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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2273910
If you're granted access to the Rylian Forest, you never come back.
WORD COUNT:1929
CONTEST ENTRY: SCREAMS!!!


The night air is suffocating, thick with fear. My fear. I'm not supposed to be here, but here I am in their territory. The forest where monsters rule. They are not beasts with claws or talons, sharp teeth, scales, or fur, but human flesh. Human to the eye, monster to the heart. The makers of all things sadistic. They're mad scientists and psychopaths, ruthless soldiers, and a relentless leader.

The Rylians.

I was in their forest-lost. No matter how I change my breathing, my heart doesn't slow. I am the genius that bets my life for a few laughs. I'm the genius in the black leather jacket in the middle of spring, walking through a dark, quiet forest. No leaves rustled in the wind, no birds chirped, and no bushes rattled from small forest animals. Although the forest was green and lush, it was scentless, lifeless, and almost unreal. Because I am a genius, I know the quiet is a trap. It is the lullaby of madness.


There were no perimeters in the bet stating how far I had to go into the woods, but, again, I'm a genius. A genius needs evidence. I hadn't planned to come looking for evidence here. No one ever came back, but I had a theory, a camera, a bet, and one hell of a desperate reason to make it count. Now I had to find the evidence somewhere in this forest. All while, you know, not dying.


I didn't bother trying to be stealthy or quiet. The forest absorbed sound, but I couldn't help looking over my shoulder every few seconds. I've been wandering around so long I have stopped for a break five times, heaving desperately for air. My cell phone battery has drained 47% from using the flashlight. I still couldn't get a signal, but I had little doubt that there would be a long string of dings when I did. The guys were probably convinced I had been captured, tortured, and turned into something crazy, or worse, 'death by leather jacket' in heat. I refuse to go anywhere without my leather jacket, heat-be-damned. Despite the sweat dripping down my back, I pulled my jacket lapels closer, sniffing them. I sprayed my dad's cologne on it every day.


I combed through my dark brown curly fade with my fingers, shaking out the sweat. The silence was starting to get loud. Loud for quietness anyway. Like whispers desperate for my attention. I wonder if dad heard them when he came in here last year. The voices weren't coming from all directions-just one. They're wrapped around my spine and tugging me closer, gently. I'm being herded somewhere. A shudder rippled through me. Someone or something knew I was here. Rylia knew I was here. I'm beginning to think Rylia is a magical city with a mind of its own. I suppose science is a form of magic, especially when the wielder has gone utterly mad. I pulled my jacket closer. The heat still bore down on me, but the more my feet followed those whispers, the colder I got. My feet were dragging, resisting the pull, and my head drooped. Not to concentrate on my steps, but weariness. I fear I will never see anything but trees again. It seems that scentless, lifeless trees will be the last thing I see.


Then they just stopped.


And so did my feet. My head, heavy now, slowly rose high to the sky, balking at the massive tree in front of me. The leaves in this forest were the same earthly green as any other forest. The leaves on this fantastical tree are purple, blue, and teal. The branches and stump are a white or ashy gray, depending on how you squint and tilt your head. I took a step closer; as I lifted my foot, it caught on one of the hundreds of roots digging in and out of the ground. Roots, I hadn't noticed until now. I was too fascinated with the sheer height and fantastical features of the rest of the tree. A massive hole opened in the tree in the next three seconds of falling. The hollow tree caught my fall with its dirt floor about seven feet down. Yes, there is a ladder. Yes, I'm the genius that fell in.


First, the pain, second, the smell. Rotten-miscellaneous. I can't describe the scent with any dictionary words I know, Webster or Urban. Rubbing my right elbow, I winced as I got up. With my jacket covered in dirt, I brush it and my face off with my left hand. I missed some spots. I tried to use my right arm, but all I accomplished was a few grunts. I still had no signal, and my battery was down to its last 13%. If I wanted any pictures, I needed to turn off the flashlight. Trembling, I tapped the flashlight icon. While I have no fear of the dark, I had a lot of anxiety about Rylian darkness.


Gripping my left lapel, I whispered for my dad to guide me to him. My heartbeat hadn't been steady since I walked into this place, but now I was palpitating. My heart is malfunctioning from the anticipation of what lurks in the Rylian underground darkness. With my right arm out of commission, tucked in close to my body, I would have to feel around with my left arm. I took a few steps, and lights on both sides of me flicked on. I could only see next to me. Nothing. I took another step, and the next set of lights flicked on. On my third step, a new set of lights came on, but the first set of lights cut off. It seems that two sets of light at a time is all I get. I needed to pick up the pace.


The dirt pathway reeked. My stomach is churning more and more as I steadily make my way down the long dirt hallway. I won't be able to hold it down much longer. A few more steps, and I'm doubling over, releasing the contents of my stomach. Twice. My chest is tight, and my breathing is ragged. I needed water soon. I wiped the sweat from my forehead as I sat down against the wall. Then I saw the origins of the indescribable smell.



Bodies.



Hundreds, thousands maybe, of deformed, mutated, burned, bruised bodies are thrown in a massive pile. In the darkness, it's impossible to tell how far the body bank goes. I dry heaved multiple times as I tried to get a few photos. My next thought was to search the pile for dad. The next was to get away from the bodies with an extra dry heave from my abdomen. The mangled assortment of discarded humans left a very narrow walkway.


