The Forests (Separated)

I figured I would put this up again but with the stories separated. I did play around with different colours but it was hard to get a combination that was easy to read. So here it is with them separated. Please give the original one a shot first though!

I unfortunately found myself lost in the woods, walking along a path made many years ago. The sun had long since set and a small moon, offering little light, had taken its place. What light it did provide was filtered by a mass of branches, leaves and trunks. Shadows swirled around me, taking forms for a moment before receding back into harmlessness. I pressed on. Ahead the road split in two and neither path seemed more hospitable than the other, I chose the right. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance and it seemed to approve of my decision.

I walked for some time, only having the sound of my own footsteps to keep me company. The forest seemed to relax its stranglehold on the night sky, occasionally even allowing a few stars to peak through its clutches. I walked on. After some eventless minutes or perhaps even hours, the dread that had hung over me subsided. In time it passed altogether. I began to notice how pleasant the night air and the sounds of the forest were. Leaves rustling in the wind seemed to provide an ever-present hum. It was as though the forest was meditating on some whispered mantra; it exuded a calmness that I could feel soaking into my being. I reflected on the fact that my footsteps were blending with the other things I heard and becoming part of the forest’s sounds. I felt a oneness with nature that I’d often heard about but never experienced. Somehow being lost in nature served to dissolve the connections I had to the world outside of it. That world began to seem like a profane mockery of the existence all around me. I was no longer lost in enemy territory; I was in a being that had given birth to me. Stopping and standing still, I closed my eyes and tilted my head towards the sky. The forest’s “om” continued. On top of it came a symphony of sounds: wings fluttering behind me, a small animal chirping, a twig snapping to my left… all part of the sphere that I now felt at one with. I imagined my feet reaching deep into the Earth, and myself springing up from the same source that had produced the trees and the animals. I was no different than them, but rather the same spirit clothed in a different costume. After some time I continued along the path.

With my mind lost in the welcoming eternity surrounding me, it was some time before I noticed a gap in the trees ahead: an exit. Even after I did, it seemed so foreign and out of place that at first I didn’t realize what it was. Slowly it dawned on me and when it did the hazy plateau I’d been standing on seemed to sink sheepishly back into the ground. I stopped walking; my parents had just called me for dinner. It felt like the last few moments of a dream, when waking life seeps in and coldly does away with the fantastic creatures, buildings and scenery. Somehow I knew that what I’d felt in here would be dissolved by the unforgiving reality out there. I stared at the mouth that was about to swallow me whole. Or perhaps it was the reverse and I was about to be released from something. Grudgingly I walked on and as I did, doubt wrapped its warm and cynical hands around me. I started to write off my experience as the product of a tired and panicked mind. The closer I came to the edge of the forest the more ridiculous it all seemed, almost embarrassingly so. Light had been shone into my secret hiding place; the shadow puppets had became worn out socks. I took my last few steps out of the forest and back into the world.

I unfortunately found myself deep in the woods, walking along a path made many years ago. The sun had long since set and a small moon, offering little light, had taken its place. Shadows swirled around me, taking forms for a moment before sinking back into harmlessness. I pressed on. Ahead the road split in two and neither path seemed hospitable, I chose the left. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance and it seemed to disapprove of my decision.

I walked for some time; the forest appeared to grow darker and more sinister. On two occasions I stopped, believing to hear footsteps in the woods, only to be taunted with silence when I did. An echo, I told myself. Whether I traveled for minutes or hours, I couldn’t tell. I hated these woods, and I hated myself for being lost in them. My mind was immersed in thoughts of self-pity and anger when suddenly a shape moved across the road ahead. I froze and felt the blood in my body turn to ice. Squinting into the trees I searched for the shape that I was convinced meant to harm me. Nothing. My whole body buzzed with the anticipation of danger, it mixed with the darkness around me and formed a threat so great that I resigned myself to some grisly and unavoidable death. I stood like that for some time, frozen in place but feeling like everything inside of me was moving very quickly. I decided to go back to the fork, and take the other path.

Walking quickly I went back the way I came, looking over my shoulder every few steps. I expected to see a pair of eyes without sanity or feel breath without warmth at any moment. Stories I’d heard of ghosts and demons came flooding into my mind and took shape in the shadows all around me. I was running now and in a state of frenzy. Looking back then looking ahead, looking back then looking ahead. Everything started to seem the same; the darkness was closing in on me. I realized that I must have missed the fork. I kept going. To move was to remain safe and to stay still was surely to die. Movement ahead. I stopped. Squinted. Nothing. Quick agitated breathing. My own? No, beside me. I looked in horror. Nothing. Footsteps behind me. Spun around. A shape. Pain. The darkness became absolute.

I unfortunately found myself deep in the woods, walking along a path made many years ago. The sun had long since set and a small moon, offering little light, had taken its place. Shadows swirled around me, taking forms for a moment before sinking back into harmlessness. I pressed on. Ahead the road split in two and neither path seemed hospitable, I chose the left. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance and it seemed to disapprove of my decision.

I walked for some time; the forest appeared to grow darker and more sinister. On two occasions I stopped, believing to hear footsteps in the woods, only to be taunted with silence when I did. An echo, I told myself. Whether I traveled for minutes or hours, I couldn’t tell. I hated these woods, and I hated myself for being lost in them. My mind was immersed in thoughts of self-pity and anger when suddenly a shape moved across the road ahead. I froze and felt the blood in my body turn to ice. Squinting into the trees I searched for the shape that I was convinced meant to harm me. Nothing. My whole body buzzed with the anticipation of danger, it mixed with the darkness around me and formed a threat so great that I resigned myself to some grisly and unavoidable death. I stood like that for some time, frozen in place but feeling like everything inside of me was moving very quickly. I decided to continue, mustering every bit of courage I could gather.

Starting off slowly at first, I moved forward. Soon I reached the point in the road that I’d judged the shadow to have crossed. I braced myself. After a few minutes without any harm befalling me I began to relax. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, my muscles eased and I began taking breaths that filled my lungs. A twig snapped in the forest to my right. I took off like a canon shot, running faster than I’d ever run before. The cool air made my eyes water and my throat burn but I kept going. The unknown evil took on every possible form in my mind until I was convinced there was an entire horde behind me, gaining on me. My footsteps and my heartbeat were pounding in my ears, making it impossible to tell how many there actually were. On and on, my legs pushing the road farther and farther behind me with every lunge. I struggled to keep the fear from overwhelming me, beating it back with the exhausting movement.

In the distance I saw a patch of black, lighter than the darkness around me: the end of the forest. Surely this was my mind playing a cruel trick on me, or rather a trick to motivate me. However the patch began to grow as I moved on and I realized that I was actually nearing the edge. From this distant promise of safety I found the strength to keep going. The patch became a tear and then a doorway, I ran through that doorway and back into the world. Fresh air, stars and open space burst into my awareness. I collapsed on a grassy hill a short distance from the exit. Whipping myself around I looked back at the forest and the evil behind me. Nothing. My lungs were on fire and I gulped down air to try and put it out. I lay there panting, staring and waiting. Seconds and then minutes passed without any sign of movement. Relief flooded over me in shades of joy and ecstasy. With a dawning realization I laughed aloud at what had probably been no more than some small animal.

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