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......MUTANT RAIN FOREST ISSUE........JUNE, 2016
Illustrations above by Shasta Lawton.

Be sure to Subscribe and Follow this blog to keep updated on the FREEZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction. If you or a friend are interested in submitting your short stories or longer works for daily serialization in a future issue, please contact us at freezinefantasysciencefiction@gmail.com, and we will reply in due time. Thank you for your participation in helping to support this nonprofit creative writing platform. Don't miss out on the current issue featuring Sanford Meschkow, John Shirley, Brian Stoneking, Vincent Daemon, and Bruce Boston. Featuring art by Will Ferret, Jason Heckenliable, Kara Koma, Marge Simon, and Shasta Lawton.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

THE FOLD: 3

by G. Alden Davis



I lifted heavy feet and set out, following the wash between towering sandstone cliffs. Their surface was sculpted by ages into interconnected sockets, like the empty eyes of melted skulls. As I progressed into that tight pass, I found it hard not to think of the flanking walls as unnatural, so strangely contorted were those vague faces which lined both sides. When the passage grew so thin I had to move sideways, I had the unnerving sensation that the stiff rock I pushed through had moved against me. I jerked past the narrow and ran some distance once free of that strangling tight. In the deepening shadows of the folding canyon my footing was lost and I fell from my run into the sand. Some thing beneath me cracked loudly and my legs disappeared in a flash as I sank to my waist. Sharp crystalline scraped at my legs and belly, and blind panic was my reaction. Crying out, I kicked with both feet, feeling bitten and scratched as I did. But even as I felt the pain some of those horrible sharps gave way. Clutching down, I grabbed a handful of flat, knifelike objects that protruded from the dark hole I was half within.

Then a great snapping shook the ground and I was falling, seeing in my clenched hand large shards of gypsum crystal. I recalled in a flash the many gypsum sinkholes legendary to the area, and with only this as comfort I fell into the dark.

For exactly how long I was within that pitch black freefall, I cannot say. I seemed to fall forever down the throat of that sinkhole, as if the aperture was itself a portal into a strange and distorted space. I could sense that the shaft was irregular, and felt outcroppings race by as I dropped.

Then I struck, flat on my back against an unexpected direction. Stars and spots of light burst across my vision and I blacked out.

What thoughts occupied my shaken mind during that dreadful loss were thankfully discarded when, at last, I once more became aware. A sound like electric surf receded from a roar to background hiss and my ears popped with a pressure drop. The lack of light within the lowers proved to be a puzzle for my eyes, as awakening to pitch left no pattern for my sight. As the sound changed, I felt an emerging sense of space; like blinded bats using facial sight, I could “see” the reflected sound of my own breathing. The walls of this cave stood out in the false color of moonlight on mars, a scattering of luminescent moss giving rise to visons of outer space, of nebulous dims against eternal, oppressive black.

Still, it was enough to attempt navigation, so I got to my feet and put my hands out slowly before me.

I fought to focus in the fungal glow, hands out to ward peril in the dark.

“Skratchitack--”

My breath caught in my throat like a broken bone; I had heard a sound, gentle but sinister in my blindness.

“--skrichatick-“

It was a sliding, a soft and chitinous scraping, as if a profusion of jointed parts were flexing or spreading, just out of reach in the ink of the dark. I coughed out against the dust, and at that involuntary bark, the scraping scattered out, spreading in grim stereo the escape of a number of creatures. They sounded echoes, small and fast.

Dexterity is not overrated in the pitch black, and as I stepped through the dark with growing confidence, my feet were betrayed by a hazard. I tripped, true enough, face-first and reeling into a rushing steep.

Hands out, I braced for the ground.

The sting came quick and terrible, flooding pain and numbness into a brushstroke of fiery gloom. Poison flared hot and immediately infectious, crawling up the tunnels of my palms' starfish network, illuminating them in scalding bright to my otherwise blinded eyes.

What curse I had spat as I slammed my hand flat against that thorncrawler thing is by now lost in the panic of fear and venomous senses which fell upon me like a rain in a sulfur spring.

So great was that change in my sight that I thought for a split that some light had been lit in the uncompromising black. Then I discerned that the glow was in channels and hollows, like the slick of a stream-stone, channeled thin as a luminous pencil. Naturally stepping back, I beheld with flashing senses a pattern in those glowing cracks, one that spoke of lore and perhaps of strange fires. Forgotten kindling of dreams sparked alight inside me, and I saw spider shapes in the sharp mist contained in narrowing channels of cracks.

My fingers, now torches bright with their own agony, wept wet fire as I slid them into the familiar yet alien shapes that seemed traced in the swampgas stuff, in the cracks that looked like pictures, in the vision that seemed like dreams. Something in the rock flexed and parted, and as the light razored out of that twisted place it split my mind at its' natural narrow. All got thick and black. A cold, molasses sleep lasting but a moment.

I awoke to the sound of my fingers screaming.

