Pieces of the Forest

Artwork by Jemma Clamp

Her breaths shook in rapid grasps. Trees approached and blurred past her. She jinked one side to the other, hopping over obstacles that littered the forest floor. She threw herself downhill. Air was dragged desperately into her lungs. She was afraid. She was running for her life.

Trees and branches rushed towards her. She suddenly sprang off her right foot and darted to the left. Through the sounds of her breathing, her heartbeat, and the claustrophobic rustles of the forest another set of footsteps could be heard, purposive, giving chase. FUCK! Her eyes flitted across the procession of trees in search of a possible path to take. The forest had grown denser, the branches reached out in hooks. She forced herself through a thicket and felt a hot sweet sensation as something sharp clawed itself down the length of her back. She yelped and gritted her teeth.  Run! Fucking run! She felt blood wetting the back of her leg.

“Look at the mess you’ve gotten yourself into.” a voice cooed through the forest. Her head whipped around in shock before returning forward in time to narrowly avoid a tree. “Come back, you’re so much better off with me.”

“GO AWAY!” she screamed, purging her lungs of air before sucking in the next breath.

She was now using her arms, swiping away braches, pushing her way forward, forgetting self-preservation, driven by the strongest sense of fear that blinded all thoughts except that she had to run.

She felt the presence behind her, its fingers barely touched the nape of her neck. She clenched her eyes shut and ducked forward. Nauseating shivers crept across her body. She grabbed at the ground and flung dirt backwards. Premature screams resided in every exhale. She couldn’t escape this nightmare. Tears streamed backwards from the corners of her eyes into her hair.

She opened her bleary eyes and they immediately trained themselves on a spot of light barely visible through the black web of branches. Her body immediately sharpened in its movements. She lunged and leapt, snapping branches under her steps as she thrust forward.

“NO! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!” The voice shrieked.

She burst into the light. Falling to the ground she scrambled blindly, creating distance from the dark forest edge. She stopped. Her head was lowered, she looked at nothing. Her breaths began to steady, the warmer air relaxed her lungs. She was tired. She looked up. Soft beams of light shone through the treetops, cradling the dust that floated in the air. The air was painted in brushstrokes of varying shades of gold. The ground was soft and warm.

She heard rustling behind her and turned to face it. The figure of a girl stood at the edge of the forest. Her arm was held behind the trunk of a tree as if using it for comfort. She seemed unwilling to part from it, caught in a moment of hesitation. Her face was not unlike her own, yet it fluctuated, breaking into fragments, a mosaic that billowed in an internal wind, fluxing and reforming. At first an angry scowl seethed amongst the rippling shards, however gradually a sense of sadness and longing began to appear.

“Please don’t leave me…” Her eyes fluttered on the verge of tears.

A sense of peace seemed to extend the distance between them. She gave the girl a final look of understanding before she turned away and strode amongst the light.

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Reefer Madness

By Shaun Clamp

 

He was right now locked in a heady neighbourhood dispute, alone, in his room. Moments earlier, beneath the beginnings of a poolside creeping grapevine patio type deal, shielded from the moon-and-starlight, he had smoked a blunt. There were various factors that contributed to his toking of said blunt, but the one he would rely on most was that he had been undergoing physiotherapy and was currently in a leveragable amount of discomfort.

The dispute arose with a squabble when the couple on the neighbouring plot became alerted to the dank odour that hung heavily and slightly obnoxiously in the air. At first he could only hear the wife. The sonic texture of her shrill panicked Afrikaans twang might have been enough to ruin his high, regardless of the context. They reacted with a sense of urgency that seemed almost animal. It was its instinctiveness that scared him. He knew it to be hard-headed and hardwired, sternly pruned and possibly sharpened by the conservative values of the prevailing Afrikaans-Christian culture of the village.

The plots were stacked closely and he could make out with an ominous half-certainty, the conversation going on next door.

“Is someone smoking weed?”

“Someone’s been smoking weed near our house!”

“What do we do? I’m not okay with someone smoking weed, are you?”

There was a palpable anger rising in the conversation, with each mention of the word weed propelling it higher, as if it were a sort of furious-kinetic energy. It refused to die down, even though it was 3 am.

