In a moonlit forest of giant red trees, there stood a girl. No taller than the bushes of dark green that surrounded her, intertwined with thick thorns baring blood-red points. Her white nightgown stopped just short of her ankles, the girls’ bare feet on the frosted ground. The trees that towered above her locked out much of the light, leaving darkness to swarm amongst the thick trunks uncontested. Branches and leaves swayed and bent with a harsh wind that performed an unsettling symphony of rustling, cracking, and whispers that infested the girls’ ears.
Unafraid the girl began to move forwards. Each step was gentle, lighter than air, leaving each step behind on the tips of her toes to land gently on the balls of her feet. So graceful in her movement the forest seemed unaware of her presence for some time. Moving between the red trunks and what patches of moonlight she found, she floated with the grace of a dancer than of a lost scared child. Slipping through trappings of thorns unscathed and leaping over twisted roots that threatened to ensnare the inattentive and unwary. Above the chorus of the dark forest, a sweet sound could be heard. A soft melody that fought against the erratic sound of the winds. A song that went without a need to even breathe. A beautiful humming from the dancing child.
As the girl pranced deeper into the forest, she showed no signs of tiring, even as the forest seemed aggravated by her determination. The patches of moonlight seemed to fade before her, cruel arms of thorns whipped out against her, roots tangled themselves wickedly in her path, and the wind grew so vicious it threatened to cut flesh, tearing bark from the trees and pushing its wretched symphony to an infinite crescendo. Yet still the girl pushed on as if each attempt to harm her were but a simple game, ever confident in her step, moving effortlessly through the forest as if she were a river that had been there for millennia. Soon the tree tops became so thick that only one pale needle of moon light could be seen ahead and to look up showed no stars, no pretty jewels in the sky, only a black canvas held up by dark, peakless columns. The girl came to a sudden stop between two fallen trees. The trunks, several times her height alone, were only a few metres apart, their roots reaching across the gap to create a crude net. The fallen trees lay just before the pool of moonlight and stretched seemingly endlessly in opposite direction across the forest, their thick, scarred bark acting like an impenetrable prison for the light. Within the moonlit clearing there were no trees, or thorns, or roots, not even the wind struck this place there was only soft grass, and light. With a gentle sigh, the girl ducked through the net of roots and stepped into the middle of the pale light.
From within the clearing the girl surveyed her surroundings. Looking outside of the light to her left and right only the faint outline of the trees could be seen above the trunks of the fallen trees, and the sky was black except a pin break of white above where she stood. The clearing was large and comfortable compared to the claustrophobic spaces of the path she had taken. Ahead of the young girl was a large cliff face, the height of which matched the trees, jagged rocks spat out all across the face and random, vicious intervals, whilst the rest was a featureless slab, impossible to traverse. At the bottom of the cliff, across from the entrance of the clearing there was a black crack in the stone that fell down to a cave like a knife wound. It sat there an insult to the immortality of the rest of the mountainous form. The girl walked slowly until she was mere feet away from the cave entrance and stopped, looking deep within the darkness. The ground rumbled softly beneath her feet, a sound like distant thunder echoed from the cave, then all was calm and silent. Two white blades appeared high off of the ground within the darkness.
‘You’re healed.’ came a whisper from within the darkness.
‘Yes,’ replied the girl in an innocent voice. ‘Did you not hear me singing? It has been a wonderful day.’
The opaque eyes within the darkness blinked and narrowed, hovering up and down.
‘You know fully well that I didn’t.’ hissed the voice furiously.
‘Well that’s a shame, and to make things worse I can’t remember the tune now.’ said the girl disappointed, raising a hand to rub her chin. Leaning on her hip she tapped her foot as if making a display of trying to remember.
‘Yes, I’m bitterly disappointed.’ the creature said sarcastically, the ground rumbled once more as the eyes moved forward, growing larger just beyond the entrance to the cave.
‘Now now brother, behave yourself.’ The girl straightened up alert and outstretched her index finger as if trying to discipline a toddler. ‘You’ll have no chance tonight, I’m in far too good a move.’
‘Yes, of course my dear sister, I wouldn’t dream of it after today. I know how much you enjoy dancing.’ The voice replied. ‘And even I’ll admit the music was delightful.’
‘Oh it was brother, there was dancing and beautiful, wonderful people all around.’ The girl began to leap and spin in the light, her night-gown swaying with her movement like a ball gown, the uneven grass springing her higher with each step.
‘Yes, yes, yes sister. Though of course not all of them were wonderful, the incident with that… estranged couple was rather nasty don’t you think.’ The voice spoke softly, and the eyes lowered to closer to the height of the girl who had stopped dancing immediately upon mention of the incident.
‘It’s fine, they’re fine, I’m sure he was just drunk. Yeah that’s it.’ The girl spoke as though trying to convince herself more than the creature within the cave.
‘Are you sure, sister? It just seemed as though the young lady was wearing rather a lot of make up on her neck. Didn’t that strike you as unusual?’
‘What d-do you mean?’ quivered the girl. The earth shook violently beneath her and a sound like a thousand storms erupted around her. A forked tongue shot from the cave as if tasting the pale light that bathed the girl. Apparently uninhibited by the taste the eyes darted forwards revealing their possessor to be a hideous, monstrous snake. As it emptied itself from the cave like blood from a wound it surrounded the little girl, cutting of any chance of exit from the clearing, covering the gap between the two fallen trees. It encircled her several times as its massive body continued to reveal itself, its width challenging that of the tree trunks, and its length challenging the height of the mountain that held it. The snake’s tongue licked at the air inches from the girl’s face, its blank eyes staring through her.
