Friday, 15 May 2009

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...

Matthew could barely see the world through the trees. Great big oaks, groping up at the sky, all vying for a place in the forest. He could barely see through this maze, wandering through the woods, but he didn't care. All he cared for was the effort, the walk, the journey, and for the new sights and sounds he experienced on the way. Matthew was not of this place. He was a city boy, born and bred, but he had roots here, not as strong as the age old trees that had lived here for generations, but roots none the less. His great uncle was ill. His parents had travelled all the way from up north to get here, and now they were with him, by his bedside, whilst he had been told to go explore. Explore whilst the old man dies and the younger generations mourns before him. He understood that. He didn't mind-- why would he? He didn't know his great uncle. He had never known him other than through photos, and photos weren't people, they weren't experiences. Not like this moment now. Matthew never considered himself to be a selfish person until that thought crossed his mind. Another thought floated into his head, telling him to go back, to join his parents, to help them through this time... but he might never come back here. And so he wanted the most out of it. He wanted memories to hold on to.

"If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a great surprise," he began to sing, at first quietly, but then louder as his pace picked up. He wanted to see this place in all it's majesty, he wanted to see as much of it as was humanly possible. The trees creaked and groaned all around him, telling the sky tales of their lives, and he spun around and laughed and sang and then--

Someone began to join in with his song. "...If you go down to the woods today, you'd better go in disguise..."


Matthew looked all around. "Hello?" he cried out, not controlling the fear that sprang from his chest into his voice. "Who's there?"


"You don't look like you're in disguise to me," said the voice, "unless that is your disguise. Then I'd have to say it was a good one."


Matthew was no longer laughing and singing as he spun around. He spun around frantically, searching for the voice that echoed out from all around. "Where... where are you?"


"I'm here. All around. Are you in disguise? Or are you a little human child, lost and wandering in a place he should never have been allowed to enter in the first place..."


"... What...?"


"And for that, I obviously blame myself, but penalties must be paid..."

"Where are you?!" shouted Matthew, finally allowing him a slither of bravery in the face of the overwhelming fear that crept up through his shoes and into his body.

"I'm over here, of course," said the voice, and Matthew span around, but saw nothing. There was a tapping at his shoulder, and he turned again, and from behind a tree stepped a rather strange looking man. He was tall... too tall by all regards. His limbs were like long poles, his body was thin and lithe, and he was dressed too well to be traipsing about the woods. Matthew's eyes wandered past the man, in his suit and his tie and his large top-hat, and to the sky. It had suddenly become much darker than it had been mere moments before. "What's your name... little boy?"

Matthew knew not to talk to strangers. But there was no one else around him. No one to cry to, no one to save him, no one to tell him off for entertaining the thought to talk to this man, with his pale skin and his black button sized eyes and the black lips that became sharp at the edges to form a smile. "Matthew. And I'm not a little boy."

"No, you're not, are you? Plump and rotund, fat and flabby and oh, I'd say you didn't have any friends and that your parents didn't reeeeally love you, else they wouldn't let you meet me, would they? But I'll tell you what, Matthew, Matthew, Matthew-- I'll be your friend now. Would you like that?"

"I... I don't think so. Not one bit."

The man's smile drooped. "What an awful shame. Well, you best run along then, shouldn't you? Best run along home to your mummy and your daddy and your great uncle, God rest his soul. Just through there, through the trees, the field, do you see? Through the field where the scarecrows live, through the wheat and the corn and then you'll be home. Goodbye, Matthew. Such a shame we can't be friends. If you ever reconsider, I'll be here waiting a-waiting for you..."

Matthew made to take a step, accepting the man's invitiation to leave with vigour, but found his foot wouldn't leave the floor. "Wha..."

"Oh! Matthew!" The man clapped his gloved hands together, once, twice, three times, and leapt up from where he stood, clicking his shoe heels together. "You want to stay! Stay with me! Stay with me forever!"

"What?! No! No, I don't, I can't, I can't seem--" He looked down at his feet, and saw that they seemed to blur together with the ground underneath him. He couldn't see shoe or foot for floor, instead, simple floor, and then ankle-- but then ankle faded to floor and-- "No!"

"Yum, yum, yummy." The man leaned precariously forward, and then ticked his head to the side like a clock hand changing with the minute. "You don't want to leave me, do you, Matthew?"

Matthew pulled as best he could, but his leg wouldn't budge. He pulled with his chubby little hands, but then looked at his skin-- and the way it seemed to be thinning. Tightening across his body. "No..." His body weight shifted and simply dissolved, and he would have let out a cry if his vocal chords didn't dry out that instant-- his eyes rolled up into his head, his skin like tanned leather, and he fell over backwards-- and where there was once boy was something else entirely, and the man tutted as he picked up what was left.

"Oh, this won't do. This won't do at all." He began to prance through the trees, and then reached a field, full of yellow rows of corn. He skipped to the centre of the field, and jammed what was left of Matthew into the ground. "Oh, you'll do just perfectly. Perfectly perfect." He began to walk backwards away from the newly planted scarecrow, and bowed as he vanished from sight, tipping his hat to what was left of Matthew. "If only you really truly wanted to be my friend, Matthew. Such a shame, such a waste, but I found a perfect place for you, didn't I? Until we meet again..."

If he could talk, Matthew would have said something. He would have cried or begged and pleaded to be released. But he could say nothing. He could see nothing. Only darkness.

'Help?'

3 comments:

  1. that's an awesome piece, i was gripped reading that, are you planning on writing any more to it? although to leave it there is quite cool! :D

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  2. This is it, guys, a done-in-one, a kind of stand alone nightmare that can permeate the moment. A lot of my prose is like this, short, punchy, and with weird overtones. Thanks for reading :)

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