My friend found something strange in the forest…

It was Saturday morning. I was in the middle of the forest, and my best friend Derek had just brought me into freaking bizarro world.

Not even an hour ago, I was still in bed, sleeping peacefully.

I was awoken by a loud, shrill noise that I identified as my phone’s ring tone.

It was Derek, calling me at seven in the morning. On a Saturday.

I declined the call instantly. Let me sleep, asshole!

On his third try, I picked up.

“The hell do you want, man?”

“Martin! Listen, can you-?”

“No, you listen,” I cut him off. “Do you have any idea what time it is!?”

“Oh yeah, sorry about that. I need to show you something, all right? It’s important! I’m going to be at your place in twenty, kay?”

“What the hell’s even going on? I just want to sleep…”

“Trust me, you don’t want to miss this. You can sleep later!”

With that, he hung up. I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Knowing that idiot, he’d really be here in twenty minutes, and he’d definitely not let me go back to sleep.

Cursing, I got up, put on some clothes, and made myself a cup of coffee to wake up.

I hadn’t even finished it when the doorbell rang.

I was more than annoyed, but let him in. He was beaming at me, full of energy, and stormed right past me into the apartment.

“What’s so freaking important? What do you want to show me?”

“It’s out in the forest. I found it a couple of days ago, but last night, I finally realized-“

He broke off, looking at me while I stared back at him, a half-full cup of coffee in hand.

“What are you waiting for? Come on, put some shoes on!”

“Jesus Christ, Derek, calm down for a moment. What the hell’s the matter with you this morning?”

Instead of answering me, he only motioned for me to hurry, already waiting for me at the door. As I followed him down the stairs, he continued going on about something he’d found, but I had no clue what it was. He constantly stumbled over his words, making his explanation nothing but gibberish.

Derek’s car was parked right outside the apartment building. Our friend Mike was already in the car. He looked even less happy than I was.

“He made you come along as well?”

Mike grumbled something to himself before he nodded.

Once I’d entered the car as well, I turned to Mike.

“Do you have any clue what this is all about?”

Before Mike could answer, Derek jumped in the front seat and started the car.

“You guys will be so glad you came along!”

“Not like we had much of a choice,” Mike mumbled.

With that, we sped off. Once more, I wondered what the hell was wrong with Derek. As I watched his face in the rearview mirror, I saw he was grinning like an idiot.

Not even ten minutes later, we’d arrived in the forest. Derek was the first to be out of the car.

“Come on, you guys!” he yelled at Mike and me.

Then, without so much as waiting for us, he turned around and followed a small trail into the forest.

Mike and I both sighed before we set out to follow him. Every once in a while Derek would stop, turn around any yell at us to get a move on.

I couldn’t believe this shit. Why’d he drag us out here? I’d been up all night and now I was following this idiot because of god knows what.

“This better be worth it,” Mike cursed behind me. “If this is his idea of a joke, I swear…”

At first, we followed the trail, but after a while, Derek led us straight into the forest. We made our way past trees and through the underbrush before we arrived at a small stream.

“Almost there, guys, almost,” Derek called out, barely able to catch his breath. His voice was high-pitched and almost euphoric.

In a swift motion, he jumped over the stream and vanished behind a group of boulders.

When we followed him, we found him on the ground, sitting in front of something strange.

At first glance, I thought it was a weird plant or flower, something reminiscent of a tulips blossom. Then, I saw it was much, much bigger, the size of a small animal.

When I got closer, though, I saw it wasn’t a flower. It was made of… flesh? All around it, the forest floor was covered in roots, or better tentacles sprouting from the thing. They, too, seemed to be made purely of flesh.

Had Derek brought us out here to show us some sort of disgusting animal carcass? Right at that moment, though, the tentacles started moving and slithering over the ground.

I cringed back.

“What the fuck? That thing’s alive?”

Derek didn’t answer. Instead, he sat there, smiling down at the disgusting thing in a state of bliss.

“Isn’t it beautiful, guys?” he finally asked, turning towards Mike and me.

“Beautiful? What are you talking about?”

I was so utterly confused. Was this some sort of joke?

“Just look at it,” he continued in a soft, almost solemn voice.

Then he moved forward to touch the thing, to caress it. That wasn’t all he did, though. With his other hand, he reached out for one of the many tentacles and began stroking it. And then, only moments later, he leaned forward and kissed the thing. It was surreal.

