It’s the season of giving, etc etc, so I thought I’d put up a free piece of flash fiction I’ve had sitting on my hard drive for some time. Whether it should’ve remained there is up to the reader…
In the Green
When I see out of the corner of my eye something crawling up her back I freeze. Fat and bulbous and bristling, it creeps over the crown of her head with jointed legs, each placed delicately on her pale, greasy skin. Slowly, infinitely slowly, I put the bong down, smoke curling from its wide mouth.
‘Hannah,’ I manage weakly, lifting my throbbing head, a balloon barely tethered to my body. A scuttling noise in the shadows sends ice cascading down my spine. Nothing. A rat. Something. Turning back I see Hannah is staring at me, her eyes crossed in confusion. Of the…thing, well, it’s gone.
Ignoring her muddled questions, I slump into the broken-backed couch. Hannah fumbles her lighter into view, clicks it and then her bong bubbles as she sucks down a lungful of smoke. Some of it drifts along on hidden currents, the spicy floral stink pungent in my nostrils. Dimly, I remember Cameron, furtive on our doorstep, assuring me that what he was selling was the best.
‘From darkest Africa,’ he said, nudging me and winking. ‘The Congo, dontcha know?’ I didn’t like the way his eyes jittered, refusing to focus on anything longer than a second. ‘Jungle juice,’ he manages, folding my money away before I firmly close the door on him.
Giggling, Hannah and I ran down the rain-swept streets, to our hidey hole in an abandoned factory, window boarded up, echoing rooms stripped of machinery. Cameron was right, I decide, as that first hit bit into my lungs. My head unspooled, thoughts trailing behind as I plunged into a smoky tunnel that had opened in the centre of my head. Slowly, very slowly, I re-emerged, my thoughts reknitting into new, looser patterns. New ways of seeing, I declared to Hannah, who only laughed and laughed and laughed as she tamped down the grass and drew out her lighter.
Now, it’s me with the jitters, wondering what it was Cameron sold me.
Hannah sighs, smoke jetting from her nostrils like dragon’s breath. Smiling dreamily, she slumps to one side, stroking out on ecstasy. Her face lands against a mildewed cushion, something she’s pulled off the pile of broken furniture in a dark office hunkered in the shadows behind us. We always come here for our hits; the landlord is gagging for a way to get rid of us.
Her skirt rides up, exposing creamy white skin tracing the delicate curve of her hip. My eyes follow the curve into the soft darkness between her thighs and I feel the slow thud of my heart like a distant drum on a faraway hilltop. The faintest smell of the jungle reaches me, of heat and rot and green, pulsating life. So much green, hiding so much scuttling…
It’s on her again. Loathsome; quivering with life. It inches into view, all those legs, all that fibrous jutting hair. I glimpse jewelled eyes, black and shiny, enough to send a scream soaring up my throat, stifled by my fist, so that only the faintest of moans emerges.
There’s an enormous hole in the centre of my mind as I struggle to grasp what I’m seeing. Reality has come unmoored and there’s a storm on the horizon. I can only watch as it clambers across her, legs reaching out and digging in, obscenely embracing her.
I look at the bong sitting between my feet, the cannibalised coke bottle filled with brackish water smelling of spices and something…green.
‘Hannah.’ I manage a strangled whisper, terrified of having those eyes turn on me.
Her eyelids flutter open and reveal an empty ecstasy that has displaced her, sent her wandering in the green. Her lips quirk as I see a leg probe her ear, the thin, rigid limb digging deeper and deeper into the canal. Hannah’s arm on that side shivers, and her leg taps a message in Morse on the cold concrete floor. Her eyes roll around like marbles, catch a glimpse of what looms over her, and the life roars back.
Too late. From deep within its eyes, a cold intelligence greedy for life emerges. There is a click, and below the eyes an orifice opens, wet and hissing. Hannah struggles to rise and then her entire body shudders as that chitinous mouth burrows into her face.
The emptiness in my head fills with fear; howling, gibbering fear. I scramble to my feet, trainers slipping on the damp, grimy concrete. Paralyzed, I watch the creature burrow deeper and deeper into her face, until, with a heavy rustling of legs, it disappears, leaving only the caved in remnants to yawn emptily at me.
Her legs drum once and then she is still, her chest settling with a soft wheeze.
‘Fuck,’ I whisper, falling back onto the couch. I knock the bong over, stinking water, thick with rot and decay, spilling like spoiled broth over the floor. ‘Got too…Got too…’ The hole in my mind is back and the sense of falling makes me giddy. I try to get to my feet, but a peculiar heaviness has settled on me, dragging me down, holding me in place.
I touch my face, disturbed by how rubbery it feels; a deflated balloon retaining only the vaguest sense of its former shape. Looking at my quivering hands, I see, out of the corner of my eye, a long, jointed leg poke into view. Something hisses behind my left hear, and I smell that jungle rot again, full of squirming life, all of it burrowing deep into the green.