Chapter 6: Into the Forest of Forgetfulness
Justin walked along one of the many paths inside the forest. He took one look over his shoulder and saw that the trees had enclosed him inside. Facing front once again, he continued on as he wondered what drew him inside in the first place. I hope that they come looking for me. Justin walked slowly, so as not to encounter any weird creatures that may cross his path as he tried to find a way out.
With every step he took, the forest began to darken and a chill filled the air. Justin wrapped his arms tight about his body for warmth. What was calling to me? Instead of the usual hoots and howls that would normally be heard, Justin heard a wet snuffle and a high wail that was abruptly cut short. Goosebumps ran along his arms at the thought of what was making the sound and what caused it to stop.
Wait, was someone calling me? Justin stopped short as the thought slithered through his mind. Shaking his head, he continued walking and came upon a split in the path. He hesitated, because he didn’t know which way to take. Justin heard soft footsteps behind him and turned to see who it was. Spying no one, he walked on, choosing the left path as his chosen walkway.
Where am I going… and who is “they”? Confusion rattled inside his brain and he heard a low growl. He stopped short once again, taking another look around.
“Hello,” he said softly as his eyes scanned the darkness. “Is anyone there? My name is……” Justin couldn’t remember his name and he laughed out loud. Hearing the growl on his left, he quickly turned and saw a pair a bright yellow eyes watching him through a bush. Fear skittered up and down his spine at the flat shine in the eyes that watched him, hungrily.
“Well, I’m just going to go on my way.” He took small steps backward without taking his eyes off the bush. “You have yourself a very nice da-“
Justin tripped over a branch lying on the ground, landing hard on a bed of pine needles. He looked back towards the bush, but saw no eyes watching him. He quickly got up and did an about face, running quickly down the path, trying to find a way out.
Justin heard footfalls matching his steps and he screamed in terror. He quickly darted off the path and headed straight for the trees, skin tearing as he was caught on the branches, as if they were trying to capture him. He heard a wild shriek of laughter and he screamed again as a heavy body thudded into him, making him crash to the ground. Panting lightly, Justin heard the low growl again and slowly rolled onto his back. What he saw was a huge, black furry creature that looked like a wolf. This creature had two, bushy tails and a snout instead of a nose.
Justin started to scuttle backward, but two sharp barks had him freezing in his tracks. The beast watched him steadily as it licked its fangs, saliva leaking from its mouth and bathing the fur. It took two steps toward Justin and he screamed in fear as a third eye opened on its forehead.
The beast crouched low to the ground and Justin saw the muscles on its body bunch tightly. It sprang at him and he closed his eyes tight, so as to not see the monster attack him. Justin felt a rush of air by his head and heard a yelp of surprise mingled with pain. He slowly opened his eyes and saw an axe lodged into the beasts’ side. Harmon leaped into the clearing, yanking the axe out as he prepared to strike again. He took a swing at the creature and it leapt to the side. Justin quickly stood to help but Harmon sharply told him to get back and out of the way.
The creature’s fur bristled with anger and it snapped its jaws at Harmon. He dodged and swung again, landing a blow to the animal’s shoulder. Blood gushed out of the wound like a fountain. The beast roared its fury before turning tail and sprinting off into the darkness. Harmon bent at the waist, inhaling deep breaths to regain his strength. He jolted upright when he heard Justin scream. Harmon turned in his direction to see Justin lying on his side.
Justin panicked at the fire that was engulfing the entire forest. The smoke was thick, making it hard to breathe. He crouched down low to inhale what little air was left. Coughing, he collapsed and lay on his side as he heard the fire crackling greedily. He knew he was going to die; it was getting harder to breathe.
Help me somebody, please! He rolled over, grabbing his throat to push in some air. He screamed again as the fire slowly made its way toward him. He heard cackling somewhere beyond the raging fire and it sent chills along his skin.
Harmon watched Justin writhe in agony, squeezing his throat as if choking himself. He quickly rushed over to him, only to be repelled and he flew backwards, landing hard on the ground. Harmon quickly gained his feet and walked over slowly with his arms extended. Encountering a barrier, he felt his way around for an opening. Finding none, Harmon beat his fist on the invisible sphere. A wicked cackle erupted out of the darkness and Harmon knew there was evil magicks going on. “Lad, ye must wake up. It is naught but a trap and ye must fight it!”
Justin struggled to stand, trying to escape. Someone please help me! Help me, please!
The only person who can help you is you. A voice responded to his thoughts. He got to all fours and wobbled a bit, woozy from the lack of oxygen his lungs weren’t receiving.
Who are you? Never mind that, please help me!!
Listen to me, Justin. Hear my words and take heed. Only you can set yourself free from this prison of imagination.
What do you mean? I can’t breathe! I’m dying here, you must help me!
There is nothing wrong with you, come to me now and you will see. Come to me, Justin.
I can’t! I can hardly breathe and it hurts, please help me. Please.
Come to me.Justin made it to his feet before slipping and falling……
He fell into a bed of flowers and he opened his eyes to see the forest bright, green and sunny.The birds were chirping happy melodies and he heard a gurgling stream a short distance away. He slowly sat up and inhaled deeply of the fresh pure air that inhabited this wonderful place. It was even more special than Hytine.
