Hello. This story has mention of a knife, surrealism, detachment, mental health, and injuries. I would love some feedback :)
What is it about Elise?
The name is raspberries on your tastebuds. It fills your mouth with the flavor to the point where you’re almost suffocating on the sickly sweetness.
Your stomach hurts, aches with anxiety and longing and something else you can’t describe. It’s not quite hunger, not quite fear.
“Guilt, perhaps.” Comes the voice from behind you.
You don’t know. Maybe. But there’s more there.
It’s silent for a second, and your ears start ringing. You think you read about a room once, where it was so quiet your ears would strain to hear anything at all, even yourself. You would sit in that room and listen to your stomach digesting and your heart pumping and your lungs breathing. It nearly drove some people insane, you remember.
What were you thinking about?
Your stomach hurts, because of the raspberries, and you taste raspberries because of-
You ate them with her, once. Your stomach hurt from laughing, and your clothes were stained red from the juice that trickled from the corners of your mouth.
Are you sure that was laughter?
A pause. It’s getting hard to think over the noise that is silence.
Are you sure that was raspberry juice?
There is a mocking chuckle from behind you, and the ringing in your ears stops.
You can move again, and it is only now that you notice that you couldn’t before. The thorns that held you in place have withered away, and the marks they have left on your skin bleed only sweet syrup.
You raise the knife in your hand to clear your path, and consider it for a moment.
Why do you have a knife?
Out of the corner of your eyes, you see the bushes of thorns have started to grow again, curling and spiraling towards your skin.
You bring the knife down, and it cuts cleanly through the branch. It leaks the same sap that oozes from the cuts it gave you, and coats your bare feet in sticky red.
The laughter shudders to a sudden stop.
“Why did you bring a knife?” Asks the voice from behind you.
You don’t know. You don’t know much of anything, except for the taste of raspberries.
Why do you taste raspberries?
The name drives you forward, through the undergrowth. There are bushes and weeds and trees here. The ground is wet and muddy, and there are times when you have to hack a branch off a tree in order to cross a stream or puddle.
“Where are you going?” Laughs the voice from behind you.
You don’t know. But now you can tell there is a clear untruth to its pretend carelessness.
With a surge of anger, the oppressive presence behind you fades, and you know that it will not speak with such power again. All it can do now is whisper.
The name comes clearer to you now. You barely have to think about it.
There is a scent in the air that doesn’t quite match the taste in your mouth. Rot, damp, and decay permeate the very nature of this place.
Whatever this place is.
It has something to do with Elise.
The taste of raspberries grows almost overwhelming, and the pain in your stomach intensifies.
Dread, you think, as you double over.
Do you dread Elise?
The thorny bushes that once held you captive have started to encircle you again. You brandish your knife but it has grown blunt.
Where are you going?
You do not know.
You use your callused hands to push the thorns away and continue towards the direction you have decided is forward.
There is no sun here. Or if there is, for all your looking, you haven’t noticed it. You can probably see, you reason, as you push a branch to the side, so there’s probably light. But there might as well not be.
There is no time here. You are certain of that. It is unthinkable, to be unable to feel that passing of seconds, minutes, hours. It is unthinkable to be unable to measure time by how far you have walked, or how many bushes you have moved aside, or how many times you have stumbled. But you cannot, and you gave up trying at some point, and you know it doesn’t matter when you did.
You’ve tried calling out for Elise, a couple times, but raspberries filled your mouth until you were choking on them, and stained your skin the pale pink-red of half-remembered sunsets.
The voice behind you has tried to cry to you once or twice as well, when the thorns grew thick around you and cut your skin, but it spat syrup and sugar that soured and spoiled before it flowed to the forest floor and failed to feed you like it used to.
All you remember are the raspberries, but hints of feelings creep in the corners of your mind like shadows. They come in pairs: warmth and coldness, hatred and love, misery and contentment.
Who is Elise to you?
But the scent of decay and the taste of raspberries and the pain in your stomach and the hissing words of the voice behind you only get stronger when you look for answers, so you move on.
Eventually, whatever that means when there is no time, there is a large clearing ahead of you. It is framed by pine trees and thorn bushes, but what are more cuts to those you already have?
The smell of the rotting forest does not follow you into the clearing. It is a part of you, and you are not supposed to be here.
The voice does not follow you into the clearing. It is a part of you, and you are not supposed to be here.
The pain in your stomach does not follow you into the clearing. It is a part of you, and you are not supposed to be here.
The taste of raspberries clings to your tongue. It is a part of you. It is a part of her.
You are still not supposed to be here.
She is singing, her back turned to you, raspberries falling out of her mouth and piling around her feet.
There is a sun in this clearing. It shines down into the birch trees, dappling her hair with shadows.
She is wearing a crown of leaves and berries, and she is glowing.
She is Elise.
You are sure now, that you could speak if you wanted to.
You are not sure if you want to.
You are covered in mud and dirt and doubt and stains. Your forest is a thing of misery, of nightmares and self-hatred and pain.
Her forest is dreams and delights and beauty. She is singing to a bright, certain world of her own creation, and everything is alive.
She dances in circles, her skirt flaring out.
You remember that. How you would twirl and twist and never get dizzy.
Now you stand up and the world spins around you instead.
She smiles, so wide, crooked teeth on display.
You remember that. How you would smile freely, not bothering to cover your mouth or check a mirror first.
She is still singing, a tuneless song that raises and falls on impulse.
You remember that. How you would sing loudly without wincing everytime you were slightly off.
She is happy.
You remember being young and carefree and happy.
When was the last time you were this version of yourself?
Elise plucks a raspberry from her crown, pausing in her song for a moment.
When you ate the raspberries in your garden for the last time, comes the answer.
You are still gazing at this specter of your childhood when the clouds open up.
As the rain keeps pouring and the mud washes you away, back to the voice and the thorns and the pain and the uncertainty and the forest of rotting wood and lost time, you keep your name in your head.