The Roots

Troop 483 sat around a campfire. Around them, their tents were set up in a horseshoe formation. Surrounding the tents, there was miles of woodland. At the open end of the tent-horseshoe, a winding trail slithered through the forest and came out somewhere miles away.

Around the campfire sat 5 scouts, 2 eagle scouts, and Scoutmaster Michael. While Michael added firewood to the pit, Eagle Scout Donovan sat back in his lawnchair and looked up at the sky. The campsite was set up in a clearing, thus the sky could be seen clearly amidst the surrounding woods. Stars huddled together in the night sky, lighting up the clearing along with the campfire. Donovan hummed to himself as he gazed upon the stars, thinking of the infinite expanse of the universe.

"You know," said Donovain to Eagle Scout Trevor, "It's kinda scary when you think about how big the universe is. Like, we're really insignificant, you know?"

"In the grand scheme of things, I guess," Trevor watched the other scouts chatting away, "But not when you look at things from a local perspective. I mean, sure, we don't know everything out there, and whatever's out there might not even care about us, but that doesn't concern me if I don't care about it."

Donovan hummed in agreement, then tilted his head forward to look at the other scouts across the fire. To keep his thoughts from getting the better of him, Donovan spoke up to the lower-class scouts.

"Hey, guys!" He announced. Only one scout, Kai, turned to Donovan.

"Yeah?" Kai responded.

"Everyone!" Donovan spoke louder. The rest of the scouts cut their chatter and looked through the fire at Donovan. He smiled.

"Who wants to tell some ghost stories?" He suggested. The scouts exchanged glances, and soon, Grant (a Tenderfoot) shot up his hand.

"Oh, I've got a bunch of good stories!" Grant said excitedly.

"All right, let's hear 'em," Donovan rubbed his hands in excitement.

"Okay, okay..." Grant paused for a moment, "All right. So... I'm a pretty big Sonic the Hedgehog fan, much like everyone else-"

A few scouts laughed.

"...I don't think I ever played glitched or hacked games before, but I don't think I would ever want to, after the experience I had..."

"Question." Kyle, who was sitting next to Grant, interrupted, "This, uh... This wouldn't happen to be sonic.exe, would it?"

The other scouts laughed.

"Hey, it's a good story!" Grant insisted.

"Pfft, yeah right," Kyle said between laughs, "That's probably the worst-written shitpasta that there is!"

"Watch it," Michael warned. Kyle ignored him, of course.

"I mean, Christ, it's such a dumb concept!" Kyle continued, "Oooh, my video game is haunted and a Sonic plushie is attacking me! Big freakin' deal."

"Okay, okay!" Grant sighed, "I have a better one, anyway..."

Kyle nodded, but his smug grin was still plastered onto his face.

"There's this old TV show I used to watch," Grant began, "The main character was this cutesy talking apple, right?"

"Happy Appy?" Kyle interrupted again. Kai snorted as he stifled a laugh.

"Ugh, fine," Grant moaned, "Let's see... I once went to a garage sale-"

"Ben Drowned, you've told this one a million times," Kyle cut in. A short outburst of snickers came from the other scouts.

"Grant," Trevor asked, sighing, "Do you have any stories that aren't just creepypastas?"

Grant sat back. "Well, I do have one," he said.

"All right then," Trevor said, "Don't let this one be a Creepypasta, and Kyle, no interrupting." Kyle simply rolled his eyes.

"This one..." Grant hesitated, this time showing a hint of concern, "Well, you won't believe me when I say this, but this is something that I've witnessed once."

Kyle rolled his eyes yet again, but didn't say anything as grant continued, "You guys remember how I used to go to that after-school day care when I was in elementary school?"

"Yeah, yeah, it was, uh..." Kai thought for a moment, "Pleasant Hill, right?"

"Uh-huh," Grant nodded, "There was a forest behind that day care. Well, I mean, it's still there, but-" He shook his head, "Whatever. Point is, there was something weird going on there."

"Indulge us," Kyle said, unenthused.

"I had a friend. Lynda was her name. She was a nice person, actually. We'd play together, we had the same interests, we'd talk a lot... You know, that kind of stuff. Now, on warm days, the counselors would let kids go outside for the after-school playtime or whatever. During then, a lot of us would get together to play kickball."