As he retracted his face, I could see the thing’s disgusting slime covering his lips.

“What the fuck are you doing, man!?” Mike screamed.

His face was nothing but an expression of purest disgust.

“I found it a few days ago,” Derek answered. “It took me a while to realize how truly beautiful it is, but, I mean, just look at it, guys!”

With that, he leaned forward to kiss the thing once again. As he did, he began gently pressing down on the tentacle he was still caressing. At that moment, the thing began twitching and squeaking before it seemed to stretch itself.

“See, it likes it!” he said, giggling.

As I watched the spectacle in front of me, I felt sick to my stomach.

“Fuck this! I don’t want to have anything to do with, with… whatever this shit is!”

With that, Mike turned around and stormed off into the forest.

“Mike, hey, why are you leaving?”

For a moment, Derek seemed confused, before his eyes focused on me.

“Martin, you’re staying, right? Just come here, you can touch it, too. It’s so soft. Just do it once. I’m sure you’ll like it.”

As he looked over at me, I saw how wide his eyes were and how full of euphoria his face was. I cringed back once more, when I saw the greasy slime now covering not only his lips but his entire face.

“Dude, just… no. Do you even know what that thing is?”

“It’s beautiful, perfect and-“

“It’s disgusting, that’s what it is!” I exploded at him. “I don’t know what the fuck you found here, but this is not normal. Come on, man, just leave it alone.”

While I was yelling at him, Derek had already turned back to the slithering mess of flesh and tentacles. He was whispering to it and every once in a while, I noticed him glaring at me.

“You know what? Fuck this.”

I had enough. As I made my way back over the stream and through the forest, I couldn’t help but shiver. What the hell was that thing, and why was Derek acting like this? It gave me the creeps!

Before long, I reached the trail and a few minutes later, I was out of the forest. I stopped at Derek’s car, not sure if I should wait for him. Mike was already gone and had probably left for good.

For a while I waited for Derek, but as I did, the images of him caressing and kissing the thing came back to my mind. I gagged when I remembered the slime on his lips and face. Fuck this, I told myself again, and did what Mike had done.

I was halfway home when a car approached me from behind. It was Derek. He drove towards me, slowed down, and lowered the window.

“Hey, what’s the matter Martin? Hop in, I take you home.”

“Nah man, I’m good, I’ll walk.”

After saying that, I stepped off the road to let him drive past me. Derek, however, stopped the car.

“Just get in.”

After a few more seconds of awkward silence, I sighed and got in the car. As I did, however, I stayed as far away from him as possible.

“I know how weird it is,” he started in a quiet voice. “I freaked out, too, when I first found it. Really, can’t blame you guys.”

I said nothing.

“I was curious about it, so I went back, and then again. It took me a while, but last night I realized why. This thing, it’s different. It’s something magnificent!”

“Do you even hear yourself? How can you even touch that thing? Fuck, man, it’s disgusting. We should just burn it!”

Right after I’d said this, he hit the brakes. I could barely raise my hands to keep my head from slamming into the dashboard.

“The fuck are you doing?” I screamed at him.

When I turned over to him, however, his face was red with anger.

“You wouldn’t do that, would you?” he pressed out between his lips.

I couldn’t tell if it was a question or a threat. The way he looked at me, the desperation I saw in his wide eyes scared me. For a moment, I wondered if this was really my best friend. Was this the same goofy idiot I’d known for almost a decade?

“All right, all right. It’s none of my business. All I’m saying is that it’s creeping me out. It might even be dangerous.”

I heard a sigh of relief and the anger left his face.

“Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine. It’s not dangerous at all. I mean, I’ve been there so many times already and nothing happened. It’s just so…”

He broke off, shaking his head, but was now smiling again.

Once Derek dropped me off, it was still only half-past eight. Back at home, I didn’t know what had just happened. Once more, I couldn’t help but wonder what that thing was.

At first I put on some music and contemplated going back to bed to catch some sleep. But then, driven by some odd sense of curiosity, I began searching the net for information. I ended up finding jack shit.

I reasoned it had to be a plant after all, maybe a flesh-eating one, but all the pictures I found looked entirely different. What if it really was made of flesh?

I asked for information in a few places online, but got no useful answers. Most people thought I was playing a joke and in the end, I gave up. Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with me.

