A thousand eyes shine in the light of the lantern, held high above your head. The swirling mists eagerly devour the light, and the path at your feet is lit only dimly, as though by the last fading rays of dusk. There is darkness to either side of the path, impenetrable blackness. Rustles and scratching sounds come from the darkness, and shapes shift in the shadows. Branches snag at your clothes, twisted and gnarled, and you stumble on unseen roots in the gloom.
Lights flash amongst the dark trunks, silhouetting shapes lurking in the trees. Long, branch-like arms hang from bodies perched in long, arm-like branches. Heads turn towards you, baring razor fangs in hungry, mirthless grins. Pointed ears flick back and forth as pointed tongues run along pointed teeth. Long fingers twitch and flex, like nooses come alive. Wings flutter and then are still. The lights in the trees disappear, just as a gust of stray wind blows out your lantern.
You stand, pulse racing, in the darkness, listening to the sounds of claws scraping against bark and feet hitting the ground as bodies leap from the trees with apelike grace. The dry leaves whisper and rustle, the sounds growing nearer and nearer. You can hear them breathing, and every hair on your arms and neck stands up as the creatures approach. You know that you never should have come into the forest.
A bright light illuminates the woods, and you see for the first time that you’re in a clearing. Dark shapes scamper into the trees, fleeing the light, and disappear once more. You turn towards the source of the light. A majestic beast stands amongst the trees, light shining from the twisted horn that grows from its brow. Its cloven hooves paw at the shining white stones beneath.
You approach the creature, one hand raised. It’s looking away, staring into the darkness. You place your hand onto its flank and begin to stroke its soft fur. The beast lets loose a low rumble of pleasure, and you feel yourself relax. Your heart slows to a more normal pace, and your ears stop straining to hear every noise amongst the trees. As your fear diminishes, you realize just how late it is. Your limbs grow leaden as the lateness of the hour mingles with the terror you’ve just been through. You feel lethargic and indolent, content to remain in the grove and pet the beautiful creature that saved you.
The beast’s head swings to face you. Three rows of teeth are bared in a predator’s grin, and its eyes are utterly black. Red blood drips from its matted, tangled beard as its forked tongue darts out to lick its lips.
You recoil and step back, stumbling as your foot slips on the bleached skulls which carpet the ground. You fall, and the beast advances. Its hooves are on your chest, and its face is mere inches from your own. You look into its cold, black eyes a second time.
It doesn’t snarl or growl; it feels no need for such posturing. You and the beast both know who’s in control. You clench your jaw tightly shut, promising to yourself that you’ll face death with courage. You will not scream as it devours you, you say to yourself.
You lie to yourself, and your cries echo against an uncaring sky as the creatures come out of the trees to scrounge for scraps of the beast’s feast.
If you’re Sam-not-Samuel Millson, you have been writing since you could hold a crayon. You enjoy reading, writing, acting, second-person narration, and making clever comments at every opportunity. You grew up with The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Belgariad, among many other books, and live in your house’s library. Your name is not Samuel, Samantha, or Samson. Samwise is also not your name, but is acceptable. You currently live in Martinez, California.