"Okay, where is this going?" Kyle interrupted yet again.

"Kyle, shut the hell up, I'm getting to that!" Grant snapped, "Anyway... There was one time, just one time, when the ball was kicked too far. Someone kicked it while they were up to hit, and the ball ended up going across the parking lot , bouncing into the forest. It landed a yard or two into the woods, so Lynda went in to get it. When she went in, she had to weave between a few trees, and the moment she stepped behind one, we heard her scream at the top of her lungs. We looked towards the forest, and... she didn't come out."

"Didn't you look for her?" Asked Kyle.

"We were about to do that," Grant nodded, "But just as soon as a couple of us started to move forward, Lynda came sprinting out with blood streaming down her leg."

"Blood? Was she okay?" Asked Kai. Grant was silent for a few moments.

"She..." Grant paused again, "She survived. The cut, I mean. We thought she was okay at the time, and she was, at least physically. But something didn't sit right with any of us. The cut on her leg... it was in the shape of the letter Z.

"You know, it couldn't have possibly been accidental," Grant continued, "The cut was deep and wide. The Z was obviously intentional, too. It was so precise that the cut could have only been made by a blade."

"So, someone attacked her?" Asked Kyle.

"That's what we thought at first," Grant answered, "But she kept saying it was just an accident. She laughed it all off, too, so we supposed that it really was just some freak coincidence.

"I didn't think it was a coincidence, though. I mean, I guess I thought it was possible, but I didn't really buy it. So, I her about it later on, and... she didn't say anything. I kept on asking about the cut, but the most she would ever say was that she didn't do it. In fact, she never really told anyone about what really happened until... until..."

"Until what?" Kyle was on his heels now. Grant coughed, a grim look on his face, and soon the other scouts shared the same look of sorrow. Kyle, however, looked from face to face in bewilderment.

"So, your friend Lynda was the Lynda who..." Kai spoke, but his voice trailed off.

"Kyle..." Donovan said softly, noticing Kyle's confusion, "Grant's talking about Lynda Meuller. She was the girl who killed herself a few years ago."

Kyle hesitantly released a nervous laugh.

"Come on, man," Kyle turned to Grant, "It's just a story, right?"

Kyle slowly froze as Grant refused to deliver a response. Everyone around the fire sat, unmoving, for an hour-long minute. At long last, Grant broke the silence.

"She did say what the cut was. Just not in the way that anyone expected. She wrote it in her suicide note."

"What... what did it say?" Kyle asked cautiously.

"I don't..." Grant sighed, "I don't remember exactly, but it was about one of the trees. She saw roots with hands and stalks of eyeballs on them. Faces emerged from the tree's trunk and and they screamed in... well, I still remember exactly how she described it. 'The screams were more than just agony. It was as if the sins of every creature had burrowed into the minds of these faces, trapped forever in the forest.' After the faces came more hands from the roots surrounding her. Thorns grew from their fingertips, which clawed at her. One of them eventually dug into her thigh. It burrowed itself to the bone, then slid across her thigh to carve a Z right there into her leg. Now, here's one thing I remember exactly: A voice spoke to her.

"'Z'kaugh,' it said," Grant huffed, gazing into the campfire, "Now there's a name I can't forget. Z'kaugh, the thing that killed my friend."

Everyone was silent. Each scout glued their eyes to the fire between them all, listening to the fire crackle. For a while, the only sound between any of them was the crackling of flame. Eventually, Donovan laughed.

"You're messed up, Grant," Donovan huffed, "Taking a girl who killed herself and using her to tell a campfire story?" He shook his head and repeated, "Screwed up, man."

Trevor nodded, "Yeah, that's shrewd. But still... I guess it was a pretty good story."

"I'll say," Kyle remarked. Kai hummed in agreement.

Conversation went on for an hour or so, but this time it was only small talk. Eventually, it was time for everyone to turn in for the night. The scouts poured water over the smoldering firepit, then went off to their tents and crawled into their sleeping bags.

Grant and Kyle both shared the same tent. Once there was no sound to be heard from any of the others, Kyle turned to Grant.

"Your story wasn't actually fake, was it?" Kyle asked bluntly. Grant sighed, looking up at the ceiling of the tent.

"I don't know," Grant responded after some deliberation, "I mean, well... I knew Lynda, and I did read her suicide note. My story was based around the note, but for all I know, she could have just been some self-harming schizophrenic."

