She sat alone in her cave, her back against the curved wall.
She had been living out among the surrounding woods for years and years, playing amongst the trees, being friends with the small animals that shared her space, drinking from the clean rain that fell. She had been at peace in the woods that towered protection over her and gave her what she needed to live. She had never feared its shadows or howling animal calls. She knew these woods loved her and kept her safe.
But now she sat in the damp cave, away from the woods, her dress in tatters and her provisions in a dwindling pile besides her. Hard rain fell outside. She watched the water stream down the stone walls to form muddy puddles on the ground at the cave’s entrance. This was her home now.
She sat silent and unmoving, thinking back to the day she had been drawn out from the woods.
Something had come. It had penetrated the thick forest walls and had found her in the middle of her favorite clearing. She had looked up from the flowers she was bent over to find a figure standing in the shadows directly behind the sun’s rays that streamed down through the branches. At first she had been frightened, but then the figure had called her name. It’s in my woods, and it knows my name, she reasoned. She stepped forward. The figure called her again.
Her curiosity moved her steadily toward the figure that kept just out of the light. She was a step away when she reached out her hand to touch it. It darted backward, laughing wildly, and then jumped back once more. She smiled. It was playing a game.
She continued following the figure through the forest as it waited for her and then jumped back as soon as she reached it. On and on they went, the time passing without her notice, until she stepped out from behind a tree to find that the figure had left, it was night, and she was looking out at a valley. It was the farthest from the center of the forest that she’d ever been.
She stood wondering where the figure had gone and scanning the flat land that seemed endless. All her life in the woods she had never been able to see more than a few feet in front of her. The silence and unimpeded wind chilled her.
Wanting to get away immediately from this empty land she turned quickly back to the trees and found her way blocked by narrow, yellow eyes and a red mouth full of jagged teeth. “Flee,” the mouth said to her from the shadows of the trees. She recognized the tone that had been calling her name as they had played across the wood. She gave the voice a confused, slight smile. “I said, flee!” it snapped in a new deep growl.
She immediately turned and sprung forward, her fear trapping her screams in her throat.
She ran across the unknown valley at a speed she did not recognize in herself. She was carried, not by strong legs that had climbed trees and jumped over fallen branches and waded in the stream, but by terror she had never before needed to name. Farther and farther from the safety of the trees her fear took her until the forest seemed just a band of black against the sun starting to rise behind it.
She slowed to a walk and came to a small hill with an opening on its side. Her carefree curiosity forever gone, she cautiously entered and examined the cave. It was just dry leaves, dead branches and dirt. She fell to the ground and wept.
That had been months ago.
Now the cave had become her shelter. She left it for brief times to try to find food in the surrounding plain, always keeping watch for the voice that had enticed her and the eyes that had driven her out. But the plain remained empty, empty but for a force that continued to drive her back even when she tried to return to what had been her home. There was silence in the woods now and a deep, red glow. The woods had been taken over.
So she sat alone, with her back against the cave wall. Whatever the creature was that had driven her out, she did not know. What she knew was that the woods were no longer hers. She imagined they never would be again.
Partly inspired by “Run, Lucifer,” by Adna