By Alexia Tzortzis, TIWP Student
We wake at sunrise. Today will be the fifth day we’ve been looking for her. The woods have almost become human. She sent us coordinates in the mail, after disappearing for a month. The two of us set out together. It’s been five days, and we’re still walking through these woods. When we started this, we didn’t think we would see the things we’ve seen.
On day one, we came upon a lovely spring, picturesque in the glittering waters and soft green moss—though I swear I saw a long white tail rise above the surface. On the second day, I felt eyes watching us, but when I turned to look, there was no one there. When we set up camp for the night, the ground beneath our feet seemed to cradle our bodies.
When we wake up in the morning, there is always something left for us: a small figure made from twigs and leaves, a necklace worn down by time, a crown made of flowers. The girl beside me wore the crown all day and danced in between the trees, as the light from the sun played gently with her hair.
Today there is a feather. It’s golden and incredibly soft to the touch. I don’t even wonder where it came from. Too many things about these woods can’t be explained. Maybe that’s why she ran away here.
By midday, I start to see a small, worn pathway between the trees. We follow it. And as we go deeper amongst the trees, we notice slight changes in the woods. Wind chimes hang in trees and there are glowing mushrooms and deer with golden eyes and tails. By the time night falls, a crumbling castle comes into view. Though covered in vines and mostly broken, a single tower still stands. A golden bird with a long tail chirps at us from the window before flying inside. We look at each other before walking cautiously toward the ruins.
Inside is almost a whole other world. Small mushrooms line a path and glow with white light. Plants overflow from anything and everything, the floors, the walls, and whatever furniture remains. We find her in the center of a patch of moonlight, bending to a budding plant. She wears a white dress and no shoes, the gold bird sitting peacefully by her side. When she turns to face us, small things about her changed, too. Her eyes are molten gold now and her ears pointier. She smiles, and her canines are slightly longer and sharper than normal.
“Hello,” is all she says and I feel a sharp sting in my neck. Then the world goes dark.