Thursday 22 March 2012

Horror Fiction - A New Leaf

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A New Leaf

By Casey Douglass

Simon slowly ambled along the country lane, carelessly kicking a stone ahead of him, visions of the Wembley crowd cheering and applauding echoing in his mind. How did the ref send him off at school? He had played the ball! He gave the stone another kick and watched it skitter away. Bloody Collin Smith, the little shit! He’d hit the ground like Simon had shot him, writhing around and, to Simon’s begrudging envy, squeezing out a few tears.
He caught up with the stone again and gave it a harder kick, the impact sending the stone onto the muddy verge and back onto the road again. Of course, within thirty seconds, Collin had been back on his feet again, and obviously felt well enough to score the winning goal. Simon had to spend the rest of the game in the changing room, the harsh words of his coach still prickling in his ears. It was a crap team anyway, Simon decided, why should he waste his time. He’d be in high school soon, where things would be better he was sure.
He reached the stone again, and decided that he was ready to release it back into the wild once more. He stared around, finding himself in the partly wooded section of the familiar road home. His eye fell on the black tree.
He hated that tree. In his quieter times, he wondered what about it made him feel that way, but could only think that it was just some kind of psychic reek that made him feel like the world would be a better place if that tree wasn’t there. He had thought about burning it down once, and even got as far as stealing a box of matches from his parents. Thankfully, he had realised that the wood floor was almost permanently covered in crispy, flammable leaves, and any fire would have taken out the whole area. He could well imagine the kind of shit storm that would have fallen on him then!
He angled himself just so, and took a few steps back. There was no wind, but the tree was a good thirty yards away. Could he do it? He rushed forward and swung his leg in the hardest kick he could manage. The impact triggered a fiery pain in his right toe but the pain faded into the background as he watched the stone arcing through the air, a slight touch of swerve steering it towards it's target. There was a heavy wooden thunk that echoed around the other trees, scaring a couple of perching pigeons into flight. His mouth split into a massive grin as his mind congratulated him on such a world class free kick. Then the world faded before his eyes, colour leeching out of the scene before him, a dark mist rushing up around him. He managed a small shriek just before it all went dark.

An inky blackness covered his eyes, and he felt stiff, his every joint aching. He tried to cough but couldn’t, his mouth full of something. His brain scanned his body, trying to locate his limbs and their relative position to each other. It gave him the impression of being on some kind of torture rack, his arms held straight up above his head, his back arched and his legs pinned tightly together. Pain roamed his body, the nerves seemingly confused themselves about whether to fire or not. He tried to blink but felt no movement from his eyelids.
‘Well now,’ a boyish voice said from far away. ‘Aren’t you in a pretty pickle! Can’t you see? Can’t you speak? I don’t suppose you can hear either. I don’t suppose you’ve got a-’
A silence fell again, pregnant with Simon’s foreboding thoughts.
‘Ah-ha! Things aren’t so different now as I thought. I suppose I better help you, seeing as you had one.’
The voice came from near his feet and sounded tinny, but strangely familiar . He felt hands grasping his shins as someone laid on top of him, slowly making his way along Simon’s body. Simon tried to speak again but couldn’t feel his voice box responding. He felt a hand on his face, and a small finger poked him in the ear.
‘Yes, I think this is it. I thought you wouldn’t be able to hear as well but sometimes things just work out. Right work.’
Simon’s mind took on the mantle of the mouth for lack of any better option. It screamed as he felt a sharp object being shoved into his right eye. A serrated edge see-sawed in and out, wrenching and tearing and spraying moist fluid down his cheek.
‘That’s one done. Catch your breath, that must have hurt.’
Simon swam on the edge of unconsciousness, his thoughts moving slowly, his body numbing itself to the thought of the damage that had been done. With a start, he realised that the darkness had gone. He could see! With a larger start, he realised he was very high up, looking down on the little wood covered road that he had been walking on a moment ago.
‘Time for number two!’
The world went dark again as Simon screwed his eye shut, the pain coming in a rush that threatened to tip him over into insanity. He felt every pull and tear of the cutting tool, feeling it pressing deep into his head.
‘I’m getting good at this, that one was quicker!’
Simon tried to cry, to shout for help, but nothing came. He felt detached from himself now. Still feeling the pain unfortunately, but like he was viewing himself from a far. As the waves of pain receded into a numb tingling, he opened what he found to be both eyes now. Yes, he was still looking down on the road and the woods around him. How the hell did he get up here?
A small round face appeared in front of him. His mind wobbled like a spinning top that’s nearing the limit of its turning force, about to topple onto its side and skitter around the floor. This time, he did pass out. Well anyone would have, if they had opened their eyes and seen themselves staring back.

When his consciousness resurfaced, he coughed and sobbed, shouting for help, for anyone who could help him, please!
‘Ah, I see you are back with us. I took the liberty of finishing off while you were out of it, I’m not that cruel you see.’
Simon opened his eyes and was again faced with himself, staring less than ten inches away from his nose.
‘You won’t be the best smiler in the world, but at least you can talk!’ The clone held up Simon’s swiss-army knife. It was gloopy with amber coloured slime.
‘What’s happening?’ Simon managed to say.
‘But don’t you see?’ the imposter replied.
The figure of Simon tittered with glee, the high pitched laugh blending in with the birdsong overhead. Simon felt a sharp pang in his stomach, a feeling of wrongness that made him feel claustrophobic. The figure in front of him certainly looked like him, but, was wearing the body differently. The expressions and mannerisms weren’t his, they were this others, and that filled him with a dread that threatened to wash him back into unconsciousness again. Seemingly sensing this, the other rammed the knife into Simon again, the pain bringing his focus back to one searing point of focus.
‘No you don’t! Stay with me, I’m not done. I wanted thank you.’
‘For what?’ Simon sputtered.
‘I’ve been trapped for almost a hundred years, did the same thing you did if I’m honest. Happened almost the same way, except I used a home made bow and arrow. Next thing I knew, I was where you are, but whoever it was who switched with me, didn’t have the decency to do what I’ve done for you. You know what it's like spending that amount of time deaf, blind and mute? It’s no joke! Anyway, must be going, got a whole life to catch up on!’ He giggled.
'But it's my life!'
The “other” let go of Simon, vanishing from sight below his face. A moment later, a leafy thud sounded far below, followed by much stomping and laughing. Simon strained his eyes downwards and caught sight of the other “him” making his way to the road. A lone leaf gently floated past his eyes. Reflexively, he tried to bat it away but became aware once more that his body felt like it was stretched unnaturally above and below. The figure shouted something to him that he could barely make out.
The figure shouted again, the words carried awkwardly in the still air.
‘I said...catch you later Mr. Tree!’
Simon felt his mouth hang open as he saw the figure run off at full speed, delighting in it's new found body. He shouted after him to come back, please! Come back! But all around him remained silent as the dusk began to close in, the wind picking up, rustling the leaves at his fingertips and causing his whole body to shake in arthritic swaying, his every sinew feeling near snapping point. An owl began to shriek somewhere nearby as the other sounds of the wood began to fall silent. Simon started to sob.

The End