Monday, February 3, 2014

Stanislaus Wonderland Forest

     The smell of pine was as sharp as a slap to the face that she was happy to receive. It was a stark reminder of the forest of ever greens that surrounded her. Quiet was the first word to come to mind, but she reminded herself that a forest was seldom ever silent. It was just a different kind of sound than the city produced. Wood peckers vibrated violently on trunks, blue jays squawked aggressively while competing for scraps of food, wind rustled pine needles into a fury. Her boots crunched on the carpet of dead, dry pine needles. She delighted at the snap of twigs under her feet. The sound traveled quickly and bounced off the large granite boulders surrounding her campsite. It created a sharp echo that snapped back at her, which gave her the sensation of communicating with the forest. At her campsite, she headed towards a good spot to set up her tent only to stop in her tracks and stare, brows furrowed, head tilted to one side, mouth slightly ajar.
     A large white area rug sat in the middle of the campsite, pristine as the fur of a polar bear. It was complete with a full entertainment system. She moved to step on it, only to notice the thick layer of dirt she'd already accumulated on her boots. After briefly considering removing her boots, she stepped back and looked around, hoping someone out there might clarify that she was actually witnessing the strange urban phenomenon in the middle of her campsite. Seeing no one, however, she decided to take her mind off the mystery by cooking herself dinner over fire. Meandering towards the fire pit, however, created a pungent odor that she could swear was freshly baked bread. Her eyes landed on a square oven that, indeed, had bread in it. She made two loops around the thing, looking for an electrical plug, but found none. She opened it, and a blast of hot air hit her face. Well, it was definitely on.
     On the off chance that her campsite was haunted, or that she was schizophrenic, she concluded that she was in desperate need to clear her mind with a walk down by the lake. The lake sparkled like a freshly waxed mirror of master handiwork, which always brought a sense of calm to her with it's perfectly undisturbed silver face. Her heart pestered her with its ceaseless pounding. It pushed adrenaline through her veins with stubborn persistence. It insisted that she pay attention to the vital signs that she may have gone completely insane. Her heart would tell her that last she checked, ovens without power didn't run, especially in the woods, and that carpets do not just mysteriously appear in place of pine needles and pebbles. I could be Alice, she thought to herself, knowing her heart would listen. What if I fell down the rabbit hole earlier today?      Just as the lake came into view to offer her and her heart comfort, a pounding sound startled her out of her reverie. She jumped backwards, and spun herself 360 degrees to locate the noise. It sounded strangely like the muffled pounding of furniture being dropped recklessly by neighbors living upstairs. It was a sound she was unfortunately more familiar with than she'd like. Despite her feverish search through the pines and campsites, she couldn't find any furniture heavier than a small fold-out chair. The pounding continued, and she found it as inconsiderate as she did frightening. If she had fallen down a rabbit hole, she cursed her wonderland for incorporating the urban life she was trying to escape from with her favorite place on earth. As far as she was concerned, urban luxuries had no place in her wilderness retreat.
     With her legs carrying her in a power walk that bordered on jogging, she rushed around the edge of the lake, distancing herself from the scarcely populated campsites in order to obtain an area of complete tranquil solitude. The pounding and scraping of furniture flooded her senses, though it was hard to separate the mysterious noises from the heart that was jammed into her throat, beating at a savagely fast rate that made her feel flighty and dizzy. Her boots scraped on granite as she scrambled over boulders along the hiking trail. When the path flattened out, her power walk turned into a run. Dusk settled into an ominous twilight that blanketed the mountains and trees surrounding the lake in a dark purple haze.
     When finally she reached the half-way point around the lake, marked by a grassy clearing, she felt that she'd escaped the haunts of nonsensical illusions. She stepped through the tall, soft grass of the clearing, reveling in the soft kisses the tendrils of plants placed on her legs. Raising her eyes up to glance ahead, she saw a silhouette of an object, though she couldn't tell what. An unnerved feeling crept into her chest, then tripled when the object shook. Her paranoia had already reached a colossal level, and the lack of light wasn't helping. Upon closer inspection, she found that the object was a cat tree. It shook from cats running up and down the wobbly structure. She cocked an eyebrow, convinced that she had, indeed, gone completely mad. The cats stopped playing and turned. Their eyes gazed, unblinking, glowing yellow in the diminished light. The fur on their backs raised, and a chorus of hisses emanated like a feral battle cry.
     Just when her heart could take no more, her body jerked violently and her eyes popped open. She propped herself up in her sleeping bag to look around her dark, empty tent. Her body was in a cold sweat, shaking with adrenaline. She saw and heard nothing. A deep breath of air escaped her lungs in overwhelming relief, for never had she been happier to wake from a dream. Just as she relaxed herself back onto her pillow, her eyes fluttering closed to slip back to unconsciousness, she heard the muffled pounding of dropped furniture.

Author's Note:

     This fun little 2012 piece was inspired by a school prompt almost two years ago in which I had to take a location from my childhood I could picture in vivid detail, and then to take various items that didn't belong there and see what happened. Of course with my love of dark fantasy, it quickly turned into a horror piece that makes me laugh to this day because of its pure ridiculousness.

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