He stared into the darkness, his attention drawn to the forest’s eerie silence. Into the strange absence of activity. The abnormal absence of the chirping, scampering, and rustling that had defined the place for as long as he could remember. But this morning was unlike any other. From the blackness that he couldn’t see, but where lively activity normally transpired, he could hear nothing. Not a sound. Not a single whisper.
Curious, he took a step into the unfamiliar darkness. Instantly, hands grabbed him. Suddenly, they were pulling him in, rapidly hauling him into the trees before he could react. Before he had a chance to see his attacker. Before he could hear anything coming.
He opened his mouth to scream. To cry for help. To get someone’s attention. But nothing, not even a muffled cry, escaped his throat. It was as if someone flicked a switch, instantly turning off his ability to produce sound.
He struggled in its hold, flailing his limbs wildly. Trying to strike something. Trying to make noise with his body, even if he couldn’t from his mouth. Trying to alert someone, anyone of his situation. Of his capture.
But it was as if the forest were empty. Free of trees. Free of anything that could rustle. Free of objects. Of anything strikable in his path.
His waving arms and legs failed to make contact with a single surface. Only expending energy, they made no sound and led to no injury. He suddenly felt like a pawn on someone else’s chess board. Had his capture been preplanned? Have his actions somehow been foreseen by his kidnapper?
Panic rose in his chest. At this rate, no one would find him. Nothing could hear him. It was as if the forest were a black hole. A self-containing mass that consumed everything in its range, refusing to grant mercy to even the slightest sound.
Was it over for him? Would he perish here, being pulled into nothingness? Was there no hope left for him? He struggled against the hold. He needed to free himself. He had to try something.
Even if sound couldn’t escape. Perhaps he could. He watched as trees sped past him. Just how fast were they going anyways? Tree after tree blurred past him. He beat at the hands with his own.
One fist. Another. Another. Nothing was working. They weren’t letting go. It was as if they were free of normal reflexes. Free of pain.
A light. Perhaps they’d exit the forest soon. He turned back, hoping to see a clearing, only to find himself quavering in fear and disgust. The arms didn’t belong to a human. At least, not to any human that he’s ever met.
They were longer than he could see, stretching deep into the darkness. Not a torso, core, or unifying body in sight. And somehow, the gangly appendages kept pulling. Pulling toward an unknown source. An unseen blackness. An unknown destination.
A brief passing light revealed to him, the moment that he looked down, that the hands were a sickening grey. As if they belonged to something dead. Something dead for a long while. The skin, over them, clung to bones. As if all of the flesh between them somehow decomposed, in advance.
He felt a shiver run down his spine, revulsion mixing with his panic. He needed to get out of here. He beat at the hands harder. It was no use. They weren’t letting go.
But he had to get free. He reached toward them again, clenching his own hands tightly around them. An effort to pry them off. A futile effort. The hands were too strong. Frantic, he turned his attention to the much smaller fingers. Perhaps, it would be enough to loosen a couple fingers…
He pulled with all his strength. A mixture of panic and desperation. He yanked. Again and again. Finally, he felt a finger release from his body. He let out a breath, only to quaver in revulsion. The finger had completely detached from the hand. Shaking and fighting the nausea that threatened to overtake him, he threw it to the ground, eager to part with it.
Suddenly, a roar resounded behind him. Slowly, he turned his head, dreading whatever the action might bring into his line of sight.
A decapitated head faced him. He opened his mouth to scream, but just as before, nothing came out. Its mouth widened into a smile, grinning at him in disgusting pleasure. As if enjoying his horror. Cackling, it watched him, its lengthy hair, which disappeared into the ground, shaking with each jaw rattle.
The head grew larger and larger in size until he was certain that the lone head had a wider diameter than the average adult human height. Only then did he realize that the hands were still pulling him. Just as quickly as he came to notice, it stopped. He turned again to realize that he was right beside the head, only inches away from its face. It opened its mouth, revealing a grotesque jaw.
At that moment, he finally understood the phrase: ‘curiosity killed the cat,’ and everything went black.
This story was inspired by a writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication.
Start your story with this line
The forest was eerily silent.