Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
The first thing that struck her was the cold. It was barely 6 pm and darkness was only just about starting to spread through the air but somehow it was as cold as most places at midnight. The light was also a lot darker than it should have been for that time of day. It was like looking through a tinted car window.
The forest itself gave off an unforgiving air. It was a place that had very much earned its reputation of being considered a doorway to the darkest depths of the underworld. And they weren't far off.As much as she was used to plunging headfirst into similarly dark places, this place made even her think twice. The tall trees rising up to the heavens stood like silent guards, adding to the legend by their unusual pattern which left the forest with essentially a massive living fence. This small stretch of road was the one point where there was a clear gap for any traveler to enter through. An unholy shriek rang out from within as it to prove her point. She let out an involuntary shudder.
She took a step forward. Being only a few feet from the entrance to the world's most haunted forest, it seemed to almost pull her in, as if it had a gravity all by itself. Steeling herself, she retrieved a scarf from her backup and wrapped herself in it, not wanting to waste valuable magic on casting a warming spell. She was going to need every ounce of her strength to survive this.
Evelyn pulled out the notepad where she'd written down the riddle that she had to solve. The first stanza had to be talking about the forest in general. There was no other place she could think of that would fit the bill of 'most bleak’ and 'eternally bound'. The second stanza would be the one that led to wherever the door was. And the third stanza. That could wait. Whatever it was talking about, she didn't want to know at the moment.
Evelyn quickly took the last few steps to be level with the treeline. One more step and she was in. Taking one last deep breath, she stepped inside. There was no turning back anymore. She was going to pull this off, even if it was the last thing she did.
Immediately the cold got worse, the light dropping rapidly to the point that it might as well have been pitch black. She fished out the flashlight from her bag and flicked it on, giving it a shake to get the beam to come out steadily. I really should have invested in a better one. Guess it’s far too late now.
She began her trek among the trees. They were large, much larger than most trees that you ran into, which was eerie enough of its own, but they also had a distinct black colored bark that made them quite a sight even in broad daylight. In the dark however, their blackened trees blended nearly perfectly into the gloom, making it nigh impossible to navigate without some form of light.
She pulled up the small map she’d taped to her notepad right next to the riddle. She had a good mile or two of trekking to do before she could get anywhere near a decent place to camp out and the light was already gone. She picked up the pace, trudging through the dense bush, wishing she owned some kind of machete to make her way through the myriad of branches and vines that seemed determined to whack into her face as hard as possible.
She’d been only travelling for five minutes before she heard her first unusual noise. It was quiet, barely audible. It sounded like a faraway wail, as if someone deep inside the woods was crying out for something. Instantly Evelyn was on guard, knowing very well that in this forest that could mean anything from a demon pretending to be a lost little girl to an actual lost spirit wondering this forest for eternity, unable to leave for whatever inexplicable reason that governed the rules of this place.
Hoping that it wasn’t one of the creatures that she’d heard many a story about, she crept along silently. The stories about the place were enough to give her nightmares nightmares.
A blood curling growl shook her out of her thoughts. Whatever that was, it couldn't possibly be friendly. Her heart started to beat faster as pure instinct took over, fear washing over her like a cold shower.
To add to that, her flashlight decide this was a wonderful time to go out. She desperately slapped it, hoping the batteries still had some juice. I put fresh ones in only yesterday didn’t I? There was no response from the flashlight. She was not going to be able to see whatever was coming at her. As if to reinforce that, another growl rang through the silent night, this time sounding like it was even closer than before.
Focus girl. Focus. You can do this. You’re not going down like this. Doing her best to quell her growing worry, she took a long deep breath. Her breathing became less ragged and more focused. She concentrated, and she waited, ears straining to hear any sounds of something approaching.
She stood there, hoping that the sounds of her heart wasn’t drowning out any sounds the creature could be making. There was a sudden snap of a branch. Evelyn held her breath, body slowly going into a defensive crouch as her muscles tensed, coiling up like a spring.