The Figment of a Footprint

Submitted into Contest #235 in response to: Write about a character who suddenly cannot run anymore.... view prompt


Horror Speculative Suspense

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

I have been running; for how long, I can not tell. A wrong turn, a trailblazing disaster, lost and never to be found. How did I get here? Does it even matter anymore?

With each labored breath, pacing my strides, my body is consumed by a primal battle, the stale air thick with rancid decay. The forest engulfs me in a suffocating terror, its ancient malevolence seeping into every inch of its murky darkness. Twisted trees writhe and contort in agony, their branches reaching out like gnarled claws to ensnare me.

But it is not just the physical realm that haunts me - my senses are assaulted from all sides by unseen eyes and unearthly sounds. Whispers and murmurs taunt and torment my mind, pulling me deeper into a maddening spiral of delusion. I push forward blindly, driven by an unrelenting need to escape this waking nightmare.

But my pursuer is unyielding, its form shifting and morphing with each step. It is a being beyond human comprehension to gaze upon such a cosmic horror to bring insanity that relentlessly stalks me through the shadow-laden tunnels of tangled trees.

Doubt and fear plague me at every turn, as reality blurs with hallucination. But then I see it - a fleeting glimpse of ethereal color against the oppressive backdrop of the forest. Is it another trick of my treacherous mind? Or a terrifying glimpse into the twisted reality that surrounds me?

My question is quickly answered as heavy footsteps close in on me from behind. They are not of this world, but they are coming for me all the same. Panic consumes me once again as I realize there is no escape from this eldritch horror that has invaded my existence.

I must not stop. I can not stop.

And so I succumb to the all-consuming terror that lurks just beyond our grasp, my mind shattered by the relentless onslaught of otherworldly sights and sounds. The darkness claims me, forever lost to its insidious grip....


My eyes burn with the insipid stench surrounding me. The pounding of my heart keeping the beat of the incessant steps. The forest is alive with the sound of rustling leaves and creaking branches. The damp earth clinging to my shoes, trying to suck me downward, as I navigate my way through the labyrinth of warped roots and jagged rocks.

Each stride felt like a precarious balance between life and death, as though one wrong move could mean falling into the jaws of some monstrous creature lying in wait for unsuspecting prey.

I continue to hear the heavy footsteps behind me, growing closer with every passing second. Pushing harder, can I continue? My heart thumps wildly in my chest, my breaths coming in ragged gasps as I push myself to run faster.

But no matter how damp I cry, the footsteps kept pace with me, growing faster, deeper, closer, their ominous rhythm echoing through my trees and sending shivers down the spine.

I stumble into a small clearing, my hope of escape quickly fading - there is no way out here. The dying light cast an eerie glow on the grass, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that sends chills down my spine.

For a brief moment, I allow myself to relax, retreat to a slow, mild jog, thinking that maybe I had lost my... something. But then, the silence descends upon me like a suffocating blanket, pressing down on me with its oppressive weight. I must be still there, mocking it, encroaching ever closer.

My feet refused to hold still as if they were being held captive by some unseen force - possessed by cursed trail shoes, forcing me to dance eternally to the screaming pipes oozing from the center of this arboreal void. Sweat stings my eyes as I try to look from side to side - around at the broken trees and crumpled branches; I can't shake off the feeling that this isn't just a natural part of the woodland nymphs - it is something far more sinister.

But what scares me even more is the unshakable thought that it isn't all in my head. Crazy. Crazy. I was crazy once. My mind is playing tricks on the forest, luring it deeper into my terrifying grasp and driving, running, sprinting towards... somewhere. But is realization enough? Or is it a symptom of the sickness winding its way through my veins? Or are my veins merely a symptom of my larger problem? The shouts echo through my feeble mind as I try to order my senses.

Uncertainty gnawing me like a piston, a prison within my own thoughts, driving me onward. I force myself to keep moving, picking a new direction, hoping that my sacrifice and offering will be accepted, praying that I will lead myself out of this nightmare. But with every leap forward, doubt continues to creep in, unable to turn the screaming questions out - what if there is no escape? What if I am but a ghost of a memory fed by the chains of tangled roots surrounding me, crushing me.

