Sleep is not always David’s fail-safe escape; dreams are impossible to predict.
On an overcast afternoon, David stands dithering at an opening in a very long hedge of dense blackthorn. Uncertainly, he passes through the opening. A swirling quarrel of sparrows is deafening as they flit and skirmish in and out of the prickly hedges that dwarf him. Seeing paths running east and west, he wonders which way to go. He turns right and meets a dead end. Retracing his steps, he goes past the opening and, as this path splits into two, he hopes he’s in a maze. I like mazes, he thinks. With no sun to guide him, he loses any sense of direction and can see no landmarks above the high hedges as he searches for the centre of the maze.
Soon he realises the sparrows are no longer following him and the path is ever narrower. The blackthorn catches and rips his clothes. Panicking, he increases his pace until he’s running as fast as he can. Without warning, he finds himself at the centre of the maze. It’s an oval space with a small red upright bentwood chair in the middle.
Exhausted, he sits on the chair, breathing slowly and deeply until he’s calm. He tries to stand. In the short time he’s been seated, robust shoots of blackthorn have wound themselves around his feet and ankles. All he achieves in trying to pull this primary growth from his legs is to rip his hands on the vicious spines. David screams, Help! as he looks out from behind the grill of ever-entwining branches, praying someone will rescue him.
He struggles to escape the encroaching tendrils as their spines and thorns tear his clothes to rags. He’s soon imprisoned in the bush where the constancy of thorns cutting his flesh is shockingly unpredictable. The cumulative effect of the many wounds is agonising. Again and again, his mouth agape, he begs to be released from his pain. For a moment, he’s unaware of a shoot, laden with razor sharp thorns, entering his open mouth. His eyes fill with tears. He bites through the tendril. His tongue, lips and gums bleed. Futilely, he twists and turns trying to evade a thousand cuts. Skin rips. Blood drips. His recoils from the taste of the blood in his mouth, longing for water.
But all this is as nothing as a new aggressive shoot encases his ribcage and squeezes his lungs ever tighter. With every breath he expects a rib to crack. Gasping for air he fears suffocation but longs for oblivion.
Now standing outside the bush, he sees himself as others see him: a caged mad man in a circus freak show. His hair stands on end, stiff with congealed blood. I look like I should already be dead, he thinks, as blood runs down his cheeks from his eye sockets. He watches his gaping mouth aghast and lost for words as bones crack and sinews scream.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Too much extra mature cheddar at supper time methinks.
Sorry Gavin but that attempt at humour just doesn’t work. Another reader has described it as ‘asinine’. Your remark trivialises my inadequate attempt to explore the terrible experience of severe chronic pain. I’m sure you meant no harm but sometimes it’s best to say nothing. Go well, Phil