It’s not the trees nor the space between them
That’s makes a forest a forest
But what lurks between them
Stalking you with golden eyes
Resembling newborn stars in virgin skies
Reminding you of who the trespasser is
What makes a forest is what lives beneath
Roots like veins making the earth a living pumping being
It is in the magic spoken in long forgotten tongues
Restless monsters listening
To the whispers of ancient trees
It’s the feeling of branches scratching your cheek
Your heart pumping in your chest
It is the feeling that you are both home
Yet somehow still in danger
What makes a forest a forest
Is fear when you find yourself
Not so alone in the woods as you thought you were
La forêt enchantée
A close friend of mine decided that we pack & get ready for an adventure. I furrowed my brows and hoped this time we would not wander, getting lost in a curious new, dangerous land. What surprised me is the way that my buddy had informed me we would get to our final destination. In a way making it seem as if this place was unlike any other that we’ve been to.
I packed my bags— putting lots of trust & faith in my pal. Surely this adventure would be worth the trouble of just packing our stuff and leaving most of our tasks at work to the new hires. Hopefully by the time we get back~ they will have survived without us and not burned the place down in some kind of protest.
Soon we were on our way to this great place: Bold explorers (we love to call ourselves that) ready to face whatever life throws at us. Well, I wasn’t prepared for being sick at sea. I’m not sure if it was the smell of seafood on the ship that made me sick, or the rocking back & forth motion of the vessel. As soon as I heard that we had arrived at our final destination, I screamed for joy!
The moment I disembarked from the ship, I moved forward and hugged a tree. Then once my body was able to make sense of where it was, I started to panic. I could not see a single resort, hotel, or even folks on this island covered by a vast range of trees. To make things even more terrifying (at least to me, my pal was happy to be surrounded by the sea to the west & a forest, east) I spotted giant bugs by the roots of the violet and scarlet leafed tall trees.
My friend rushed with a grin. ‘To adventure in the great outdoors!’ Just as he placed his foot on one of the tree roots, a branch crept forward & swooped him in the air. I screamed from the sight, quite afraid of seeing my dear pal in danger. What kind of forest was this where the tree could act like this? Most trees I knew weren’t able to defend themselves against threats. Tarin was not a danger to the forest.
Tears poured out of my eyes like a river. I tried to pull myself together& save my friend! His body was swung around as if it was only a piece of fruit hanging from a branch. I was worried that all that movement would end up being the cause of his bones fracturing.
Then another plant appeared dashing toward us. I looked in horror as it opened its flower head that had razor sharp teeth ready to swallow Tarin. The tree that held him lowered his body into the towering flower’s jaws!
This was not what I thought would happen and on the first time that we set foot on this enchanted forest. It was time for me to head back home, and fast!
The sound of a ship being split apart startled me. I turned around & saw the ship being torn in half by the strength of some more branches.
I collapsed on my knees in defeat- ready to be the next person devoured by the enormous flower. I do hope they find replacements for us at work, soon. Hopefully, they will not try to track us down to this area of the dangerous island and enchanted forest.
EF: One Star - Would not recommend
My best friend Earl, a grade 920 ancillary wizard had just returned from EF (the Enchanted Forest) and was raving about it. The service was excellent, the potions were excurbulent and even the Maximalor security demons were helpful. And really, the Maximalors are generally at best aloof, they are contractors after all, so I questioned whether Earl had maybe sampled some of his own potions, if you know what I mean.
So I had one of my minions fly a basic tran-lobular pattern and enter the main meadow of the EF. At first I thought we had landed in the wrong dimension, even wizards make that mistake sometimes, it’s not like these transmutation spells come with a full user manual, but I digress. We asked one the Maximalors and he said we were in the right place, and then after looking at some sort of cue card said, “Welcome, we’re so glad you are here” in a sour monotone, obviously someone was looking to boost their customer satisfaction ratings.
We got our bearings and took off towards our destination,the plan was to first sample some of the less oblugata potions to see how they worked, then cross the bridge of infinite sorrows to get to the main potion factory, but then it all went wrong. We were met with a hailstorm of cranial warthog creatures, literally thousands of them. We tried to reach the Maximalor security HQ with our enchantment communicator, but they put us on hold. Yikes. So now we had to throw away more than 500 doses of death potion to make it through. And NOW the security demons called us back to ask us what the problem was….and I told them about it, perhaps with a bit more anger than I should have.
Once at the potion factory, I have to admit there was some really good stuff. They had sample stations for all the various potion mixes and even goblins (dressed in snappy uniforms) upon which we could test the potions before buying.
So once we paid the potion fees and taxes, we set out to exit through the meadow when I happened to glance at my bill. I was shocked. As it turned out, they had added both a gratuity (4,000 drekmas!) and it had disclaimer in fine print about how there was no guarantee on any products they sold.
So I approached the same security demon who had welcomed us and asked to speak to his manager. This did NOT go as expected. Instead of taking us to EF customer service, this wise guy fires up a level 47 paralyzing potion fog, and if I hadn’t seen that coming, we would still be there, dead.
So we escaped with our lives and what turned out to be cut-rate potions. I couldn’t get a hold of Earl, I think he was a shil for the EF. He blocked my number thereafter.
A gnome in the woods tucked under the roots in his stumpy home atop the hill. Raindrops fall down from lichen gutters. His rosy cheeks accentuate his smile and I nod hello as I pass by.
