My daily walks take me deep into the forest, and for some reason I have decided to go off the path today. The trees here seem taller, older, the forest talks to itself, creaking and whispering amongst each other. Limbs hang everywhere, moss draped over most of the branches, blanketing them for the winter. The air seems heavy and still, I try to continue but the silence becomes deafening and every step seems to echo between the trees. The gnarled and aged bark glowers at me as I pass each tree, every trunk covered in with texture, so much life, they have seen so much, so many years. I wonder as I stroll, the thoughts of the trees as yet another intruder walks among them. They seem so wise.
The stiff, crisp snow crunches beneath my feet, spring is coming. The days have grown warmer and the melt has caused the snow to become icy. I walk slowly, trying to take in the forest, breathing the clean crisp air, enjoying the rich smells of maple and oak, listening to the whispers of the forest. Life seems so far away here, I wish I could stay, never go back. Back to the world, it scares me, stress and uncertainty haunt me. The dark clouds of responsibility hang over me, the daily routines make my life dry, like a field parched and wishing for rain. Work is dull and grey, love is gone from my life only grief and sadness remains of a soul taken too soon from the world. Even co-workers seem distant and uncaring, worries often overwhelm and I struggle more days than I like. Here in the forest I am free, I do not feel the burdens. The walking relaxes me, calms me.
I press on, deeper into the forest and the silence is penetrating, I stop, I feel eyes on me. I look all around, examining every tree and rock, looking for a culprit. I have never before felt uneasy in this forest. It has always comforted me. My life invades my mind, burdens seem to return, and their weight pulls me down. This uneasy feeling presses on me, I want to turn and run, to get out of this place. I walk a little farther, hoping the movement will alleviate my troubles, but they only seem to get worse. I feel eyes again, I cannot shake the feeling I am being watched.
Suddenly off in the distance I see a dark shadow, still, still as the trees. Curiosity overwhelms my senses and I am forced to creep forward. The snow hindering my steps, I crunch on the icy ground; every step causes a shiver to run through me as I edge nearer. The stillness of the forest is abruptly torn away by a gust of wind, the tree tops sway and creak, their trunks screeching under the strain, their cries reverberating throughout the forest. I move as swiftly and quietly as I can, aided by the winds frightful presence. I move closer and closer, nearer and nearer. The form takes the shape of a man, still draped in shadow, the shape is not very tall, and seems to be bearded. As I get close enough to observe, It doesn’t seem to be wearing any clothes, I realize I am shaking, sweat dripping. Strangest of all, his skin seems the wrong colour, it is not pale as it should be. The statuesque shadow moves ever so slightly, it breathed. My muscles begin to cramp, nervous energy coursing through me.
I lean heavily on the gnarled trunk in front of me, peering carefully. I am tense, my whole body ready, adrenaline coursing through me. A metallic smell drifts into my nostrils. My skin crawls as realization slams into me, the air in my lungs suddenly disappears causing me to gasp and hold my breath simultaneously. His skin is red, dark red, blood red. He still does not seem to notice my stare. Crimson drips from his fingertips onto the crisp white snow, staining it. There is nothing else around we are completely alone among ancient statues of the forest. Time seems to have slowed, the forest stilled, silence has returned. My heart slamming into my ribcage, it’s pounding echoing in my ears. Then he turns, I see into his cold gray eyes, they pierce into me. I am frozen still, gripped with fear. I want to scream, to run, to get away, I have to escape.
My footfalls the only sounds, the forest is quiet, the leaves rustle under my feet. The light of day fades, orange and red scar the sky above the canopy. Darkness is coming, the night brings terrors. I move faster, my destination is not far. I listen, something’s footsteps closing in.