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The Return

by Rebecca Henry 2 months ago in fiction
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It is never too late to come back

Image by Essi Välimäki @susitse.art

A monster crashes through the thick foliage.

The creature roars in its throat.

A sound that somehow doesn’t quite finish; unreleased, an unbroken tension that quickly radiates through the body in ripples of hair and flesh.

As it lurches and crashes forward, the monster claws at its own flesh, rending muscle and hide from bone and tendon in horribly prolonged, wet tears. The crunching of joints suddenly without cartilage echoes in muted waves off of the fibrous, leafy-green walls of the forest.

In ways that almost defy reason, the surprising figure continues its horrifying trajectory through the cloying green underbrush. With each shred of its stygian claws, there follow the clumps and muscular striations of the creature itself.

Fangs as black as the mythic claws click and grind on a hard snap as the sharp wolf snout swallows another roar. Dark notes of rage leak between the fangs in whimpers and growls while it slowly destroys itself.

Even its bones are black, gleaming in hypnotic and confusing subversion to the light gently filtering through breaks in the canopy.

The preternatural athleticism that has carried it forward even in the chaos of its own disseverance slowly starts to falter as it is soon only dragging bones through the ivy carpet. The body of its work sparkles darkly in its tenebrous wake.

Momentum finally wanes in the creature, seemingly fortuitous in the patch of light it collapses in. There is a moment of absolute stillness, heavy with the weight of all the tension unreleased. Then that tension starts to build, just a low hum at first, but soon everything is vibrating, and it’s crackling through the stillness, enlivening the spaces once without energy.

Small but numerous sounds of crashing begin to converge on the corpse as its previously discarded offal makes a grisly return.

Wet cracks and sharp crunches cut through the hazy air as flesh returns sloppily to bone. The light sifting through all of the swirling faunal matter starts to intensify, as though seen through a sharper filter. As though more light were somehow gathering around it. Despite the growing intensity, the reach of this viscous mystery light plateaus, meeting shadows unwilling to retreat.

Those shadows begin to push in, encroaching on the halo of thick light, pushing it back on itself.

Although the light retreats, it is not dissipating, but rather layering over itself, sacrificing space for potency. The shadows press relentlessly forward as the light condenses to a small star.

Without warning it winks out on an audible snap and the darkness is absolute. For one infinitesimal moment there is nothing.

Just as suddenly, a glow begins anew, steadily illuminating the confusing black mass.

A small, bright orb hangs suspended as decidedly human limbs begin to squelch and scrabble through the gore. Wet sounds accompany the painstaking metamorphosis.

With each limb that bursts through, the light grows, slowly pulsating, illuminating the macabre birth in a soft glow. Pale, elegant hands desperately peel away some of the offal, exposing feminine planes and curves.

The shadows are gone and laying in the thick underbrush is a naked woman, body shaking and heaving with the vestiges of transformation. She painstakingly pushes herself up on her hands, arms quivering with the effort. The silence of the forest is broken suddenly by her retching, as dark clumps of matter splat onto the foliage.

On unsteady limbs, she pushes herself up. Finally standing, she surveys her surroundings and takes stock. The verdant forest is quiet again but not silent. There is the subtle buzz of insects, the chaotic intersections of birdsong, the whisperings of leaves stirred, and the gentle groans of trees shifting. She takes a moment to lift her face toward the canopy, reveling in the warmth of the light filtering through. Then she begins to make her way out of the forest, and back to the world she once left behind.


About the author

Rebecca Henry

Writing is the only thing that makes me feel like a human, a whole person. I love fantasy and horror and explorations of what make us human. I'm passionate about mental health advocacy and dragons. Sometimes I do standup.

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