I was Eight years old when I first learnt the truth about the Forest…
I was young, full of energy, always off exploring… no one ever went near the Forest, I had never known why. One day I ventured too close, and a voice called out to me.
“Boy!” Said the ancient voice, like carving the words into the bark of a tree.
I turned and saw the Old Crone, clothed in a grey hooded cloak, her face ancient and wooden, with a long pointed nose with a hideous wart bulging on the end, one eye and the other nothing more than a huge scar, teeth missing from her mouth she waddled up to me and stared down upon me.
“You don’t want to get too close to that Forest,” she croaked. “Not yet anyway.”
She smiled it was the sort of smile at that age you didn’t fully understand, but it scared you anyway.
“No, no,” she said. “Do you know the story of the Forest, boy?”
I looked towards the vast Forest, the thousands of trees stretching out into forever, Birch and Yew trees as far as the eye could see, a few Oaks spotted, and I knew following the river in the entire river was lined with Willows.
I was standing under a Hawthorn near a little pond a short distance from the tree line, I knew adult ceremonies took place here but at that age I didn’t understand them.
“No.” I whispered, shy around this Old Crone.
“Thousands of years ago,” She said, power growing in her voice. “There was an ancient war. Men fought Men over the Gods, each Man fighting for the God they believed to be right. Thousands upon thousands died. Then Men who buried the dead waited, until the blood in their bodies no longer flowed like a river, but dried. A hole was cut through their stomach, and when they were buried trees were planted inside them. Years past and the war was devastating, soon Men forgot exactly what they were fighting for, only remembering how to bury their dead, the world was decimated and thousands of years have past since then. All these trees boy? They are the dead. That Forest is a vast Graveyard stretching on forever; those trees contain the souls of our ancestors.”
I looked deep into the heart of the Woods, it was still, almost like they knew their story was being told, as if they were listening.
Suddenly her hands were on my shoulders holding me, looking right into my face with her one eye.
“The Trees are alive boy!” She cried. “Some of the trees are the fallen of the wrong Men, these trees are evil, and wish you dead!”
I ran, far away from the Crone and the Forest, and hid in the stable by my families Cow, Betsy.
That night around the dinner table with my Mother and Father enjoying Duck cooked with lemon and honey, I told them what the Crone had said.
“Magda is old,” My Father told me. “Some says she is hundreds of years old, the last in the line of her family, all who lived unnaturally long lives.”
He told Me they were the keepers of the story, telling generation after generation the legends and history of the Forest.
“You need to know about that Forest, Son.” My Father told me, his voice solemn. “When a Boy comes of age, he must go into the Forest on his own, he must try to survive out on his own, as long as he can, and if he can, he must try to make it to the other side of the Forest.
“Has anyone ever done that?” I ask with intense curiosity.
“No. Within the Forest lie dangers unimaginable. There are more than Wolves in there, Son.”
Wolves sometimes ventured out of the Woods, hunting Chickens or Ducks. Sometimes, they ate small children who’d wandered off on their own. There was a group of men, who had lasted long or survived well at their trials in the Forest, they protected us from the Wolves, sometimes going into the Woods to hunt when food was scarce. They were the keepers of the Old Way. Each had spent time with the Old Crone, learning the stories intensely. When Winter came, and wood was needed for fires, they would go into the Woods searching for the evil trees. But sometimes they could not be found, or they hid well. The Old Crone had taught them the words to the prayers needed to be said to cut down a tree. The words were in an ancient tongue, that only the trees and the wind understood. They gave the tree peace so we could use its wood. So its soul could give us warmth.
My Father removed his shirt. There was a huge scar running down his back. I had seen him without his shirt before, when he was working at making instruments for protection for the Guardians, and I had always wondered about the scar. I had never asked.
“This scar,” he said “Came from a creature 6 times the size of any Wolf. It was creature that roared, big and mean, with shaggy brown fur. There are creatures in those Woods, Son. Monsters.”
I remember sitting there, the wind howling outside my windows, I remember imagining the beast my Father spoke of. I imagined evil glowing red eyes in the dark, stalking me as I stumbled through the Birch trees in a howling Winter’s night. My heart was racing, even at the table, by the warmth of the fire.
“Magda knows, all the children in her family, even the girls must go through the trial when they come of age.” My Mother cut in. “Magda lasted the longest of any known person. Four Winter’s they say she lasted, determined to make in through the Forest. On her second Winter, cold and hungry knowing only death would come if she kept going, she turned back. She stumbled out of those Woods delirious, muttering, starved and near death. She is the wisest and most learned person in this village.”
The hut fell silent, and we resumed eating our dinner, my thoughts plagued with images moving in the dark, of the Old Crone as a young girl sitting in the snow by a fire, freezing to death, fearing that when my time came I would scarcely last… or I would perish.
For years I kept an eye on the Old Woman, listened in when I heard her speaking to others. Sometimes she spoke to the trees. I wondered if they spoke back to her. If they did, I couldn’t hear them. But she talked to them like old friends, had conversations. Her face was like the crinkled bark of a tree. Sometimes I wondered that she’d spent so long among them she was becoming one.
When I could I spent us much time near the tree-line as possible, staring in. I watched the Guardians fight when the occasional wolf came to steal a chicken. I practised the movements they used with a long stick. My coming of age was close approaching. I’d need all the knowledge I could get. I had become determined… infatuated with the idea of making it through the Forest. I dreamed of what lie on the other-side. For me it was always some kind of paradise. Warmth, and a treeless clearing stretching for miles. Hills of grass as far as the eye could see.

