Colin stood high on a stone. The field stretched before him, bright green, neat rows of trees rising above it, their branches thin and bare. There was a single path leading from his rocky outlook to the final climb; a hundred metres or so, and he would reach the top of the mountain, safe.
He had been on the run for weeks now, climbing bit by bit. He had dodged mountain lions, rockslides, and kamikaze goats to reach the freedom that came with the top. It was common knowledge that when one reached the top, they were untouchable, lordly, godly.
No one had reached it.
But now, looking out at this field, Colin wondered what the catch was. All the obstacles, and now a green field? Perhaps there were snakes in the field, but snakes this high up? The ground was visible through the plants moving in the breeze, so it couldn’t be a marshland filled with eels. He saw nothing, heard nothing untoward. Four hours of watching, and it looked safe. Too safe.
He could only wait so long, though, exposed up on the rock. Colin took a breath and stepped down onto the path. The greenery brushed his legs. Nothing leaped at him, nothing held him back. He took another step. Still nothing. He continued forward, the plants feeling like paintbrushes on his shins and knees and thighs.
Forward and forward he walked, the smell from the greenery wafting up, clean fresh chlorophyll and rich soil.
As he neared the centre of the field, Colin felt a chill on his legs. He looked down to see his pants partly dissolved, holes spreading from where plants had touched. His shoes were being eaten away from the top down.
Colin started to run, hoping for a pool on the other side to clean himself, his legs, his disappearing clothes. His shoes were gone, and his legs and feet began to burn. Blood was dripping as his skin melted away.
With only a dozen steps left, he fell, the muscles in his bloody legs too decayed to hold him up. He continued pulling himself with his hands, and finally broke free of the field, dragging himself up onto the stone. His shirt was melting, the skin on his hands burning. From his thighs down, he saw only bones, skeletal feet clacking on the rock.
Colin breathed a sigh of relief as the burning spread through his arms, his torso, his face. He closed his eyes to rest, just for a moment, on the dust of the previous climber.
This story was written for the Short Story Flash Fiction Society’s Contest #8.