I come to a bridge in the middle of the forest with moss railings and fern end beams. Golden rays shine through the canopy and hit the bridge deck. The troll below hides from the glittery rays.
A creek babbles and the waterfall hums. The song becomes decipherable the deeper I go into the valley. I stop for a moment and through the spruce boughs I see the elves singing their river melodies.
Skunk cabbage flutters and catches my eye, white contrasting with the green and yellow like daisies in a meadow. The unicorn holds my gaze before it bounds off into the trees.
White orbs of cottongrass frame the muskeg pond, lily pads float between raindrops. A dragon fly hovers above the water and asks me how I liked the forest.
“Sire, the tsunami warning has sounded. We must FIGure out what do? We don't have much time!”
King OAKingham looked thoughtful but knew his next few words would change the future of trees and their relationship with humans forever.
“Okay, spread the word, we must LEAF here immediately and BRANCH out to head for higher ground!”
“But, Sire, the humans...”
“FIRstly, we have no choice. Our forest is too close to the BEECH. We will all die.” The king picked up his hELMet and put it on.
The king's pet WILLOW started WEEPING, but reluctantly followed and jumped onto the king's back and hugged him tightly, already PINEing for home.
The king's Secretary's face turned ASHen and he was sweating profusely. He wiped his PALM across his forehead and then passed the word, like a whisper through the leaves rustling and one by one the trees lifted up their roots, shook off the soil and began marching away from the coast.
Jeff looked up from his campfire, where he had just placed another log and was startled to see the forest heading towards him. He shook his head in disbelief and stood up, he was PLUM in the middle as the trees closed in. He began to back away and bumped into the APPLE tree behind him. The branches closed around his neck and the last thing he heard before being strangled was a voice that sounded like “revenge for chopping my baby down!”
The local Police were receiving dozens of calls about the forest moving away from the sea towards MAGNOLIA hill and decided to confront them at the entrance to MAPLE park. Dozens of the police set up a roadblock, but the trees marched closer.
“Captain LARCH, we must conCED 'AR town. It apPEARs we've got no chance!"
Moss and Silver with Hollow Eyes
A group of my friends and I walk through the woods to reach a town on the other side. So far, it's been a peaceful trip. Sky blue and sunlight peeking through the trees, which shielded us with shade. Birds chirping in their nests, animals scurrying far and near, and the sound of a flowing river every now and then.
Mike stops to take pictures of the plants while Jen complains about the bugs again. Sarah and Tina chat like normal besties and share the wildlife experience together. Kevin tells us stories of his camping trips from childhood and gave us tips. Jeff tries to scare Jen with a lizard he found, which resulted in Jen punching his arm. Greg was our guide with the map and lead us with confidence and care. I walk last while listening to my friends and enjoying myself blissfully. This is nice, I thought.
However, from the corner of my eye, I noticed something pink on the earthen ground. I stop and went closer to it and move the leaves and grass aside. A small, fragile baby bird without any feathers, had fallen from its nest. How sad, but it was still alive. I've never touched a forest animal before, but I don't want to leave it alone. It's a life, right? Strangely, I knew I couldn't just casually touch this featherless bird directly. So I gently scoop up the dirt underneath and pick up the bird on its earthen bed.
Suddenly, I hear all my friends screaming.
I rush ahead as carefully as I could, avoiding rocks and logs, but immediately froze by the scene before me. My friends scatted yet entangled by thick roots constricting them. Everyone frantically screams while the roots slowly wrap around their mouths and faces. But what made me froze was not the roots. It was the THING controlling them.
Towering over us humans was a giant moss-covered creature, at least 8 or 9 ft high, with blackish claws, wood-like antlers, and a snake-like body that shimmers from the sunlight. It has an elk's skull for a face and behind that vine-like hair are two glowing eyes. Those eyes lit up with rage in those hollow sockets as the creature roars in fury, shaking the earth itself. A monster in the forest?! For real?! My brain tries to process this, but a silly yet hopeful idea comes straight to mind.
I ran toward the monster and slide down on to my knees and kneel. This time, the monster froze. I raise the baby bird over my head and with a trembling voice, I pleaded.
"P-Please . . . Find its parents . . ."
My head hung low, my heart pounding, and the monster unmoving as a tree. Everyone was quiet until the roots start unwinding themselves. One by one, my friends fall to the ground finally able to breathe again. The roots return to the soil while I pray for the creature to leave. I hear it moving again as it gently scoops up the baby bird from off my palms. The creature turns its back on us and slithers away. It leaves the area and we remain unscathed.
We quickly rush to her side but could not easily forget about that encounter.
Anomaly: the last chapter
From a dead wife who had been inexplicably resurrected to days missing from the Google calendar, from the ghostly appearance of people only he and his research assistant remembered to an audience with an octopus queen at the bottom of an alien ocean, it would be fair to say that many strange things had befallen Deke Jones that day.
Perhaps the strangest was yet to come, he thought as he stepped through the centre of the extra-terrestrial teleportation device.
He had no idea where he would end up, so was not too surprised to find himself in the middle of a forest. At least he was still in his own body, he thought with relief as he immediately checked his arms, body and legs.
A yard from him was Vaughn Lynton, a man he had recently met and who he did not believe had committed the murders the authorities suspected him of. Along with Roman Zorić and three alien octopuses, they were the only people to remember a past which was ever-changing.
