Short Shocktober Day 23 – Branches

Okay, so I got really behind with these, whoops. I’ll get them updated as fast as I can. I hope people are having fun reading them!  This one’s from yesterday, and a little longer than it should be, but I really liked the idea and I’m charge, so sue me! The full list of prompts, if you want to participate is here.

Content Warning: Gore, body horror

Branches

North-West USA, 1938.

I shouldn’t have eaten that fig. It was foolish. Could have been laced with anything, and judging by the electric pains radiating from my stomach, it was.

               I’ve been combing the Occultist’s mansion for what feels like days. The velvet curtain lined halls, flanked by ionic pedestals bearing grisly curios, a shrunken head, a jabbering mask, are starting to get to me. It can’t have been that long, but I don’t seem to be able to find a window. There were enormous, arched windows in the foyer, but I can’t seem to find it again. Who knows how many suns have risen and set?

Twelve pale virgins, murdered and mutilated, their bloody corpses and entrails scattered about various sacred sites all across the north-west, and another missing, presumably destined for the same fate unless I can find some way to stop him. The hunt is on, I think, as I round another corner, but who is hunting who?

               My stomach cramps, and I rip down a soft red curtain, laden with dust. Its brass rings clatter to the floor and bounce. Behind it, the wall is smooth grey brick. I snarl and hurl the fabric to the floor and return to haunting the Occultist’s dark passageways. How long has it been? I haven’t slept or eaten, save for a single fig.

The pain in my stomach becomes unbearable and I have to stop, resting against a black wood table in a small parlour, candles in the chandelier, fruit and wine on the table. Hot spears wrench my stomach and I collapse to the floor, heaving. Something is growing in there.

Green leaves tear through my abdomen, probing roots wend their way through bone and into the cracks between the tiles on the floor. I scream in agony as the fig tree grows, bursting into bloom and into fruit, feet above my head. Underneath the pain, I feel myself in each fruit. If I had taken a different branch I could be any of those swollen fruit.

At twenty I refuse to move to the big apple and instead I settle down with Maisie Greene. We have three kids and I die at ninety, in my sleep.

At forty three, I’m an accountant, and trip over the window cleaning accoutrement someone has left over the sidewalk. I crack my head open, and that’s it for me.  Bam, lights out.

I feel myself blown to pieces in Europe somewhere, in some future war, amongst the shredded remains of my compatriots.

I see two files on the desk, the Captain picks up the thinner one and hands it to me. It’s a series of carjackings. Glennon gets the thicker jacket and finds himself matching wits with the Occultist. I find the little car thief punk, but he pulls a knife and I’m not quick enough.

I’m fading now, the edges of my vision black. A shape approaches the tree, a black silhouette with a pale, white, featureless oval mask. He has a knife. I focus on him while a deluge of unlived lives plays in the corner of my mind’s eye.

The Occultist reaches up and plucks a fig. He tips his mask enough to bite the fruit and a droplet of ruby juice runs down his chin.

‘Delicious,’ he preens. ‘Good bye, Detective.’ As he stalks away, the black encroaches.

I heft a plump fig in my hand from a filigreed silver bowl on the table. My stomach rumbles, but I think better of it and put it back. I lift my pistol and charge on. In the next hall a breeze disturbs  a heavy crimson curtain. My heart thudding in my chest, I push the door behind it open, and gasp as I see through it-


Words: 628.

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