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Emika Grows

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In a world where magic has been pushed to near extinction, Hasegawa Emika, a young woman in the business of growing bonsai trees, suddenly finds herself inflicted with a deadly curse. Not only do larger and larger pieces of wood start erupting from within her body; worse, these growths appear contagious and kill off everyone around her. Her circle of friends completely gone, she now faces the reality of not only being all alone, but also having to delve into the world of magic that thus far has been completely unbeknown to her, all while slowly turning into a monster.

Horror / Fantasy
5.0 1 review
Age Rating:

The Woods Under Her Skin

Emika woke up from her deepest sleep as she felt a piercing, throbbing pain in the back of her right wrist. In her groggy state, she couldn’t gather the energy to open her eyes. Instead, she was left wondering, in a haze… Why would it hurt? She wasn’t dreaming, right?

She grazed the back of her wrist with two of her left hand’s fingers, and immediately, the pain shot back, and her eyes sprang open.

When she saw Eva’s long, silver hair glittering in the moonlight next to her, she calmed down. Emika hated sleeping all alone in the estate left to her by her parents, so sometimes her friends would come over to make her feel less lonely.

Just as she was about to slide into idle thoughts and fall back to sleep, the throb returned.

What the hell is this?

She tried to get up; accidentally supporting herself with her right hand and thus feeling the most intense pain yet, only barely managing to contain a loud groan. Something was up, but… even with the help of the moonlight, she couldn’t ascertain anything wrong on her skin, so she decided to leave the room to look at it in more detail.

The bedroom door creaked softly as she pushed it open — this time remembering not to use her right hand. Then, across the floor, Emika walked down the stairs leading to her basement. She had a very strong desk lamp there; maybe that would help her figure out what was wrong. She passed by three of her bonsai trees that she had recently cut short, and eventually sat down at her work station, switching on the lamp to illuminate her wrist.

It took a minute to get used to the brightness, so for a while, she could do nothing other than sit there and endure the waves of pain.

But… Her wrist looked normal. At least, that’s what she first thought. Maybe it was a little red. Yes… her right hand was definitely a bit red, and also very hot. Again, she tried grazing over the area on the skin the pain came from, but this time, did so much more carefully, and… yeah. Now, she sensed it. It felt like something was under her skin.

She didn’t remember seeing or feeling that bump before. It appeared to be a tiny, hard thing; maybe one centimetre in length, somehow attached to her arm’s bone. She could move her skin over it gently, but she couldn’t move the thing itself.

This was somewhat worrying. Definitely not supposed to be that way. Or was it? Just to make sure, she tried feeling for a similar shape on her left wrist, but indeed, there was nothing alike to be found there.

Going back to her other wrist, she accidentally touched too hard and was forced to let out a sharp wail to endure the stabbing pain, as her skin suddenly sprang open and a squirt of blood gushed out.

Immediately, Emika jumped up to get an old sweat cloth from a nearby chair to press on the wound and wipe the blood away. Now that the thing had burst through her skin and wasn’t scratching at it from the inside, the pain was actually much easier to bear.

After a few minutes, the bleeding mostly stopped. As Emika cleaned the wound, she finally found out that the cause was, as best as she could tell, somehow, a little splinter of wood; just the kind of wood she’d work with most of the time when taking care of her bonsai trees. Was it a chip of wood she had accidentally rammed into her skin? And her skin had just grown over it, maybe?

Emika looked at it with a magnifying glass; it definitely seemed like dry, bleached juniper deadwood.

Either way; at that point she decided that it was no use to try and guess what had happened. There was only one action to take. She grabbed one of her bark removal pliers, pinched the wooden chip in her skin and, taking a deep breath, holding it firmly, twisted it out in a swift, trained gesture like removing bark from a bonsai tree.

The pain thundered through her entire arm and was so intense she couldn’t even think. As she looked at the pliers in her hand she realised that a part of her own flesh was attached to the wood.

“Are you for real?” she gasped, and stumbled over to the chair on which she had put the sweat cloth. After a moment of collection, she began wiping off the blood from her wrist.

She heard a meow from below as she felt Catrine graze her legs. After a few seconds, with a slight slurping sound, her cat started licking up a spot of blood that had formed on the ground.

“Thanks for cleaning up,” she mumbled to her, and eventually, after having processed the shock of the pain, she got up to get some bandages to put around her wrist.

After treating herself, she returned to her room. Inside, Eva was awake, sitting upright on the bed.

“Everything okay?” she asked, rubbing sand out of her eyes.

“Yes,” said Emika. “I think I just had a splinter from work. I couldn’t sleep, so I pulled it out.”

Eva took a second to process what she just heard. “Ah… so, nothing serious?” she asked, but then her gaze fell onto Emika’s arm. “Wait… are those bandages? How big was that splinter?”

“It was pretty big.”

“Oh no… maybe you could have asked a doctor to pull it out,” Eva said as she took a closer look at Emika’s bandages. “Wait, these are so dirty…”

“I didn’t have anything else,” shrugged Emika.

“This can cause blood poisoning, you know. There is a reason people are supposed to use clean ones…”

From her expression, it was clear that Eva was deeply unhappy with the situation, but having known Emika for years, she knew that there was little to be done about that obstinate airhead of hers.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll try to find clean ones tomorrow. Let’s just go back to sleep for now… I am super tired.”

With these words, Emika let herself fall on her pillow and watched as Eva, with a sigh, laid back down as well.

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