#14 Things in the swamp (not at all pleasant)

we’ve been led here. I feel we have. on a forest picnic so bright and sunny. dappled trails. you wanted bare feet, and carried your funny shoes. mossy springy grass. squishy clay mud between your toes, and you laughed. wee violets and buttercups so pretty. we half expected to meet the dryads of the woods. why did we go so far in? happy hearts caught in a halcyon time. afternoon shadows are getting long, and we move to go back, but take a wrong turn. the sun’s at our back. yeah, it’s wrong. at each other we look, then quickly behind. in the greying gloom our recent walk, foot prints and all, seems to have been sucked away, vanishing like Alice’s confusing path. new trees, as close together as a bamboo forest, crowd each other in a riot of obstruction. there is no going, except forward. this very bad thing has us confused and frightened, and we hug tightly. nothing for it but to go on, although there’s a foul smell, the keening of bugs, and sounds of heavy splashing. you put on your shoes, and we hurry ahead with far fetched optimism that we’re nearing an outlet. as we go, there’s a chuck-chuck-chuck tat-tat-tat as trees sprout behind in terrible time lapse, like arrows flung from a thousand bows. we run. the smell of rot in front. our path behind is blotted in a zipper of foliage. and now, we are here: the vestiges of sun show us a lime green cesspool of swamp, lapping against intruding bush on all sides. On the opposite shore is a (fake?) hallway through the trees, a hint of daylight at its end. things flip and slap on the pond’s surface, disturbing the pale lilies. you, the brave one, walk into the warm steaming water, telling me to come…it’s not deep. and we go. halfway now, the silty bottom sucking at our shoes. slithery things caress our ankles and knees. tiny teeth seem to test us. only waist deep, we pause, hanging onto the roots of a fallen tree. and then, you’re down. gone. so fast. i yell and scream, grabbing green slime, and i’ve got your hair, then your armpits. leveraging against the roots, i hoist you up, parting your seaweed coiffure. you vomit a chunk of green mucus onto me, and then i see your face. you are not you. you are my dead school teacher. i let go in terror, and you sink like a stone. i hear insane laughter from the far shore, and there you are waving, silhouetted in the dying day. you turn and take the appointed path. new growth closes behind you. dark has come.

momma, momma, momma.

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