The world, when it was young, was the lover of the sun. Everything was beautiful when drenched in the sun's rays. There was no fear in what was so wonderfully lit. Life was quiet for those who lived their days in the village that rested under the sun's gaze.
However, when the sun fell, the world was consumed by darkness. The heavens, which only moments ago had shone a brilliant blue through the warm glow of the sun, became an untouchable and impermeable expanse of black. No light separated what was above from what was below. Mountains pierced the sky, like the raised back of some antediluvian, slumbering monster. Their peaks were lost in the black clouds, swallowed whole by a much larger, much more primordial beast. Massive pines spilled down their sides to pool into an impenetrable forest that spread like greedy fingers across the land, covering uncountable miles in their shadow. Creatures as terrifying and as deadly as the darkness they lived in lurked under the branches, hunting any victim unlucky enough to be trapped in their domain. Near the center of the forest, a pond seemed to absorb the pitch black sky, creating a vortex in which the depths of the night could be observed, if one was not dragged to the bottom first. Darkness covered the earth. Darkness was the earth.
Yet the village persevered. They fought the darkness with low-flickering torches and constantly-burning fires. They battled the beasts with spears and bows. They stayed close, protecting each other until the sun rose again the next morning. Fear ruled their lives: fear of the black forest, of the black predators, even of the black sky itself. Everything they did under the sun’s watchful gaze was to prepare themselves for another night. Their only joy was the woman of white.
She stood apart from the villagers, unafraid of what the darkness could bring, unafraid of what lurked in the shadows. One tends to grow immune to the terrors of the dark when the dark is all one knows. The woman of white was completely blind, her eyes pools of silver that shone against her alabaster skin and were the centerpieces of her angelic face. Her hair fell well past her narrow waist, a waterfall of snowy strands. The villagers demanded she wore only the whitest garments, saying it was the only thing suitable for someone as virtuous as her. Drenched in white, she was small, delicate, and pure.
Her mouth was always turned up into a soft smile; her tiny hands were always petting in comfort; her heart was always open for her people; she was beautiful both inside and out. Purity and compassion were words created to describe her. Her love for the villagers, for the creatures around her, and for the world as a whole caused her to seem to glow with an inner light. That light drew people to her like moths to a flame, releasing them of their fears of the dark and basking them in comfort. She was their irreplaceable woman of white, the light to lead them through the night.
Being so beautiful and so kind, the woman of white quickly collected both followers and hopeful suitors. However, her pure heart had already been entrapped by the village hunter. If she was the light of the village, the hunter was the personification of the darkness of the world. Black hair laid against midnight skin. He wore nothing but black clothes as to be able to melt into the shadows while prowling after game. The only thing light about him were his eyes, glowing gold after years of hunting nocturnal animals in the dark, and his white teeth when he flashed them in a snarl. He towered over her; his lean muscle was easily able to crush her delicate bones. To the villagers, he was as mysterious as the night. He lived on the outskirts of the community and was only ever seen fading into the trees after leaving his kills in the village center every morning. To the villagers, being as mysterious as the night equaled being as feared as the night. They wanted their woman of white to have nothing to do with the dark hunter. But a woman's heart would not be swayed so easily. Unable to bear the thought of seeing their precious light heartbroken, the villagers pushed away their suspicions, though the fear still tickled at the edges of their minds.
Every night, the woman of white and the dark hunter would walk hand-in-hand through the trees of the forest. She would talk about the day in the village. He would silently search for prey, only leaving her side momentarily to finish a hunt. Soon, however, they were together again and would continue their stroll. Her light seemed to split the shadows and his eyes protected her from harm. Every night, they would end their walk at her home. A light kiss would be their goodbye and the hunter would return to the shadows while the woman of white would stare into the dark, wishing she could see his face, just once. But the wish would slip away because she was happy holding his hand and talking with him every night for the rest of their lives.