Soon enough, I had all but forgotten about the weird incident.

Our small town’s surrounded by forests and meadows. In the warmer month I often go on nice, long runs in the evening.

I was out running on a Thursday when I recognized someone on the road ahead of me. At first, I ignored the person, but then I recognized him.

“Derek, is that you?”

He didn’t react to my question and at first I thought I was mistaken. Then, slowly, he turned around to greet me.

When I saw him, I noticed how tired he looked. He had bags under his eyes, and he looked restless and exhausted.

“Shit dude, you all right?”

“Oh, hey Martin. Yeah, I’m fine, just tired, that’s all. Haven’t gotten a lot of sleep these past days. You know, work and all that.”

“I know what you mean,” I said, laughing. “Why are you out here? Shouldn’t you be home catching some sleep?”

I meant it as a joke, but then I realized why he’d to be out here.

“Don’t tell me you went to that thing again?”

A shrug.

“Only for a moment, just to make sure it’s doing all right.”

“Are you sure you’re just tired? You don’t look so good, maybe that thing’s-“

“Come on, Martin, not again. It’s just work, all right?”

He was right. Who was I to babysit him? He was an adult, after all.

For a moment, though, I saw a serious look on his face, and it seemed he wanted to say something. Then he shook his head and smiled again.

“Well, got to go. As you said, I should get some rest.”

“See you, Derek.”

With that, I continued on my run. Yet something hadn’t been right with him. I wondered if I should’ve confronted him after all. I considered turning around and run back to him. Then another thought crawled into my mind. Instead of running back to him, I could also make my way into the forest. I could check out this weird thing to see if it really was dangerous.

I’d already taken the first few steps in the forest’s direction when I stopped. What the hell was I doing? Where’d that weird impulse come from? There was no way I’d go back out there.

I didn’t get to see much of Derek from then on. The only times I saw him was when I ran into him by accident.

Each time, he looked worse, though. At first, he only looked restless and exhausted, but then other things about him changed. He looked thinner, haggard even, forcing his clothes to dangle from his body as if they were a size or two too big for him. His posture, too, was slumped over.

After another week, his face, too, had changed. His cheeks had fallen in, his lips had lost most of their color, and his eyes were bloodshot.

He looked sick, almost powerless, as he dragged himself on. Each time, I tried to find out what was wrong with him, but it was always the same story: It’s all because of work.

After three weeks, I had enough.

The tipping point was a talk I had with Mike. He told me he was worried about Derek as well. No way this was all just because of work. He was withering away right in front of us. Mike even told me that Melanie, Derek’s girlfriend, had talked to him. She hadn’t heard from Derek all week and had come to Mike to find out if he knew what was up with him.

As the two of us sat together, we knew what was going on. We had seen the euphoria on his face when he’d taken us to the woods. It had to do with that strange thing out there.

There was no way we could let him go on like this. We needed to talk to him.

I tried to call Derek to tell him we’d come over to his place, but as much as I tried, my call went straight to voicemail. Similarly, all messages I sent to him remained unread. It seemed he didn’t check his phone at all these days.

At nine on Saturday evening, Mike, Melanie, and I met up in front of Derek’s place.

I tried to call him once more, but as expected, got no answer. All the windows were dark, and when I rang the doorbell, no one answered. It seemed like he wasn’t home.

We considered searching for him, but then we decided to wait for him. He had to come home eventually, right?

Well, we were right. After almost an hour, we noticed him walking in our direction.

His posture was slumped, his feet shuffled over the floor, and we heard his wheezing long before we saw his face.

When he got closer, though, I saw he looked even worse. At first, he didn’t even realize we were there. Only once he’d taken out his keys to unlock his door did he notice us.

“What are you guys doing here?” he asked, confused.

His bloodshot eyes came to rest on us.

“Derek? Is that really you?” Melanie called out in a voice full of worry. “Oh my god, what happened to you?”

“It’s nothing, I’m all right.”

“Don’t give us that shit again,” I yelled at him.

Derek stared at me in surprise.

“Martin, what’s going on?”

“Listen, man, you look terrible. Something’s going on and it’s not nothing!”

“It’s that damn thing in the woods, isn’t it, Derek?” Mike started. “That disgusting-“

Mike didn’t get to finish his sentence.

“Don’t you dare talk about her like this! She’s got nothing to do with any of it! You don’t know what you’re talking about! How dare you-!”

