• Cassandra L. Thompson

Petrified.


The blank screen stared back at her, the bright white piercing her brain as the black cursor mocked her with every flash. There were words, thousands of delicious multi-faceted words rumbling around inside her mind, begging to be released onto the page. If only she had a key to open their cage.


She scratched at her hand, fingernails scraping across the greenish black snakes that protruded from her skin. Even my blood has become stagnant, she mused, tracing the map of lines with her fingertips.


She let out a groan, leaning back into her pillow to stare at the ceiling, its expanse equally blank and monotonous. Her eyes caught a tentacle as it disappeared under the pile of clothes near her bedside. “No, it’s too sexual,” she denied with a sigh.


The raven perched on her windowsill ruffled its feathers, preening for her attention. It proudly nudged with its tiny foot the eyeballs it had gathered for the day. “I love your collection,” she promised him. “But I always write about crows. Especially ones that like eyes.”


From the corner of the room, a grotesquely tall shadow waved, its long fingers throwing shadows along the opposite wall. It grinned a crescent moon of sharpened teeth. “Shadow demons are overdone,” she told him. The smile disappeared, the creature visibly disappointed as it resumed its place in the ether.


“Well, you can always write about me,” suggested the lean figure laying next to her on the bed, a sloppy conglomeration of tendons and sinews whose hands dripped like candlewax as he absently played with the flames they produced.


“I always write about you,” she reminded him. “I need to write something different. And don’t drip gore on the bedsheets.”


He shrugged, blowing out the flame in his hands. She turned back to the blank page, grinding her teeth in frustration. She slammed her laptop shut. “I need to go for a hike,” she decided.


Her bedmate nodded, putting earbuds into what was left of his ears. “Alright, I’ll be here when you get back.”


It was a snowless winter, the weather usually enough to stir her creative passion with its lonely woods full of despairing, naked trees. Her boots slipped in the mud as she walked, a hawk screeching above. She shook her head. “I always write about ravenous birds,” she called up to it.


She scratched at her arm, wondering if maybe she’d reached the end of her rope. Maybe she was done. Maybe she wasn’t as good a writer as she hoped, that her creative well had run dry. Maybe it was time to boast the work of others, to stand back and enjoy the stories of the brilliant minds she’d recently come across in her travels.


She heard the crunch of leaves behind her, and turned to see a masked man holding a butcher knife. He trudged towards her menacingly, dressed entirely in black. “Absolutely fucking not, I am not writing about a fucking serial killer,” she said in exasperation. He hung his head, defeated, slowly dissipating from view.


She growled as she marched on. Maybe there was nothing left to write about. Look at Stephen King - he’d regurgitated the same damn story hundreds of times. Maybe there was just a point where it stopped. There were only so many horrific stories to tell.


A jolt of pain radiated up her legs, disturbing her thoughts. It was like they were trapped in quicksand, suddenly heavy and unable to step forward. She looked down, but her eyes were drawn to her hands, housing veins that looked stiff and black as resin. She shuddered with pain, finding herself frozen in place. She watched in horror as her petrified veins burst out of her skin like tree branches, radiating up to the sky. The veins in her feet did the same, piercing her flesh before they thrust out of her boots and down into the earth to root her in place. Before long, her screams were silenced by a thick branch ejected from her mouth, joining the rest of the branches to interrupt sky blue with cruel tendrils of black.


He found her at twilight, his hands lighting his path. Though his face has long melted out of a human shape, she could see the horror in his eyes as he stared at her. The raven that accompanied him left his shoulder to perch in her branches. Its caw echoed through the wood.


“Should I cut you down?” he wondered out loud, alarm thick in his voice.


She was smiling, though she knew he couldn’t tell. As he speculated with the raven about how he would chop her down and take her home, she wished she could speak. She wanted to assure him that she was fine, tell him that although she was trapped in affliction, she was elated. For in her anguish, she’d found her words, and she was excited to get home.


She would write the story of a woman whose mind was so calcified by stagnation, she’d turned herself into a tree.


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