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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Dark · #2271302
A return to a swamp altered beyond recognition.

The old swamp had changed a lot since I had last seen it. In my memory it was a typical swamp, moss-draped trees shading the pools at their feet, small islets emerging from the sluggish waters, but nowhere the ground trustworthy to the foot, as likely to suck you in as to allow a steady foothold. The backwaters and open stretches were as unpredictable, some being deep and perhaps even bottomless, others being shallow, their muddy beds oozing and gurgling with mud and gases at every tentative footstep.

Those who lived near its suffocating atmosphere and putrid water were only too glad to seize the first opportunity of escape to sunnier climes. I managed that at the age of seventeen and never expected to return to the vile place.

Life takes its unexpected twists and turns, however, and now I found myself at the edge of those waters once more, watching the sun’s last rays die in the sky as evening settled upon the place. That should have been the cue for a deep, unremitting darkness to spread from the trees, a blanketing shade that threatened to obliterate light from the earth forever, but on this night, as Granger had promised, there were lights springing up among the trees.

These were not the sharp pinpoints of white light typical of the fireflies so common in other parts of the country. Nor were they will o’ the wisps trailing wakes of fading smoke. These were incandescent globes of brightness that hung motionless in the branches of the trees, shedding their rays on the golden waters below.

Granger had described the lights as promises of wonders unknown. As I watched the unfamiliar sight, I knew what he meant. The attraction of those unearthly pools of light was undeniable. I felt their invitation to explore the place, now transformed into a magic land beyond the dreams of mortals.

I took a step forward but felt no cold influx of vile water. The sensation was one of warmth and welcome creeping from my foot to infuse my whole body. My intent had been to venture just the one step, but now I found myself taking another and another, until I was walking into the wonderland of that enchanted swamp.

Overhead the globes formed themselves into rows, guiding me deeper into the swamp. I swam through an atmosphere of light and warmth more powerful than the splashing noises gradually receding from my consciousness. It was not that I was unaware that I must be wading through the waters of my childhood swamp, but rather that this became of no importance when compared to the glory of the light into which I moved.

I was not surprised to come across a bed of floating lilies in the depths of the swamp. It seemed entirely appropriate that I should lie upon them and fall into a dream. I remember how the light filled my lungs as I lay peacefully among those blooms.

Word count: 496
For Weekly SCREAMS!!! 04.14.22
Prompts: Delusion, firefly, swamps.

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