In the past they shared, Deke’s wife had been killed in a car accident, Deke’s neighbours had a seven-year-old son and Marika Nowicki had been employed as the university receptionist. Upon waking that morning, Deke discovered his wife was alive but neither Jayke nor Marika had existed. What made matters more confusing was that Deke could see their spirits.
As Deke, Roman and Rosemary had consulted with William Bradshaw and Esme Sinfield, Bradshaw had suddenly disappeared, replaced by a Chō Morishita. While Deke and Roman had been shocked by this, neither Rosemary, Esme nor Chō seemed affected. They had no recollection of Bradshaw. Later, when Esme had similarly vanished, Rosemary and Chō expressed no memory of her.
Clueless to the cause of these bizarre events, they had considered either a collision of dimensional planes or that sections of the past were disappearing. If the day Rosemary had been killed no longer existed, she could not have died. Equally, if the days Marika, Jayke, Bradshaw and Esme had been born were erased, they would not have lived.
It was the latter theory that Queen, the leader of the alien octopus race, had deemed correct. She had stated her scientists had confirmed the source of these time anomalies was on Earth and had tasked Deke, Roman and Vaughn with finding and stopping the thief before all of history had been obliterated. To ensure her orders were followed, Queen had permitted the consciousness of three of her subjects to join the men.
Deke looked around expectantly. He did not have to wait long before Roman arrived, appearing from nowhere. Deke had a gut feeling his research assistant would follow. Whatever was occurring, only these three men – and their cephalopod escorts – were unaffected by the changes in time. He suspected that was because of something they would encounter here at the source.
‘Where are we?’ Roman asked.
‘Romania,’ Vaughn replied. He showed them his phone. ‘GPS still works.’
‘And how do we find… whoever or whatever we’re looking for?’
‘You could ask me.’
Deke spun around. The voice seemed to have come from behind the trees ahead of him. He peered into the gloom but saw nothing. His eyes were drawn to a gnarly tree trunk and he realised he was experiencing pareidolia; the knots and marks in the bark made the impression of a face.
‘But I can’t promise I would know whomever or whatever it is that you seek’, the face said.
‘You’re a talking tree,’ Deke said. He was accepting everything today.
‘Trees don’t talk,’ the talking tree said. ‘At least, not in English.’
The entity moved and Deke saw that it wasn’t a tree after all. It had two thick, squat legs and a long body topped with a head of the same width. It didn’t appear to have a neck or any arms. All over its torso, legs and head were leaves of various shape and size, as though it had fashioned clothes from the forest around it. As Deke watched, a leaf broke free and drifted to the ground.
‘What are you?’ Roman asked.
The face of the tree-not-tree looked affronted by the question.
‘An ent,’ Vaughn said.
‘What is an ent?’ it asked. ‘Is it an ent you seek?’
‘We don’t know what we’re looking for,’ Deke admitted.
‘Wait a minute,’ Roman said. ‘You said trees don’t talk in English.’
‘It is true,’ the creature said. ‘Trees do not speak a language that can be heard by the ears.’
‘No, but why are you speaking English?’ Roman asked. ‘We’re in Romania. Shouldn’t you be speaking Romanian?’
Shaking its tree-head slowly and causing another leaf to float loose, the native said, ‘I do not know what Romania is. I am speaking the only language I know.’
‘Vaughn, check your GPS again,’ Deke instructed as he pulled out his own phone. He opened his locator app and watched as a hologram of the planet spun and zoomed in until his bearings were reported: Nova Scotia.
‘We’re not in Romania,’ Vaugn confirmed. ‘We’re in Taiwan.’
‘Madagascar,’ Roman added, looking at his own phone.
‘We’re not speaking English, are we?’ Deke asked the not-an-ent.
‘We are speaking the only language needed.’
‘Do you know where we are?’ Deke asked.
Deke felt his frustration grow at the creature’s evasive answers, but he was not sure if he was feeling his own annoyance or that of his octopus passenger. Possibly both.
‘But where is here?’
‘Here is here,’ it said. ‘The place that was, that is and that will be.’
‘Eden?’ Vaughn suggested.
‘I do not know what Eden is.’
‘Are there any other… residents here?’ Deke asked.
‘There are trees and grasses and mosses,’ it replied. ‘There are rabbits and worms and doves. There are wisps and breezes and starbeams. Who is it that you seek?’ it asked.
‘There is someone here that is destroying our home,’ Roman answered. ‘Our past is being stolen by something that is happening here.’
‘Nothing here would destroy,’ the creature said as an oak leaf fell from its head. ‘Here is devoted to creation only.’
‘You said there are rabbits and doves,’ Vaughn said. ‘They eat the grass, and berries and seeds. Do you not see that as destroying?’
Roman nodded in agreement. ‘In that fashion, it is nature’s way to destroy.’
‘No,’ the thing said. ‘It is nature’s way to dream. This is how the rabbits and the doves – and the tiger cubs and the ivies and the spiders – survive here. They live, and they create.’
‘What do they create?’ Deke asked.
‘But dreams are not stealing our past,’ Roman argued.
‘Dreams,’ Deke muttered under his breath.
In this strange forest, in a place unlocatable by global satellites, a talking not-tree spoke of a pseudo-paradise in which the inhabitants created dreams simply by existing. Could there be a place that was tied to Earth yet not of the earth? A place where dreams were born.
‘Is this place imagination?’ he said out loud.
