Light peaked through the trees as Erwyn trampled through the undergrowth, struggling back home. She could just see the outline of her house through the thick trees. The sight spurred her to move faster, not wanting to be in the forest once the sky darkened. She had just stumbled into the clearing when the forest emitted a series of howls and other frightening noises. Erwyn shivered and hurried towards the little cottage in the middle of the field of grass. She eased the door shut behind her and turned to face her mother. Hands on her hips, Mama stood tall in her rage. Erwyn imagined she could see the steam billowing from her ears, and tumbling towards the floor.
“Where have you been?!” Her mothers words came out high pitched and twisted with anger. Erwyn mutely held out her hands, which were stained with the juice from all the berries she had picked in her trek through the woods. Her mother just sighed. “And I wonder, do you realize what time it is?” Erwyn only nodded, wringing her hands and further smearing the juice.
“Twilight.” Erwyn’s voice came out as a near whisper. Mama made an ordeal out of stooping to hear it. Her face scrunched up as she nodded down at her only daughter.
“Tell me it was worth it and you at least found some blueberries…or even raspberries?” Erwyn nodded vigorously and pulled the sack off her back, opening up the top so her mother could glimpse the various berries stowed within. Mama just gestured to the kitchen, signaling that she was done with this conversation, for now. Erwyn scurried away, grateful to have escaped most of her mother’s wrath.
Later on, as she washed her berries in the tub in front of the small window, Erwyn watched the shadowy shapes weaving through the trees. She shuddered to think what would’ve happened to her, had she spent any more time frolicking in the forest. She went to bed, still haunted by what could’ve happened.
The next morning bloomed, bright and clear. Erwyn rose with the sun, limping towards the living room and sinking down next to the fire. She turned a sharp eye to her right ankle where a large bruise had emerged, purple and tinted green. She figured she had hit it on some sort of obstacle in the woods the day before and didn’t think much of it as she went about her day. She didn’t even look down as the bruise took over most of her foot in the late afternoon. She went to bed without noticing that it was now creeping up towards her knee. She slept fitfully and woke up with sticks in her hair and dirt in her bed. When she sat up she discovered rocks in her pockets and began dumping them out on the floor all were small and the palest white. Once again as she struggled out of bed she found her self limping towards the front of her house. When she inspected her right leg once again, she was shocked to discover that the bruise now covered most of her leg and that there was a new, smaller bruise blooming on her left leg. It was in the exact same place the one on her right leg had started. She quickly covered both legs with her skirts, not wanting her mother to see. The old women was unforgiving and would no doubt shun her daughter for injuring herself like this, in the woods no less. Once again Erwyn went throughout her day as though nothing had changed, she worked in the kitchen with her mother and tended the gardens outside with her father. When the work paused at lunch she took care to retire to her room for a second to check on the progress of her bruises. She was once again startled to discover that they were now creeping up onto her stomach, but strangely they no longer pained her. With a growing sense of unease she thrust herself into the work of the afternoon blocking out all thoughts of the discoloration of her skin. That night when she went to bed she lock her door hoping this would prevent more dirt or rocks in the morning.
Erwyn could hear the birds before she awoke and could feel the chill of the morning air upon her skin. But, wait, that wasn't right. She had been sure to shut the window last night…
Her eyes snapped open. She struggled to her feet and the leaves crunched under her feet as she looked at the forest around her. She tried to orient herself in the direction her house but couldn’t pick it out among the trees. Only then did she look at her hands. They were the same purplish green as her legs, though she was now sure that the bruising covered most of her body. As she tried to comprehend what was happening to her body she felt the rumbling of true hunger rolling through her stomach. She looked around for a berry bush and quickly spotted one only a few feet in front of where she had been laying. She ate a few and curled up her shirt to hold a few more for the walk back home. The sun rose high in the sky as she picked her way through the trees, searching desperately for something she recognized. Her selection of berries quickly depleted and then disappeared altogether. She hardly remembered eating them and yet her hunger had only intensified to real pain. It was nearly evening and she still hadn’t found her way home, she was terrified of the possibility of having to sleep among the leaves. Nobody talked about who, or what, ruled the forest at night. An hour later and Erwyn decided her best option was to find the best tree she could and climb until she could no longer see the ground. Maybe then she would be able to see her house. As soon as she reached the top branches she spotted her house, memorized what direction it was in, and scrambled back down the tree. She was still picking her way toward it as night fell. The temperature dropped instantly and the howls she was all too familiar with sounded from all over the forest, only this time they were frighteningly close. Erwyn eyelids drooped and only then did she realize how tired she really was. How bad could sleeping in the forest really be? At this point it might be even more dangerous than stumbling around in the dark. Unable to continue any longer, Erwyn sank to the ground and fell asleep instantly.
Hours later, she awoke, curled atop her mothers lifeless body. She shrieked and threw herself away. Erwyn curled up on the cold floor, convinced the body in front of her was just part of a bad dream and as long as she closed her eyes once more everything would return to normal. It was only when she was closing her eyes that she noticed the two tiny puncture marks upon her right ankle…