Prompt: You’re in the woods camping with some friends. As you’re sitting around a bonfire trading silly tales and laughing, you receive a call from an unknown number. You decide to accept the call and on the other side of the phone, there is nothing but the sound of rustling trees and nearby laughter.
“Who was that?” Tyler asks.
I shake my head, put the phone back in my pocket. “Prank caller or something.”
“Should’ve screamed in their ear,” Greg says, tossing a stick into the fire.
“Could’ve,” I say, trying to push the phone call to the back of my mind, the faint childish laughter beneath the rustling trees, leaves. I can’t. It becomes louder, rattling in my skull. I can smell singed leaves, taste char. Distorted laughter rings in my ears.
“So what’s the plan for tomorrow?” Tyler takes a sip from his beer. “Get up early and hike?”
Greg nods, tosses a handful of trail mix into his mouth. “Before sunrise, if possible.”
“What about you Mike? Leave before the sun’s up sound good to you?”
I can hardly hear what they’re saying, but I nod anyway and say, “Yeah, sure.”
“You okay?” Greg says, staring at me, the flickering flames reflecting in his eyes. “You look shook up.”
“I’m good.” I think I shake my head, but I’m not sure. I can’t feel, hear my body. It’s as though I’m outside of it, replaced internally, but I feel scrambling fingers, scurrying upwards, ascending from burrowed places within.
“You sure?” Tyler says, and walks over to me. “You look pale, like you’re sick.”
I wonder if it was something I ate, I believe I say or think or maybe it’s not me. I don’t know. The laughter grows, rises, crests, exploding through me. Fissures run through my rustling bones, my veins become wet loam, sludge. Mud seeps into my innards as the fingers reach higher ground.
Tyler kneels and brings my face to his. His eyes go wide, jaw slack. “What the hell?”
In the reflection of his eyes, I can see dozens of tiny, pale fingers caked in mud ravaging from my pupils, they’re pressing against my flesh, scrapping the inside of my mouth with jagged nails. They are coming out. They’ve reached the peak. A sharp pain lances through me and I retch and out comes rusted copper bells with twine wrapped around gangly thin arms and porous hands flooding the ground.
I can’t hear my friends anymore. I can’t see anything. The children of the woods continue to ascend.
Read my previous prompt, “The Nothingness She Once Filled”
Read more of my writing prompts here.
Check out my bibliography for more of my work.