Somehow in my feint I had advanced down that newly formed narrow, past the place I might have naturally fallen, and into the throat of a slick and maddening mine. My hand had jammed in a crack that had ridged narrows. With effort that flared red in my phosphorus vision, I yanked my fingers from the crack with snapping like a break.

The ache began to fade, yet I still could not find a reason for the light that came in tendrils out of the wet cracks. There seemed to be a pattern within the pattern of that odd and sinister lace. Something somehow sentient but quite different from our own strain of being. Something that could customize its camouflage better than a chameleon. Then my ears popped.

The sensation of something great passed through the slickrock, and I felt pressure from its titanic weight, like a ship is moved by the near passage of a whale just beneath. I thought I heard a moan, deeper than deep and way low.

I stumbled through those dim tights, still aware of that thin, icy air that came and went like the breath of a snoring god who barely rested against an intruder such as I supposed myself to be. I thought of some great weapon of thunder kept by this slumbering titan, and in answer there came a corresponding quake and rumble.

Somewhere out there, maybe way out there, back in the land of cactus and hot desert sun, a storm was beginning. I could tell from even its virginal roar that it would shake this deep place, and I became afraid.

It could have been that fear that saved me, for it honed my swirling and distorted senses into a semi-focused eye. I stopped short of a disturbing orifice that stood like a thorned doorway ahead, and I smelled its stink from across that cold air.

There was deep blackness in the back of that crack from which an evil vapor hissed, and as that nefarious gas was released it fluoresced into visible mist. Swirls parted the flow with a wind as gentle as a last breath, and in that rotten exhaust I could discern an almost unthinkable smart. It was as if beneath the odor and steam lay a beast that would feed on people. I at last stepped back from that almost unbearable heat.

Black rock sharps like broken glass barbs were all the terrain offered for as far in the dim I could peer, which was as I looked back, quite far.

The lichens and slimes that embedded the rift within moist cracks had adapted the glow of that smoldering mist, and far back in the cavernous blacks were suspended vast webworks of these incandescent plants. I had not seen them before due to some photosynthetic cue taken from the flare of gas in the air, and even as I watched those odd algae lost their adopted light and dropped, one by one, into black out of sight.

Thunder much closer now rumbled and I felt I could see it, not as a flash but of sounding my sight. I realized then that perhaps that previous sting to the palm had contained some toxin that was now at work dancing mischief across my nerves and systems. My heart thumped thunder of its own at this; of course I had been stung, but had I forgotten that in my fear of this stinking dark?

That flash then might have only been some flaming synapse snuffing in the flat back end of my brain, not some external beast in an almost growl stalking just out of sight. In fact, if that poison was strong enough, I supposed I could be dying in a state of hallucination that would obscure the change from life to death, and I might go on believing in my own tortured existence far beyond the threshold of it’s unnatural end.

That thought caved in on itself, and all the surrounding activity sank in the pit it created and was gone.

I recall falling forward through the maw of that stinking threshold as my mind and hand lost purchase and shot down in the slight. In that last slip of grope I felt the moment extend by parameters which flexed chromatic. Time shrank, then stretched, in a complex sequence that was undoubtedly a survey of the rings in my soul’s trunk. I aged, and with every tock I slipped into black, my familiar and dreamless void.

So complete was that intoxicated blackout that I failed to awake through what must have been repeated collisions with the walls of that twisted pit. Dreamless and thick, like drowning in glue or sinking like a mammoth in tar.

When I came to, I was flat on my back, which throbbed as if snakes had died in my spine and rotted. After a time of just breathing, slow and directly, I began to look about. The light was even worse than before, as the mossy crops which had so nobly lit the higher chambers for some reason did not or would not grow in this depth. I was glad for the extra width my pupils attained as a side-effect of the psychoactive sting. It allowed in this dark for the gathering of photons so scattered they registered naught.

I had a sudden feeling of startling unreality, and folded back my odd perceptions into an origami shape that forced feedback along my trace memories.

What was I doing here, anyway? Had I just left the car and walked so far and been so hot? I had fallen into a bad hole and something nasty had stung me, now I was cold and the poison of the thing was making shapes clod in the shadows of this slickrock cavern. Nothing really weird had happened until after the stinger had loosened its juice into me, had it? I could not recall but something tanged sharp on my tongue, a sour memory or birth of a thirst.

I had stayed far from drugs for most of my life, and my knowledge of altered states is small. Yet I found myself tripping, it felt very hard, and who could tell what freak that kind of stuff could bring on?

I resigned myself to a cruel and toxic ride.

That is what I got.


THE FOLD continues tomorrow with Part 4

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Archive of Stories
and Authors

Sanford Meschkow's
INEVITABLE

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
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Edward Morris's
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Gene Stewart
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Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
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Adam Bolivar's
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David Agranoff's
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David Agranoff is the author of the
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David is a busy man, usually at work
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Johnny Strike's
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Rain Grave's
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G. Alden Davis's
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