New Writer Spotlight: Ashlee K. Pt.3

From Angela:  This is the third installment from a brand new young writer named Ashlee K.  You can start at the beginning, or just dive right in here.  I’d like to welcome Ashlee and thank her for allowing me to introduce her work on Dandilyon Fluff.  Please feel free to leave comments for Ashlee below, or contact her directly at ashleeaak@yahoo.com.  And without further ado, enjoy!

  New World

I wasn’t used to dreams quite like this one. It was very strange and unfamiliar to me. The emotions I felt were unlike anything I’ve experienced in other dreams or even in reality. I’ve never been through such trauma. But once I saw that door, all the emotions of despair and desperation spilled out of me. Like fierce water breaking through a dam. It seemed other worldly, this door that stood so ominous and yet so beautiful before me. I stepped through the door, blinded once again by a new intensity of light. Once my eyes had adjusted, I wasn’t sure if I’d rather stay or go back to the empty void.

Giant mushroom stalks were lined as far as my eyes could see, each one ranging from colors of the autumn season. At least I think they were mushrooms. Everything was in a different shade of red, orange, yellow and brown. Even the rushing river before me held a strange tint of orange and they sky above it matched. I took another step, my bare feet rummaging through the tall red grass.

Sounds rang in my ears. Something sounded like the chirping of crickets, only much deeper – not as high pitched – and sounded more like screaming then singing. A caw of a bird echoed above, but it wasn’t a bird that sounded familiar to me. Not the coo of a pigeon or the chirp of a jay, something bigger. I looked up to spot it, but the mushrooms’ canopies blocked my sights. The sound of its wings beat through the atmosphere with loud whooshes until it disappeared in the distance.

The smells were fresh, clean. Like morning dew or the smell or moist earth when it rains. The scent made my nostrils flare unevenly as I breathed in more deeply. It felt nice for the air to run into my lungs freely now. It made my sinuses tingle, the way the air feels after it snows; cold and crisp. Though it didn’t feel cold to my skin.

I found myself stumbling forward to the orange colored river, and wondered why, until I realized that I was very thirsty. I bent to my knees, noticing that I was still wearing sweatpants and a tank that I had changed into after the New Year’s guests have left. I scooped my hands in the water and brought them to my lips to drink. I held the liquid in my mouth before swallowing. I wasn’t sure if I could swallow. Finally I spit it out to the grass beside me. It didn’t taste bad, just different, something that I wasn’t expecting. More thick like milk than water. I tried again, not being able to cope with the thirst that burned in my throat and made my mouth feel dry. I took another gulp and another until I thought I was going to drink up the entire river. The water, or whatever it was, expanded the walls of my stomach and made me feel full until I couldn’t drink anymore, but the thirst still burned in me. I wiped my mouth dry and sighed heavily.

It is strange when human instincts out weigh emotions. I felt lonely, lost, and completely helpless and for that my natural human predator kicked in. At this point I didn’t care that I was lost or alone, all I cared was to satisfy my needs. I knew that I would need food soon. Even after I drank as deeply as I could, but I could not suffice with just water. I began to search for something edible. Though this place seemed strange to me, I was sure that I could find something.

I lingered to the giant mushrooms, hopping to rock to rock across the river. I placed my hand on one of the stalks and looked up to the protective canopy above me. If I can eat mushrooms back home than I can surely eat one of these, even if they are the size of a tree. I picked up a rough, sharpened stone in my hand and prepared to use it; to carve out a suitable chunk of fungus, but when the rock struck the surface, it ricocheted back and hit me in the teeth.

“Ow!” I cried and dropped the rock, cowering away from the mushroom and covering my mouth with both my hands. I felt around inside with my tongue and thankfully, nothing seemed to be damaged. “Stupid mushroom!” I yelled, kicking it with my foot. Just like the rock, my foot bounced back, causing me to wail out in pain again.

Hopefully this is a dream. I don’t want to be stuck out here for much longer. I took a look at my surroundings again. It didn’t seem like there was anything much here. Perhaps if I could walk through this… mushroom forest then I could find something or somebody. I stumbled my way through the thick grass and brush, sometimes squeezing impossibly through small crevasses to go farther in. Soon I came to a well-used foot trail and I wasn’t sure if I was thankful for it or just more terrified. If there are people-like beings in this strange place then how can I be sure if they are friendly? Or maybe they aren’t human at all. I walked out of the brush and onto the trail.

A few minutes passed and I wondered if I really was going anywhere at all. Maybe I was just walking in one, big, continuous circle. My heart picked up again and my feet matched its rhythm. I tried lengthening my strides, not really sure what use that would be to me if I really was walking in a circle.

