Dark Woods: A Short Story

In the latest edition of Inspired, my collaborative series, I have had the privilege of working with the incredibly talented Brian Easlon.  Brian is a tattoo artist from Cornelius, Oregon in the United States.  If you like his work as much as I do, you can see more on his Instagram.

Dark wood art

Dark Woods

Forests are notoriously dangerous places, especially for little children, and especially at night. So, if you were a young girl, you would be inclined to avoid such places. Unless, like Agatha, you call such places your home. Agatha’s kind are known as many things, fairies or wood nymphs or sprites, but what they all have in common, is the image that they conjure. When you hear these names, you picture beautiful children, tiny and perfect, with wings spun from gold and glitter on their faces. The kind of being made of magic and dreams, who grant the deepest wishes of poor downtrodden servant girls and lost boys alike. Except, fairies are none of those things. They are nasty, mischievous little creatures, who gain pleasure from the pain and misfortune of others.

They are also neither beautiful nor glittering. They have the wings of moths, not butterflies, and to the human eye, they appear as a normal insect, brown and mottled, distinct only by the large, black eyes staring from their wings and the distinct skull shaped spot on their large bodies. They are beautiful in their own way, but nothing like the watercolour illustrations of ‘fairy tale’ books we read as children.

Over time, they have grown to hate humans. We destroy their homes to build our own, we chop down trees and burn them, and the plants we call weeds, which we kill with chemicals, are some of their favourite food. And so, when a human is unfortunate enough to wonder into their lair, they waste no time in commencing a punishment which they see fit.

In the heart of Ireland there lies such a lair. A small wood on the edge of a village, filled with dark shadows and watching eyes. For centuries, people have entered those woods, having lost their way, or to seek shelter from a storm under it’s thick, leafy canopy, only to disappear without a trace, never to be seen or heard from again. It is said the trees within, move and walk, in order to confuse and trap you, and that the thorns can claw and grab at you like arms, ensnaring you within their jagged trap. The local people never go there anymore. After losing Grandparents and parents and siblings and friends over many generations, they learned the hard way that such places can never be tamed. After decades without foot steps or felling, the trees grew denser and darker, and the eyes within grew impatient for their prey.

This is the place Agatha calls home. For decades she has lived within those woods, watching the planes flying overhead and the cars driving by in the distance and she grew resentful. The humans had an entire world in which to exist and explore, yet they showed it no respect. They were ungrateful and spoiled. How could they not see how lucky they were? She had lived nearly a century in the same small forest, and now, she wanted out.

*********************

Lyndsey was a photographer, or at least, she dreamed of becoming one. She would carry her father’s old camera everywhere she went, snapping whatever caught her eye. She preferred the dark room to the modern digital prints, and every time she developed a picture, it was like giving birth, each picture a piece of her. Her forte was nature photography. Every weekend, she would drive to a part of the country she had never been, and snap the local wildlife. This weekend, she was travelling to a little village further south. It was so small it didn’t feature on her Sat Nav, and it took her longer to arrive than she thought. It would begin to get dark soon.

She passed a patch of woodland, a few minutes walk from the road. It looked wild and untouched, perfect for her project. She parked the car at the side of the road, and began walking through the fields. When she reached the edge, she could not find a path, and so had to create one, forcing down the plants with her feet, breaking tree branches. She would not be able to go too far in unfortunately. She stopped to take a picture of spider web, one of the largest she had ever seen, strung between two large oak trees. Little drops of water from that mornings rain, clung to it and sparkled as it danced slowly in the breeze. It was like a beautiful, delicate piece of jewellery.

Something moved in her peripheral vision. She started, and turned to see a large moth landing gracefully on a nearby log. It was far larger than the ones she had at home, which swooped and played around her light bulbs. It was at least four inches wide, with large brown mottled wings. On each wing, was a large black spot, with hints of red and burnt orange. They looked like angry eyes staring out at you. On the thick body, there was a white mark, distinct and terrible. A skull, watching her along with the eyes. It was beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. Lyndsey moved to photograph it, when it flew, suddenly, straight at her face. She fell backwards on reflex, trying to avoid it, but something was wrong. She fell, expecting to reach the ground quickly, but the impact never came. Instead she kept falling, down and down. Suddenly everything went dark, but she could feel she was still falling.

A small pin hole of light broke the darkness, moving towards her, increasing in size as it did until she was surrounded by the light. It took her a minute to focus her eyes. She was still in the forest, the same trees, the same dull beams of light just penetrating the darkness, now fading with the hour. Except, something was wrong. It was the same place, but from a different angle. She looked around, but she couldn’t feel her neck. She went to touch it, but she had no hands. She began to panic, a silent scream filling her head, as she realised she could not speak.

Then she saw it, or more accurately, she saw herself, walking towards her. Same hair, same face, same clothes, it was definitely her body, but it was huge and giant, towering above her now. It was as if she had shrunk, a twisted version of Alice’s adventures. But who was this copy? It smiled at her, and held up the large camera lens to her face, or at least where she thought her face was, and in it’s reflection, she saw the moth. It hit her. She hadn’t shrunk, she had swapped. How was this possible? This can’t be real. Horror filled her. She wanted to do something, say something, somehow stop it, change it back, but how, she did not know.

“Smile for the camera.”

It laughed, and snapped a picture.

“That’s a keeper.”

She started to try to ask what was happening, to beg for mercy, but no voice came out.

“I can imagine what’s going on in that little mind of yours, and so, as a courtesy, I’ll sum up. I have taken your body. It’s mine now. You are inside mine, and there you shall stay. I will explore the world, and you, can stay here, trapped in an immortal form, pondering and weeping over what happened for the rest of time. It’s nothing against you specifically, just your kind. I have a general disdain for human beings, but I require one as a vessel to leave this God forsaken place. You happened to be the first to venture here. Wrong place, wrong time, that’s all. There’s nothing you can do about it, and I can assure you, I will not change my mind. Goodbye human.”

She appeared satisfied with her explanation, and with that, she watched herself turn and walk towards the make shift path she had formed earlier, and disappear from her view. It was a nightmare, it had to be. But sadly, it was not.

2 thoughts on “Dark Woods: A Short Story

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