She Stood Alone

She stood alone, her back to the wind as leafy shadows twisted and danced. The forest seemed to breathe with the wind, the trees and tall grasses all swaying to some rhythm she could not feel. Shafts of moonlight filtered through the trees, casting the forest in a wonderful blue light. Creatures moved about, quietly chattering amongst themselves as their eyes shone from the shadows and small winged insects twinkled above.

But she was alone, an alien in this blue world, as foreign to its inhabitants as they were to her. Even the wind, which had once felt so comforting, seemed to be against her now. It whispered harsh truths in her ear and pushed her along with invisible fingers.

How could things have come to this? The path before her had once seemed so certain. The forest had been quiet back then, the wind but a silent companion, the creatures far less fearsome than the ones that crept now in the shadows. The leaves had been bright; golds, greens, and fiery oranges. Those days seemed so far now. That beautiful world she’d once knew had faded into a blue haze, as faint and fleeting as a dream upon waking. But there would be no waking up from this. Whether she could accept it or not, this world was hers.

A creature, all fangs and fur, burst through the inky blackness. It snarled and spat as it darted past her and bounded up a tree, disappearing back into the shadows. A fear which had only been but an ember now roared to life. Its flames seemed to dance across her skin and rage violently against her heart. She could walk no further; terror had rooted her in place. The wind at her back pushed hard, its icy fingers wrapping tightly about her arms as it tried to move her. It fed those flames, each gust seeming to send a new wave of fear pulsing through her body.

She collapsed amongst the grasses, each tendril feeling like a blade as it brushed against her skin. Creatures, putrid and cruel, sprang forward and their voices now rose. Here was easy prey, something weak and fearful they could devour. They would feast and their souls would ignite with the fire that burned through her veins. They would feast and be satisfied and this blue world would grow darker.

They were closer now, slinking across the ground, fluttering in the trees, scraping against the bark as they crept. She closed her eyes tight, ready for the world to fall into darkness. The wind died down, as if anticipating the coming of this cruel fate.

Ready now, she inhaled deeply, savoring the breath as her lungs expanded. It escaped her slowly and with it the words she’d kept in her heart for far too long. The words, though few in number, dripped off her tongue as if they were the most important words to be spoken in all her time. Even within this dream they seemed to have meaning, to have purpose. She opened her eyes, ready to stare at the haunting faces before her. The wind exhaled with her, this time with such a force that it shook the trees, sending leaves falling like rain.

They swirled about her, blocking her from the shadows. She struggled to see through the cloud of falling leaves, to see the end that surely waited for her amongst them. The eyes of the creatures glowed through the veil; gold, green, and fiery orange. Those colors pulled her closer and without hesitation, she reached forward a hand towards those ghastly glowing orbs.

The pain she had expected did not greet her. There was simply nothing. The leaves swirled away with another breath of the wind and the girl found she held a single golden leaf. It shone brightly in the darkness, illuminating the forest around her. The creatures, frustrated by this brightness, spat and shrieked. They curled back into the shadows, watching with hungry eyes.

And there were others. Leaves of green, yellow, red and orange glowed brightly before her in a winding path that stretched as far as she could see. The wind whispered in her ears, this time with a gentle reassurance. Its fingers which had dug painfully into her flesh now gently pushed against her back, coaxing her forward. She rose, clutching tightly to the leaf. The path was laid out before her, glowing like a fire in the dark. She moved forward without hesitation and the wind sighed the words that she had sighed herself, words which even in the darkness had filled her with hope, words that even without another to hear them had meant more than one could imagine, words that would drive her towards a better path. “I love you…”