by Bob'n Around
Population explosion? Mass species extinction, a world covered in human waste? Yummy.
|XGC rated Daily SCREAMS!!! contest entry winner. Prompt: One tale of many about an ancient tree!
The roots of the ancient Redwood tree drank and fed for three thousand years. For a scarce one hundred of them, mankind destroyed most of its kin, left tortured and poisoned ground in their wake. To add insult to injury, new and strange DNA altered growth invaded the soil of the tree. The ancient monarch found it hard to combat that. It needed a little new help.
That took a while. Worsening smog, acid rain, drought, fire, and storm became the norm. The tree marshaled its resources. With the latest rampage of burnt earth, the Redwood’s seeds dropped and rolled hunting for birth. One was found, broken open, and the kernel eaten.
There were enough nutrients to feed the wild lonely creature, last of its kind. Climate change induced by mankind’s lust for energy had reduced its habitat to extinction. When the pangs of birth disturbed its bowels they were not caused by carnal knowledge.
For the second time in earth’s history, a virgin birth occurred. This one was sponsored by damaged Mother Earth herself in a dead skeleton tree trunk. What arrived under its nurturing shelter was as nothing before seen, dreamed of, or wept at.
It was poison itself that was fed upon. The symbiosis between the nearby living Redwood tree and this thing below it was a bond only nature could love. The small paradise created below the tree’s limbs and branches spread. The thing knew the taste of hunger.
A sniff of the quivering air loaned wood smoke to the thing’s nostrils, and the smell of meat and ingredients sizzling their artificial poisons into the air. Plastics ripe with clinging leftover sugars and toxic dyes bled carcinogens nearby. Even the clothes of the campers loaned the scent of formaldehyde and other preservatives for the potential feast.
The thing, for it had no name, oriented its head toward the insect spray misting and killing the mass of mosquitoes and flies living near a swampy outlet where they converged on their human prey.
It licked its fangs, gathered its claws underneath and crept among the dead birds fallen from the sky from recent acid rain, not bothering to sample the poisons lurking within their breasts. A wealth beyond such measly gatherings lay beyond where man, master of their world, drank beer, tossing half-empty cans into the air to shoot them full of holes.
One of the bullets lay embedded in a forest ranger who thought to send the invaders on their way with a warning. Flies now feasted on the remains adding to the scent drawing the thing towards the source. It began crawling faster, leaving its nest in the tree roots behind.
“She’s too drunk to be a good lay. Just out there puking her guts out.” Henry Cooper tossed his beer can into the air, aiming for the half-moon winking through the clouds. Clive Jensen sent a round of semi-automatic fire stitching the sky. Beer spurted and rained down into their open mouths making them gargle with laughter.
The scream erupting into their lives took time to leave a dent within their sodden brains. Henry Cooper’s rifle sent the remaining clip towards the sound. “Cindy. Shut the fucking up.”
“Squirrel probably bit her butt. Got the runs coming out both ends. Near broke the tent down leaving us.” Clive Jensen rubbed the stubble on his face. The second scream ended in a wailing cry he’d never heard before.
“Think you damn killed her. Now, who’s going to clean up her mess? I ain’t sleeping in there.” he motioned towards the smell from the waving flaps of the tent.
The gun pointed his way, clicked on an empty chamber and Henry Cooper snarled, “Go see. Maybe she’s faking it.”
Death having visited that close to his gut, Clive was only too happy to oblige. When he got out of sight there would be no coming back. He’d had his fun. Hydraulics made him stop. He fumbled his zipper open, peeing in his pants as the sound of a gargled whispering cry left Cindy’s broken mouth.
“Jesus, babe. You are creeping me out.”
Out from behind a rustling bush, Cindy’s bleeding, dangling scalp hid the horror of her chewed-up face. One eye dangled from its socket twitching back and forth. She had bitten her own tongue off. The only thing left of her mind was the wish for eternal blankness.
The upper half of her emerging body twitched and danced a macabre death dance between the fangs of the emerging monster. Clive’s frightened yodel outdid his wife’s original wail. Once again bullets bit the air, humming like angry hornets passing him by.
Henry reloaded and enjoyed another drunken moment of violent release. “Stop fooling around and trying to scare the shit out of me, you two.”
Fumbling hands patted his flake jacket hunting for another hiding clip. A foot stepped into the campfire. Tongues of flame caught his alcohol drenched jeans and the gas spills there from when he’d torched the fire alive. He became a living candle. The fire climbed up his torso, found his healthy head of shoulder-length hair and Henry began burning from both ends.
The smell was an absolute beacon for the thing. It tossed Cindy away, snapping her spine and her neck. Her entrails hit and wrapped around Clive’s neck driving him to the ground. He was so scared that he tried digging his own grave with his fingernails in order to get away.
The thing’s tail cracked Clive’s ribs in passing as he rolled into more of Cindy’s remains, coughing and retching his guts out to mingle with hers. Slipping and sliding, he began the long slow agonizing process of crawling away.
In the campground, the thing had plenty to choose from in way of tantalizing repaste. A five-gallon gas can with open top soon was no more than a burp of exhaust in the air. Henry’s burned-out crispy thighs, torso and arms became barely more than a crunch and swallow. The thing cleaned up the refuse and garbage piled carelessly around the tent and stones of the now exhausted coals of the fire.
A bit more rummaging and the thing was filled for the first time in its unique life. It was torn between the allure of distant left-over civilized smells and returning to its keep under the tree. Sadly, for Clive’s sake, it chose the latter.
The thing caught up with Clive whose soiled pants had given him away. That and the stink of fear in his sweat as the man knew what prowled upon him. His hunter’s knife clutched tight in a fist, ready to cut his own throat when the thing pounced on a twenty-foot leap to knock the blade away and wrestle Clive between its massive jaws.
Clive did not die in vain. His DNA from his blood dripping down the thing’s throat was digested and exuded into the thing’s womb. It had not been created to require a mate, only the right conditions before giving birth.
What came out in the nest below the Redwood tree sponsored a new chapter in this growing horror drama. Dying as the thing flushed its spawn into the roots embrace a new thing evolved. Its appearance was akin to that of a tree, plant, and animal with Clive mixed with a bit of Cindy and a tad of Henry along the way. It was a self perpetuating microcosm feeding off of the makings of human civilization.
There was a hunger in its eyes. Its limbs wrapped around the Redwood hugging and promising to take care of the tree’s pressing needs. It stooped, munching on the poisons in the carcasses of Clive and the thing.
Where the tree roots had withered a moment ago, they sent out new growth. Birds chirped in the tall branches, squirrels scampered around its limbs. Deer browsed near the clean stream on healthy stems, flowers, stripping leaves from bush bark. Nature reclaimed her own, and the man-thing padding along a tourist forest path was sent forward to reclaim a lost world only the tree's instincts remembered knowing.
Its new creation had a taste for what humankind was best at making. The dunghill of civilization would soon give birth to an army of more like this anti-hero intent on saving the world from mankind’s nightmarish rule.