A rhythmic thudding echoed through the tree trunks, bouncing off the leafy canopy. Crouched at the base of a tree, the woman froze, her hand almost touching a mushroom hiding in the thick leaf mulch. Terror held her rigid for a long moment before she leaped to her feet and ran, bare feet noiseless on the hard-packed dirt. She zigged through the green-laced shadows, harried by the sound.
She had only one chance for escape. She ran faster, breath rasping in her throat. A sharp branch tore at her scalp. The stinging told her she’d left hair behind.
Gasping, she slowed down. Think! Think this through! Just because it’s close by doesn’t mean you’re caught. Be quiet and it’ll lose you.
She needed to calm her breathing, calm her heart-rate. The metronome of a quiet heart never caught its attention but galloping heart beats could. No-one knew how it heard a single heartbeat but it did.
One, two, three, in. One, two, three, out. Her heart slowed and thumped away quietly now, hopefully invisible to the hunter searching for prey.
A flicker of motion to her left. She remained still, only her eyes betrayed her, leaping from shadow to shadow.
She closed her eyes. If it got her, she didn’t want to see.
A melodic whistling sounded nearby. A catchy tune. Ba-da-da-dum. Ba-da-da-dum.
She pressed her lips tighter together, resisting the urge to hum along. It would hear that for sure, it was so close.
Thump, ba-da-da-bum. Thump, ba-da-da-dum. Thump.
It was right in front of her. She could feel its rancids breath on her flushed face. It was too late. A high-pitched singing joined the drumming and the whistles. Then a single, plucked note vibrated, adding to the song.
Her foot began to tap. She fought to regain control—it was her foot, dammit!— but it jerked up and down, keeping rhythm with the drum beat pounding through her body.
She was caught. A tear trickled down her cheek. She’d never see her family again. Their faces flickered behind her closed eyelids, Mother, Father, her sister, her friends. She would be lost to them forever.
But she could face it bravely. If she were done for, there was only one thing left to do. Curiousity compelled her to it. She’d heard such terrible tales of them over the years; horrid stories of the desiccated bodies they left behind, all the life sucked out, only a husk left. She had to see what these terrible monsters looked like.
She opened her eyes, just a crack. Smooth pink skin. Round and glistening slightly. It loomed in front of her, an eyeless tube. Its gaping mouth was lined with rows of tiny white teeth.
Aghast, she realized she was humming along with its contagious song. Caught in its trap, she felt the life leaving her body, felt her skin crinkling, her very brain being devoured by the monster’s deadly song.
Held by its eyeless stare, she swayed back and forth to the beat, mesmerized by the dreaded Ear Worm’s melody.