Deke felt Roman’s and Vaughn’s gazes fall on him. The creature looked at him in silence. A maple leaf drifted away from it. Deke realised the leaves were not part of its clothing.
‘You’re dying,’ he whispered.
The thing nodded sadly.
‘We create dreams here,’ it said, ‘but this place is in turn created by dreams. Dreams not of ours, but of others. For some time now, we have felt a loss of that which keeps us alive.’
Another leaf sprang free from the entity and Deke felt the loss of something from his past. His sixteenth birthday, the time he had spent with Skye Kendrick. The night she had made him a man.
‘You’re not stealing our past,’ Deke said, ‘you are our past.’
‘I’m not sure I’m following this,’ Vaughn said.
‘This place is not on our maps,’ Deke explained, ‘because it doesn’t exist in the real world. Call it a dreamscape or a collective subconscious, this is the place that fuels our imagination.’
‘But it is fed by something from our world,’ Roman said.
‘Like… magic?’ Vaughn said incredulously.
Deke turned to face him. ‘Yes. Magic, exactly.’
‘I was being sarcastic.’
‘Of course you were. Because magic doesn’t exist, does it?’
‘No,’ Vaughn answered. ‘We have technology.’
‘And science. God, I can’t believe I was so stupid. Last month, I gave a seven-year-old boy a chemistry set. How is that supposed to feed his imagination? Why didn’t I get him a story book?’
‘Like Enid Blyton,’ Roman said.
‘Wait,’ Vaughn said. ‘She’s been banned.’
‘Exactly,’ Deke said, almost screaming with the revelation. ‘Blyton and Carol and Potter and Kipling. We’re no longer allowed to teach our kids to dream. We want them to grow up and understand the real world, the working world, and it is costing them their imagination.’
‘Which keeps this place alive,’ Vaughn said, finally catching on.
‘Yes,’ Deke agreed. ‘By trying to deny our past, we are causing it to literally disappear.’
In the middle of a dark, deserted and murky street was a night club with people enjoying and dancing and amongst them were two girls just as jolly and mirthful as the others but you never know what lies in the future.
“I think its quite late… Lets leave before we miss the one bus that travels through this route”, said Phoebe while looking at her pastel pink watch.
“Oh come Phoebe, there are still fifteen minutes before the bus arrives, we can hang out till then.”
“No Stephanie it’s a working day, maybe the bus arrives early today…. Who knows and I don’t want to miss it like the last time I did BECAUSE OF YOU!”
“FINE… I’m coming with you”.
They had been standing there since the past five minutes and to their surprise the bus arrived early and since it was a working day, it wasn’t that full unlike weekends in which the whole bus is occupied to a point where a person could even die from asphyxiation.
“Huh see, what did I tell you, it’s a working day. Now if we would have been partying inside we would have missed the bus again because of you.”
“Yeah, Ok…. You’re always right, now can we go in.”
Phoebe made a proud face while rolling her eyes and they both sat in the bus. The drinks they drank on their way out kicked in quite quick and soon they both were asleep resting their heads on each others shoulders.
After a smooth ride the bus stopped. Both of them were fast asleep but after a while Phoebe woke up and found herself along with Stephanie in the middle of the woods. The bus was empty and not just empty, it was covered in dust and cobwebs. It looked quite old and this superannuated condition of the bus raised a million questions in Phoebe’s head along with this one question ,“ How did I end up in the middle of the forest inside such an archaic bus.”
With a mind flooded with questions and with a heart beating loudly, Phoebe woke Stephanie up, or atleast she tried to.
“What the hell Phoebe! What is it, why are you shaking me… Are we home.”
“Steph, for the love of god please wake up and look around…. Look where we are.”
Stephanie while sensing the fear in her voice opened her eyes and looked around.
After a moment of silence she said, “OH MY GOD! Are we in the woods inside a dusty old bus….Wait, where are we.”
“I don’t know ok. I woke up to this too and I am equally as curious and terrified as you.”
“Why didn’t you wake me up Phoebe! Well any way first lets get out of this creepy bus.”
Phoebe while staring at Stephanie got out of the bus only to find out that they were surrounded by trees from all four sides. The darkness and the silence of the woods sent a shiver down her spine and made her feet numb preventing her to take even one step forward. She turned her head around and saw Stephanie sitting on the platform of the bus with her hand on her head and a confused expression on her face. Watching her so appalled, Phoebe mustered up some courage, comforted her and they both went straight to seek help.
Little did they know what fate had in it for them and how dreadful their life was about to become with a few decisions of their own.
“Hey, Phoebe look I see a mansion nearby, maybe we can spend the night there.”
“It looks abandoned, please lets not keep such creepy things in our options.”
“Do we have any other options…. I mean I am clearly freaking out in this forest and not to mention, this forest is the most creepiest place ever.”
“I mean I’m not sure Steph, this mansion clearly looks like a nightmare inside a nightmare.”
“Right so we don’t have any other options. Either we spend the night there or in this jungle in which there are definitely lots of insects and maybe some predators roaming around too.”
“Since when did you become so brave, I mean the last time I remember, I saw you totally freaked out sitting on the bus’s platform as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Phoebe, honey listen, we are clearly out of options and this mansion is our last resort so we have to do something… PLEASE!”
“Ok, fine I get it. You win, lets go”
Both the friends headed towards that mansion but as they got closer, they discovered that someone was actually living in there. The mansion wasn’t totally dark, instead the lights of some of the rooms were turned on.
