Serpentine Willow

Rebecca’s toes curled in her boots when her feet touched the unholy earth. Ancient trees populated the forest ahead, pale fog twisting between their trunks with serpentine grace. Gnarled limbs formed an impenetrable canopy above, coloring all with a nocturnal hue. Tendrils of mist slithered around her legs, and her knees ached to buckle, but she forced herself on; she knew fear would bring demise.

She thought of Oliver. His shining face cast iron rods into her bones. It kept her from succumbing to the black moss which grabbed at her feet. His smile, the way he always wanted his sandwiches without the crust, his unending questions—memories that powered her will.

Movement in the brush clenched her jaw. But her eyes never averted the path; they stared forward, glazed with determination, intent only on reaching the end. After that it wouldn’t matter.

A clearing opened ahead. Rebecca stopped and stood tall.

A breath of evil wind sung the tune of damned souls; agonized wails filled the air. Her ears begged silence, pained by the despair in each note. But those countless voices didn’t cause her to stray. Ollie meant everything. She’d sacrifice all for him to live again.

“You’ve braved the darkness.” The words came from all directions, faint whispers carried by a quiet breeze. “But you aren’t without fear. How much can you endure?”

Visions of unspeakable torment invaded her mind—mutilated bodies writhing in ebon mud, eyes removed, mouths contorted by ineffable suffering; they sang together like Hell’s choir. She saw their lifeforce seep into the ground, feeding the roots of the forest as they sprouted and entwined themselves within the bare husks left behind. Worms crawled through the ground on which they decomposed; they fed in the tainted soil.

“You’re quite strong. Few have remained on their feet up to this point.”

A slight pride swelled in her gut but she immediately subdued it. She didn’t want them to see. But the quiver in her bowels alluded that it was already too late.

Malicious laughter echoed—the amusement of a thousand vicious creatures, their attention focused on her vulnerable position. Her shoulders twitched, tried to fold inward.

“You really are brave,” the voice said. “We could tear you apart. And keep you alive to endure it. This frightens you. But I see something which frightens you more. What do you desire?”

She wondered if it was a rhetorical question. They just want me to say it, she thought. “My son… I want Ollie back.”

Another laugh came from the woods. But unlike before, it was from a singular entity—a lone bellow among the din of ridicule previously voiced. She balled her fists with moistened palms.

“Don’t be angry. I can offer what you seek. But you must offer something in return.”

An enormous albino worm slithered toward her from the thick layer of mist. It raised its head and weaved in a hypnotic motion. Its repulsive, blank surface was nothing more than pulsating flesh with no discernable features. A suffocating odor wafted from the creature. Its very sight defiled her thoughts. Rebecca stared back at the ghastly being, unaware what resided inside. Its unearthly form negated reason; some things that shouldn’t exist do.

“What do you want?” she asked.

Purple veins bulged from the white worm’s glossy flesh. They pulsed in a sickening rhythm. Countless red eyes flickered in the darkness behind it, like demon stars in a vast and wicked universe.

A boy’s head burst through the soil next to the worm, followed by its limp corpse.

“Oliver!”

Vines lifted her son’s body from the ground. Her eyes bled salty grief.

“You want him to live?”

“Yes.”

“Then he will.”

Her Ollie’s pallid face lightened, eyes twitched. The vines withdrew and he stood on his own, staring with a disquiet gaze.

“He’s alive! Oliver, you’re here!”

The boy stood silent.

The veins on the worm’s body pulsated with vigor. “Now, come to me.”

She stepped forward, tremors shaking every muscle. Hot sweat leaked from her skin, soaked her clothes. She clenched her hands and breathed deep.

The holders of the crimson eyes came out from the shadows, sharp toothed grins spreading below. Remnants of humanity were carved into their knotty faces, eroded by the nefarious mist. Thin bodies crowded around her, skin like the bark of trees. Their clawed hands embraced her, took her into their communion of evil. She knew not what they were, only that she’d wither and become one of them.

As they carried her away, she watched Oliver. And although his stare held a ghostly atmosphere, he was alive.

~ Lee A. Forman

© Copyright 2017 Lee A. Forman. All Rights Reserved.

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About Lee Andrew Forman

Lee Forman is a fiction writer from the Hudson Valley, NY. His fascination with the macabre began in childhood, watching old movies and reading everything he could get his hands on. He’s a third generation horror fanatic, starting with his grandfather who was a fan of the classic Hollywood Monsters. His work has been published in horror magazines, anthologies, and podcasts. In October 2014 he won 3rd place in the Writer’s Carnival Short Story Contest hosted by Sanitarium Magazine. In 2015 he was a competitor in David Wellington’s Fear Project. When he’s not crafting horrifying creatures and tales of terror he spends time playing guitar with his band, Eternity of Sorrow. For more information and a list of publications go to www.leeformanauthor.com

26 responses to “Serpentine Willow”

  1. Jessica Bakkers says :

    Loved this. Nice to find a writer who doesn’t shy away from a dark ending 🤗

    Liked by 2 people

  2. afstewart says :

    A creepy and haunting story.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Adele Marie says :

    Beautiful descriptions I was there in the forest with her. Great story.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Veronica Magenta Nero says :

    Great tale Lee, weird and creepy

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Christopher A Liccardi says :

    Poetic, visual, visceral and touching, Lee. Great work my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Brian Moreland says :

    Beautifully written, Lee. A wonderful story and perfect, creepy ending. My favorite line: Countless red eyes flickered in the darkness behind it, like demon stars in a vast and wicked universe.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Brian Moreland says :

    Reblogged this on THE CRYPT OF HORROR and commented:
    Here’s a wonderful creepy short story “Serpentine Willow” by Lee A. Forman​. Available to read for free at Pen of the Damned.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Joseph Pinto says :

    Creepy and surreal; a home run of a tale, Lee! Loved it!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hunter Shea says :

    Dude, I have a thing about white worms. Seriously. Brown worms, OK. White worms? I’m shivering. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. John Potts Jr says :

    This is a fantastic story, Lee! You tailored this superbly in elegant macabre prose and smooth transitions. Rebecca’s dedication compliments the hard work put into the details of the white worms. Creepy as hell!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. John Potts Jr says :

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Lee Andrew Forman crafts macabre splendors in “Serpentine Willow,” a tale of one mother’s dedication, deep in the heart of terror. Lee’s impresses with slick transitions, ghastly details and horrific monsters. Read this and reread it and tell others to follow suit because this story is everything a horror fan wants in a quick read.

    Like

  12. jonolsonauthor says :

    Sorry I’m late to the party, Lee! Great story! As a parent myself, there’s definitely an undeniable strong will to do whatever is needed for a child. You conveyed that masterfully in this piece. Great job! The albino worm was a nice touch!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. jonolsonauthor says :

    Reblogged this on Jon Olson and commented:
    SERPENTINE WILLOW by Pen of the Damned’s Lee A Forman

    Like

  14. Nina D'Arcangela says :

    Awesome piece, Lee! I love the visual feast that unfolds to tell a sad yet horrific tale! Very well done, sir!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Nina D'Arcangela says :

    Reblogged this on The Road to Nowhere… and commented:

    A beautifully written tale of devotion and horror by Lee A. Forman. ‘Serpentine Willow’ on Pen of the Damned.

    Like

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