#StitchedSaturday – MIKE LANE

Mother Woodland

by Mike L. Lane

I’m pushed through the living wall of static, a pinball bounced between worlds.

This can’t be real, or at least I tell myself this as the beast stirs beyond the shattered glass. High-pitched screams pierce my ears in a constant, repeated chant.

Parasites underfoot of the thousand young!

Blood seeps beneath the cracked door, funneling down the aisle between vacant seats, a river of extinguished lives reaching out for me. Illegible graffiti and obscure safety procedures litter the walls, but nothing chills me more than the word “Help” scrawled in blood, echoing my own thoughts. I can hear the beast snarling. Its foul breath permeates the enclosed space. Its eyes shine in the train’s dark shadows. Its misshapen mouth and gleaming fangs drip saliva on the floor…

My vision bleeds with static and I fall back into oblivion once more.

My mind reels in a constant state of chaos. I’m trapped between two planes of existence, neither like my life before—the meaningful existence I cling to. At this moment, I’m writing somewhere in the safe plane, sitting at an unfamiliar desk and typing on a machine unlike any laptop I’ve ever seen. I don’t recognize the keys’ cryptic symbols, but my brain somehow translates these foreign characters into words, so that you—if there even is such a thing as you—can bear witness to my plight. At least this is what I tell myself.

I piece together my situation word by word, my thoughts a jumbled mass of hysteria caught between haggard breaths and erratic keystrokes. Time is irrelevant here, yet I’m compelled to hurry, to make sense of this ever-changing predicament. I feel powerless; a ball slammed about in some cosmic pinball machine, the spring-loaded rod cocked and ready to plunge me back into the game. Back where the beast waits. I type like a madman in search of a meaningful clue in an unsolvable riddle…

I burst through the static wall, my sentence unfinished—my grasp on reality slipping.

I’m startled by the engine’s roar and the old familiar scene—the empty seats, the blood, the chanting, the snarling beast. I’ve been here before, though I’ve never been on a train before and I’m not even sure I’m here now. And if I am, how did I get here?

The train’s breakneck speed pins me to the seat, the G-force an invisible straightjacket restricting any chance of escape. The passing scenery is a black blur, shrouding this empty shuttle. Is it night? Am I in a tunnel?

The door swings open, the beast’s mangled appendages slithering into the room, their slow, determined movements gripping my heart, filling me with dread. I cringe beneath the constant, chanting shrieks. The beast howls and the pain searing my throat brings about a new revelation. The screaming chants are mine.

Parasites underfoot of the thousand young!

Parasites underfoot of the thousand young!

I faint, freefalling through the static, back into the safe plane.

Typing the phrase onto the blank screen, my fingertips split under the pressure, smudging the keys in blood. What does it mean—what relevance does it have on my fractured existence? Like the beast behind the door, my last waking memory—eons ago in a life that once had meaning—stirs within me.

I was walking in the woods when something peculiar caught my eye. The towering pines glistened with moisture and as I drew closer, I realized they were drenched in sap. I dipped my finger in the substance for closer inspection, noting in astonishment its color—or rather a color beyond all visual comprehension. A strange aroma filled my nostrils with its heady scent, flooding my mind with billions of unimportant, minuscule memories. Things better off forgotten (staring at the clock as I waited at the DMV, chewing on a pen top in my eighth grade English class) and things I could never remember before (my first diaper change, my emergence from the womb). The sap’s texture crawled across my skin, a pulsating, organic matter enshrined in liquid glass. Trembling, I stumbled back and wiped the substance on my jeans, eager to be rid of its unnerving touch and its prevailing dominance on my mind. One phrase escaped my lips as I looked up through the trees into the afternoon sky.

Parasites underfoot of the thousand young!

The cursor blinks on the screen. The last thing I witnessed before being sucked into this shuffling paradox comes into focus. The towering pines bowed low as something embraced them from above. There’s no way to describe the all-encompassing presence of this entity, cloaked in the winds, masked in the dark clouds just beyond the realm of human sight. No words to describe the writhing mound of shapes moaning in pleasure, snatching back the forest trees like hair follicles, pressing her loins onto our world, the immense sap oozing down the trunks and pooling at the roots as she mated with our universe.

With the sap saturating my hands, I caught a glimpse beyond the veil. I stared into the indifferent eyes of that which should not be seen, her mere presence melting my worthless existence and robbing me of all humanity. At once I knew her as Mother Woodland and as the gargantuan deity spread her seed, I recognized my utter insignificance and screamed.

Parasites underfoot of a thousand young!

I’m pinballed back onto the runaway train.

My flesh presses against bone, distorting my features as the train’s speed holds me captive. The beast crawls through the open door, its body a twisted mass of flesh and tendons, contorted and deformed. Snarling. Starving. Somewhere deep within its eyes lies the only residue of humanity it once held—a stark reflection of sadness and misery. Horrified, I begin to understand my encounter with Mother Woodland, my reality for seeing that which can’t be unseen.

The beast is what’s left of me and the runaway train of my mind travels on.

9 thoughts on “#StitchedSaturday – MIKE LANE

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