The Worst from the Forest – Horror/Post Apocalyptic Oneshot

The kids could argue for hours about threats they would never face.

He had been a kid, once. But back then the world was different.

Weirdly enough, Gustavo thought as he watched the trio of children screaming at each other over some silly argument, he felt like this new one made sense.

He used to have to wake up each morning to drive to a resentful cubicle, type on a machine for hours on end, and all of it just so he could afford a slightly-larger cubicle on the other side of the city, all so he could spend six days out of seven in a delirium of worry and overwork, and the seventh-

The seventh-

He could just take in a breath and dread the beginning of the new week.

Nowadays, he was a woodworker. Not the best job in the world, but it allowed him to express himself with a bit of flair, and it paid well: not in bank bills, but in potatoes, a group of people he could share safety with, and one more day where he could still draw breaths.

Plus, his stomach felt a lot better.

One of the kids pushed the other in the mud, drawing his attention again.

“Hey. Hey!” He pulled the two apart, even as they tried to claw at each other’s snotty faces. “Quit it, you two! Stop arguing.” He made them sit apart and scolded them, crouching to their level, even though he made sure not to put too much pressure on his abdominal muscles.

“He has blasphemed!” The one to the right pointed at the blonde, who winced at the gesture!

“Not true! I only said that the most dangerous monster in the Forest is the Queen of Tho-“

Gustavo put a hand over his mouth.

“Quiet now. Let’s not call misfortune upon ourselves.”

“See? That’s what he did! It’s his fault! He’s a blasphemerer!”

“That’s not even a word,” Gustavo huffed, releasing the kid’s head. “And you stop pointing and calling people by that name. That’s a serious offense, and it could get one of your friends killed one day. Or you, if it was uttered in vain.”

He stood up once again. The kid he had cut short had tears in his eyes and he looked up at him for a bit of support.

His heart winced. His stomach did too.

“Listen… whatever you might want to say about the Forest, better use the hush-words about it, alright? Use what the women use: the Wicked Fae. They feel it in their wombs when the loathsome Will leaves them alone, and that name is probably the least dangerous of the lot.”

“I was just- I just wanted to say that there’s worse things in the forest than a timberwolf!” The kind bawled, curling over like a dead leaf.

“That’s true.” Gustavo set his hand on his head, trying to console him.

Could he? He had never been good with kids, probably the reason why he never had any of his own – and now probably was far too late.

“What do you know? You never go into the forest,” the blonde one uttered.

“I never go there because I know ver well what I am going to find inside,” he replied with a dry grin. “I was there the day when it changed, and God willing, I will never go back there.”

“You believe in God?” The third kid interjected, grasping at the necklace of blessed bones hanging from his neck. “Mom says it’s all old stuff. The the old God abandoned its believers, so we turned to Spirits now, and they work. They keep the forest at bay.”

Gustavo turned to glance past the white and red houses at the line of pine trees surrounding it. The forest had changed, indeed.

For a start, there used to be no forest here: these were fields, the small refugee town had grown out of an old highway fueling station, of all things. The wide concrete roof still offered some protection from the rain, and they said that it being industrial, the Wicked Fae was having a bit of a harder time taking it over.

To think that he used to even own a car – and drive past this very place. He must have done it twenty. thirty times, without paying it one iota of thought.

Another part of the world that was lost, he guessed. Together with medical health, transportation, and electronic goods.

And the internet.

Oh God he missed the internet. These stupid kids would never know what they missed.

“I believe the Spirits were sent by God,” he replied, trying to paint over the cracks of their differences. “In a way, we all believe the same stuff.”

We all try to cope over the same stuff.

He winced as unexpected pain came to bite at his stomach.

“If you were there the day the world turned, what’s the worst you have seen?”

“Have you seen the Qu-… the Wicked Fae?”

He frowned.

These kids must have hit their heads a bit too hard. Or maybe nowadays they just came out stupid and Mankind was doomed.

“Why, no. I don’t think anybody could take a look upon Her and live to tell the tale.” He waved his hand. “She is ever-present, but I have never seen Her, or heard of someone who saw Her. But you know what I saw?” He grinned. “A Fae.”

The eyes of the kids grew wide and looked at each other, now excited. Most of the threats coming out of the forest were twisted beasts and the changed, transformed fallen of the War, but he had no right to disturb their sleep with tales of how he had seen the flesh mutate and bristle and stretch and wail into new, perfected and hungrier forms.

“What do they look like?”

“Oh, they are horrible. Way worse than a beast.” He hunched over. “They have these terrible faces, black and filled with needle-like teeth. And eyes like dead glass balls, and horns, many many horns growing out of their head, and their skin is charred and full of blisters. And they do eat kids!” He lunged at them and they scattered.

“Make up a better story, old man!” They shouted as they went back to their families.

“And the Wicked Fae is their Queen, so you better pay respect when you speak about Her!” He shouted after them. “You will not like it if She calls upon you!”

He chuckled as they went running and shoving each other. Shaking his head he walked back to his home-workshop. There had been a time when he had wished for a large house with a swimming pool and a lot of beautiful women to display his wealth and his success.

Nowadays he ought to be grateful if he had a bed. He walked in and shut the door behind him, taking a whiff of the smell of wood, glue and resin that permeated the space.

Silence, save for the faint calls of his caged pigeons.

Again, he used to hate it, but you get used to it.

As for the company…

You get used to it too.

He winced as yet another spasm shook him.

“Hrrh,” he groaned, swiftly making sure every window was closed and not a ray of light, or a gaze from any of the villagers peeked in.

He fumbled with his coat and then his shirt, taking off everything, even as a snapping sound came from his stomach and he winced in pain.

“I’m doing as fast as I can,” he rumbled. He reached for one of the birds and pulled it out of his cage. The animal, usually quiet and calm in his hands, fluttered its wings nervously.

“Shhh, shh…” he passed his hand over its head, calming it down. “It’s alright.”

He would have wanted to snap its neck, but it went against the rules.

He pulled up his shirt.

The pigeon started and took flight, but a thorny tongue lashed out of his stomach too fast. It wrapped itself around the bird and pulled it inside.

Gustavo winced, leaning over as he felt the crunching and snapping motions of thin, needle-like teeth mincing the meat. He felt beady eyes rolling up in delirious pleasure as they had their impromptu lunch. And he winced in pain once more as horns pulsated against the meat of his back, pressing against his skin to the point of piercing it.

What would happen when they finally did?

Maybe he wouldn’t even be there to worry about it.

For he had not been completely honest with those kids.

There had been a time, he remembered as the mouth and the tongue feasted on the bird, when he had caught a glimpse of something in the Forest.

He could not know how to describe it.

It had been a Will darker than black, animated by a hate deeper than the roots of the Alps.

And for the tiniest of moments it had been fixated on him.

Then it had passed over.

But – for his body – it had been more than enough.

The worst things from the Forest were not those that caught up with you.

They were those that stayed.

Gustavo slowly stood up, trying to clean the open maw inside his stomach, picking out the remains of bones and feathers.

The tongue slithered over his hands as he forcibly pulled the lips close.

“I am not giving more to you,” he stated.

And he wasn’t sure he was was still talking about birds.

Author’s Note: this was a bit of an experiment, a story set a few decades after the Faepocalypse, displaying the generation that had seen the change growing old and leaving room to the new. The kids there would be dead by the time Patina starts, or at least very very old. It was interesting, even if it was a bit manneristic.

Thanks for reading!


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