“How can someone live in a mansion in the middle of nowhere… Ugh, I definitely can’t.” Phoebe said while making faces. But the thought of someone living in there gave them more courage and they confidently walked towards the door to seek help. Little did they know that the mansion they are about to enter has no such things as human beings.
As they got closer they could hear people walking so they knocked at the door.
“Hi, how can I help you”, asked a lady with red hair wearing a long grey gown.
“Hello, I am Stephanie and this is my friend Phoebe, we lost our way in the woods…… Actually we don’t even know how we ended up in the woods and now that we are here we cannot find our way out so we were thinking if we could spend the night here. We will leave as soon as the sun rises….. This forest gives me the creeps.”
“Oh dear, don’t worry, you can stay here as long as you like… We would be really happy.” The lady sounded quite kind and caring and let both the girls in.
“Who is it mother,” a girl came from behind wearing the same grey gown as the woman.
“Oh no one dear, just some visitors who lost their way in the woods, please show them their room….. Oh and I just forgot the introduction, girls this is Laurel and Laurel this is Stephanie and Phoebe, hope you girls will feel comfortable in our company.”
Soon after both the girls were settled in their rooms, they were called in the living room for dinner.
“Oh God, how many women actually live here, there are so many”, Stephanie said in astonishment. Phoebe too was quite surprised but those hunger pangs prevented them from even thinking about anything else except that they were starving and desperately needed food.
After filling up their stomachs with a delicious meal and a long session of introductions both went to their beds and slept.
In the middle of the night, a loud thumping sound woke both the girls up and froze them in their own beds. Mustering up courage both the girls held each others hands and headed towards the basement from where the voice was actually coming. They had reached the stairs when the woman everyone called mother meddled in between, “What is this sound. Is everything alright”, Stephanie asked worriedly.
“Oh, it’s nothing… Just go to your rooms and sleep, everything will be fine”, mother seemed rather calm.
“No but there is something going on, please tell us”, Stephanie remained adamant.
“WHEN I SAY GO TO YOUR ROOMS, I MEAN IT”, mother shouted.
“Perhaps minding your own business would prove rather beneficial to you”.
Although her tone became polite but the way she was acting was quite weird. Her facial expressions were scary and her look was terrifying.
Phoebe did what she was told and kept herself out of this but Stephanie due to her inquisitive and nosy nature couldn’t help it.
“What is up with this woman, she is behaving so weird”, Stephanie said while making an irritated face.
“Forget about the weirdness, did you just check out her facial expressions and her tone. It was so scary”, Phoebe said.
“You know what forget all of it, I am going to check out what is happening in the basement, are you coming.”
Although Phoebe was scared but part her was curious too so she followed Stephanie. On reaching the basement both were frozen at the sight of blood on two ladies standing and staring at them with their eyes wide open and a broad smile on their faces. One of them was holding nails and the other one a hammer. Those two horror- stricken girls turned around only to find out the terrifying mother standing four feet away from them. Suddenly the lights started to flicker and it was dark. The next moment the basement was fully lit and mother was standing straight in Phoebe’s face with eyes wide open and a big broad smile. Slowly that smile faded away. She was abnormally cold and her skin was white and wrinkled.
“I TOLD YOU TO STAY IN YOUR ROOM”, she shouted while throwing both the girls in opposite directions.
Suddenly her eyes turned white and her pupils constricted forming a tiny black spot in the center. Her face became more wrinkled and black lines started to appear on her face. Her mouth bled which covered most of the area of her lips with blood.
Both the girls were petrified and baffled when Stephanie noticed something wetting her pajamas. She turned her head to the left and noticed a girl with messed up black hair lying next to her. Her throat was slit and was bleeding and her eyes were wide open but they were completely white. When Stephanie turned her head to the front that girl was found sitting in front of her giving her that deadly smile but in the blink of an eye, she vanished. Her heart was pounding, she wanted to scream but fear suppressed her voice, she wanted to beg for her life but words were stuck inside her dry throat and every second felt like a living hell.
On the other hand Phoebe was dumbfound after seeing coffins with their names written on it. She could not even move her head. Fear had taken over her body like deadly parasite and was weakening her from the inside. She was shivering with every voice trapped behind her parched lips.
“So now, who volunteers to go first…. I suspect the nosy one, what’s the name again….. Stephanie! Yes, what do you say dear.”
She headed toward Stephanie and then knelt down. Stephanie trembling with fear started to move back but was stopped by a wall. She felt helpless, felt as if life was slipping out of her hands and any second she would be lying in a coffin.
“Come on dear, tell me before I lose my cool…. You wouldn’t want to bear any consequences of my wrath.” Her tone was polite but her psychotic expressions and ghostly look was enough to scare the living daylights out of someone.
“Who are you! What do you want”, Phoebe stammered while asking.
The woman turned her head around in the blink of an eye, stood up and walked alacritously towards Phoebe. She grabbed her by the throat and started choking her.
“Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, DONOT INTERUPT ME WHILE I AM SPEAKING”, she shouted.
“Well if you really want to know, then I’d rather show you.”
Suddenly, the passage that led further into the basement that was initially dark, was lit by a hanging bulb and there laid a number of dead bodies. One of them was Laurel’s with her throat slit.
