Tale of Forest Spirits.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived with her family at the edge of a grand forest. Her mother would tell her every night stories about imps and devils that lurk in the woods so the little girl would stay away.

And so she did, working the fields and playing in the yard, but never going anywhere close to the edge of the forest. This was difficult, as the girl was curious of the world around her and especially in hot summer days, when the sun would reach its peak and house’s shadow would run away, the lulling cover of the tree canopy seemed more and more enticing. But the girl loved her mother and did not get close to the trees.

One twilight, when the blazing sun set over the trees, dying the sky purple and pink, the little girl went outside to the well to get some cool water. The moment she turned the wheel, she looked up at the trees and saw two yellow eyes staring back at her. She let go of the well wheel and stared back, slowly, in the dim light making out the contours of a wolf.

The creature stared at her and slowly, without making a sound, turned around and slowly pranced deeper into the forest. Forgetting all her mother told her, the little girl followed the creature, curious as she has never seen one before. As the sun set, the girl made her way deeper into the woodlands, only streams of setting sunbeams lighting her path. The wolf went on and on without turning back and the little girl followed. The two beings traveled through a carpet of moss and dimming summer light, the girl always trying to catch up with the grey wolf, but it being nimble and quick would always stay ahead.

Suddenly the moss ended and the little girl emerged on a footpath. She looked to her left, then right, then straight ahead and realised that the wolf was gone and she was all alone in a vast, silent forest with barely any sunlight penetrating through the thick canopy of leaves. The girl chose the left side of the footpath and started walking, tired and thirsty. She barely held her tears in and hugged herself to keep warm.

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The shadows started playing tricks on her mind at the silvery dim light of summer night. There were imps her mother told her about at the side of the road, sneering and pointing fingers at her misfortune. There were witches, their hair hanging from the trees, their hips wide and unwieldy, their eyes relentlessly watching her.

As the light grew dimmer and shadows engulfed her path, the devils came out, their form never static, always changing and creeping in and out, leering at her, snatching and releasing her clothes, trying to trip her over. Suddenly the little girl heard sounds, as if someone was playing music and was hopeful and maybe there was an encampment ahead. She started running, but the closer she got, the more she realised the music was out of this world, strange and inspiring fear rather than joy. On the side of the road, around a large oak, she spied a group of devils and imp, just like in her mother’s stories, prancing around cold blue flame, cheering for two ghostly figures that were floating around each other seemingly in mid air. The girl swallowed a gasp and ran past without turning back, leaving the cheering and the music behind.

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On the wings of fear she ran, until she collapsed in the middle of the road. It was the dead of night, no starlight or moonlight to light her path, just ghostly wisps surrounding the road. The little girl cried out load, but only the rustling leaves answers and the darkness, seemingly growing around her. The colour left the world and as the little girl sat up, she saw no more silhouettes of trees or wisps in the distance, heard no more rustling of the leaves – only full, rumbling, changing darkness surrounded her, with mysteriously lit gravel of a path underneath her.

The girl went on, brushing tears off her face. She approached a threshold with seemingly nothing in front or after it, but the wooden structure scared her, eyes all over it, figures and devils sculpted out of dark wood and the closer she got, more clearly she saw a face materialising out of ebbing darkness behind the threshold. The girl stopped just two steps away from the structure and looked beyond, straight at the face: the eyes were slits and sent her spine crawling, the lips full and fat, the shape of the face pointy and bearded. A hand materialised next to that face, nails long and painfully shattered in places. The hand waved her over. The little girl took one step closer.

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A wolf’s howl rang in the little girl’s ear. She took a step back and the image in front of her disappeared into smoke, gravel into dust. She found herself in the forest as before, just it was much lighter, the sunrise was coming. She heard her name being yelled by several manly voices. She ran towards them.

She looked back before leaving the forest. The wolf was still there.

 

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