The dark hunter was not the only person who would slip into the dark embrace of the forest once the sun sank. An average fisherman would slip out each night to sit on a pile of rocks at the pond's edge in search of the large fish that would only stir when night fell. Fishing all night and sleeping all day, he had heard of the woman of white, the light of the village, but he had never seen her. That was perfectly suitable to him. His life focused around his line, the mirror-like water, and the massive fish that would shatter the sky's reflection into a thousand rippling pieces. He had no interest in the gossip of the people around him, let alone about some woman who had to be nothing more than a common jezebel, played up by the whispering of bored villagers. He needed nothing more than the cold water and the treasures that swam within.
Night after night, the woman and her lover would walk through the trees while the fisherman would sit on his perch. The two worlds spun near each other but finally collided because of a meaningless squabble between children.
While playing with the village children near the well, the woman of white heard a group of children whispering together. They were arguing over the possible destination of a path one of the children had found earlier that day. It was hidden, yet well-worn path that no one had noticed before. One child said that it led to the end of the world. Another was certain it led to a monster’s lair. The last child, the one who had discovered the path, was fervently trying to convince the others that it led to a cave that went all the way to the center of the world. However, none of them dared wander out of the village just in case another was right. Yet they continued to argue, determined to prove they were right without actually having to prove it.
Hating to see the little ones fight, the woman in white decided that she would be the one to travel down that path. She would be the one to report who was right. That night, she asked her lover if he would lead her down that path, to see what might lie at the other end. In answer, he clasped his hands tightly around hers and they began their way into the unknown. After a moment of walking in silence, the pair fell into their usual routine. She talked while he remained quiet. He hunted while she remained where he left her. Still, at every opportunity, their fingers were entwined in a loving embrace.
Down the path they went until it widened into a clearing with a pond at its center. A pile of rocks rested at the far end, too wrapped in shadows to be seen in great detail. The dark hunter quietly whispered a description of the place until she shone with joy. She sprinted through the grass, dragging him behind her. Once they reached the water, she released him to splash in the cold water like a child. The hunter simply listened as she laughing as if all the happiness of the world was in that one moment. She giggled and threw water in his direction. He didn’t even flinch. He just remained silent on the bank, golden eyes constantly scanning the surroundings.
Her twinkling voice filled the clearing, expressing her joy and her desire to come every night. He stayed as silent as the shadows. Jumping from the pond, she reached her hand out for him and he grasped it without hesitation. Laughing, she pulled him along until he took the lead, keeping her close to his side. Soon their backs, one radiant white and one pitch black, faded into the trees.
The fisherman peeked over the rocks, completely in shock. That was the woman all the chatter was about? Such words did her no justice. She was perfection, a sliver of the sun that has fallen to earth. A cord seemed to connect him to her, pulling his heart in any direction she moved. A feeling such as that could only be true love. Yet she seemed to be captivated by that haunting man who watched her.
The way she laughed and spoke to him was how one might act toward a lover. However, he showed nothing. No smile, no words, no sign of even noticing her presence. The fisherman knew she was blind. Her one weakness must have made her susceptible to that hunter's evil charm, made her rely on him. If she had eyes, she would see the hunter was not for her. Since she had no way of seeing for herself, the fisherman would show her. He would show her that what she felt for the hunter was not love. Her true love was the fisherman. He would support her and make her know she was loved. That was not the way things should be and he was positive he would set things right.
Every day, the fisherman would present gifts to the woman of white. Every day, the woman of white would refuse the gifts with her utmost apologies, saying her heart belonged to another. The fisherman would not be deterred. He would visit her, sing to her, and try to show her his love in any way he knew how. She would continue to politely refuse and, every day, she would return to the owner of her love, the dark hunter.
Frantic, the fisherman began to believe the dark hunter had somehow cast a spell on his love that kept her from him. Refusing to let his love fall into the hunter’s clutches, the fisherman journeyed to the witch that lived in a cave in the side of the mountains. The witch was known for selling charms, spells, and potions to the people of the village for as long as anyone could remember. She was also whispered to be cold and as jagged as the rocks she lived in. However, the fisherman knew that if anyone could lift the fog from his true love, it would be the mountain witch.