“Hello, Justin,” a voice said behind him and he turned to find a beautiful young girl with rich brown hair and soft blue eyes watching him steadily. Garbed in a soft blue woolen dress to match her eyes, she was a vision sitting on the grass beside a large tree. She smiled sweetly at him as he stood and crossed over to her.
“How do you know my name? Where are we?”
“This is our between, the one that we both share.”
“This is ours? What is that supposed mean?” She stood as Justin reached her and spread out her arms wide, circling around slowly.
“When you daydream, do you ever go to a place like this? A place that was relaxing and peaceful because it was yours and no one else’s?”
“Yes,” he said softly as he took another look around. The serenity of the place soothed him immensely. He didn’t know why he needed any soothing, but was grateful all the same. “In fact, it was exactly like this place. I don’t understand how you know about it.”
“This is where I went in my daydreams as well, the very same place. I have waited for you for a long time, Justin. I am glad we finally get a chance to talk.”
“What do you mean that you’ve waited for me?”
“There is not a lot of time to explain. You have got to realize that it is not real, Justin.”
“What’s not real? You never told me who you are?”
“She is trying to trick you so you will not help us.”
“Help you, with what?” Justin asked, tilting his head in inquiry.
“Help us with the revolution,” the girl replied. “You are the only one who can help us. You have to wake up from this imagination. You must break the illusion.”
“What illusion are you talking about? There is no illusion that I can see. Who are you?”
“Once you break the illusion,” she continued on as if she hadn’t heard Justin’s question. “You will truly escape from the enchantment of Forgetful Forest. You mustbreak it and you will be free.”
“I don’t understand,” Justin stressed. “Who are you?”
“Vissa is my name,” she said as she began to fade away. Everything started to melt and change, fading as quickly as she was. Justin smelled smoke in the distance and the fear returned with a vengeance. “Break the illusion, Justin. I will be waiting on you.”
“I still don’t understand,” he screamed as it all disappeared and he realized it was his imagination……
The smoke was blanketing the entire forest, making it hard for Justin to see anything. He thought he saw Harmon through the blackness and tried to scream at him for help. It came out as a mewling sound and he slowly lifted his hand, only to let it drop back down weakly. Help me Harmon, please.
No one can help you, Justin. You can help yourself and that is all. He started at this new voice that responded to him. It was like the girl, Vissa, but more mature.
I don’t know how to get rid of the smoke. It’s making it hard to breathe.
What smoke, who said there was any smoke there? Justin closed his eyes, because they were burning from the smoke that was surrounding him. He heard the fire crackling gleefully but he lied there, perfectly still. He just didn’t care anymore if it reached him. He was so tired.
Listen to me, Justin. The voice said calmly. You must fight her off. You are letting her win by playing into her illusion.
“Break the illusion.” Vissa’s voice whispered into his mind in remembrance. Justin opened his eyes to slits and saw how close the fire was to him. He still didn’t understand how he could break an illusion that wasn’t there, because this was real.
She wants you to think like that, but you must fight it. The voice said.
How? How do I fight it?
Breathe. Take a breath and you will dispel her imagination.
I can’t breathe. Anger swiftly filled him as he wondered why the voice in his head couldn’t see what he was seeing. Couldn’t this person hear the fire? Couldn’t they see the smoke?
You can breathe. You are only choosing not to do so. Now breathe. The voice boomed throughout his mind. He felt his body getting weaker and tears leaked out of his eyes. Justin couldn’t believe this was the end for him.
Breathe! The voice commanded and he inhaled deeply in response. When he released his breath, the fire moved a little away from him. Justin stared in wonder before taking in more breaths. At once, the fire started dying down and the smoke was disappearing.
He now realized what was meant about the illusion. When he believed the smoke was there and stopped breathing; it gave life to it and caused it to almost reach him. He turned over on his side as he breathed in and out, dispelling the illusion more and more. He heard a furious yell before the forest was quiet again, with everything normal and whole. Well, as normal as it can get in a place that harbored evil creatures. Coughing, he felt Harmon kneel close to his body to check him for bruises.
“I’m okay, Harmon,” he said weakly from a bruised throat. Remembering how he almost choked himself to death to receive air, he flushed in embarrassment. “I’m a little tired, but I’m fine.”
“Yes, you are fine. You are safe, for now.” Hearing that voice that was in his head earlier, Justin rolled onto his back and sat up. He looked at Harmon, who was now kneeling on one knee and bowing deeply. Justin turned in the direction the voice came from and couldn’t believe his eyes.
He saw a beautiful woman with porcelain skin, gold shimmering hair that fell to her waist and violet eyes. She was dressed in a sparkling silver gown that swept along the forest floor. Completely enchanted, Justin gaped at her in shock and spied the clear, luminous wings that moved to and fro on her back.
“I am Kyrie, Queen of the Fairies.” She grabbed folds of her gown with her graceful hands and curtsied deep. “Welcome to Hytine.”