The details “grisly”, the people “lunatic”, the results, “magnetic”.
© 1970 Russell H. Greenan
Random House USA/Canada 1970
Jacket design: Ted Bernstein
“She’s trying to get out!” I screamed, but it sounded only like a whisper.
At last I reached it, and began frantically pawing at the mud—but as fast as I removed it, faster still did it roll back. A moaning filled the air. Then, in a fearful frenzy, I seized the foot in both hands and began to pull it—gritting my teeth with the exertion. Slowly it came out—the slime sucking at it noisily. I could see the calf of the leg, and a moment later, the knee.
With a grunt of satisfaction I increased my efforts. Something touched my face, something hard and sharp. Looking down at the foot, which I was clutching tightly to my chest, I saw a slender brown branch sprouting from the big toe. It grew with furious speed. A second branch then shot from another toe, and after it, a third appeared. The whole foot was budding.
In horror, I dropped it and backed away. The leg itself, I now saw, was developing a rough black bark, which crept along its length as if devouring the flesh. The branches reached further and further into the air, throwing out crooked twigs that rapidly put forth ghostly white leaves.
All this time the wind continued to sharpen. Its gusts tore at the struggling tree and the moaning rose to a shriek.
I awakened. Both my hands were pressed to my mouth, the knuckles hard against my face. I was panting.
Even after turning on the light, the terror stayed with me. I pushed the chair over to the window and crouched down in it, staring out into the night. A sliver of moon lay low in the western sky, like a lopsided smile on an invisible face.
In the backyard, two cats taunted each other.