Into The Forest
They say, do not go into the forest, do not step off the path into the twist of wood and leaves and ancient roots that lie buried underground. They say, do not go into the forest for there be malevolent spirits there, spirits of the lost, cracked and aged with time awaiting those who dare break their solitude. Some talk of fairies, of brooding faces seen within the bark of trees, of ancient spirits once held in respect by all men, of sprites and guardians and creatures made of wood. Some will heed the old fractured voices of those who have seen the turn of many years; some will not.
So on a cloudless summer’s day I find myself in the thick of the forest where the rays from the sun split the green blur of the canopy with golden light. I turn my face to bask in its touch, winter a distant memory as its softness whispers promises of youth. The odd butterfly paints the shadows as it searches in and out of the shade, dazzling one minute, mute the next. Above birds chatter excitedly against the suppleness of the breeze that runs its fingers through feather and leaves alike. I close my eyes and listen, not to the gild and glory that summer brings but to those things hidden in the softness of moss, the creak of old wood hollow and dead that lays gnarled and barren aged by many winters or split by nature’s storms. They are not forgotten in the splendour, they are consumed by the forest, given life anew.
Life, ah, that promise that summer brings, gin soaked in floral petticoats with bright ripe lips and a warm bosom. She cavorts in easy heels and pledges her word with lazy kisses. Oh, and how we gladly bathe in the silk of her promises saying adieu to the darkness even though it shadows us in her light. Her days are long, stretched with hope and hides what has always been in her tempered breath and salubrious smile.
In the distance I hear their calls, faint at first like a supple strand of silk from a spider’s web lost on the curling air. There is music in their laughter, joy and happiness mirroring summer’s pleasure. I want to go to them, dance upon their unbroken thread of enjoyment that beckons with outstretched fingers, but I cannot, for shade and darkness are my bedfellows, my grave of broken bones.
They draw closer now, children who think they’re older than their years with a pocketful of knowledge and a bottle of cider. They like the shadows for it is full of secrets, things not meant for the glare of sunlight, things like me.
I was once as they, fragile upon the coil of life but cursed in thought and stained in blood. I was youth but my deeds were not bright, my soul consumed by all things dark and wicked and now I am nightmare. I am death.
I lick my lips, tainted with age old sin, tasting the air, sampling the scent of those things that lay within the walls of human hearts; delicious hidden things, all coppery and dark which whet my appetite.
“Do not go into the forest,” I whisper on the tail of the breeze and they turn away from their conversation to look into the wall of trees.
Nothing is there; nothing but summer’s hidden secrets.
They laugh and giggle and light cigarettes from one match, the flame dying quickly, snatched away by a gust of cold air that takes the bird song with it.
Silence and the shadows creep ever closer.
I breathe out and in, not air, not life but the disease that blights the light within all men’s souls. It is nectar to me and I desire it above all things.
I linger a moment longer watching through their window, a slither of life so full of possibilities and yet they are lost and know it not.
I step from the shadows and what do they see? Not monster, not fiend but a youth of gild and summer, pale and golden, a fey of the forest, a dream; yet some dreams you do not wake from and then the screaming starts.