I walked hesitantly, being aware of all the sounds surrounding me. I was being cautionary or maybe I was just being paranoid. I could hear the chirping crickets again, now that I was on a trail and making less noise than I had been in the brush. I could here the rushing of the river that I had left behind, but only very faintly. I could hear the soft breeze that blew through the tall grass and made strange wind chime-like sounds through the giant stalks and canopies of the mushrooms. I could hear my footsteps, and hushed them; somehow thinking that I could be quieter that way. My heart began to pick up cadence when I began to think of the last pair of feet that walked through here. Took the exact steps that I’m taking now, maybe I didn’t want to know.

Hours passed. At least it seemed like hours. My feet no longer obeyed me, but rather scooted, causing obnoxious dragging sounds. My shoulders slumped and a lump rose in my throat, my mouth opened and a huge yawn escaped. I sighed and cursed silently to myself. I shouldn’t be able to push on much further. It should be dark by now, but when I looked up to the orange sky, it didn’t seem to be dimming in the slightest bit. If not anything, it actually looked brighter and paler. My stomach growled at me and I automatically shushed it, an impulse to what I usually do. I could still smell the moist earth, the fresh rain scent, but something else tainted my nostrils now. It smelled like raspberries but more bitter like grapefruit. It was faint, but strong enough for me to pin-point were it was. Not that the color didn’t stand out by itself, but off the trail in front of me was a giant bush of bright blue berries. At this point I didn’t care if they were poisonous or what they tasted like. I was hungry, even as the water continued to slosh around in my stomach and gave me the false impression that I was full. I knew that I would go hungry soon and what better time than now to gather food? It might be days until I find food again. Without thinking twice, I leaped forward, excitement in me and began to pick at the bush.

I grabbed one delicately between my thumb and forefinger. I stared at it, not sure if it would suddenly grow teeth and eyes and bite me. Maybe it would in this strange place or maybe the cartoons I watch are getting to me again. After I had enough time staring at it, I popped it into my mouth. I felt its strange sand-papery texture with my tongue, tasted the skin of the berry before I bit into it. A burst of some sort of fruity flavor gushed into my mouth, and tingled my taste buds. It was the most flavorful thing I had ever tasted and I wanted more. I couldn’t exactly point out what it tasted like, but it reminded me of pomegranates and honey with the sweet bitterness of chocolate.  I reached to the bush again, popping two or three in my mouth at a time. I noticed that the more I ate, the more my tongue tingled. Soon, I had completely destroyed all the berries on the bush and my stomach ceased its rude grumbling.

I continued down the trail and felt better then I had been before. Better then I had ever felt. I seemed to be walking faster and faster. The wind of my momentum blew at me and caused a strange electrical jolt that sent me flying. I ran but I didn’t feel tired. I actually felt more energetic with each step. I felt like I was flying. I couldn’t feel anything, like I was moving so fast that when my feet touched the ground, my nerves couldn’t send the information of the touch to my brain fast enough. All I could feel was this strange pulsing in my body and my chest heaving with each even breath and the wind blowing through my hair.  I looked down to make sure that somehow I wasn’t hovering over the ground, I wasn’t, but where did the trail go? I stopped automatically and looked. The trail was gone. Did I somehow miss a turn when I was moving so fast and I couldn’t see it in time? My breathing picked up and so did my heart. Fear of the unknown came over me. Fear of being lost in this strange place. My heart felt as if it were a jackhammer, pounding against my rib cage in a painful way.

Like a ghost in a white sheet, invisible to the most sensitive of eyes – I suddenly felt groggy; like the ghost had sucked all my sugars right out of my blood stream. My knees buckled and the world swayed to one side and I tried to step with it to not loose my balance. Then it swayed to the other side. I felt like I was in a water bottle and some one was tipping it back and forth. Suddenly I felt the surface of the ground on my knees then on the side of my face. My vision became blurry, unfocused, and my eyelids drooped. A cold rush came over me, making me shiver convulsively. A thin sheen of cold sweat coated my exposed skin and the rest of me burned. Burned so badly that I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t find my voice. I tried regaining my stance, but fell under an unseen pressure. Giving up the fight, I let my eyelids close completely. They did not reopen.

Catch up with parts one and two.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author. Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award. Her latest novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. Currently, she publishes Space and Time magazine, a 53 year old publication dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction. For more information visit SpaceandTimeMagazine.com or AngelaYSmith.com.
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2 Responses to New Writer Spotlight: Ashlee K. Pt.3

  1. Mike says:

    The thing I like about this passage is that the writer takes us through all five senses, sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. I haven’t seen that in other writing or quite so compacted into one area.

  2. Pingback: New Writer Spotlight: Ashlee K. Pt.5 | :Dandilyon Fluff

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