He journeyed for two complete days, never stopping to sleep and barely slowing down to eat and drink. The worry and resolution that rolled off him in waves both kept his legs moving and kept the animals at bay. Finally, he arrived at the base of the mountains, staring up until the tips merged with black sky. Hundreds of feet up the rock face rested the cave, the faintest torch-light shining through the dark. With determined hands he scaled the side of the mountain till his fingers gripped the lip of the cave. He heaved himself over and fell, panting, inches from the witch's wrinkly feet. She sat him down, fixed him a drink, and listened as he told her of his worry. After his story was done, she pondered what he had said for a moment. Then she spoke.
She agreed with his worries, saying that the dark hunter was a demon of the shadows that planned on consuming the pure woman’s heart until nothing was left. She also agreed that the woman of white was the fisherman's true love. The woman of white needed to be freed from the demon's trickery as quickly as possible. Then, she laid out a plan to separate the woman from the hunter forever. It would allow the woman of white to see her mistake and know the fisherman is who she was meant to be with. Thankful beyond words, the fisherman learned his part of the plan and left, hugging the witch goodbye in his excitement.
The witch watched him on his climb down until the shadows enveloped him. She then turned her gaze to the sky and grinned wide enough that her face might have split in half. Clapping her hands giddily, she began putting her plan together. She would separate the woman of white and the dark hunter. But, unlike the fisherman, whose intentions were out of love, the witch's heart was as black as the world around her.
Fury had been steadily building within her wrinkly body with each passing day. The woman of white was, unknowingly, stealing her clients. Most of her potions and spells traded were for suppression of the fear of the surrounding forest so the villagers could get through the day. Yet, with the woman of white's calming aura and pure heart, the villagers were turning less and less to potions and elixirs and more and more to the serene smiles of the village's light. Unable to take much more, the witch had been searching for an opportunity to remove the thorn in her side, only to have one fall in her lap. She would not waste it.
The next night, just after dusk, the fisherman appeared at the woman of white's door to tell her that her lover wanted to meet at the pond. He then said that the dark hunter had a surprise for her and had asked him to escort her to the water. So excited was the woman, she did not notice that she had heard the fisherman's voice before in the form of love confessions. She grasped his arm and begged him to lead the way. He did so without fail.
At the same time, on the outskirts of the village, the witch, dressed as a villager, stopped the hunter on the way to the woman's home. She told him that his lover had a surprise waiting by the pond and she had a villager help her to the water. The hunter, distressed about what might happen to her without his eyes, took off through the trees, sprinting for the pond. Chuckling, the witch followed, knowing the hunter would never reach her side.
Earlier that day, the witch had stirred and stoked the villagers’ fear of the hunter. She had spun the same tale for them that she had given the fisherman. She had told them that only they could protect their precious light of the village from the dark hunter. Drowning in their own fear and misguided need to protect, the villagers had decided to help see the witch’s plan through to the end.
The woman of white sang to herself as she waited by the water's edge, next to where the fisherman fished. The fisherman relaxed in her glow, feeling the comforting warmth emanating off of her. However, a rustle from the opposite side of the pond had him remembering the plan. He dove behind the pile of rocks.
The woman, hearing both the rustle and the fisherman moving away, called out for her lover. There was no answer. For the first time, she felt panic at not being able to see. She stretched her hands out and began to walk along the pond, calling for the hunter.
The dark hunter burst from the trees, his sharp eyes instantly seeing his love searching with arms outstretched and calling him. He raced toward her, yelling a reply, when hands snaked from the shadows and tangled their way around him. A hand covered his mouth while more pinned his arms to his sides and trapped his legs. The villagers, driven by their fear of him, held on tightly, keeping him in place. The woman turned to him, silver eyes wide in a frantic attempt to see, before screaming as a wrinkled hand stroked her cheek from the shadows.
The hunter thrashed, desperate to break free. The witch appeared. She cackled, pulling the woman's face inches from her own. Her greasy cheek slid across the woman’s smooth skin as she whispered into her ear. Whatever she said made the woman of white turn ashen. She began to frantically fight against the witch’s grip on her face. But the witch held tight, squeezing so hard that the woman yelped. The yelp echoed across the pond, reaching the hunter’s ears. In reply, the hunter stopped trying to wiggle free from the hands holding him. Instead, he began to tear them apart.