He broke off, panting and coughing.

“What the hell are you guys even talking about?” Melanie asked, turning first to me, then Mike, and then back to Derek.

“Who is she, Derek? Is she the reason you’ve been avoiding me?”

Derek didn’t even look at her.

“That’s not it. I just… I can’t help it. She’s just so damn perfect.”

As he looked up, his haggard face was twisted into a ghastly smile and his eyes were wide open.

“She’s out of this world. There’s no way you, or anyone, could compare.”

Melanie took a step back, then another, and I saw the tears streaming from her eyes.

“You asshole!” she screamed at Derek. “Who is she? At least give me a freaking name!”

When Derek didn’t say a thing, Mike and I told her what we’d seen that morning. Melanie’s eyes grew wide, but then she started laughing.

“You guys can’t be for real. Who the hell would believe something as stupid as that? At least tell me the freaking truth!”

Once more, she stared each of us down. All the while, Derek was still mumbling to himself.

“Oh, she’s grown so much,” I heard him say.

“You guys are insane, each and every one of you!”

With that, Melanie walked away, shaking her head, still laughing.

“Would be best if we burned the damned thing, wouldn’t it?” Mike blurted out.

In an instant, Derek’s face changed to a mask of pure and utter rage.

“Don’t you dare joke about something like this, Mike!” Derek screamed at him.

“You think I’m joking?”

I stepped forward.

“Guys, calm down, we should all just-“

Before I could finish the sentence, Derek charged Mike.

Mike stayed where he was, not at all concerned. He was a tall, buff guy, easily double Derek’s weight. The moment Derek got closer, though, I saw something flash in his hand.

“Jesus Christ!” I called out.

Mike cursed and took a step back, and I saw him holding his right arm. Then I saw the pocket knife in Derek’s shaking hands.

Before I could do anything, Mike retaliated. He hit Derek straight in the face, sending him tumbling backward. When he hit the ground, the small pocket knife he’d been holding clattered away.

For a few seconds, Derek just lay there, but then he tried to push himself back up. I heard a nasty sound, and a moment later, Derek screamed in pain.

“Fucking serves you right!” Mike yelled at him before he walked away.

From where I was, I could see Derek sitting on the ground, looking at his right hand with wide eyes. The unnatural position made it clear that he’d broken his wrist.

By now, the lights in various other apartments had turned on, and not a few people had noticed the commotion below. The police arrived soon after, asking what had happened.

I made up a story about someone pushing Derek to the ground and him breaking his wrist. In the end, the police took our statements, and let me take him to the hospital.

On the way, Derek’s eyes were glued to his broken wrist.

“How in the hell,” he mumbled to himself. “I only tried to get up.”

For the first time, I heard honest concern in his voice. I knew what he was thinking. There was no way you’d break your wrist by getting up. Unless something’s seriously wrong with you.

At the hospital, a doctor confirmed that Derek’s wrist was indeed broken. The man’s primary concern, however, wasn’t Derek’s wrist, but his state.

All it took was one look at Derek to see that something was wrong with him. They urged him to stay for a few blood tests and a general examination, and once I joined in, Derek finally agreed.

I stayed with him for a bit, but around midnight, I told Derek I had to leave. I promised him, however, I’d be back the next day.

At first, I thought about telling the doctors about the weird organism Derek had found in the forest. Would they believe me, though? Then a second thought came to my mind. Should I even reveal the things existence?

I shook my head. I was way too exhausted. This whole evening had turned from a simple talk between friends to a hospitalization. I needed some sleep.

When I visited Derek the next day, he seemed to do much better. Sure, he looked as weak as before, but he appeared less exhausted and in a way better state of mind.

He told me the doctors had shared nothing yet, or they had no clue what was wrong with him. In the end, all they said was that Derek needed rest while they’d continue to run tests.

I didn’t say or ask anything about the weird thing in the forest, though. It was Derek himself who brought it up again.

“You guys were right. That thing is strange. I don’t know how, but it has this power over you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know, but I just had to go back, you know? Even now, even knowing it’s bad, I want to go back and look and touch it again. That damned thing did something to me, Martin!”

I saw tears coming to his eyes.

“Shit, man, what if it’s cancer? What if I’m going to die because of it? I’m scared. I’m so goddamn scared. But then why do I still want to go back?”

