Mitch slammed the door behind him, sick of Laurie and sick of himself. Once again, he’d walked into a trap.
Following an unmarked trail he hadn’t been on in years, Mitch stepped around the tree trunk that he couldn’t see in the night, but still knew exactly where it was. He lifted his left foot, stepped onto the big rock, then hopped down past it, keeping towards the water.
It was good to feel the familiar ground beneath his feet. He’d loved coming up here when as a child to spend time each summer with his grandpa. He’d learned how to swim, fish, and sail. Mitch had loved fishing—he couldn’t imagine how many times he’d baited hooks, cast lines, gutted fish.
Now, after weeks of trying to ask Laurie out, she’d hinted that she’d like to see Mitch’s family’s place up on Reynolds Lake some time.
She baited her trap with sex.
It was all in the way she spoke. In the seductive looks she threw at him. The promises that never quite left her lips. He knew they were there.
A little innuendo goes a long way.
Just one more trap. She’d invited her boyfriend to meet her here.
Mitch stopped walking. Down by the water was a tree he didn’t remember. He sidled over to it. The tree was huge—probably forty feet tall. It shouldn’t be possible—he knew the tree wasn’t there when he was young.
He couldn’t tell what species it was. Definitely not maple. Maybe oak, but the leaves were wrong, as was the way the branches hung.
The clouds passed over the moon, and he was left in darkness. He heard music coming from the house, Laurie and Ronnie singing along with the radio. The song had a strong beat: ba-Doom, ba-Doom, ba-Doom.
He put his hands out and touched the tree, immediately pulled them back. The bark was hot, like the tree was going to burst into flames.
He reached out and grabbed a leaf on a low-hanging branch. Felt fine, like a normal leaf.
Then it started thrashing.
Like a vicious wind was throwing it around, the leaf and its branch shook. Mitch let go, but as he looked up into the tree, he realized no other branches were moving. There was no wind.
The music stopped, but the beat carried on. Just a low thumping—ba-Doom, ba-Doom, ba-Doom. For the first time, Mitch paid attention to it. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it might be coming from the tree. Some kind of heartbeat.
The moonlight broke through the clouds, and Mitch jumped away from the tree, trying to scream but not finding any breath.
Hanging from a limb was a pea pod.
It was some kind of seed, like the whirly-gigs from elms or acorns from oaks. But this pod was enormous—must have been three feet long, almost touching the ground. It looked more like an abnormal growth—some kind of cancer—than a seed.
Mitch’s breath came back, and he relaxed. It was just a seed. He stepped closer to look at it.
When he touched the pod, it quivered.
Then it screamed.
The screams were loud, piercing. Mitch plugged his ears but couldn’t take his eyes away. As he looked, he could see something moving inside. The waxy peel of the pod bulged, and he saw a little hand pushing out from the inside.
“There’s someone stuck in there,” Mitch whispered. He couldn’t move.
The awful screaming continued, high-pitched, broken and uneven. At times, it sounded like insane laughter, which was worse than the screams. It was as if whoever was inside had gone mad.
The little hand was gone, and then it was a fist pounding on the pod.
Mitch stared. A pod that size, it could only be a kid in there. Some little kid.
He finally jumped to action.
“I’ll get you out of there,” he said. He looked around and found a tough stick on the ground. He picked it up and poked a hole in the pod.
“I’ll have you out of there in no time.”
Definitely laughter coming from inside, he realized. The poor kid must be hysterical.
He started prying the pod open…
Rob Brooks enjoys writing speculative fiction of all kinds, and has had poetry published in Scifaikuest, Daikaijuzine, and Chimaera Serials, as well as fiction in A Thousand Faces, upcoming issues of Arkham Tales, Sonar 4, and NVF Magazine, and Malpractice: An Anthology of Bedside Terror.