He opened his eyes, slowly. He legs ached, pain burned his shoulder, but everyone in his village knew the woods were full of dangerous creatures, and nothing attracted a predator quicker than sharp moves or loud noises. Still and quiet, he looked around, barely moving his head. At first all he saw was a blur of green and light, the sun was still shining bright and strong, not much time had passed. He smelled the familiar fresh cut wood as his gaze focusses on his axe buried in a trunk a couple of feet from him. He braced himself against the ground and pushed up, attempting to stand. Only then did he realize he was trapped. Thick vines twined round his arms, his legs, his chest.
A tug drew his attention upward, past the gash he had made in the tree’s bark, to a woman clinging in its branches, blending in with her pale dress and ash brown hair. She was gripping the vine that held him, her bare feet tucked into a notch. “You hurt me,” she accused, tears in her eyes, anger in her voice. Blood dripped from a wound in her thigh.
“I didn’t,” he mumbled, confused. His head felt fuzzy, but he knew he hadn’t hurt anyone, he wouldn’t, especially a woman.
“Stand,” she demanded, ignoring his response. The vines loosened slightly as she leapt to the mossy ground, allowing him to get up, despite his leg’s protestations. “This way,” she pulled, leading him down a path. He wanted to protest, to stand his ground, to demand his freedom, but he could feel something stalking near them just hidden among the trees and leaves, something with long claws, sharp teeth, and an occasional snarl. They walked in silence for over a mile, him limping behind, still shackled.
They entered a clearing. “I have one,” she announced, and men, women, even children, stepped out of the trees, not out of the woods, out of the actual tree themselves. At first he couldn’t believe his eyes and shook his head, trying to clear it. But no, they were the trees, or the trees were them, or… he couldn’t comprehend it. “I didn’t know,” he screamed, but the faces just stared at him, merciless, hating him. She tied him to a pole in the center of the circle. The creature growled again, closer.
Dottie at Tink’s Place has a Monday Morning Flash Fiction challenge that I’m enjoying. Each Monday a new picture prompt will be posted and if you choose to participate you post your story on Friday – 350 words, give or take.