Hecuba was finished last night and today I knocked out another flash fiction story, based on the myth of Dryope. And here it is, as a taster.
This is very rough, please remember that!
Amy had been going to the woods since she was a child. They backed onto the back of her house and, growing up, she had seen them as an extension of her parent’s neatly tended garden. It was an ancient wood, vast and silent, home to monsters and faeries, and Amy roamed them freely. The woods were hers and she knew every corner of them. She took treats to the faeries that lived in the clearing, and talked to them for hours, even though they never talked back. She fought dragons and ogres with swords made from branches, snapped from trees. And when she was ten she built a den, with leaves and branches woven together around the frame her father had built from her. The sound of her laughter and chattering voice always carried easily in the quiet.
When Amy was fourteen she started taking boys to the woods. Sometimes they carved her names into the rough bark of ancient trees, other times they would chase her around, and she would shriek and laugh, as she ran. And when they caught her, they would fall together to the ground and roll around on a blanket of crunching leaves.
Amy got married when she was twenty, to a young man called John, and when she was twenty-two they had a child. She took John and their baby to the woods one crisp autumn day and showed him her old den and all the places where boys had carved her name into the trunks of the ancient trees. But when she broke off a twig, to show him how to slay a dragon with a sword, she found her feet stuck fast.
She laughed, at first, supporting herself on her husband’s arm, as she tried to pull her feet out, but the more she pulled, the more stuck she found herself. She reached down to try and free her feet that way and found that they had, somehow, become tangled in some roots. Amy yanked at them until she managed to snap one off, sending a sharp ribbon of pain, shooting up her leg. She cried out, swore and rolled up her jeans to rub her leg.
Rough brown bark covered her calves like some sort of vast scab. Amy picked at it with her fingernails and managed to peel away a small chunk, which stung painfully, as though she’d peeled away a small piece of her own skin. She swore again, more from the surprise of it, and tried again, peeling away a larger bit of bark. It came free with a painful tug, but already the scabby growth had spread its way up to her knees.
John knelt down in front of her and, reaching around their baby strapped to his chest, he tried to help, peeling and ripping chunks of bark from her skin. But it carried on growing, spreading, creeping up her body, faster than either of them could tear it away.
It reached her arms, fixing them in place, as it continued to spread along the length of her fingers, turning them from flesh to wood, from fingers to twigs. Tears streamed down Amy’s face, becoming knots of wood as the bark moved up her throat, across her jaw, along her nose, covering her eyes, until, finally, a tree stood where Amy had been a moment before.
And once John had stopped screaming, and swearing, and crying, and had finally left, clutching his baby tightly to his chest, the silence returned.