She couldn’t remember a time before the swamp. It surrounded her, grasping with its damp hands and filling her lungs with its stinking breath. She could only trudge forward. Her body burned, but she had to keep going. Otherwise, she would sink.
It was a dark and rotting place. Insects tangled themselves in her hair and crowded the corners of her eyes. She’d scratch and swat, but they scattered into the darkness to soon return. Sometimes, she’d look up as they dispersed. She saw no stars. There were only moss-covered trees, watching as she walked.
Stop, they said. You won’t make it. This is your home. Their silent voices hung heavy in the murk, and the longer they talked, the more she believed them.
Her heart weakened each time she pulled a foot from the slurping mud. All around her, the swamp mocked her. Serpents slithered around her feet. Unseen frogs and birds called out, creating an eerie and hollow song. So many voices spoke. Stop, they said. You won’t make it. This is your home.
She had to leave. She had to escape the voices, the mud, and the deep loneliness. No others remained. She’d seen them on occasion, but they always sank. They vanished into the fog and sludge. Never had she saved one of them. She had only the energy for herself.
Keep going. You will make it. This is not your home. She told herself again and again, through the whispers of the trees, the stinging insects, and the staring snakes.
After untold time, her strength began to fade. The whispers never stopped, and the insect stung her blind. Still she walked. I can make it. This isn’t my home.
Then, she tried to lift her foot, and it remained fixed in the mud. She groaned, dismayed, and focused her strength. She couldn’t move.
I can make it.
I can’t make it.
Roots sprung from her flesh, and her joints froze in place. A new tree stood in the swamp.