I knew the forest had its oddities. The trees were peculiar, warped and old. Despite this, they stood strong and endured any storm. It felt like a place where the evils of nature were born and thrived, a corruption that was gradually spreading. Yet, I would not ignore that beckoning voice. I had to find the source and put my mind at ease, no matter what lurked in the shadows.
Pin for Later!
When I entered the forest it was light out. Nothing appeared so sinister in the warmth of daylight, but something still felt wrong. The first that struck me was the silence. Even the creaking of the tall trees that swayed in the slight breeze felt muted. I knew that not much animal life lived in the forest, but I didn’t realise the lack of birds as well.
The only thing that moved and skittered in that forest were insects. Mainly dark beetles that crawled around tree trunks, into knotholes and under the dead leaves that crunched beneath my feet. It felt like the forest was rotted at its core, attracting vile looking insects to swarm over the carcass which I could smell wherever I walked.
Perhaps it would have been better to walk in the forest at night, perhaps the smell wouldn’t be as noxious without the heat of the sun warming it into a putrid odour.
It seemed my wish was to be granted. Either it was a plot against me or my general clumsiness that caused me to trip. I fell forward, my hands not raising into time to protect my head from the hard root that seemed to rise to meet me. I felt a throbbing pain and saw stars. Eventually, everything went dark.
When I finally awoke, I was greeted with an unwelcome sensation. Not only was my head pounding, the nausea of a concussion ever-looming, but I felt unseen insects crawling over my neck and face. One moved across my eye, which tipped my anxiety to the edge and I started assaulting the hidden bugs until I was free of them.
With a shake of revulsion, I took stock of where I was and what time it was while my head rectified itself.
I was sitting against a soft tree, it was night. Despite the darkness, moonlight found its way through the gaps in the treetops and lit most of the forest floor. It was just as silent in the forest at night as it was during the day. The only difference was that I could make out the voice calling me a lot more clearly.
It was a voice so alluring that I found myself getting up despite the dizziness and trudging towards it like a dead man walking. It was hard to tell if the voice was growing louder or simply echoing as if the trees themselves were speaking to me as I passed them.
The more trees I passed the more impatient I became until I started talking to the forest.
“What do you want from me?” I asked it first, then proceeded to curse it. “Where is she? How do you know me?”
The voice became voices. Some were mocking me, laughing at me. The softest voices were the most worrying, chanting something I could not understand. It took me a moment to realise it wasn’t English, but a strange form of Latin. If language could be compared to glass, what I was hearing were the shattered remnants of something old, repeating rhythmically until it cut through the laughter altogether.
At once, I realized it was a trap.
I had been brought into the forest with the promise of someone lost, someone familiar, but now I realised the voice was false. Like an item of clothing, something wore her voice and it was only by walking so far into the darkness I noticed how it didn’t fit.
Spinning on the spot, searching for the chanters, the source of the laughter and voices. Unable to see anything besides tall trees, I found myself losing my way until I came to a dead stop and yelled my anger at the emptiness. All at once, the sounds fell silent and all I heard was creaking trees.
The silence was made harsher by the beating of my heart, as I felt a presence in the silence that I did not feel when surrounded by the noise. Something was close and it was watching me, their cruel intent radiating strongly, helping me find them.
My eyes settled on a tree, one as thick and gnarled as all the others. Moonlight glinted off the dark sap that ran down it like inky blood. Upon reaching this tree, I saw something in a knothole, something too bright to be a beetle. It was light enough to stand out in the shadows. The dark lines and shapes made it familiar and at once I wished I never noticed it.
As familiar as the voice I was searching for.
It was her face, the woman I lost so long ago. She stared at me with wide, unmoving eyes, filled with some dark fear. A victim of the forest’s evil and now bait for me to meet the same fate. There was no escape.
Upon closer inspection, I saw her face moving, as if she were speaking, but without anything below the neck, she could not get the words out. A vile puppet made from the one I love, now outlived its usefulness.
I could hear it, the one that chanted among the cruel laughs. I could hear it gliding across the forest floor, ready to take me and hide me in an empty tree. I turned to face the one who did it, only to see the branches of a tree curl in towards me, to wrap around and constrict me while a faceless evil started to chant once more.
I saw them as darkness enveloped me. I saw the many fools that dared enter the forest to pursue a false promise. And now I am one of them.