Into the Woods, somewhere

“And let you get lost all by yourself and have to come find you anyway?”

Amale went past him, heading on the road that led into the woods. Suddenly finding himself left behind the brisk pace that she set, Barden moved after her. He’d never really had chance to spend much time with her before, although she had always intrigued him. There was a strange aura of loneliness emanating from her which he had always empathised with, and there was certainly no denying that she was attractive.

“Lost? Me? No chance I’m going to get lost in there. I’m a master woodsman you know.....”

There was every chance that he was going to get lost in there.

“Well, maybe a teensy, tiny small chance that I would get lost in there. Just a small one mind.”

Moving closer to the woods, indeed closer than Barden had come previously, it was evident that there was something very wrong with them. And it was something that was not just caused by the unnatural aura that simply radiated out from the woods in droves. There was an strange, almost otherworldly stillness around the giant oak trees as they came closer into view.

“Do you feel it?” Barden pointed towards the woods. “There’s a wrongness here. It’s thick in the air.”

And then, a second later, he realised what it was. There were no sounds of birdsong, no rustling leaves. No movement inside the dark shadows cast by the old oaken trees. There was nothing, no sign of life at all. More to the point, the trees themselves as they got closer......there were signs of sickness on then, the bark of the trees were dark and mottled, spots that went up and down the bark. Moving up to the bark of the first tree, eyes gazing down the windy trail that pierced the forest’s interior, Barden reached out and touched the bark gently.

“It looks...diseased,” he said softly, running his hand up the bark.

“Have you ever seen the like?” his blue eyes flickered back to Amale.

It was then that the sound of a branch snapping from the shadows of the woods shattered the illusion of peace.....

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