“You’re going to be fine, don’t worry. It’s going to be all right.”

He nodded, but I could tell he didn’t believe it. He just sat there, in his bed, crying and shaking.

A nurse saw what was going on and told me it was better for me to leave. The most important thing for Derek right now was to rest.

When I returned to the hospital two days later, a nurse informed me that Derek was gone. They didn’t know what had happened and presumed he snuck out during the night.

I was speechless. How the hell could they let this happen? I cursed and was about to explode at the nurse, but then I thought about Derek. What the hell was he up to? Don’t tell me he’d gone out there again.

I instantly called Mike. It took a while before he answered the phone. I told him what was going on right away, and when he spoke, I heard the worry in his voice.

“He talked about nothing but that damned thing yesterday. I came to the hospital to see how he was doing and, well, to apologize for what happened. All he talked about was her, though. I thought he meant Melanie, but no. I told him to give it a rest and to forget about it. Didn’t think he’d go for real.”

“You think he went out there?”

“No doubt about it.”

“Shit, you think he’s all right? Can you-“

“Yeah, let’s find Derek and get rid of that thing once and for all!”

We arranged to meet in the forest an hour later.

As I drove from the hospital, I remembered something Derek had said.

“Oh, she’s grown so much.”

Only god knew what he meant by that, but if that thing really had grown bigger, I’d be damned to go there empty handed. I made a quick stop at home. I didn’t own any weapons, though. After a quick look around, I opted for a hammer and an axe, which I put in my backpack. I also grabbed a canister of gasoline. If nothing else worked, we could still burn it.

After this brief stop, I drove straight to the forest. Mike’s car was already there, but he was nowhere to be seen. I called him again, but god no answer. Shit, don’t tell me he went here without me!

“Freaking hell,” I cursed. “Why didn’t he wait for me?”

With fast steps, I stormed into the forest. Following the trail was easy enough, but after that, I had no clue where to go. I kept my eyes open for Mike, called out for him, but I got no answer. After almost half an hour, I finally found the small stream again.

I followed it for a while before I could see the group of boulders behind which the thing was hidden. I didn’t know what I’d find, or how big the thing was by now. After a few seconds of deliberation, I pulled the axe from my backpack.

From afar, I could already see dozens of the thing’s fleshy tentacles. They slithered over the forest floor and through the nearby underbrush. A shiver went down my spine when I saw how many there were by now.

Step by step, trying to be as quiet as I could, I went forward. I held my breath and watched out not to get anywhere near the tentacles. Finally, I stepped past the boulders. What I saw wasn’t just the fleshy thing. A person was here and the body type told me it wasn’t Derek.

No, it was Mike.

He was half-naked, his pants were around his ankles, and he stood there, hunched over the thing. Some of its tentacles weren’t just slithering over the ground. No, they were entangling his arms and legs. Something that looked like a strange, underdeveloped hand on the end of one tentacle held onto his arm. And Mike, he wasn’t just standing there. He was moving. It was rhythmically: back and forth, back and forth.

The tentacles entwined his half-naked body everywhere, almost as if caressing him. They began holding on to him with a firmer and firmer grip the longer the spectacle in front of me lasted.

By now, I could see how big the thing had become. It was almost bigger than Mike by now.

With each of Mike’s thrusts, it pulsated. For a moment, it seemed to convulse, and a disgusting, wet squeak emanated from it.

After my initial shock was gone, I finally realized what he was doing.

“Mike, what the hell are you-?” I started.

Then my disgust made me vomit all over the forest floor.

“Jesus Christ man, you-“

I couldn’t finish as another gush of vomit came up. Mike didn’t react at all. Instead, he kept at it, kept thrusting into the thing while I stood there, axe in hand, vomiting.

Finally, the tentacles pulled Mike in closer. They pressed hard against his body before they grew limp and fell to the ground. Mike, too, was panting, but then he pulled his pants back up and turned towards me.

“Didn’t think you’d be that early, Martin.”

“What? I’m early? What the hell are you talking about? Why are you…? I mean, with this thing?”

“Derek didn’t deserve her.”

When I looked at him, I saw his face had changed to the same euphoric visage I’d seen on Derek’s.

“What are you even talking about?”

“Does it matter?”

Then he pointed at the axe I was holding and the canister of gasoline.

“What are you planning to do with those?”

