Short Story: Surrounded


     Dangerous, that’s what they called it. Winding vines and twisting branches give a false illusion of safety, that’s what they always said. Deep green leaves and colorful flowers are no longer a symbol of life. Rather they symbolize death.

     Even though he knew the danger, the greenery drew him in, captivated him. He couldn’t help but want to enter the mass of leaves, vines, and flowers.

     Their encampment was surrounded by it, held back by walls and fences, twenty to thirty temporary homes all clustered together to avoid the treacherous foliage. Guards watched the edge of the establishment in shifts, ensuring that no one left and nothing else got in.

     Occasionally the foliage would try to grow through the fences and over the walls, creeping in and trying to overtake the group of survivors.

     The others always warned him that the forest would swallow him up in seconds and he’d never be seen again, warned him that the vines would drag him in without remorse and never let go.

     He didn’t believe it. He’d never seen it happen, and even if it did, he thinks the others were exaggerating it to spark fear into the younger generations. It worked well enough, the kids he knew parroted the words of their parents, creating another generation that feared the beautiful landscape.

     He was the exception, that’s why they called him dangerous. The adults of their encampment claimed that his fascination would put them in harm’s way, that it would only cause them issues. He didn’t believe that either. His intrigue with the plant life never went farther than watching it and toeing the line between the safe zones by the fence. What he was doing wasn’t harming anyone there. What he was doing right now wasn’t hurting anyone.

     Sitting five feet away from the fence, he watched as the leaves swayed, moving in a way that made the plants seem almost human. The vines swayed too, looking like arms as they seemed to try and grab at the fence.

     The vines reached out to the fence again, finally managing to wrap themselves around some of the metal. He knew he should report this to a guard, but instead, he found himself inching closer to the fence, fingers moving to touch the vines.

     Not long after, the length of his arm was scaled by the growing vines, pulling him closer. The growing vines rip the fence apart, creating a hole within the barrier between danger and security.

     He really was fascinated with the plant life, still not alarmed by the plant life dragging him into the forest, wrapping around him so he couldn’t escape.

     The foliage dragged him through the tear in the fence, officially eliminating any remaining chance of escape. He was surrounded.

     Vines crept around his neck, finally causing a rising sense of panic. He struggled in the grip of the plants, but it was futile, he was too far gone, there was no sign of the home he knew.

     He was alone, never to be seen again. He screamed one last time, cut short by the foliage moving into his mouth.

     It was dangerous, he knew that now, all too late. The others were right, he was a danger too, having doomed everyone he’d ever loved to a fate just like his. One filled with vines wrapping around their throats, cutting off their airways. One filled with leaves, flowers, and branches clouding their vision. One filled with dread, regret, and tears. 

     They were doomed, just as he was, and they had no idea. He couldn’t save them, he couldn’t even warn them. All he could do was accept his own death.

     His eyes shut and never opened.

     The greenery moved in through the fence.