Here's a taste:
“Don’t you feel it here?” Wrinkles laced as confused, cursive script across his forehead, his eyelids scrunched, the light within his eyes quivering, almost pleading for me to understand.
“Sense what?” I said, fooling neither of us.
I sensed something, a discomfort that was like the weight of everything I had felt at Auschwitz, or at least a similar, immeasurable mass. I sensed an undefined something here as I stopped looking to Frank for answers, burrowing into my own mind for perceptions rooted in a consciousness I understood, to try and make sense of the ambience that even in this empty space seemed to crowd into me. The claustrophobic embrace of nothingness, but nothingness with presence.
The forest before this spot was perfunctory. Since I hadn’t been paying attention the images I could pull up of the last twenty minutes’ walk to this point were vague at best. They were images that fit into the catalogue my brain has of forests. There was nothing distinctive because my brain was looking inward, not all around me.
Taking in the forest here, I scanned the whole of where I was and everything that surrounded me. The trees were maybe ten yards in a loose circumference from where we were standing. The glade was threaded with a carpet of branches, twigs, weeds, and mushrooms, thicker than outside of the circle, from what I could see. A handful of tree stumps jutted forth, having been witness—been participants—to some kind of violence. Probably something natural in nature, yet the trees that had been connected to the torn stumps were nowhere to be found. The stumps were covered in a bruised yellow into black moss that looked more like disease than anything of florid health. Gray lichen covered the larger rocks that dotted the glade.
Spider webs stretched across the expanse, a lattice whose prominence made my skin itch. I could not imagine how many spiders it had taken to create this death net hotel, yet further investigation showed no trespassing insects were cocooned within. The hotel seemed dead itself, the vacancy, permanent.
The smell of the place didn’t deter my rising discomfort. The omnipresent earthy odors were cut with a stench that seemed of animal origin. Not musky, though something similar, rich and tangy. Injury bandaged with moss, never healing, always moist, the moss thriving on that which seeped from within.
The trees at the rim of our circle were tinted with the odd moss as well, as if the disease that had stricken the stumps had spread beyond, to feed on the more vital trees.
Beyond what I saw and smelled, I had a sense that something was quite simply wrong here, that something about what I saw suggested a deeper meaning to why it was like this here.
I sensed in my mind something picking through my thoughts, as if my skull had been opened up and something was looking for whatever special thoughts, memories, and imagination that it fed on, and was diligently feeding: beetles picking the carcass clean.
Not unlike exactly what Frank had suggested.
“You do sense it, don’t you?” Frank switched the tackle box to his right hand. It joined the pole as he put his left hand on my shoulder.
I lowered to my haunches, leaned my weight on my hand as I pressed the palm to the ground, an upper-limb kick-stand. I could swear I felt something pulsing warmly just below the surface. An image of the diseased moss covering bright red abrasions, or possibly just thick veins, came to me; I was tempted to plunge my eager fingers into the ground and find the source.
I shook the intrusion from my head, dismantling the skewed perceptions from my thoughts. Ridiculous! Standing up, I smiled, something I’m sure barely succeeded in accomplishing its intent.
“It’s weird out here, sure. But you know me. I’ve never been one for forests. Nature’s a ravenous bitch.”
I hope that piques your interest and, if you've not yet bought the novel, will purchase a copy now. There are some excellent reviews up on Goodreads, of which some have migrated over to Amazon, where you can buy a copy...as well as from the publisher, Trepidiatio/JournalStone.
Also: While I am here, if you are a reviewer, we're looking for more reviews, so contact me at email@example.com and I can hit you with a pdf, mobi, or epub version.
Anyway...here's a painting of a strange tree by one of the true masters of weird art, Zdzislaw Beksinski.