This story was a submission to our March 2022 Short Story Contest.
I was caught in an embrace. I didn't want it this way. It wasn't supposed to be like this. I had to get back to the others. They were waiting for me. Away from the thicket in a secluded spot; I had stopped to adjust my pack. As I struggled to break free, I fell down again, but this time fell further than I could have imagined; In fragments of a second I crumpled to the ground. I lay on the dirt wondering where you were to have left me. When at last I grew the courage to look up, I immediately lay back down in shame. What could possibly pull me out of this hole below? How would you help me? I had ruined the ripe opportunity we had. Now, in this hole of dead things I felt my flesh was blighted. The maggots slithered underneath my skin, and mosquitoes sucked the moisture of my eyes. I flailed about for some time in the mire. Eventually, I could not bear any more pain and fell into a numb stupor. I spent 3 nights and 3 days looking for a sign that you had come back. In grace, I awoke screaming. The more I screamed, the more the vines grew on me. They climbed from an unknown power and thus a cadaverous bloom began and so I was lost and wandering and lonely and sad. Eventually, someone came. They scuttled to me from the shadows and whispered:
"Better to burn than to rot." They then scuttled back into the umbrage. I felt strength in those words and a warmth. The warmth permeated my skin, and I was cured of the blight that tainted me. I grasped for the vines which had embraced me, slowly tugging at their limbs. I dragged my mangled body out from the hole. It wasn’t until I could see the sun that I opened my eyes. After taking a deep breath I look back into the abyss that I was in only moments ago. I laughed until my sides ached, and after finding my pack, I returned to the path. The path was, however, covered with blood. This was not the most particular thing, so I continued. I did not stop to sleep or eat or drink until I eventually found my friends. They had set up camp near a large oak a couple yards from the path. You didn’t seem particularly disturbed by absence, but our ails were forgotten with food and ale. In the morning, I woke to the sound of birds chirping in the dew. They flew and nested in the branches of the oak above. After having packed our bags, we promptly left, as the sun was still rising. It was a long journey to reach our destination. At times, it would rain down and sideways and sometimes straight up. I was soaked to the bones because I had not packed a coat for this weather. And even after the clouds had parted, I still found that my face wouldn’t dry. As my legs grew weary, the weight of my pack seemed unsurmountable. I dropped my bag and didn’t bother to pick it up. I would not need things were I was going. After finally waking up I found myself back at the bottom of the hole. I wonder when I will finally escape. I don’t want to be stuck here. When I didn’t think that I could possibly bear it anymore, they scuttled over to me.
"I'm full of poetry now. Rot and poetry. Rotten poetry." it said. That made me think. "Yes, I like that quote a lot."