Finally a new year dawned. All the children who were to come of age travelled a mile in the opposite direction of the thick labyrinthine Forest, here trees grew sparsely. I saw ponds of Geese. Cats and Dogs running about, and a larger village built on the side of a wide river. I could not see the other side, but men on small wooden boats sat in the still river holding sticks with lines entering the water. I knew what they were doing. My Father had often spoken of fishing as a child. This was the village he had came from, he had moved closer to the Forest when he returned injured from his trail the huge cut on his back. My Mother had nursed him back to health. That was what she did, she knew medicines, she knew what herbs and plants were used to help the sick. Even Old Crone came to my Mother when she was younger, they had learned together for a bit, learning the way of the herbs, when Old Crone has learned what she needed she walked off into the Woods. She came back weeks later with vast supplies of Mushrooms and other plants that my mother could use. Even teaching my Mother knew things. She truly was the wisest of the village.
When my Father was nursed back to health, a feat that had seemed impossible, he began courting my Mother, marrying her under the Hawthorn. He hadn’t left since.
“Do you see it!?” A boy called out next to me, he was a boy from a village nearer ours than this, still along the tree line.
I looked where he was pointing. Towards the middle of the village was a huge Oaken Citadel, built hundreds of years ago. Craved into the wood of the halls where pictures of the Forest, and some of the strange creatures inside it. I saw Wolves, and the large monstrous creature my Father spoke of. I saw pictures of Butterflies and other creatures I was familiar with. The Forest truly was a wild place.
When I and the other boys had all sat down inside the huge citadel a voice called out.
“Men. That’s what you will become this year. Each one of you will pit yourself against the wild of the Forest. Those of you that survive will come back men, and be assigned a post based of how well you did.”
I see the Old Crone walk up behind him, hunched and hooded in the same grey cloak.
“Magda will provide you with a week of training with her before you venture into the woods.”
He pulled out a piece of parchment, something Old Crones family line had passed down how to make through the generations.
“On this list is the order your days of birth. The order of which, you will enter the Forest. I will call the names out, but first enjoy your coming of age feast!”
Women come out dressed in beautiful green gowns. They are our age, and I imagine they set this up as a way for us to find pairs. The place beautiful clay plates with swirling carves cut into them in front of us, with a beautiful dark meat, dripping with flavour, a side of cooked river fruit, and a goblet filled with red liquid. I’ve seen the liquid before. My Father had drunk it on oft occasions. But we were to be Men, now we could drink it.
I bite in to the meat, it’s succulent and juicy I can taste that is has been flavoured with garlic, and something else I can’t put my finger on.
I finish a mouth full and wash it down with the Wine my Father had forbidden me from drinking. It was rare he had said, and difficult to make, until Summer.
It was beautiful. Sweet and made Me feel dizzy, but happy, like I could do anything. I knew the flavour on the meat now. It was wine.
The feast felt like hours, as we drank ourselves into a stupor. Some boys ending kissing the serving girls. The man came through, eyeing people off with his stern face and big grey beard, telling them it was time to be quiet and to sit down, I finished off my tenth goblet of wine by the time the halls were silent.
“When I call your name I want you to walk up those stairs to the right, and young Saiben will lead you to your sleeping chamber for the night.”
He unrolled the parchment and cleared his throat.
“Rose of Hazelton”
Whispers filled the hall, all of us looking around. A young red head with short boyish hair walked past me, dressed in boys clothes. Looking at her face I saw she was a girl, and seeing her body shape, it was obvious. But girls don’t do the trial. Only Magda’s family line. And she was the last. As the girl vanished up the stairs silence filled the hall, eagerly awaiting an explanation. None was given. The man called out the next name.
“Euan of Hawthorn”

