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The Shortcut

by Matthew Webb

“When you get to the end of the street, turn left and cut through the trees,” Phillip had said to Neil as he was leaving. “That way is a lot quicker to your house.”

That’s the last time I listen to Phillip’s directions, Neil thought as another tree branch hit him in the face.

Neil was on his way home after spending an evening shooting aliens on the playstation at his friend’s house.

Neil had never walked this way home before and it was a very dark night. The path between the trees was unlit and very overgrown and the branches on the trees seemed to be getting lower and lower.

Suddenly a scream shattered the silence. Neil spun around; it seemed to be coming from all around him. He charged forward, no longer bothered about the branches whipping him. It can’t be much farther, it can’t be much farther, he kept repeating to himself.

There was a crashing sound behind him, but Neil was too scared to look. The branches seemed to be getting thicker, stopping him from running. Tears filled his eyes, so he squeezed them shut; he couldn’t see where he was going, so they were no use to him anyway. He swung his arms around, breaking branches and vines, and then there was nothing. He opened his eyes cautiously and saw that he was in a clearing. There were a few banana trees scattered here and there but nothing else. He spun around, expecting to see some hideous monster come crashing through the trees after him, but there was nothing.

It must be all those computer games, he thought. I’m starting to imagine things.

Just beyond the trees on the other side of the clearing, he saw the reassuring glow of a streetlight. He ducked under one of the huge leaves hanging from the nearest banana tree and heard, what seemed to be, voices whispering. I must be nearly out, he thought, and was beginning to relax when he heard a rustle of leaves from behind him. He hid behind the trunk of the banana tree and peeked out, but couldn’t see anything.

He was about to carry on walking when he heard the rustling again, but this time much closer, and the whispering seemed to be louder; it seemed to be coming from the trees. He stumbled backwards; the noises were all around him now. He looked around and, although there was no wind, the gigantic leaves were waving violently. They seemed to be reaching for him.

Each banana was moving individually, like fingers, bending and straightening, making that horrible whispering sound as they moved.

There was a loud rustle from Neil’s right and he felt something curl around his wrist. He screamed as a leaf from the tree closest to him tried to pull him towards it. Neil tried to pull away, but couldn’t. The huge purple flower began to lower itself towards him. Its petals began to move and the flower began to open. Neil’s wide eyes saw the sharp teeth on the inside of the flower just inches from his head and he screamed. He tore at the leaf that was holding his arm and managed to rip it.

He ran for the safety of the streetlight, crashing through branches and screaming as he went until he fell onto the pavement under a streetlight. He laughed hysterically as he realised that he was right by his house. I guess you were right, Phillip, he thought, it was quicker.

Copyright Matthew Webb 2011

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