aren’t you supposed to shake a can of pennies?

As my mind raced trying to remember bear facts the creature suddenly came into view and I saw that it was not a bear at all. I had no idea what this thing was. Was I hallucinating? No, I couldn’t be. But what the fuck was I looking at? It was disgustingly hairless and fleshy and stood about 8 feet tall, even with its hunched over posture. It had long arms with knuckles that dragged on the ground like a gorilla, and a pointed face the reminded me of a shark, but without any teeth.

I froze up, and the beast took this opportunity to hoist me over its shoulder. I struggled and kicked but the creature barely seemed to notice as it carried me effortlessly. It took off barreling into the woods as I bobbed helplessly like a rag doll on its shoulder, scraping up against trees and getting sticks and leaves tangled in my hair as we went along.

Eventually we arrived at a clearing where there was a small cottage I had never seen before, despite having walked all throughout these woods many times before. As we entered the door, the stench of dust and mildew was overwhelming. The decor was frilly but rustic, like the kind a country grandma might have. It might have looked charming if not for the fact that everything was rotten and moldy, as if it had been abandoned for years. Most alarmingly, however, was the table in the center of the room. There were 6 chairs arranged around it, 4 of which were occupied by large, antique dolls- the kind my grandmother used to collect that would give me nightmares when I would sleep over at her house as a little girl. These ones were even more terrifying, however, because none of them had eyes- just hollow, black pits.

Just as I was taking in my surroundings, the creature removed me from its shoulder and plopped me down on the ground. Before I could even get my wits about me, it began to remove my clothes, and once again I fruitlessly struggled against its impressive strength. I sobbed as I was stripped bare, wondering what horrible thing this monster had planned for me. It took me by the wrist and dragged me to an old, antique wardrobe, from which it produced a rotting, moth-eaten nightgown covered in mysterious stains and rows of tattered lace. I willingly allowed it to dress me in these rags, knowing it was pointless to try to fight back, but I was at least somewhat relieved to no longer be nude.

One again the creature hoisted me over its shoulder, but carried me only a short distance this time, setting me down on one of the unoccupied chairs that was sitting around the table. To my shock, at once all four dolls turned their heads to face me and stared at me with their gaping, empty sockets. The monster then grabbed a nearby rope and began to tie me to the chair. The rope was tight and cut into my flesh and cut off my circulation.

Once I was thoroughly bound, the dolls erupted into a round of applause, porcelain hands clinking together. The monster turned around and went to fetch something from behind me, and while its back was turned I struggled with my bindings, but it returned before I could free myself. It was holding a large metal tray, upon which was a dusty old tea set. Tea cups and saucers were placed in front of each of us and then the contents of the teapot were poured into each cup. Inside the pot was not tea, but instead thousands of wriggling, brown cockroaches. After the last cup was filled, the dolls once again erupted into a clinking applause as the monster sat down on the chair directly opposite me, which was much too small for its hulking frame. The dolls raised their cups and poured the bugs directly into the empty sockets where their eyes should have been. The roaches skittered in and out of the holes and crawled across their awful porcelain faces. The creature, too, poured the filthy insects into its gaping, toothless maw. I watched in horror at this disturbing display, and when they finished their meals, once again they all turned to face me.

The beast approached me and took my cup, which it held to my eyes as it poured the cockroaches all over my face. Then creature began picking them up individually and trying to shove them directly into my eyes. I shut my eyes tight and tried to turn away, terrified that my they would be gouged out and filled with bugs. I began to scream, but when I opened my mouth the creature took to pouring the bugs in there instead. I choked as my mouth was being filled with hundreds of insects and I fought back vomit as I tried to force them down. I could feel them crawling in my mouth, clinging to my uvula, and the sickening crunch as I bit down and felt them burst into bitter goo.

When I finished forcing down the last of the cockroaches, once again the dolls began to clap.

One by one, the beast picked up each of the dolls and gingerly carried them over to a broken down bed in the corner of the room. It tucked in each and every one of them underneath a dirty, ripped quilt. I was the last to be tucked in and I laid there, paralyzed with fear as the creature lay on the floor beside the bed, curled up like a dog. I waited for what seemed like eternity until I was sure it was fast asleep before sneaking out of bed and grabbing my clothes. I took off running in the direction I guessed was home and did not look back. As soon as the trees began to clear and I could see my house in the distance I took a moment to catch my breath and immediately began to vomit. Some of the bugs were still wriggling in my sick.

From that day forward, I vowed never to go into the woods again.