For one dizzying moment, Danny couldn’t tell if she was standing in the middle of a city street or a medieval forest.
Then she realized that the vast trees of immeasurable girth that towered around her had once been buildings. They had become completely enveloped in ropy tendons of tree trunk, until they were like huge banyan trees that spanned entire city blocks. Their leaves blotted out the sky, and their roots had erupted streets.
Here and there, some buildings had not been completely engulfed yet. Their top stories poked up from the constricting vines as if struggling to escape the assault of strangulation. Their glass windows were dark, and empty window frames gaped like the empty sockets of skulls.
With an electrifying jolt, she realized that there were skulls. Ropes had been strung up between the branches, spanning over what had once been the city street. From these hung skulls. Human skulls. Hundreds of them.
The inhabitants of the city.
Danny’s breath caught in her throat, and before she could even recover, a voice from beside her — behind her — all around her — hissed, “You are too late.”
Danny whirled to find a vine as thick around as a man reaching toward her. She got the distinct impression that the vine was speaking to her.
Then, full realization dawned on her: the forest itself was alive…and sentient.
“Do you like my ornaments?” said the voice, as Danny turned to run. Something pressed around her ankle, and she realized with horror that a creeper had hold of her.
“I think you would make a lovely addition,” said the voice.
She began to scream. The man-sized vine closed around her face, and squeezed.