“You see, we all live together as a family for eternity….. Us immortal souls welcome those who have lost their way, perhaps all they need is someone who can protect them and you needn’t worry my little girls, I will provide you a home….. A home where all us lost souls live together and we are imperishable”, she said while putting her cold wrinkled hands on Phoebe’s face.
Suddenly Stephanie stood up and ran up the stairs towards the door. Mother turned her head around in anger with her face bearing more black lines and her eyes becoming more white.
“You girls never understand do you”, mother said while standing up, the lights flickered and the next moment she disappeared.
At the same time Laurel came down but she looked more human. Phoebe hastily moved herself to the back with the help of her hands. This whole time all she wanted was to scream but her body became so weak with the fear that she could not even speak properly.
“Look sister, mother might seem a bit rude but this place is meant for us. Mother gives us shelter, treats us like her own children, does everything a mother would do….. Everything her mother didn’t do for her. She provides us protection….. Protection from harmful people. Her mother never protected her from harmful people, especially from her father but she is nothing like her mother. She is protective and that is why she wants you to join our family so that no one can ever harm you.”
“I don’t want to die….. Please I don’t want to die”, Phoebe started crying and begging for her life.
“No, you won’t die… You’ll be one of us”, she stood up and slowly walked away in the dark.
Suddenly the screams of mother echoed in the whole house.
“YOU IMPUDENT HUMAN! YOU THINK YOU CAN DISOBEY ME AND RUN AWAY FROM ME.”
Phoebe ran up the stairs assuming her friend was in danger but she was too late. She saw Stephanie drenched in blood with her throat slit. She was taken aback by this sight and sat there for a few minutes trying to grasp the idea of what she had just seen. Having no idea what to do next whilst still being in shock she stood up and turned around. Mother along with dozens of other terrifying ghosts was standing in front of her holding a dagger covered in blood and the next moment she was gone. All she remembers was that she was struggling for oxygen while bearing excruciating pain and then everything became dark, the pain faded away too.
The next instant both the girls found themselves in a room wearing the same long grey gown as other the women in that house. They were unexpectedly safe and sound with no cut marks of the dagger on their body.
“Look mother, they are awake”, a girl ran down the stairs. After hearing this both the girls were struck with terror again.
A few minutes later mother arrived, “How wonderful this is to see the two new members of our family”. This time her look was not at all frightening, instead she seemed to be rather human.
“First you terrorize us, then kill us and then call us family. We are not your family”, Stephanie said with a cracked voice.
“Oh dear, I just saved you from all the bad happening outside this house. I am not a monster you both think I am. Instead my father was a monster, an animal who killed me and god knows how many other monsters like him are living in the outside world.” Mother seemed quite sad whilst vengeful while uttering these words.
She sat down and sighed, “My father was of an abusive kind….. Whenever he would be angry he would torment me and my mother. One day his abuse crossed its limits which resulted in the death of my mother. This devastated me to a point where I could not think about anything else except that I wanted to kill my father and get revenge for my mother but unfortunately there was a turn of events that led to my murder. My father had learned about my sinister plans or maybe he had already planned to kill me right after my mothers death. The bus you rode was the bus in which my father had slashed my throat and those passengers in the bus were all victims of my fathers hate. After murdering me he dumped me in this very same house which I now regard as a place for protection where we all live as a family.”
“But mother, we did not need protection from anyone…. We were never victimized then why did you do this to us”, Phoebe interrupted.
“You never know when you become a target of someone so immoral. All I did was protect you girls from the outside world, gave you place where we all can live as a family, as a power and needn’t you girls defy me or the consequences of my wrath would be rather distressing. ” Mother seemed quite firm in her words.
She then stood up and said, “We are here to provide protection to girls and in order to do so your cooperation is required. It would be appreciated if you both welcome visitors with open arms because after all I am doing what is best for everyone.” She smiled and walked away.
Both Phoebe and Stephanie were taken aback by the fact that they were practically dead and a part of this creepy family but mother sounded quite stern and since they were given no choice, they had to stick to this family of ghosts.
A few months later, on a dark, rainy night there was a sudden knock on the door and there stood a couple all wet and cold. Like every other visitor they were given a warm welcome. They were provided food, clothes and all the other items they requested for unaware of what the future holds.
“Thankyou so much for your help young lady, is there anything we can do for you”, the husband said.
Mother having devious plans cooking in her mind spoke, “ Well, perhaps there is something you can do for me”.
She then stabbed the guy in the head instantly killing him. This unbelievable yet terrifying sight rendered the woman unconscious. Suddenly mothers eyes became white. Her entire look changed and she turned into a frightening monster.
“These girls, they just don’t seem to understand the threat they face while having a man by their side….. Well now she needn’t fear anyone because she is one of us now”, she said in psychotic tone while giving a broad whilst deadly smile to Phoebe and Stephanie who gave the same smile in return and the cycle repeated itself again.
It was the only place we could ever be alone together.
An ancient sanctuary that cast long shadows & stood proud like an impenetrable fortress.
A place where the rest of the world could not enter & where the veil between worlds no longer existed.
A place where only the indifferent eyes of the forest animals and the Guardian Fay could see us.
His family could never accept the truth.
Mine would never accept him.
Yet, ever since that fateful day, when I was alone with my somber thoughts in my secret place and he found me, our hearts have been irreversibly intertwined.