It was me, stumbling to my feet due to the wine, I steadied myself and walked as straight as I could to, and up the stairs as a young man lead me to my chamber. Beyond the burnt black door was a small fire, a small wooden table with two chairs, and two beds on opposite sides of the room. On the bed, on the right hand side of the room, sat the red haired Rose, her beautiful white face sullen looking.
“I didn’t think they’d make me share a room.” She said, spite in her voice.
“Sorry.” I responded and dumped my clothes at the end of my bed.
I was too tired to talk. I wanted to sleep.
My dreams where strange that night. Normally your dreams are forgotten, but I remember those dreams.
I was by a pond, reeds surrounded it, I moved them aside, looking down in the pond, the water moved like a flowing river, slowing down and stopping, changing and become a complete reflection, I saw myself and heard the sound of Ravens I looked around me and saw only trees, looking back to the pond there was nothing there, just snow, snow and trees all around me, and the crying of Ravens. I looked around the birch trees and snow fell and melted on my naked flesh. And still the Ravens cried. Darkness was falling. I ran, naked and cold through the forest, falling face first into the snow as darkness fell, I huddled against a tree for warmth. Still the ravens cried. “Help!” I screamed. “Somebody please help!” I heard a blood curdling laughter from behind and jumped up to see the face of the Old Crone reaching out from the tree.
“No help will come.” She mocked. “Only death comes in Winter!” She burst into a fit of laughter and I ran.
Running as fast and far as my legs would take me, my body freezing from the cold. Seeing a small rocky cave I hid myself inside.
“The trees are alive!” I hear the Old Crone call out. “Alive and hungry for souls!” She calls.
I cried and the tears froze on my face. Dying of the cold, my naked body huddled against a wall.
“Here.” I hear a voice say, and look up. It’s Rose, she’s coming towards Me, dressed in the fine green dresses of the serving girls. “Let me warm you.” She says removing her dress and pressing her naked body against mine. My body heats up in a way it’s never done before. And the laughing of the crone changes into the cracking of a fire in the cave, and the Ravens crying silences to the gentle buzz of Summer bees. The warmth of Rose against me is heavenly and she moves her hands through my brown hair. My green eyes gazing into hers, I look at her soft milky skin and fiery red hair.
I get a feeling of intense warmth and dizziness, before I wake up.

The Oncoming Storm

January 11, 2012

The Gods, they whisper to me.
Sweet serenades, seducing my soul into sempiternal slumber.
Silently the world fades to the efflorescence beat of the Gods’ hearts.
I awaken to the burning of my abode. The Gods lullaby, ephemeral.
I hear the screams of the Wood-Folk as the barbarians attack.
The glamour of the God-Song ended. Ineffable beauty never to be heard as the men with steel-arms burn our homes.
We conflate together as we are surrounded. The children cry as the men of steel spit and sneer.
Denouement received as I awaken from my nightmare.
Harbinger of the God vision, I inform my brothers and sisters of the Oncoming Storm.
We flee through the thick labyrinthine forest.
Hearts in our throats, we say goodbye to the Gods, to our homes, and to our lives.

The Gods, they whisper to me. Too silently now…
I yearn to hear them.

The Woods

February 18, 2011

I am standing in the woods.

It is dark. But I can see clearly as the moon breaks through the tree tops.

I… don’t know where I am. It is possible I am dreaming.

I hear the sound of running water and look to my right to see a running stream. The water is crystal clear.
Almost begging you to drink it.

There is no noise. No wind. No chirping of birds or croaking of frogs. No rustling of leaves.
Silence.

I look around. I am not alone. I see the silhouette of rabbits and owls sleeping in the branches.
The rabbits see me watching and hop away… they make no noise… there is only the running water.

I open my mouth to speak… but I don’t. This isn’t a place of human words.

The light of the moon cloaks me, and I move towards the stream.
My feet make no sound until I hit the water.
It is as cold as ice.

