I ran through the trees, my feet aching, the worn pair of shoes covered in mud and dirt. Where was I headed? I could not know. But somewhere I did end up getting to.
I had not realized I had started climbing until I reached the top of a hill whose existence I didn’t recall. And suddenly, the landscape opened in front of my eyes.
The lake, almost in full view, reflected a sky that still showed the pink and orange palet of a sunset. Minute by minute though, a deep blue threatened to swallow the last rays of light.
I looked down for a second, and raised my eyes again. Darkness had painted over the sky, leaving just traces of the day. One could still see the water forming ripples, but they were more like mysterious movements. The stars prevented the place from being completely dark, and though it could’ve been soothing, their strange light left me unsettled. I was lost in the forest, among old trees, and the sky was my only lighthouse.
Around me there was silence and pines, greens turning into blacks, fading details, not a single hint of her presence.
Not even a shadow.
She had stared at me from the minute I got on the bus. And I had stared at her myself. The girl in the purple dress. No one got on a bus wearing a dress, even less on a Tuesday at six in the afternoon. Or maybe someone did, but in that moment… it seemed odd.
Twenty minutes later her eyes were still on me, and, as if they were magnets and I was thin metal, when she walked to the exit of the bus I followed her, and when she got off, I did too.
-Come with me, Andrei.
I let her take me to the Lakeview Woods, no questions asked, not even wondering how she knew my name. I kept walking behind her until we reached the farthest point of the forest. Hypnotized. Then, all of a sudden, she was gone. I looked around me for a few moments, lost, then I saw a distant flicker of purple between the trees. And I began running, desperate to catch her, because suddenly I had felt the air tightening and the atmosphere becoming heavy, like a premonition of the unknown danger.
The woods I had known since I was a child had trapped me, everywhere I headed was a dead-end road, where all I could see were more, and more trees. In my head, I knew I had no other choice but to keep chasing the mysterious girl, if I ever wanted to get out of that place.
Although she sometimes reappeared, she always left in the same quiet, quick way, not giving me a single chance to at least scream her name.
Not that I knew it, anyway.
I decided I was too tired to run, and too lost to try and make my way home. The darkness oppressed me , I felt an intense pain somewhere in my soul that I could not soothe. Raising my head to watch the stars, I focused on calming my spirit down. Eventually, I thought, she’d come back, or the night would leave, and then I’d be free. I just kept wandering aimlessly, all hopes of finding her gone.
And then, a creaking sound a few inches from me stopped my heart for the space of a second.
Purple dress, raven hair. And this time she did not escape. She walked to me, expressionless. I felt a deep connection the minute I saw her eyes, strange gold ones that could’ve very well have been mine. My breath caught in my lungs, here I was paralyzed again.
She came closer.
Her cold hands touched mine. I saw her lips and felt an urge to kiss them, in a desperate hope to understand her, the situation, everything that got me so lost.
As if reading my thoughts, her forehead touched mine. Little by little, I had her in my arms, too close for words. I could almost feel her mouth. She parted her lips, and smiled.
Her breath was like black feathers.
-Nice to meet you. My name is Madness.
And then her golden eyes locked with mine, and my body was against hers, electrified, and I never got to feel her lips, as I swallowed her whole and she dissolved into me.