His blue-green eyes danced with my own golden brown. In that instant, somewhere deep inside, we both felt it - an inexplicable sigh of relief. As if though our souls had been holding their breaths until that very moment and they suddenly remembered how to breathe again.
Even the green wood around us seemed to awaken from its’ silent reverie - a gentle breeze rustling the leaves of the trees and letting sunbeams shine through the canopy of branches to alight on us. Birdsong emanated from somewhere nearby - their voices, unknowingly to us at the time, anouncing the work of destiny.
His gaze was piercing - like an arrow to my heart.
My eyes both moved and transfixed him - like an icy fire in his veins.
I had never seen someone so handsome before.
Even in his dishevelled state, he stood tall and strong.
His chestnut hair fell just above his long lashes, which, along with strong cheekbones and a rosy flush, framed his beautiful eyes.
His lips, full and enticingly pink, slowly turned upwards into a soft smile.
His dress, though strange in fashion, was woven of the finest fabrics - alluding to his station in the world.
When he spoke - it was the deep, undulating, and rich tones of a baritone cello.
I felt myself smiling back warmly at him - and our fates were sealed.
We spoke that day of everything and nothing all at once, as if we’d known each other for lifetimes rather the few moments the Sun declared. Before we could notice, the hours flew by, and the Moon began to dance her way into the sky.
Niether of us wanted to part ways, but propreity forced us to.
With a promise to meet again on the morrow, we bade each other goodnight and left - feeling lighter and fuller than either of us had ever felt before.
And so our chance meeting turned into days, weeks, and months of us meeting in our private safe haven - Each moment together becoming more and more intimate than the last.
Some days we played and laughed like children.
Others, we comforted each other from the pain and stress the outside world inflicted on us - the weight of our stations and lineages burdening us.
Then it happened.
One day, as we played on the overgrown ruins of an ancient Fay temple, he caught hold of me, pressed me close to his firm body and did not let go.
I laughed jovially until I caught myself trapped gazing at the warm and tender look in his eyes. They were like the sea amid a raging storm - countless thoughts and emotions swimming through them. His soft expression held me & then, as if in a trance, he pressed his lips to mine.
My soul soared within me & without thought my hand flew up to caress his cheek as the kiss deepened.
He pulled away to catch his breath for a second before his placing another soft kiss to my forehead.
“I love you...” he whispered.
His grip on me tightened, as if afraid I would vanish in that instant.
“I want to be like this, with you, forever...”
Tears, unbidden, sprung from my eyes. Joy and sorrow raging within me.
I held his face in my hands, his beard stubble scratching warmly against my palms, and kissed him once more - savouring the taste and the feel of him.
“I love you, my heart is yours - always....”
He wiped my tears with his thumb...understanding passing through him as I spoke the next words.
“But they will never let us be... This is forbiden and they will stop at nothing to keep us apart.”
We held each other as my words sunk in. His nose buried itself into my hair and breathed in deeply.
″ I don’t care...”
He stepped away from me for a moment, only to kneel on the grass beneath us and pull me down with him. He held both my hands firmly clasped in his own, as if in prayer.
His eyes became serious and, in the distance, I could feel the presence of the Fay Guardians observing us with interest, their power forcing even the lost spirits of the woods and the fauna to turn to us.
My heart beat wildly within as he spoke, each word radiating such power that I could feel its vibration flow through me, through the air around us, and the earth beneath us.
“This is a vow that cannot be broken.
My fate, my heart, and my soul unto you, and only you, do I bind.
No matter the consequence, no matter the cost, no matter the time,
to you, my true love, all of myself I bind.
Niether the Earth, the Seas, nor the Heavens shall keep me
Nor shall the beasts nor Man best me.
I will always find my way back to you, I will always keep my love and my promise to you true.
All my labours and trials will be for you, because all of me I bind, from now until the end of time, to you.”
He reached for the signet ring that sat on his left hand, a proud symbol of his birthright and status. In a swift motion, he stamped it into the Earth before pulling it off his finger and slipping it onto mine.
The gilded piece felt ablaze as it carressed my skin and settled swiftly into its place - as if it were mine all along.
My soul stirred within me, and without a second thought I let it take hold.
I reached around my collar and unclasped the necklace that hung there - a heavy weight that marked both my ancient lineage and me as the "infante" of my people.
The trees around us groaned and swayed as a strong gust of wind swept through them. On its breath was the scent of rain.
“I accept this vow that has been spoken,
and, in turn, offer this - a sacred token.
My heart, my soul, my fate I bind to you
Because I know your love to be true.
Your heart and mine will forever beat as one.
These vows shall be protected by The Divine, The Moon & The Sun.”
I wrapped the silver chain around his neck, his pulse beating fiercly against my wrist as I latched the clasp into place.
My hand followed the chain down to the glimmering pendant and held it for a moment before he reached up to feel it too. The metal, shaped like a crescent moon eclipsing a sun, caught the light and glowed for a moment.
He looked at me, eyes intense, before kissing me firmly once more.
There was a clap of thunder & in an instant the sky let loose a great shower of cool rain.
We laughed and began to run for cover.
Our hands never once letting go of the other.
We were happy, living out this secret love affair, for a time.
The faint glow of a lantern or the resplendent shine of the full Moon guided us through the labrynth of trees on the nights we couldn't bare to be away from each other.
We became careless.
One Moonless night, while our hearts beat in intimate embrace, we were caught.
