Welcome Home, Sister


by Marek Piwnicki

The dark forest menacingly swished its dark leaves, so different from the sunlit songs during the day. Instead of songbirds lining the trees, ravens and crows cawed from the tall branches. It was a place that no one dared to venture in, whether it be the most foolish child or the most daring explorer. Those who went in never came back out.

So it would only be fitting on Halloween if a young girl had wandered into the mist.

The girl did not know where she was. but she could feel the ominous and sinister air. How she had gotten there, she did not know. One minute she was asleep, chasing candy trails across lawns and into houses, the next minute, she was here.

Yet because of her starry-eyed youth, she did not bolt. For what was fear in a child’s eyes? Especially one with a propensity towards tranquility.

The girl tenderly brushed a tree with delicate fingers, and she could swear on her life that it flinched. And the forest wailed. It was a wail of pain. It was a wail of sadness for the brethren of the dwindling forest. It was a wail for all the ones lost at the hands of nature, neither cruel or kind, but indifferent.

For her, finally, it was a wail of warning.

Vines lashed on the floor, seeking humans at its own accord. In the end, the girl was not a hero. But she bolted anyway.

More sticks blocked her way—around

Don’t trip
Darkness ahead—
Keep going keep going KEEP GOING
A roar sounded behind her—or was that just in her head?
Faster, faster, faster—
Too far, too slow, too young.
Faster, faster—
She couldn’t go faster. She couldn’t. She couldn’t. She couldn’t.
But she had to.

She could feel the tears running down her face, no, not running— flowing. Flowing—pouring— coursing— gushing— burning. Her heart hammered like a constant drumbeat foreshadowing the arrival of death. To the girl, it seemed like an accentuation, the final nail in her coffin. It would accompany her to the gates of the underworld until it drove her mad.

The roar grew louder. Closer. Deadlier.

The young girl screamed. It tore out of her lips, years of her own loneliness and fear and seclusion and pain and tears and what if it goes wrong what if what if what if and insecurity and drowning and submission and torture and help me please and and and…

There was no more levity to chase away the truth.
Trapped by Halloween, the day of fears. How ironic.
The girl could feel the forest move to her again, until even the slightest outlines of shapes became more blur than lines, more whizzing than creeping, until the world became a giant black mess.

This time, however, it was more of a cushion. Like a throne, carried by thousands of men
willing to sacrifice their lives. Because the forest had listened, had heard her scream, and had felt her pain. It was a whisper of we can feel you, too, and welcome home, sister. Who else could caress tree trunks rumored to have been evil like a mother caressing an infant, other than a child so fearless yet so fearful, so free yet so trapped?

So for the first time in ten thousand and thirty-one eons, the monster bowed to a fate younger and briefer than its own lifetime cut into the smallest pieces.

When the young girl awoke, her eyes burned at the sudden source of light. The girl was ready to shake it off as a dream until one trembling hand revealed an object. A single, wooden picture of a forest of songbirds instead of ravens, sunlit songs instead of dark leaves.

And the forest shifted.
When the girl looked for the forest again, it was gone.