“I’m going to take care of this thing.”

I watched as some tentacles slithered toward me and I carefully retreated to get out of their reach.

“You think I’ll just let you do it?”

“What are you…? Why are you helping it?”

I couldn’t think straight. Nothing made sense anymore.

“You don’t see it, do you? She’s perfect. Absolute beauty that’s out of this world.”

It was exactly what Derek had said. Why the hell was Mike acting like this now, too?

My thoughts were cut off when he stepped aside. Now I could see the fleshy abomination in all its glory. I saw the lower tulip-like part. The flower petals were so much bigger now. Then I saw something else, something new on top. Half-hidden between the petals was a face. No, a head. The fleshy head of a woman that was growing from it.

For a moment, the thought that this skinless face with its fleshy hair was the most beautiful thing in the entire world came over me. A feeling of euphoria washed over me, my blood seemed to boil as attraction flooded through me. I wanted her to be mine, mine alone. Then I pushed the thought aside and snapped back to reality.

I couldn’t fathom what I’d just been thinking. All I saw in front of me now was a disgusting, otherworldly heap of grown together flesh and tentacles.

“Mike, you saw Derek at the hospital, right? You saw what that thing did to him! You want to end up like that, too?”

Slowly ever so slowly, Mike’s face changed to a ghastly smile before he pointed at something I hadn’t seen yet.

Discarded between the boulders was a withered, bluish, grey husk. It might have once been a human being, but now it was nothing but translucent skin stretched over bone. My eyes grew wide when I saw it.

“Oh god, no, don’t tell me…”

Mike began laughing.

“You want to know why he came here? I made him go. He didn’t want to, but it was so easy to convince him. I only had to tell him how beautiful she’d become and that she was waiting for him. I knew he couldn’t fight the urge and would go back, eventually.”

“Why the hell did you do that?!”

“She needs nutrients to grow. It’s so she can become her true self. Derek was perfect, and so was Melanie.“

“Melanie, don’t tell me…”

I couldn’t believe it, but Mike merely shrugged.

“After our little fight on Saturday, I went to talk to her. I told her what we’d said was the truth and I could show her the thing. Oh, and I did.”

“You… you lured her out here as well? You brought her to this, this thing over there? Didn’t you say yourself that it was-?”

“Don’t say it! That was before I saw her for what she really is! After Derek brought us here, I just had to come back. I almost made the greatest mistake of my life, but then, then I saw. This endless beauty. I knew right away Derek didn’t deserve her. She’d be mine, and I’d make sure she’d become even more beautiful!”

“You know you’re going to be next, right? Wake the fuck up, Mike! That thing’s going to suck you dry just like it did Derek!”

“Oh, but someone else’s already here.”

For a second, I looked around. Then I realized what he meant. That’s why the bastard had told me we should come here.

Before I could say anything, he rushed me. He was fast, way too fast. I could do nothing. In an instant, he was in front of me and rammed his knee into my stomach. I crashed to the ground gagging.

“You should see it as an honor,” he started, grinning down at me. “You’re going to become part of a perfect organism.”

I was on the ground, trying desperately to breathe.

“You’re insane!” I finally spat at him.

At that, Mike only laughed.

“Maybe, but does it matter?”

I fought myself up to my feet, only to be hit again. Then he pushed me forward, straight towards the fleshy abomination.

Instantly, its many tentacles slithered over the ground towards me. I felt something on my right leg, and when I stared down, I saw a three-fingered, half-developed hand cling to it. I tried to shake it off, tried to get away, but it held me in place with an iron-hard grip. Then another tentacle entangled my other leg. The slimy thing slithered higher and higher before it closed around my thigh.

More and more of the disgusting tentacles got a hold of me. I struggled, I fought, but the more I did, the harder their hold got. I screamed, when I could feel them twist my limbs, could feel them dig into my flesh.

There was nothing I could do, nothing. Then, I remembered the axe. Where was it, where the hell was it? I’d dropped it when Mike rushed me. My eyes darted around, here and there in a panic. Finally I saw it.

I threw myself on the ground, dug my fingers into the earth and finally reached it. By now, the pain was almost unbearable. Then, I brought the axe down on the strange hand holding onto my leg. Over and over I hit it.

The blade of the axe went through the flesh as if it was nothing. A mixture of zap and blood gushed from the tentacle it had been connected to.

