The movies never make this clear, and I curse them for it: When you shoot yourself in the head, you don't always die instantly. Half of your had caved in, jaw swinging on its hinges, and sinuses bubbling with blood. I'm on my side, and with my remaining functional ear, I can hear their soft feet sliding across the wooden floor. God help me. If the movies hadn't lied, if I had gone instantly, they wouldn't have been able to get me.
And, more importantly, they won't come after her.
I was born in this house, and since I can remember, I've wanted nothing more than to see it burn to the ground. The gasoline has been spread. I hope Hollywood hasn't spread any more falsehoods. It's my last chance. If it goes, they go with it. I can only hope.
I knew these woods whispered before I was old enough to speak back to them. It was as if the forest itself was a living entity, fueled by a cancer growing along its spine, black and running parallel with its neurons. Sometimes I would search under the rocks or in rotting logs for the source, but in the end, I would always come up empty.
As I grew older, my search became more obsessive; mainly, any reason to get out of the house was a good one. It was just me and my mom, and as the years went by, she grew more and more erratic. At one time, she would take me into her arms and tell me stories of my grandfather, but eventually she became inconsolable at the mention of his name. She got into drugs, and I didn't recognize her as my mother anymore.
We lived in a small cabin in the woods, at the end of a long road. I was told that the house had existed as long as my family had. It even had an old outhouse, but that had been converted into a shed years ago. Generations of my family had been born there, and I was convinced that they were all still stuck in the walls, nestled into the knots and swirls of the wood.
I wondered if the oppressive sickness that hung in the air was making my mother crazy. I could feel it in my bones, too, like the moss clinging to the rocks.
Like the moss clinging to the rocks.
There was something curious about the moss that grew on the cabin. The way it snaked inside and covered the walls and floor, how no corner was safe from its reach; the way it would lightly pulsate after a thunderstorm with a hum like a wasps' nest; the opaline colour of it, all green and white and gray at once. The drugs made my mother hallucinate the moss into talking, and some nights, I could swear I heard it, too.
One night, she overdosed. It was inevitable. As she lay on the floor, I telephoned for help. She was gasping for breath and unconscious, and I knew that she didn't have much time left.
That's when it happened: With a groan, the walls came alive. Out of the moss, their figures formed: Eyeless, gaping, abhorrent, and wholly silent. On those vile legs they slid across the floor to her and began to peel off her flesh with surprising speed. They gouged out her eyes. Blood painted the floor. When they pulled out her bones, I was finally shaken out of my deep shock, and I began to scream.
Her bones were covered with moss and animate. They left through the door.
Emergency services arrived at some point later, but I was hysterical. I don't know what they thought. I was placed into foster care until I was eighteen. I did some drugs and got a girl knocked up. That's how I ended up with my daughter, and that made me turn my life around. She deserved better than what my mother had given me. She needed a proper home. That's why I tried to forget about what had happened all those years ago and moved back into my old home. Besides, that couldn't have really happened, could it? I was just a kid in shock at seeing his mother die.
The cabin was still there, as fresh and clean as if somebody had been there all along. It really did feel like home.
I did some poking around in my mother's old room, and that's where I found my grandfather's old journals. There was quite a bit of old family history in there. A lot of it -- Well, I don't know. The way it reads -- It sounds like he was losing it. But it struck a chord in me; an axe against an ocean of ice.
I'm unclear how it began, exactly, but it started sometime after the Revolutionary War, whenever my family got this land. My great-great-(whatever) grandparents built this house. They were desperate for children, but they couldn't have any. My great-great-(etc.)-grandmother went out into the forest and made a deal with whichever spirits would listen, and something malignant took pity on her. There was a fragile creature close to dying off, and they struck up a deal: If she went with them, she would return to her husband with a child. But the child was an abomination, with moss clinging to its bones. And that was how it was for the following generations -- We were allowed to reproduce once to strengthen the genetics, then we were called back to be with our own kind.
Horrified, that night I sent my daughter back to be with her mother. I was going to end this unholy alliance like my mother had tried to.
But they whisper. I'm unsure if the sound of gunshot or the smell of gasoline awakened them, but they have come for me.
And again I curse -- Moss does not burn.