He knew he needed to address it, the situation, them, to prevent the possible calling of the police should the conversation reach boiling point. He had made his way outside of his house to the road with the intention of ringing the doorbell of whichever house the voices were coming from. He was fighting stabs of paranoia with steadying breaths and had armed himself with the official-sounding line “I wanted to address the situation personally” that was to be used during his introduction. How could a criminal be so self-assured and forthright?

The road was quieter than the house, deafened by the dry wind and the crunches of his tentative footsteps. He tried adjust his posture and stand erect and professional yet felt himself tilt forward at the waist as if he was being hollowed out by fear. As he walked along the road towards the house his torso also twisted as if anchored stiffly in its direction.

“Oh no! He’s coming!”

He stopped in his tracks, frozen cartoonishly in his odd stance. He was at that moment Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. If he had brought his dog, Areo, along on the expedition, which he had deliberated earlier, the resemblance would have been uncanny. He listened, head cocked, iphone torch cocked (undoubtedly unnecessarily but the situation was intense and at that stage, bodily) for a few moments (seconds), before briskly walking back into his house.

Inside his granny was awake, tending to the dogs, and he calmly and earnestly explained the situation. Low THC, for his back, too much pain to sleep, not harmful, rather weed than consistently taking Myprodols. His granny was lovely and empathetic and responded to the only slightly cherry-picked and airbrushed narrative with saintly care. She was only concerned about the pain in his shoulder and even offered to put arnica ointment on it. She really is a great granny. He declined her offer and her suggestion to bath, opting for a shower instead so he could stretch and just zen the fuck out.

Low THC content, essentially legal, medicinal, electroshock therapy, I have nothing to hide officer it was one joint of less than a gram and it was all I had in my possession, it’s for my shoulder.

He switched on the tap and automatically began adjusting the heat settings.

Of course you can come in and search officer, but you would need a search warrant, I can’t authorise entry, the house was not rented in my name, who’s the owner? I wouldn’t know, I think we booked through a –

“Oh my GOD! He’s having a shower. I don’t believe it!”

“…Unbelievable!”

They were baffled. Their confusion and anger had reached the point of hysterics. The audacity that he take a shower. The AUDACITY!

They were, in a word, trolled.

He afforded himself a smile as warm water poured mercifully onto his upturned face. He imagined them slowly, dumbly, shaking their heads, still unable to speak, the wife’s horrified expression teetering on the brink of manic laughter. He tried to stretch but felt too self-conscious so he decided to just wash himself and get this whole absurd episode over and done with.

After fumbling in the wrong place for a bit too long he finally managed to turn on his bedroom light. He walked across his room to his suitcase.

“Look, there he is.”

The curtains were white, thin and translucent at the best of times, and offered easy viewing into the lighted room in the dark hours of the morning. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was incredibly tired, that he had been recently frazzled, or possibly that he was still high but he felt comfortable. He stood still, naturally deliberating the thought.

“What is he doing?”

His eyes scoured the floor mindlessly, searching for…what? He was discombobulated from hearing and processing both his consciousness and the antagonistic and invasive consciousness of his neighbours. For clothes perhaps?

“It’s just so…rude.”

She probably wants to fuck me, he thought as he tossed the towel onto the chair. He wasn’t being serious but the thought was so instinctual he wondered whether he truthfully likened himself to Russel Brand. No you don’t…mmm maybe a little? Can I say I’m unsure? No, to consider that would probably open the floor to all sorts of narcissistic character flaws. He decided to remove himself from that thought pattern altogether. He did leave it on unsure though. Did he?

But it was time to address the situation personally. He found his pen and his notebook with nice, professional paper and sat in the chair illuminated by a bedside lamp.

“Oh my god, he’s writing a note.”

To whom it may concer-

His handwriting looked shit. He considered continuing and writing at the end something along the lines of “My handwriting is usually this bad ;)” His pen was resting thoughtfully on the side of his head.

“He’s thinking!”

He let his head roll backwards to rest on the chairs plump leather cushion, his faced turned skywards once more, and he felt the unbelievable, almost ecstatic ridiculousness of the situation wash pleasantly over  him. He was smiling.

“What is he writing?”
He sat up, paused to grin, and began to write.