Flash Fiction: Forest of Monsters

Hey everyone! This piece of Flash Fiction was inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge for this week, in which we were supposed to choose a random  Flickr photo to serve as inspiration for a story. I chose a picture of redwoods.

The characters and set-up are related to another Flash Fiction story I wrote a few months ago. This story takes place before the other one, and you really don’t have to have read the other one for this one to make sense. I’m just having fun developing different snapshots of these characters and their world.

Hope you enjoy!


 

Anyone who has tried to tell you that the forest floor is made soft by the layers of moss and decomposing leaves is a liar.

Or maybe they just never had the enlightening experience of being thrown into the ground by a guy twice their size.

We shouldn’t judge people for their ignorance. Trevor always says that.

Trevor also talks about monsters no one else can see. We’ve all had practice not judging.

For a second, I stare up at the forest above me, letting the details of the fight drift away. The forest is sways gently above me, detached from my pain, beautiful, almost…magical. An arboreal siren.

I blink and the illusion is gone, leaving only a weary tightness in my gut.

Groaning, I ask, “Was that really necessary?”

Jack’s mouth twitches in a cocky smile. “I always forget what a lightweight you are.”

I make a halfhearted attempt to bruise his shins. “You? Forget I’m bad at fighting? How could you, when it’s all you ever talk to me about?”

He pulls me to my feet. “No, I mean, you are literally a light weight. I usually need that much force to down the other guys out here—with you, I guess it was kind of superfluous.”

The other guys. I’m still chewing on those words when he asks, “Ready to head back?”

I shake my head. “Trevor’s gonna kill me if I don’t start clocking more hours out here.”

And it doesn’t hurt that Jack is head of combat training for Society members under eighteen. Jack, whose smile makes my stomach execute gymnastics my muscles can barely dream of. Jack, who had the body—and attitude—of a superhero. Jack who uses words like superfluous.

Jack, who I’d been nursing a stupid, pointless, ridiculous crush on for two years now.

Jack, who thinks of me as one of the guys.

I do hang out with a lot of guys, but it’s not like I have a choice. I’m one of the only girls Trevor allowed to join the Society. (I’ve pointed out the sexism, believe me.) But my dad was Trevor’s best friend since high school, and when Trevor asked him to sell his house and move to the middle of freaking nowhere so the two of them could hunt monsters, my dad said yes, as long as his daughter could come.

If it sounds like we’re a cult, we probably are. I’ve been here for three years and I can’t shake the feeling that we’re the kind of people the rest of the world laughs at.

I’d laugh too, if I couldn’t see the bodies.

“Are we going to fight or what?” I ask.

His foot flies at my head. I duck, years of training inelegantly shoving me out of the way. Before I can catch my balance, I throw myself the other direction, a desperate attempt to get out of the way of his fist.

I make it, but not with my dignity.

God, I’m bad at this.

Stay focused. Let your senses take over. Pay attention. Anticipate. Take charge, don’t just react.

Three teacher’s worth of advice floods through my mind. Dad, Trevor, and Jack have all tried.

None of it matters. My body doesn’t do this.

I try for a kick of my own, but it misses by a comical degree. Jack is already twirling toward me, throwing a fist into my jaw. I block it and try to return the favor, but he playfully backpedals, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “That all you got?”

If I were a character in a book, this would be the moment I get angry. My anger would crystallize the world around me; I’d suddenly know where Jack’s kicks and punches were going before did. For once, Jack would be the one on the ground, gasping for air.

Instead, I just feel tired. I want back to the libraries and the labs, where I don’t fall on my face, where I can actually hold my own. A horrible, secret part of me wants back to the real world, where monsters are just something children talk about.

Jack’s coming at me again, but I don’t do more than dodge. The sorry answer to his question is yes, this might be all I’ve got. I’m just not the guerilla fighter that I was supposed to become.

For a while, I trained because I believed the picture Dad painted: Becca 2.0. Becca: Badass Edition.

Now I train out of a mild sense of duty to my father’s memory and to keep Trevor off my case.

Boom.

Jack’s foot catches my shoulder and I fly backwards, my elbows slamming into discarded bark, my tailbone crashing into the packed earth.

Hands on his thighs, Jack leans over me, breathing heavy. “You weren’t even trying that time.”

“I was distracted,” I say, waving him out of my eye line. I like the forest more than I like him right now.

“Yeah, by what?” Jack asks, but I barely hear him. The forest calls me, dancing around my consciousness.

Something flickers at the edge of my vision, blackness and sparkles in one. My gut heaves and my ears ring, but I can’t tear my eyes away. I can’t even close them, I realize as tears burn in their corners.

“Becca,” Jack yells, yanking me backward.

It breaks the spell. I roll onto my knees and dry heave.

“What happened?”

I drag my hand across my mouth and fall back onto my heels, defeated. No matter what arguments I’ve made, Trevor is right. I need to be here. The Society needs me just as much as it needed my dad.

“There’s a dead body in that tree.”

Jack turns to look, even though we both know he won’t see it. Trevor gets to see the monsters, I get to see their victims.

I can never decide which one of us has it worse.

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