With a sick grin, the witch pulled a small glass orb from her cloak. The woman screamed again. Hearing it the fisherman began to realize that this was not what he had wanted. He raced to the pair and pleaded for the witch to stop because he changed his mind. The witch tossed him aside with a flick of her wrist.
The witch grinned wider and whispered that she promised him she would separate the lovers forever. The orb began to grow in her hand. She pinched the woman's face hard, cutting off her scream before declaring that that would be exactly what she would do. She would put the lovers so far apart there would be no hope of finding each other again.
As if blowing a bubble, the witch blew the growing orb at the woman. When it hit her nose the orb opened and grew around the woman's trembling figure before closing again around her. The woman of white pressed her hands on the sides of her prison, then hit at it, then smashed into it but nothing happened. She screamed but no noise could be heard. The only thing that exited the ball was the soft light that shone from her. The orb continued to grow until it dwarfed even the massive pines of the forest. Finally it stopped.
The witch laughed at her handy-work and gripped each side of the sphere. The fisherman, hunter, and even the villagers watched in horror as the witch heaved the ball up and chucked it with inhuman strength into the sky.
It hit the dark heavens with a shower of sparks. The sparks scattered across the sky and glowed faintly where they landed. The orb remained intact, too far away for its prisoner to be seen but close enough that her light shone over the forest, illuminating the world in a silver glow. The woman of white, the light of the village, was gone.
By this point the hunter's hands were soaked in blood. Bodies fell left and right as he tore with animal-like ferocity, eyes blind to anything other than the glowing ball that was his love. Scarlet drops covered the grass, sparkling in her light, as villager after villager toppled. Yet the number of hands holding him back never seemed to decrease. With a snarl, he increased his attacks, using not only his hands but his teeth as well.
Seeing the hunter so desperate to save his love, even when it was clearly useless, the fisherman realized what he had done. He was the one who had actually broken apart true love. Ashamed and heartbroken, he crawled behind the rocks and wept. The witch appeared before the hunter and laughed at his frantic fighting. Growling he leapt at her face but the hands held him back. Her triumphant smile faltered, yet only for a moment. She placed a wrinkled, speckled hand to his blood-soaked forehead and declared that if he was going to act like an animal, then an animal he would become.
Black fur began to sprout across his body; his bones snapped and bent; his teeth lengthened and sharpened, fitting into his, now-extended, mouth. Screaming in pain, he tore at the remaining villagers until his screams became whines. The surviving villagers ran for their lives and the hunter chased them, blood dripping from his muzzle. The witch, satisfied with her work, walked into the shadow of the forest and disappeared forever.
The fisherman cried and cried behind his rocks, each tear falling into the pond. Even when the water level reached his chin, he cried. Even when he was well underwater, he cried. Eventually, he was nothing but tears. The pond, fed by his tears, spread across the land, covering much of the forest in water. It exceeded a pond, even a lake, turning into something much greater. Though his body was gone, the pull he felt toward the woman of white would remain within his tears. The water would pull toward her prison before crashing back down in waves, only to be pulled back again. Forever and ever, pulling and releasing to and from his unrequited love.
The woman in white could see nothing from her prison, could say nothing to get her lover's attention. Instead she shone her light steadily down to him, hoping he felt her love. Eventually she would become exhausted and fall asleep. Her light would slowly fade before completely going out for days. However, she would slowly awaken again until finally shining with all her strength for the one she loved. The cycle of sleep and shine would never end but she would never give up hope that he would find her again.
The villagers remained in their village, horrified by what they had done and afraid of the new hunter that prowls the forest. They begged for forgiveness, only to be taken down. Even generations later, they would cower in fear at the sound of the hunter.
The hunter continues, to this day, to run through the night. He is hunting for something he knows he has lost, something his animalistic mind will not let him remember. His eyes are covered in a red haze. The only thing breaking through that haze is the silver light from the ball in the sky, surrounded by the sea of sparks. Frustrated, alone, and heartbroken, he can do nothing but sit and stare at the ball, howling for what he has lost.