My shoulder brushed along the left side of the wall, unwilling to let my right shoulder touch the pile. But, I ran past the discarded failed experiments as fast as possible in the allotted space, silently cursing the Rylian City for its brutality. No way anyone could convince me now these people weren't experimenting on outsiders. By the array of various forms of mutation and deformities on these splayed-out bodies, it's clear that they're attempting to create something. If the Rylians are who they seem, it's probably the ultimate army for world domination and torture.


My legs gave out, weak from hours of walking. I scurried across the floor, trying to stay on my feet. I'm anxious and desperate to be far from the pile of bodies yanking on my throat. Finally free, I let my body rest for a moment and slid down the dirt wall to the ground. I was no longer capable of caring about a dirty leather jacket. My father was probably another experiment gone wrong tossed in a pile of Rylian worthlessness; the jacket was no longer in my thoughts. I palmed my face and screamed, and screamed, and screamed until my throat was ash dry, and my screams were without sound. And I knew it was time. I pulled the small clear baggy of pills out of my pocket and read the letter inside again.


'Kam,

These are not your regular pills. Don't take these until the time is right. When you are absolutely desperate to be free of restrictions. Mentally, physically, morally, etc. You will know when it is time. Son, you were meant for greatness. Don't let anyone or anything hold you back.'

Dad.'




I didn't get it until now. Dad knew he was coming to Rylia, and dad knew he might not make it out. He planned to help me in his absence. It's time to find out what these pills do. I pulled my left lapel in close and thanked him. It took three tries to get a tablet down without water or enough spit, but it got down. My veins thrummed and lit up like electricity-pure energy. My eyes adjusted to the darkness, and my skin tightened, thickened. I felt invincible. It's time to burn down Rylia. I bolted right into-


-A fury brick wall. One with bloody yellow teeth, with chunks of...something in between that emitted foul odors that burned my nose hair. Yellow eyes tipped with fiery orange, and no pupils looked at me. A fury, crazy-eyed, foul-breathed, cannibalistic brick wall that stands on two legs. The creature was human...mutated. My heart beat was out of whack, off beat, and too fast. The palms of my hands clammed up, and my muscles tensed. I'm not sure if the snarl came from the beast or me, but my veins were vibrating, electrified. The pills didn't free me of fear, but they unbound me of my instinct to run away. I wanted a piece of this beast's head, and I wanted to hand-deliver it to the monster or monsters that created it. The humanoid creature lunged jaws first, and I realized I was faster. Of course, not as fast as the Flash but quicker than Usain Bolt. The humanoid beast was also swift; I discovered this when it tried to dig its long sharp nails into my shoulder. My skin had tightened and thickened so much that it didn't even leave a red mark.


I'm officially a superhero, more like a vigilante. I fully intended to burn down all of Rylia. My veins sparked as if pushing me to test them out. I pointed at the creature and willed energy straight to its heart. It howled and wailed as it flew back into the wall, pinned by my new power. My head vibrated, and pressure built, so I had to stop the power stream. Two seconds later, the creature had me flying down the hallway, back toward the pile of bodies. No way, I was going back there. I landed on my right arm and screamed. Rolling off my arm, clutching it close to my body, I tried to get up. It was too fast. It kicked me in the gut so hard that I lifted off the ground. While I was in the air, I took that chance to replant my feet under me and swung my left arm on the way. While it was off-balance, I swung again, and again, and again. I kept swinging my left arm hard and fast until its leg no longer held it up. Then I ran as far away from the pile of bodies as I could before it could get back up. It didn't want me to go this way. So, of course, I was sprinting this way until my legs gave out. Which didn't take long in my condition.


It had to be daylight by now, but it was impossible to tell underground. I could still only see directly around me, so I had no idea where the creature was or if it had gotten up. I had to rest and breathe. If it catches up to me before I catch my breath-I'll be dead. I doubled over, breathing rough, heavy, hard. I peered over my shoulder twice and then turned around. I could hear it. Everything. My breath, my heartbeat, my footsteps. Sound isn't absorbed underground. I let myself sit down, realizing I could listen for it coming. Only about a minute passed before I heard sprinting footsteps.


My body was giving out; I barely got to my feet when it tackled me. I needed to act fast. The humanoid beast stood up and looked over me sprawled on the floor, weak. One side of its lips curled up, victorious. My veins thrummed. One last blast was likely all I had left. I aimed at its throat and pushed every ounce of everything. I pushed out my breath, strength, sheer will, thoughts, and the pure energy flowing through me. I. Pushed. Out. Everything. Bright yellow light lurched out, striking its neck until I was empty, void, spent. Then everything went dark with two thuds, both of our heads hitting the ground.



I was in a containment chamber when I opened my eyes, thrashing against restraints as if I were seizing. The room was so bright I couldn't open my eyes fully. My body slowed to a tremble. I tried to relax so I could gauge my surroundings. The room was full of machines, scientists, and other chambers. Above me, there was a loft circling the room. The room was still bright so I couldn't see faces. Around the rail were soldiers, more scientists, and their leader. I presume he was the leader by his suit and the nod he gave the scientist now standing next to me. The nod gave the scientist permission to release me. The leader jumped over the railing. He landed next to me as if the jump had only been two feet rather than upwards towards ten feet. I gasped when his burned face came into focus. It was the leader indeed.


It was also...my father.


"Kam, I knew you were ready and would take well to the pills when I let you in the forest dome, but did you have to kill my pet. He was the first one that didn't die in the lab."
© Copyright 2022 S. E. Mabson (semp83 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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