‘Don’t be a fool sister, he was hurting the poor thing.’ the monster growled. ‘You turned your head and ignored it, preferring to enjoy yourself rather than help.’
A muffled sobbing came from the snake’s prey, ‘I thought she was okay, I thought she was with her friends.’
‘You knew she was alone till he came for her,’ the snake stretched its head high up into the air, its massive form now blocking the moonlight from landing directly on the girl. Its voice bellowed so powerfully that it rocked the branches and the leaves, creating the symphony of the forest for the first time since she had entered the clearing. ‘Your desire to see good things has left you blind once again. Things that even I without sight had seen plainly.’ In the beast’s rage it slammed its tail onto the floor, causing a tremor so violent that a daggered rock fell from the cliff face as it crashed into rubble just outside the clearing.
‘I didn’t mean to! I’m sorry!’ The girl cried out and fell heavily to her knees, tears streaming down her face.
‘Shh, shh, shh.’ The snake lowered its head nearer to the little girl, coiling her once more so that its arrowed head lay by her side, the forest was once again silent. ‘I’m sorry to upset you sister but you must know these things. Now there are things that can be done, things that I can do to help.’
The girl stifled a cry but did not reply, attempting to dry her sore eyes on her nightgown. She shivered as she felt the snake’s tongue graze her face, followed by the tip of its head lift her with ease to her feet. The earth slowly shook again as the huge creature reversed its body once around the girl so that its foggy eyes stared through her once more.
‘You know what I could do, if I had your eyes. What we could accomplish together sister.’
‘We mustn’t.’ the girl whimpered, her eyes down refusing to meet the snakes penetrating gaze. ‘I can’t.’
‘Then you would allow monsters like him to hurt innocent people?’ the snake growled.
‘No!’ the girl’s head snapped up to face the snake. ‘I know what you’re doing and I won’t let you. I’ll never let you!’.
‘You are weak without me girl! You shall suffer!’ The forest roared as the monster thrashed its full form up and down around the girl, the ground quaking with each ferocious slam. Coiling its wicked body closer around the girl it reached higher into the blackness of the sky, blocking out all light except the glint of two terrible fangs that protruded from its mouth like swords.
The girl turned in defiance of her foe and fled to where the exit was once seen. Sliding under one layer of the pounding beast she cried as she heard the deafening crash as the mighty snake drove its head into where she had just stood, battering the ground. The girl pushed on, leaping with strength far beyond her frail form she carried herself just above the thick snake and gained sight of the netted exit. Diving through the gap between the fallen trees she looked back to see her pursuer throw its horrifying mouth towards her. The massive felled trees rocked as the creature forced itself against the roots blocking its path. The girl watching only briefly as her enraged predator let out a deafening roar that brought the entire forest to life, the only sound that cut through the unintelligible racket was a wicked hiss that seemed to come from within the girl’s head. She turned once again to run through the dark forest, hearing the faint snap of roots and the rumbling of the ground she knew her enemy was once again free. With a speed far greater than her previous passage through the forest the girl weaved amongst the small gaps between tree trunks, through bloodied thorns and over perilous roots. However now the forest cared little to prevent her journey, instead roots would flatten themselves against the ground and brambles like tangled barbed wire would move aside as she passed, only to move back in her wake as the roots ejected themselves from the dirt once more.
The snake drove itself through the forest after its intended victim, its pale eyes looking aimlessly amongst the trees. The deafening racket of the black leaves above made it impossible to hear the light movements of the girl. Thorned vines like blades lashed at the snake as it struggled to squeeze its tremendous size between the trees, roots shot up at the beast’s snout and forked tongue trying to restrain its head. The dark green bushes sat amongst the thorns and trees sprouted dozens of deep violet flowers that released an overwhelming scent of rot throughout the forest. Fighting blindly through the titanic trees, cracking and tearing the bark against its bleeding scales it could hear only one thing above the violence of the treetops, a soft voice that came from within itself.
‘Calm yourself brother, dawn is coming.’
At these words the beaten creature hissed and howled and roared. Turning to return the way it came, following the smell of its own blood that watered the path behind. The forest became quiet in the face of the monster’s defeat, its roots retreating and vines withdrawing its hooks, allowing the wounded animal to return to its mountain unhindered.
Far away from the battlefield the girl stood in a circular clearing bathed in grey moonlight, no sound could be heard except for a gentle and beautiful humming. Looking up at the black roof of the forest, pin pricks of silver could be seen throughout the canvas, like stars in the night sky. Suddenly like a wave emanating from some distant ocean, the silver stars became suns above her. The faint light that filled the clearing became a beautiful yellow as the girl hummed happily. Still gazing at the sky, the warm light that surrounded her flickered slightly, and the girl fell silent. The smallest vibration beneath her feet could be felt briefly. The girl lowered her eyes from the sky, her pupils glazed over and pale. Her tongue darted about her mouth and from her lips came a low, soft hiss. The light flickered once again and the gentle rustling of the leaves could be heard overhead. The girl blinked and rubbed her eyes.
With a smile, she spoke aloud ‘See you tonight, brother…’ and continued her sweet melody.