The Bamboo Forest
My tour, having been delayed, suggested that I find an activity to keep myself occupied in the meantime. Being within the Orient, I thought it fitting to visit the bamboo forest that I’d seen on my traveler’s guide. The trip to the forest was nothing to reminisce upon, however, upon arrival to the destination I was greeted by the towering stalks as they had been depicted in movies and media. I entered under the old, corroded gateway to the forest and was met with a strong surge of wind that made the green towers whisper and whistle. The air sent a current of deadened leaves past my feet as I continued down the path laden with stone.
I had planned to be out only a short time in the bamboo forest but found that my disregard for the passing of time had left me plunged in the night’s darkness. The yellow ambient light that shimmered its way between the spaces in the leaves gave way to moonlight and the strong wind rested upon becoming a gentle breeze. The particular forest in which I roamed happened to have a series of networking turns and twists which, if not carefully monitored, may leave the visitor lost within its confines. I, being that unfortunate soul, was held captive within the darkness of the bamboo.
Not a single soul shuddered. All but the resounding silence made a noise and all but the living dead made a movement. The air was beginning to become chilled as I strained to see my surroundings and trotted about in hopes of finding the exit to the maze. The signs directing me seemed to lead me nowhere but towards the same darkness. The lights of the outside world seemed nonexistent as I took a moment to rest and evaluate my situation.
At this moment, among the darkness, I heard the dried crackling of twigs and leaves in close proximity to my seated location. I stood hastily for the chance of it being some savior or perhaps, an animal. Coming from out of the darkness came a radiance of white that fell in complete contrast to the darkness in which I stood. It was revealed to me that the entity was none other than a beautiful youth in her late teens or early twenties. She bore a traditional flowing dress of white and modest features though her eyes glistened with a black that resembled that of a void though she wore a slight smile upon her face. I took a curious step forward at the curious individual.
“Um, h-hello. Do you… do you speak English by any chance?” I asked awkwardly.
“Somewhat,” was her response as she remained grounded in her current position.
Her answer resonated a sweet tone though I couldn’t help but wonder as to why she was in the forest in the first place. Perhaps a worker who’d come to get me? Or someone lost like I? Regardless I felt a sneaking anxiety in her emanating aura.
“That’s good. You don’t happen to know the way out of the forest do you?” I asked. She tilted her head slightly but gave a nod. Her smile was rather unsettling though the chance of leaving the forest caused me to disregard it. “Can you take me out?”
“Of course,” she replied. Turning and heading down one way, I recuperated myself and began to follow. Her strides where steady and her form stable as I caught momentary glimpses of her face as we passed under a stream of moonlight. Her free flowing hair was carried by the gentle breeze as we continued to the destination. After a time of extended silence I was resolved to find out more from my mysterious companion and thank her for her assistance to me.
“So… why are you in the forest at this hour?” I asked.
“I’m a guide. I lead people out of the forest when they get lost,” she replied.
“Oh I see. Do you work here then? In the forest?” I continued.
“Yes and no,” was her only answer. A curious answer to my question though I thought nothing of it at the time. We walked a little further in suspended silence until I thought it necessary to speak again.
“Thank you for bringing me out miss. I… I haven’t even properly introduced myself. My name is… my name is… my name…” I stopped a moment in my pacing to peruse my memory for the piece of information that I wished to give. I found nothing however, I’d forgotten my name. My company looked upon me with a slight smile that I could not quite discern. “I’m sorry… I just can’t seem… to remember my name.”
“That’s okay,” the girl said, “the name is never the thing that defines the person, so we’re bound to lose it sometime.” I held a momentary pause at this dialogue. Lose your name? The intensity of the girl’s gaze was exemplified by her eyes being the only visible article in the darkness.
“What’s your name?” I asked suspiciously.
“I don’t have a name. Or at least one that I can remember. As I said, everyone loses their name at some point. Shall we go?” she asked without a second thought to my question. She continued on and like a small dog on a leash, I was forced to follow.
We walked. And we continued to do so for what seemed like hours. The dread that arose within me on behalf of the young girl gave rise to added anxiety. Where were we headed? And did she actually know the way out?
“So where are you from? Do you live close to here?” I asked. I had wished to coax some information out of her as to resolve my sneaking suspicion surrounding her character.
“I do,” she answered.
“Are you… really a guide? Are we heading towards the exit?”
“Is it possible for you to give me any solid confirmation of that?” I asked. She stopped a moment but continued without answering.
“Excuse me but… I really want to make sure I know where I’m going. And who I’m going with,” I exclaimed, straight to the point. She stopped again and turned to face me. The moon was right overhead at this point and sprinkled its luminance on her.
“You might not want to know where you’re going,” she answered. Her smile had faltered and she looked rather concerned though her answer made me shiver slightly.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“We’re almost there. We should keep going,” she advised as she turned to continue. I wouldn’t allow anymore of this blind trailing however and ceased her by the arm. It was ice cold. Not the mortal level of cold however, but a deathly cold. I released abruptly though she thought nothing of the action. “You’re almost there. Please. A little more.”
She continued down the path. After a moment of evaluation, I began to follow once again. The pitter patter of our soles was all that could be heard. My breath steamed in front of me as I kept myself walking.
We continued for another long while but eventually found the exit to the forest. I speedily rushed out from under the gate and stretched my arms out to my sides as a sign of relief. My companion came to meet me shortly after but remained behind the entrance threshold. I turned to face her as we stared at each other for an extended period of time.
“Thank you for taking me out,” I finally said. The wind blew from behind me and my moonlit shadow extended to her feet. She smiled and nodded. “So who are you really… a ghost?”
She shook her head and seemed to look beyond me at something else as she replied calmly, “I’m not exactly what you’d call a ghost. I’m just a conductor, a guide. I lead people to where they need to be.”
I pondered this and, recalling my former forgetfulness, decided to ask her about myself. I’d forgotten my name and as it seems, I’d forgotten much else before my journey to the forest. “Who am I then?”
She tilted her head curiously but retained her smile, the moon reflected her features to me as she remained silent and prepared to go. “You’re a ghost.”