“Shut up mom,” Gregory said over his shoulder as he opened the house’s front door. “I’m goin’ to the swamp.”
“Be careful,” his mother called after him, choosing to ignore the insult he’d paid her. For her, whatever time Gregory spent out of the house was a gift.
Careful, Gregory chuckled to himself considering the word. Fat lot of good that’ll do. Gregory was a fatalist, and because all things died and would die, he enjoyed seeing life spring from death. Plants and animals died and decayed everywhere in the swamp.
When he was in the swamp, he thought about all that would happen to him after he was dead. Inside these caverns they would have meetings and parties, eating their way through his skin from the inside.
It occurred to him that these organisms that lived inside of him would die too, and be eaten by larger and smaller organisms than they were. It was all the cycle and he knew that the life he’d led was but a droplet of a fragment of the whole, and it didn’t matter anyway.
Gregory’s life had been but loneliness and pain. Rejected by those he’d once called his friends, shunned by his family, and finding all elements of his world completely abhorrent, he intended to drown himself.
He knew just where to do it, and how. Overland swamp, the lush patch of what was mostly shallow marshland, had one small body of water that was roughly forty feet wide and eighteen feet deep. He remembered being brought as a child to the swamp by someone he’d once considered a father.
As disgusting as the memory seemed now, Gregory could not deny its usefulness. He remembered once upon a time when someone he’d called “Dad” had shown him the pond’s best fishing perch. One of the trees nearest its edge had a great branch that extended over the center of the water, from which he now intended to plunge its depth.
He’d brought a backpack that held his supplies, which included a 25-pound stone boulder, means to fasten the boulder to his ankle, and an ordinary garden trowel. First he used the trowel to dig a small hole in the ground, into which he buried his clothes and the backpack. When he died, he wanted to decompose as quickly as possible, and for that it was best to be naked.
Gregory lifted the heavy stone up above his shoulder and crept out onto the great branch, careful not to drop it too soon. He’d fastened the massive rock snugly to his ankle with a length of biodegradable twine only three feet in length. He’d considered his suicide for a long time, and this seemed like the way that the swamp would get the most benefit.
First of all, being tethered deep in the center of a forbidding swamp, he figured he wouldn’t be found for a long time, maybe ever.
And second, he tied himself to the boulder with a type of twine that he knew would eventually disintegrate, allowing his body to float to the surface. Floating lifeless on the surface of the water, his corpse would then could become shelter and sustenance for any other form of life that happened upon it.
Gregory felt that this, more than anything, was his purpose.
As soon as he’d crept out far enough over the swamp, he checked the twine to make sure it and all his ties were strong enough, and dropped the stone into the water. As the rock fell and sought the bottom of the pond, Gregory remained fastened to it.
After he reflexively struggled against the pull of the twine tether around his ankle for several minutes, Gregory settled and let the swamp take him in, but he did not die.
He struggled and unconsciously gasped for air underneath the surface of the water. His lungs filled with water and a living green sludge. “The Spirit of the Swamp,” as Gregory would come to term it, slid its way into the empty recesses of his body. Gregory stopped living.
Fifteen minutes after he’d committed suicide, Gregory’s eyes flew open and searched the water all around him for answers. Why was he not dead? He breathed, he knew it, but without lungs. Each cell in his body seemed to expand and contract in a way that would be impossible to describe, and it made him completely happy.
The happiness he felt was in the calm knowledge of his connection with the universe. He opened his eyes, and seeing that he was still tethered to his suicide stone, reached down to untie his ankle. As he swam over to dry land and trudged out of the water he heard his footsteps land in wet squishing sounds.
He beheld in his reflection on the water, finding that all of his skin now appeared quite green. Upon closer inspection he found that there was a thick moist carpet of moss covering all of what used to be skin.
Gregory shrugged, and realized that he was not simply in the swamp, but of the swamp. This is my home, and I must protect it, he said silently to himself. As he repeated this mantra he could feel that with each step the knowledge of his new body grew.
Following intuition he headed slowly through the swamp, becoming more accustomed to the reach of his senses. Soon it was as though he could feel every piece of life in the marsh.
Towards the northeast corner of Overland Swamp, adjacent to the high school, he could almost hear the plaintiff cries of a young girl in distress. When he reached the source of tension, he saw Becky, one of his young classmates in the high school, scrambling through the trees as fast as she could. The front of her shirt was torn and a streak of blood trailed from the edge of her mouth to the back of her neck.
Behind her, traveling a bit faster than she was, the new young chemistry teacher, Mr. Bringhold was in pursuit. His pants were undone, his shirt was also ripped, and his mad smirk opened, revealing unbrushed teeth and omitting a lustful growl.
Mr. Bringhold apprehended Becky after not too long and threw her on the ground. He leapt on to her, yelling a vicious cackle into her ear. Becky screamed in horror, as the adult male teacher she’d once trusted snarled, “You wanna play with me, bitch!?”
Gregory set upon the teacher, knocking him to the ground alongside Becky and landing on top of him. Wordlessly he pressed on Mr. Bringhold’s shoulders, looking down into his eyes as his screams of horror were quickly muffled.
The verdant, strong-smelling moss seeped quickly from Gregory’s nose, eyes, and mouth, falling onto the chemistry teacher’s face and plugging each of its orifices. The moss at first simply muffled Mr. Bringhold’s screams, but as it spread down the inside of his esophagus, it drew into every pore of his body. The moss drew tightly together, blocking out all oxygen and suffocating the would-be rapist to death.
Becky, who’d at first been relieved that her attacker was being subdued, was now terrified, and raised her hands up as if to defend herself.
“Please,” she whimpered.
“Don’t worry,” Gregory surprised himself finding that he could still speak with his own voice. He thought about why he’d done what he had just done, then spoke five words that would become his calling card. “The swamp will remain safe.”
After authoring his mission statement, this new burgeoning guardian of the marshland turned to leave. Just then he was caught off-guard by Becky’s voice. “Gregory?”
Gregory was taken aback that Becky remembered his name, but he was something else now, and would need a new name. He paused, thinking of what this new name would be. He thought of what he loved about the swamp, what it taught him, and just how he’d come to his new powers.
“Call me The Fatalist,” he said, before turning back into the forbidding recesses of the swamp. Becky ran home, never intending to tell anyone of what she had seen.