Another shrill, otherworldly scream hits Alga’s ears. She shivers. Tiny bumps tingle their way up her arms and around the back of her neck. But then she hears another, more earthly cry: “Heeeelp.” It’s faint, and small relative to the other noise. It could be a young girl.
“Shit! Someone’s in trouble!”
With the slightest pang of guilt for thinking she’d rather have an orgasm than be a hero, she leaps out of the pool in one fluid motion and onto her refreshed legs. She takes off, sprinting through the woods in the direction of the screams.
Alga has always been a good runner: not once has she lost the annual race in her village – even to the fastest men. Like a buck, her lithe, naked form flashes between the trees. She dodges branches and hurdles shrubs effortlessly; twisting, ducking, sliding. Her toes grip the earth and grass. Her red hair trails like blazing fire.
She clears a hedge of bracken, and then skids to a stop. The woods before her have suddenly given way to a vast clearing, and she decides it would be better to secretly investigate before rushing out to whatever doom awaits.
She sneaks up behind one of the last trees on the perimeter of the clearing: an ancient fig with roots sitting high above the ground. She jumps in behind one of these tall roots and peers over the edge.
"Fuck," she hisses.
Alga notices a hundred things at the same time, but the thing that stands out is the hulking tree sitting in the middle of the clearing. It has a mouth. And teeth. And it’s about to eat two kids!
She’s heard of these things before. Her mother warned her about going too far off the woodland paths, and to never, ever sleep under trees. She said there were monsters that had grown large and tree-like – so much so that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference – and that they’ve developed pollen that smells sweet, but once you breathe in enough you go to sleep and never wake up.
The tree in the field is bigger than any around, and covered in pretty pink flowers. Its branches reach out majestically to the clear sky, and on any other day would make for a perfect painting. But close to the ground the trunk opens up to a huge, toothy gash, like a sideways mouth – large enough to walk a horse into; and definitely large enough to devour the two small figures being dragged, inch-by-inch, by long, green vines, toward their death.
From this distance they look like girls. Alga can see delicate white skin, long hair, and dresses which are being torn and muddied; and they’re definitely small. One is being dragged by her ankles; the other by her hair - which might be purple?
She swears she hears one of them wail, but it’s faint and discarded by the breeze. Neither of them are moving, so maybe it was a trick of the wind.
She watches as more vines creep from somewhere behind the tree. They slide like lazy snakes over the grass until they reach their victims, and then slither under the dresses, and around necks and limbs. Some of the vines are covered in flowers – these hover over the figures and shake wildly, making sure they won’t wake up and try to escape.
"Fuck fuck fuck!" Alga hisses again. She knows this can only end badly. She can already smell the slight hint of sweetness wafting her way: like honey straight out of a hive. It’s utterly intoxicating.
Her head spins and she yawns. But she sucks in a deep breath and holds it, pinning her nostrils closed.
She looks back toward the tree, and sees the hideous mouth open wide, revealing several more rows of long, sharp teeth. A sickening scream erupts from the monster and drops Alga to her knees. She rests with her back against the root.
a) Run back to get an axe, or some weedkiller.
b) These girls are fucked. I’m not risking my neck for them! Why are they out here all alone anyway?
c) Attack the tree trunk with anything that’s lying around, and try to kill the beast.
d) Attack the vines, free the girls, and run like shit.
e) Any other options?
You can vote in the comments below, or on my Facebook poll!