Raspberries

Written in response to: Set your story in the woods or on a campground. ... view prompt

15 comments

Horror Fiction Sad

This story contains sensitive content

Hello. This story has mention of a knife, surrealism, detachment, mental health, and injuries. I would love some feedback :)

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Elise.

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.

Elise.

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-

Elise.

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? 

Because of-

Elise.

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. 

Elise. 

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. 

Elise.

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.

Elise.

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.

Elise.


April 23, 2022 02:35

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15 comments

Craig Westmore
11:45 May 24, 2022

Very haunting story, Corbin. The descriptive passages of raspberries and the repetition of certain sentences creates a feeling of an unsteady mind. I think you can take this story further and explore it more. One of the dangers of a dreamlike world is the reader has no rules to cling to. Anything can happen. I would balance this world with concrete memories of past encounters with Elise. That way we can get to know her and understand what attracted the narrator to her and understand what triggers him.

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Craig Westmore
11:55 May 24, 2022

After reading other comments, I see I missed that the narrator is Elise. In a way, that is a good thing because it feels like she has a split personality. Even so, I still believe you need to have some balance with concrete memories that provide insight into her personality. I would suggest opening with a concrete setting so the reader has a sense of place. It took me a couple re-readings of the opening paragraphs to set my mind straight that the POV was second person. Once I understood that, then I got caught up in the story.

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Craig Westmore
12:09 May 24, 2022

One last thing to think about is character arc. There are many stories that focus only on tone and feeling which is an important aspect of writing. But one thing that was pounded into me when getting feedback on my first attempt at a novel, is that in every chapter the characters have to have a goal or want. This drives readers forward. It doesn't have to be external. In your story it could be that Elise wants to understand where she is or why things are happening to her. This mystery adds a level of intrigue for the reader so they keep read...

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Corbin Sage
18:31 May 24, 2022

Thank you so much for the detailed and thoughtful feedback! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and offer suggestions :) This is great advice. I'll plan to revisit this when I have time with that in mind!

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Craig Westmore
20:00 May 24, 2022

No problem. Giving feedback helps me better understand the craft of writing. If you don't mind, I'd like to get feedback on my stories.

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Corbin Sage
20:35 May 24, 2022

Of course!

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Riel Rosehill
18:08 Apr 23, 2022

Hi! Firstly, I'm not the best of critiques, so sorry in advance. Secondly, I just noticed this is for this weeks challenge?! You're fast! Congrats for getting this done so early, I always take ages... Nice job. Onto the story: I think surreal is the world I am looking for. This was dark and surreal. And I like a bit of that. No, actually, love a bit of that! I wonder - and this is just me - whether I wanted a little bit more clarity in places to ground us, but this is just me feeling like I didn't fully understand everything I was supposed ...

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Corbin Sage
19:01 Apr 23, 2022

Hello! Thank you so much for the feedback, it's really appreciated. :) I'll admit that submitting a prompt this early will most definitely be a one-time occurrence. It normally takes me the full week, if not more, to get a story written. I guess I just got lucky this time! Your feedback is great! Is there a specific place you were hoping to get a bit more clarification? I'll check out your latest story, thanks again!

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Riel Rosehill
20:31 Apr 23, 2022

Hi! I don't think I can pinpoint exactly, but when she is cutting through branches, and there are metaphors for blood, because it's so surreal I kind of want a hint at what is real? I mean it might be completely unnecessary depending on what you are going for I suppose! But I really wanted to get a hint at what was happening and why! Like, did she just cur someone dead irl or is she just in her head and a little mad, where is the disconnect with herself coming from...? I'm intrigued.

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Corbin Sage
20:46 Apr 23, 2022

I'll say it's up for reader interpretation, but part of my thought process was that the entire forest was a metaphor for herself, so, at the risk of sounding like a pretentious wanna-be poet, the branches were a metaphor for the bonds that she herself created. They bleed the same as her because they /are/ her. As for if this is happening in real life or in her head or not- entirely up to you!

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Riel Rosehill
20:52 Apr 23, 2022

Great, thanks for this!

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Kendall Defoe
03:25 Apr 23, 2022

Wow, I needed this. Brilliant construction...and I never want to meet Elise. Or do I? :)

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Corbin Sage
03:27 Apr 23, 2022

Thank you so much!

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Sharon Hancock
23:12 May 03, 2022

Very poetic and interesting. I thought she had killed someone at first, but it seems she lost herself or her childhood. Very good build up of tension. Thanks for sharing! I enjoyed it. 😻

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Corbin Sage
00:37 May 04, 2022

Thank you!

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