Into the Forest

Tom Tom/

This post was originally published through Patreon on January 8, 2019.

It ended with the wind.

The sky had been overcast all morning, and a deep, abiding cold had permeated the air. The elders of my village warned me not to enter the forest, but it’d taken my brother, and I would not let it claim my only sibling for its own.

“If you won’t stay home where it’s safe,” Grandma pleaded, “at least take this.” She handed me a woolen cloak, which I draped over my head gratefully, and told me not to stay out past sunset, brother or no brother. “It’ll do us no good,” she said, “if the forest decides to take you, too.” She hugged me as if for the last time, then sent me out into the gloom to face the trees alone.

I believed I’d win, that I’d find my brother curled at the trunk of a tree, or hidden beneath a rock for shelter, and that, like so many of the heroes Master Gideon tells stories about by the light of a late-night fire, I’d emerge from the brambles and the trees triumphant, my brother in tow, ready to tell stories of my own.

But the forest had other plans.

By increments, the sky grew darker, and what started as a light, clinging mist soon turned into a drizzle. The drizzle turned into a downpour, and before I knew what had happened, the sky became a blazing torrent of thunder and lightning.

I scrambled over steep hills, tripped over gnarled roots and upturned stones, scratched my limbs against low hanging branches and thorny brambles. All the while, I pressed on, blind to pain and exhaustion, dead set on finding my brother.

Then the wind came, a violent, world-ending gale that knocked me off balance and stopped me in my tracks. I let loose a hailstorm of curses, but the forest was unyielding. Cold, weary, and out of breath, I had no choice but to huddle against a nearby tree and hug myself for warmth.

For centuries, my people had lived in fear of the forest and its ancient powers. But when its diabolical whims had culminated in the abduction of my brother, I was sure that I could best it, that somehow, the brash exuberance of youth could overpower its dark and terrifying magic.

Now, as the forest closed in around me, I discovered the awful truth, that it was no use fighting such raw, elemental strength. I’d been a fool to think myself superior to the forest, and it would punish me for my pride.

Just as I was ready to succumb to the will of the woods, a light caught the corner of my eye. I turned, and a pair of glowing green pupils looked back. I peered into their depths, and as whatever creature they belonged to edged closer, I knew that wherever the forest had taken my brother, I would soon join him.

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