"That's a bit of a stretch," Kyle remarked.

"Any other realistic ideas?"

"Well, no."

Silence ate away at the two of them for a while. Neither of them felt tired, nor did they mind staying awake through silence. Eventually, Grant sat up in his sleeping bag.

"I gotta take a leak," He said as he picked up his flashlight and headed to the tent flap, "I'll be right back."

Kyle hummed, and Grant left. Grant walked into the woods, stepped behind a tree, and unzipped his trousers to do his business. The sound of his urine steadily splashing slowly lowered in pitch, evolving into a low growl. Grant hadn't noticed it until he had finished his business. The foreign sound didn't register until Grant zipped his pants. He froze as the growling continued, and was paralyzed with dread as his ears tuned into the growling.

"Run!" He thought to himself, but his nerves refused to carry out the command. At that moment, a face carved itself into the bark of a tree in front of him. Its eyes were open slightly, and its mouth was stretched to a gaping smile. Large dimples sat by the corners of its mouth, where tears of tree sap had trickled down from its eyes. Grant only looked.

"Ika, shavan huun," a voice eminated from the voice's unmoving mouth. Despite the strange tongue in which it spoke, Grant perfectly understood what it was saying: "Hello, good friend."

Grant tried to speak. His lips only barely twitched as he tried to scream out the question, "Who are you?"

He needn't speak, however, for the face answered anyways.

"Z'kaugh," it said.

Immediately, Grant's heart halted. Another face, this one with eyes wide open and a curling frown, slowly appeared within the face's left dimple. Roots emerged from the earth below, forming mouths which licked Grant's ankles and calves. Crooked fingers squirmed between the threads of his socks, tearing holes away. They scratched at his shoes, eroding them, until Grant was finally barefoot.

"I am the forest which consumes," Said the faces in their odd tongue as they multiplied, "I am the tree which sheds its leaves upon your corpse. Should you bear witness to my presence, you will surely feel the rodents feast upon your cold flesh. The pain and anguish of a neverending death shall engrave itself within your soul."

Grant was now tightly held in place by the roots. Their tongues slithered over his body while the fingers poked and tore away at his clothes. Slowly, one finger pressed itself into his left thigh. I pressed further and further, until Grant could feel it rubbing against his bone.

Grant tried his best to scream. He took all energy from every fiber in his being, and used it all to scream. It was in vain. No more than a hoarse wheeze escaped his lips. More and more faces with bulging eyeballs and gaping mouths, expressing emotions which Grant could not even fathom, grew as tumors from the surrounding trees.

Z'kaugh let out a boisterous, jovial laugh from all around as Grant's vision was raped by the hideous roots and faces surrounding him, violating him, strangling him from the inside out. Grant's skin no longer served any purpose, as the roots reached straight through to poke and prod away at his heart. Their tongues slid across the crevaces between his organs, slipping through for a better taste at his innards.

Needless to say, Grant had felt a pain unimaginable. "Agony" was no accurate word to describe the bleeding, searing pain which came from having his very heart torn apart and poked to bits. "Torture" was a word too simple to describe the acid-like saliva as it lasciviously tasted his insides. Grant's mind and body turned inside out through the process, and the experience (for that was the only word he could use to grasp the concept of what was taking place) lasted for several long hours. He would not lose consciousness until it all came to a twisted, bitter end.

* * *

Grant awoke the next morning, in his sleeping bag, in his tent, in his campsite, in his world. His insides were writhing and churning inside of him, leaving a lasting pain as his intestines bunched together and knotted up tightly. Softly, ever-so-softly, Grant could still feel the voice of Z'kaugh echoing throughout his brain.

Inside of Grant's body, there was chaos.

Outside of Grant's body, there was no sensation.

The only sensation he felt outside of his body was a pool of blood, seeping from his left thigh.

Notes

The Roots was a story I wrote to imitate the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Admittedly, the only story of his which I've actually read is The Rats in the Walls, but I'm fairly sure that I'm familiar with Lovecraft's formula. I was proud of this story at the time, but looking back at it, the story isn't very frightening, nor is it thrilling. I've been told by some to give it a "happy ending," but frankly that defeats the purpose of my story and is pretty retarded.

Personal rating: 7/10 or something, I dunno