In a frenzy, I hacked at the other tentacles holding onto me. Some I cut apart, others retreated from me.

Mike, who turned away, who’d gone over to caress and kiss the thing, spun back to me in sheer rage.

“The hell you think you’re doing? Why are you hurting her?!”

In a fit of rage, he threw himself at me again. I lifted the axe, tried to hit him, but he pushed my arm to the ground with ease. Then he was on top of me, pinning me to the ground. While he held the axe in place, his other hand closed around my throat. I hit him with my free left hand, hit him in the face again and again, but in his rage, he didn’t even seem to feel it.

Dots appeared in front of my eyes and my vision became blurry. Right at that moment, I remembered the hammer in my backpack. With a last surge of energy, I twisted my body and pulled the hammer from the backpack.

This time, it was Mike who didn’t have time to react. I flung the hammer from behind my back and right against the side of his head.

He screamed up in pain and blood gushed from his temple. He was staggering and in an instant I hit him again.

Then, he pushed my left hand to the ground as well. It was with such force, the hammer clattered away. He was way too strong. Even now, even with a bloody wound on his head, he still hadn’t passed out. He wasn’t even staggering anymore.

No, he pinned my arms to the ground with his knees and then closed both of his hands around my throat.

I couldn’t breathe. The last thing I saw before the world grew dark, was Mike’s bloody, rage-filled face.

Then Mike screamed in surprise. As light came back to my world, I saw that the thing’s many tentacles had come back, but this time for Mike.

“No, what are you doing? It’s me! It’s me!”

He was out of it. He screamed up again and again, struggling against the tentacles who held onto his body. Yet he had no chance and a moment later the thing dragged him backward.

For a moment, the thing’s face just stared at him. Then, the full, fleshy lips parted to reveal a tongue covered in an innumerable amount of feelers. A moment later, the tongue found the bloody wound on his head.

I watched in disgust and wonder, as the feelers turned from a fleshy, almost translucent pink to the dark red of blood.

Mike screamed, started shaking and finally convulsing as the blood was sucked from his body. Within seconds, his strong, muscular body turned into a withered husk. Eventually, the thing’s tongue retreated, and it threw aside what remained of him.

I crawled away and picked up the axe once more. I was afraid that any moment now, the tentacles would come for me, pull me in just as they’d done with Mike. Instead, they all pulled back, retreated to the thing’s body.

The fleshy mess in front of me started pulsating and growing as it morphed into a new iteration of itself. I saw how the fleshy petals changed form and how the face pushed itself out further. I could now see the first signs of a body. There was a neck, then shoulders. It was nothing but a fleshy mess, as if someone had put random pieces of meat together to resemble a human body. And yet, it was such a disgustingly beautiful mess.

I picked up the can of gasoline again. I had to destroy that thing, I had to.

As I stood there, however, I couldn’t deny how beautiful she was. She was perfection. Now that I finally looked at her, I saw what Derek and Mike had seen.

I felt myself being drawn forward. It was as if I was in a trance and not in control of my body anymore. Step by step I went closer towards it. I saw the fleshy face smile at me. The air was heavy with the smell of rose petals, the smell of summer. It was almost a promise, a promise that this otherworldly beauty would be mine.

As I took yet another step, I suddenly bumped into something. I looked down, only to see Mike’s empty shriveled up face. It stared at me, a visage frozen in pain and terror. This would be me, I realized. If I stayed here, this was what waited for me.

I had to get away. I forced myself to shut my eyes, turned around and ran, to get away from this abominations influence.

As my legs drove me on, I rushed past trees and bushes. Even though, my body still wasn’t entirely my own. With each steps, my muscles, my entire body was protesting, trying to pull me back, to turn around.

Yet I knew if I were to lay eyes on it again, I could not escape. No, I’d be lost to this things will completely.

I was home half an hour later. I remember little about the way back.

Now, that I’m home, I don’t know what to do. I’ve been trying to distract myself, but it’s not working.

With each minute, with each passing second, my mind is being filled with more images of her beauty. My chest is heavy with an endless longing.

I don’t know how long I can resist that abomination’s call. No, her call. I’m restless, shaking, but also smiling. I’m almost in the same state of euphoria Derek and Mike were.

All I can think about is her.

I called an acquaintance of mine. I said I had to show him something in the forest.

After all, she does need nutrients to grow.

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