I am in the middle of the light. Seeing where it encircles.
I see figures, watching me from the thick of the wood. Figures that move as swiftly as shadows.

The circle of light surrounding me grows smaller… collapsing in on me as the creatures move out of the trees and closer, hidden still, within the dark.
It grows smaller, and smaller until there is almost no light left, just the moons spotlight on me. And the dust floating through the light.

I cannot hear the creatures. But I can feel them, I can feel their presence, their breaths.
Soon the light will be gone. I fall back and sink into the depths of the cold stream. They will not follow me.

I stay down, in the darkness. In the freezing cold. I feel the flow of the water as the stream carries me.
I hold my breath for what feels like eternity.
And lift myself from the water. I do not breath. It is much too cold to breath. The water has slowed here. And I lay in a shallow puddle.
I look around. I am in a clearing of grass. Black grass that waves gently as if there was a breeze.
I feel no breeze here.
I get up and walk around. There are no animals here. A few tree stumps. And now I cannot even hear the river.
I see a dark path forming between the trees. A path.
I follow it.
I walk on. Hours pass. Years maybe. Time is irrelevant here.
I see a red light up ahead. A reddish glow, unworldly.
As I get closer I see what it is.
A rose. A beautiful red rose. Black outlines around the edges of the petals.
The sight of this rose makes my eyes water. Such an indescribable beauty.
A beauty neither human words nor melodies could describe.
It was something truly mystical that had the presence of a force not bound to be kind to man.
I began to hear. Sound, like pebbles dropping.
I looked and saw my tears freeze as they fell hitting the ground as stone.

I feel my stomach churn. Claustrophobia sets in. I feel the woods crushing in on me.
I run.
Wildly through the forest.
The trees sink towards me. The forest will consume me.
I break through a thicket, smashing myself through a barrier of thorns.
I am on an open plane. The moon is hidden behind the clouds, but stars light the sky. The field stretches out for miles. In the distance I see the shadows of horses running free.
Small droplets of rain fall onto my face.
Around me they fall as tears.
I wipe the water from my face.
It smells of milk and honey.
The majesty of this world…

“My soul is a dark forest. My known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. Gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. I must have the courage to let them come and go….”

I hear the sound of a piano. Beautiful sad tunes… The world around me reacts. I feel it cry with me at the sad tunes. And I see it… the sun rising in the distance… the dew on the grass and a soft breeze blows my neck.

And I know. And I understand.

The Boats

August 2, 2010

The thunder roars outside. The rain pelting against the window as the wind howls. The house around me creaks, speaking in soft whispers. I lay in bed, staring wide eyed at my roof. I take nothing in. My mind is blank and I listen to the splattering of rain. The wind comes to a gentle still, picking up and howling again every few minutes; the music from nature inspiring me in my artifical tomb.
I hum gently along with the thunder and rain and close my eyes. My mind wanders as I imagine myself wandering through a muddy trail as the rain and wind beat against me, with the crashing of thunder in my ears. I splash through puddles as the lightning flashes giving me glimses of the muddy forest around me.
I have no aim, no destination.
Just the desire to walk.
Walk in the torrential downpour outside. To splash through muddy puddles.
Slowly the rain outside dies down… still with the hollowed whisper of the wind against my window.
The image in my head changes.
I am in a wet paddock. The dark moist grass around me makes me thirsty. The rain is still falling here. But less heavily.
I sit on a small rectangular stone, pearly white by the edge of a clear flowing stream. The wind gently blows my wet hair across my face and over my eyes as I gaze at the stream watching the water gently flow along… care free.
The rain outside my window picks up. I hear the pitter-patter of it falling onto the road.
My mind changes again, I am on the damp sand as the wind blows the rain, it falls on angles now, left and than right with the change of the wind, falling softly and slow and then getting heavier and soft again. I stare out at the ocean. The sun is going down in the distance. The ocean looks rough and ominous, and yet I feel the desire to throw myself into it. To be one with it all.
I sit down.
My hands and bum sink into the sand. The rain drips from the mournful clouds above and trinkles onto my shoulder. I stare at the ocean as it comes to a calm and a ray of light shines on it as a cloud moves out of the way. It doesn’t take long and soon sail boats are floating around lazily on the ocean. The air is still wet with rain and small droplets still fall…
I watch the boats.
My eyes are closed and the storm rages on and off outside.
I lay in bed, alive inside my head… and drift off to sleep.