I cannot see. I feel the cold, wet, air on my skin. The heavy taste of it chokes in my throat. I hear the rustling of the things nearby – predators, prey, maybe the wind; but I cannot see.
The ground gives under my feet, the mud encloses me with each step. It wants to pull me into its grips, it wants to take me and suck out every bit of nutrient within my body for its nearby roots. This forest is alive, every forest is alive, and anyone who thinks otherwise is vulnerable.
I am walking to the Tree. It is a journey we all take. If we fail we die; if we succeed, we are welcomed back as Grown. I want to be Grown, then I’ll receive a similarly Grown partner and we will be assigned a family unit and –
My ankle curls and I reach out into the darkness to stop from falling but there is nothing to brace myself against. I hit the mud. It curls around my hands and knees. I blink away the tears and struggle against the sinking. Fear sparks and it races my thoughts, this creeping fear can take over my focus and cloud my judgment. Then, I’ll be lost.
“The Tree is located in a straight line from here,” the Grown had told me. My direction must stay the same even as I flail against the mud.
I lunge left, then right. Then, finally, my hand finds the root of a tree. Not the Tree but something in the darkness that I can pull against. I pull too hard, though. I flip over the root and land on my back. I am facing a different direction now. I know this, just as I know I cannot distinguish which way I was before. The mud is creeping again, crawling over my neck and into my ears, up my nose. I am sinking.
I close my eyes. I see the family plot and my very own partner and she is reaching for me. I close my eyes to see better, to see and feel and –
Use this three-word phrase in any part of your story:
“this creeping fear”