idol season 11 | week 2 | 430 words
Living rent-free in your head
In the woods behind the house
(the secret woods, the ones you always forget),
there are mysteries beneath the branches,
under stones, around the corners,
unseen treasures just waiting to be found.
You move mouse-quiet, feet too soft to make a sound.
The path snakes its way to the edge of a shadowed lake,
where whispers below the water call your name
(you must pretend you cannot hear them).
The air is wrong here, dank and heavy,
the pall of a graveyard in the night.
(You creep back in silence, too cautious for full flight).
The trail ahead grows clearer, green leaves stirring
in the barest hint of wind. You listen.
The trees sigh. Snapping twigs and distant rustling
prick your ears (your skin), then quickly fade.
They only betrayed what you already knew:
In its hidden heart, the forest listens too.
You steal toward the glade, stepping carefully
over the uncertain ground ahead. Searching
left then right, you see only the forest itself.
But an alluring scent seeps out from the gloom,
its odor woodsy and green and somehow true.
You track it to the murky depths, a choice you may yet rue.
Peering through the foggy mists, you glimpse—
yes, there—a glint of light. It draws you near.
Breath held in tight, you stretch your arm out
toward the branch that blocks the view. So close now,
you can almost touch it, almost reach, but then—
Those teeth, oh god, those teeth! What have you found?
It growls and turns, but you are already running
fast and hard, down the path and through the bushes
with no clear thoughts but Away, away, away!
You didn't quite see—but it was big, you are certain—
and if you are caught, you will not survive.
This is all that matters now, this fight to stay alive.
You leap and crash through the underbrush,
leaves and cobwebs snagging on your face,
and witch-like moss fingers pulling at your hair.
The woods are darker now, so dark you cannot see.
How can you escape, can you even find your way?
The monster will not forget you. You are its only prey.
Breath raging and lungs aching, still you run.
Your heart pounds, a frantic bird inside your chest.
You hear it coming, the beast there behind you,
gaining fast and much too close, oh god, so close.
Your legs are tired and slow, the beast is at your neck—
You are not the first to have this dream,
nor the only, nor the last.
You never remember just exactly how it ends…
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