As the evening's darkness crushes in around me, night enveloping me in its suffocating embrace, I couldn't shake off the feeling of being watched by something far more malevolent than anything I could ever imagine. To imagine it would only bring insanity. I must imagine it. I must keep going.....


Footprints trail behind me, filled with viscous liquid, reminders of the terror I am filled with for each lurch forward I continue to make. My racing blood pump reaching the point of explosion echoes in my ears, a constant reminder of the unknown dangers lurking in this twisted forest. The moon's harsh glare casts a haunting glow over everything as if daring me to venture further into its depths. I am beckoned, and I can not stop.

My body aches from exhaustion, but the forest seems to mock my weakness. Its branches reach out like malevolent hands, their shadows whispering words of doubt and fear, scratching me, bleeding me drip by slow drop. Yet, amidst this darkness, a faint glimmer of light offers a glimmer of hope.

The flaming sphere of fire begins to rise from the east, the blood-tinged sky is shocked awake by its appearance, and the forest seems to transform into an entirely new world. The eerie stillness is replaced by the soothing, unsettling sounds of nature. Despite the comforting surroundings, the watching never stops. Going. Keep going. Stop looking at me!

Leaving the safety of the treeline behind, my face is slammed with the frigid air, causing me to miss the monstrous scene rising from the quaint village below. It beckons me with its warm lights and promise of shelter, smoke tendrils streaming out of the chimney like organic arms, pulsating rhythmically in the orange hue. Yet, as I quickly glance back at the menacing forest, doubt creeps in once again - was I really pursuing something, or was it my mind striving itself towards a paranoid fragmentation?

I care not to understand the answer, forever it will elude me. I am conflicted and unsure. But if I can just make my heart faster, further, the moist embrace of the morning dew climbing up my legs like the cold nails of a coffin. This forest won't hold a strange power over me now - one that both terrifies and fascinates me. And as I race my way toward the village, my mind swirls with conflicting emotions - fear and curiosity, doubt and wonder.....


Each pace towards the village is a cruel taunt, the forest looming from behind, jeering and cackling with malicious glee through the corners of my blood-shot eyes sounds still playing havoc on my eardrums, the needles reaching deep into my nervous tissue trying to claw me back. The air is thick with a putrid stench, a heavyweight that suffocates me as I struggle to push forward. I must not fear, the mind-killer; my pace can not waver - to reach forward is my only goal.

Every sound is magnified, each creak of branches and rustle of leaves echoing like a death knell in my ears. The rising sun casts long shadows that seem to twist and writhe, reaching out with bony fingers to drag me into its abyss. Cutting, grasping, slicing.

My body screams for rest, muscles burning and joints protesting with every desperate stride. But no matter how far I run, the relentless forest eternally looms behind me, its twisted branches morphing into grotesque creatures that feed on my fear.

I catch sight of the quaint village through the dense fog, the palpable sense of relief almost beckoning me. Calmness refuses to flood over me, a sense of foreboding grips my heart in it's vice-like gaping maw.

Searing pain, infinitely torturous, tears through my side like a hot blade. I collapse to my knees, gasping for the acrid oxygen that refuses to enter my collapsing lungs.

I lay here, writhing in agony, the spines between reality and nightmare blur beyond recognition. The forest myself and I are livid, a dying entity, playing with the tissues in our head, fading, crimson essence flooding my field of vision, until......

I am no longer chased by some external force; instead, I am the one chasing - consuming madness and becoming one with this cursed landscape forever. And in those final moments after devouring my fresh meal, satiated completely, a perverse sense of terror washes over me – for in this cosmic space we call life, I have found my true refuge, forever to torment and be tormented, amongst the twisted trees and malevolent shadows.

February 01, 2024 20:28

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John Rutherford
11:52 Feb 06, 2024

Interesting, and disturbing.


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Joe Sweeney
04:16 Feb 06, 2024

The imagery in this story is very well done. I get a real sense of what this person must be mentally experiencing.


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