A bitterly jealous maiden followed him that night to see what secret he held, to find the reason why he would not take her hand or reciprocate her affection.
She made no noise - simply observed with vengeful eyes and then left to indicte us to our families.
Her tale poisoned their hearts against us.
His family was ruthless.
He was beaten and lashed soundly with iron tipped whips before they sent him far away - heavily guarded by mercenaries at all times.
He tried many times to escape.
His body bore the marks of every punishment he recieved for his disobedience. He did not care.
His eyes and ears searched for any news of my fate. Even when the beating began to become more violent and his body lay broken for extended lengths of time.
The poison which so enraged my family drove the Patriarch to extreme fury. It was inconcievable that one of his own and of high rank would engage in such heresy. I was imprisoned for a brief moment while he gave into dark impulses and began to 'cleanse' his court by first murdering his wife, and then his servants. In his madness, and as I fled to the forest after escaping my prison, he rode his mount furiously. With the eyes of a hawk he set his target upon me and let loose an arrow.
My death was almost instant - the arrowhead sticking out from within my chest assured that. I couldn't scream, I could barely lift my arms to touch the fatal wound. I looked ahead to the eyes of the Fay just beyond the trees.
My body fell lifeless at the foot of the forest at the same moment my spirit walked out of it and stepped past the first trees in the wood.
The patriarch approached the cadaver - contempt and malice on his proud face, blind to the spirit that stood before or the Fay observing. He held no remorse for murdering his family or his youngest son before him now.
He unsaddled from the horse and withdrew a great broadsword - Intent on removing my head and using it as a prop to instill a reign of fear within our people.
He lifted his sword, and, in what can only be called divine retribution, was struck not once, but thrice by thunderous bolts of lightening. He screamed in agonizing pain as his flesh burned - the jeweled and metal adornements he wore glowed red and crackled as they broiled him alive.
From within the woods, The Fay watched, apathetic to his wails.
Even as his charred and smoking corpse fell to the ground, they stood still as statues.
They waited for another.
For the first time, I could see them clearly.
Tall, exquisite, and radiant beings.
Their eyes befell me and I felt their voices echo in my mind
“Come....Come to us, child.
Our Forest Prince has arrived at last!”
I cast one last sorrowful glance at my lifeless body and the tall towers of my ex home in the distance before turning and walking forward into the embrace of my new forest folk.
Their ancient tongue became as mine, their vast knowledge was my own, and the trees and wind that blew around us now beckond to my every call. This new family held me close to their hearts and nurtured my liberated spirit.
Yet, Despite their warmth and tenderness. They could not protect me from the deep sorrow and longing that invaded my being each night as I awaited my lost love. This new life, though warm and welcoming, kept me bound to the Forest.
They knew of this and let me be, gaurding the woods all around me as I held a signet ring close to my heart.
Their vision into the future, though sometimes shared, was one thing they kept to themselves and was still far beyond my understanding. They were Gaurdians of far more than just the trees.
The passage of time can be as cruel to spirits as it is to mortals, so I learned.
I sat and kept vigil in our secret place - waiting for the day he would come.
Each day and night felt longer and lonelier than the last...
One day, years after my own death and rebirth, as I held his ring close to my heart, I was overcome by unimaginable pain.
My entire being felt as if it had been set ablaze and I felt almost human again as an unholy scream ripped through me. I grasped onto the crumbling wall of the ruin I stood in and gasped for breath - quivering as the sensation passed.
Elsewhere, on the edge of the Forest, The Fay stood watch...awaiting once again.
Their ears deaf to the screams they heard in front and behind them.
The pain subsided completely and I could feel myself shudder - a breeze tickling my ethereal form.
I wandered over to where I could sit and held my hand to my chest, eyes glistening with invisible tears. Something had happened to him...I just knew it. The pain that had overcome me had happened to him.
Above, the canopy of trees swayed, Midday Sun poured into the green ruins and warmed my aether skin.
I sat still and listened to the words of the gales above...
It couldn't be true! He couldn't have died!
I buried my face into my hands, glittering stardust falling from eyes instead of the tears my human body had once shed. I couldn't leave the forest. I couldn't go see him or save him.
I felt myself about to begin sobbing when I felt it...
A strong ghostly hand alighted gently on my arm.
The touch almost too delicate - as if someone was handling fine glass.
I turned and found myself caught in the same beautiful oceanic gaze that I had bound myself to long ago.
″ I made a vow that could not be broken,
to always come back to you, to keep my promise of love true ”
My aether heart pulsed strongly and I felt myself filled with joy.
He lifted me into his arms and spun me around as we laughed like children once more. The ring on my finger sparkled, the pendant on his neck glowed, and when we kissed the forest around us shone radiantly bright - an explosion of light and life pervading through the thick trunks of all the trees and embedding itself into the soil and every fern.
We peppered each other with kisses and his warm embrace was so perfect.
He held me to his chest firmly, strong arms refusing to ever let me go again.
"I'm home..." he murmured softly into nape of my neck as he breathed me in.
"No... WE'RE home.." I smiled and snuggled into him more.
The Fay gathered around us and smiled warmly.
It was the only place we could ever be together.
An ancient sanctuary that cast long shadows & stood proud like an impenetrable fortress.
A place where the rest of the world could not enter & where the veil between worlds no longer existed.
A place where only the indifferent eyes of the forest animals and the Guardian Fay could see us.
It was our Enchanted Forest
It was our home....