By T.L. Coston
You recognize me. I can tell. Your eyes betray your horror, but you know who I am. We see each other every day on our way to work; you to this hospital and me to my shop around the corner.
It seems I’ve become the resident freak. I should charge admission to all these gawkers that come into this room. My body is being sucked dry and these sores refuse to heal, not to mention the inexplicable stench emanating from my pores. Look at the window. Do you see all those flies, wasps and bees? They want in here. They recognize that smell. Do you?
The stories are true, you know. I went there, the place where nobody is supposed to go, or talk about – Shelby’s Grove. I don’t know why I went, but I did. The massive apple tree on that barren field where a weed won’t grow, its bare, dead limbs reaching, grasping and yes - beckoning. I stood there on that dirt road staring at that grotesquery. I was transfixed. No sound penetrated the air. There were no birds chirping, or a breeze. Nothing. Just me and that tree.
What I’m about to tell you is incredible. I dare believe it myself, and I wouldn’t if it weren’t for her nightly pollutions and this ghastly brand of that tree burnt on my forehead. Why am I telling you this? Someone has to know for I’m afraid my time is about over. You will probably dismiss my professions as ravings from a lunatic, nevertheless, the truth must be told. I must tell someone.
As I stood there transfixed at Shelby’s Grove, I noticed the tree began to sway ever so slightly and gradually, its branches whisked from side to side, like a woman brushing her hair. The tree seemed alive and conscious, its branches groaned from a frenzied animation. It seemed the tree was trying to shake something from its crown.
I was frightened. I wanted to run and indeed I began to back up, but just as terror was about to overtake me, she sprung from that grotesquery and flew across the field and landed before me. I was conscious for a short time. I do remember her wild black hair and soulless black eyes and the perfumed stench of rotten apples. Her dress was torn, ragged and resembled a burlap sack, it barely concealed her wrinkled breast and cragged thighs. I must have passed out, for I woke up later, to find my clothes disheveled and my forehead and groin ached with a burning sensation.
Ah, I can tell you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t either. What sane person could believe such a tale? As a matter of fact, I would have written it off as a flight of imagination, some Shelby Grove nightmare that should have dissipated with the dust on that dirt road. This brand on my forehead and my scorched pubes would’ve been explained away as an aberration, some malady that could easily be dismissed by a doctor. That was until the following night.
I was alone and asleep when I was awakened by her touch. There at the foot of my bed stood the witch, at that moment, the brand on my forehead flamed casting a reddish hue of the apple tree throughout my room and upon her hideous face. She seemed younger than before, but wicked and horrible nonetheless. This monster crawled upon my bed and smiled at me with a toothless grin. Her black hair seemed alive as it whisked back and forth just like the old apple tree.
I tried to move. I couldn’t move. I willed myself to move. I just couldn’t move. I remember sweat beaded and rolled down my legs and my breath became labored. I felt trapped, rendered a mere spectator to this horror that has befallen me. Helpless, I laid while the witch straddled me. She raised her burlap dress and the stench of rotten fruit consumed my senses. That’s all I remember about that night. And I thank God for it.
I need a drink of water. I’m constantly thirsty. Nothing seems to quench my thirst. Do you think it unusual that I can drink a whole pitcher of water and not have to relieve myself? Since she’s come, I haven’t been able to take a proper piss. She’s draining me. And while I waste away, she’s getting younger and stronger, sucking out my very essence.
You would think this hospital would be a sanctuary. It’s not. In a way, I’ll be glad when this is over with. I’m tired. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of the stench of rotten apples. And now, I’m tired of you. Please leave. I need to rest. I need to rest for her.