Don’t let the length fool you – most of this is dialogue and short paragraphs so it’s not actually all that long. What do you think? Do you think this guy is crazy and the forest born are in fact just your typical wild animals? I mean, it’s a park, right? There are probably squirrels and raccoon and birds living there.
======== The Path of Moonlight ========
“I’ve never met anyone who carried long knives on their person,” I said. “I needed help and you’re helping me. I was trying to be polite.”
He gave me a strange look before starting on again. “You must have had a very sheltered life,” was all he said.
I spoke without thinking as I followed. “I did. I never went outside until a few years ago and most nights I spent locked up under the house.”
He shot a look at me that was simultaneously startled and wary. “Your evil guardians I presume?”
My silence was his answer. I was surprised and a bit angry with myself for having blurted that out to a stranger. A stranger who could go to the police. I didn’t want questions; I just wanted to disappear.
“Why would they lock you away under the house during nightfall?”
I shrugged and tried to act like it was unimportant. “Because they did. Why else would I be running away unless they were horrible?”
I noticed then that his hand was resting lightly on one of his weapons. It appeared casual, as if he merely wanted a place to rest his hand but it made a cautious fear rise up in me.
“Do you change into some nightly creature that they needed to lock away?”
His words were as casual as his posture. There was even a hint of mirth in them, but I felt a chill of suspicion that he was on the verge of violence once more.
I chose my words with care. “It wasn’t every night they locked up under the house, sometimes it was a closet or sometimes not at all. It was never all night either; several hours sufficed for them. And, no, I don’t change into anything. I’m just a girl.”
“Glad to hear it, forest girl. Now keep moving. I want to be out of these woods by midday. The less time spent in them, the better for us both.”
“What do these forest born look like?” I asked.
He shrugged and said, “They can look like anything. Any creature you meet in these woods could possibly be one of them.”
“Then you could be a forest born,” I said.
His nod was solemn. “I could be. For all you know, I am. Does that change your mind about following me?”
“What makes them so scary?” I asked, ignoring the question. “You said people come here to die by them. Why do they kill people?”
“Because that’s what they do. I haven’t stopped to ask them why. Perhaps they eat those they kill. The bodies are never found.” He looked around as we walked, a crease developing between his eyebrows.
“If the bodies are never found, how do you know it’s the forest born who are killing people? Maybe they just get lost and die of starvation or something. This place seems big enough for that.”
He stopped and rounded on me. The seriousness in his face suspended my doubt while he spoke. “Because there are some who make it out alive and the tales they tell don’t leave much to the imagination. The forest born are vicious animals that kill those who stumble into their midst. These woods are their territory and it’d be best if they didn’t find us here. Unless you’d like to see one and satisfy your curiosity?”
I shook my head and fought the urge to shiver. He honestly believed what he was saying. Looking into his face and hearing him speak, I almost began to believe it too.
Without a watch I didn’t know how many minutes or hours had passed but my feet and legs had been hurting for some time. I was confused how a park could stretch as far as this one seemed to stretch. At one time I thought he might be leading me in circles, but nothing looked exactly the same though it was all fairly similar.
Finally I ran out of patience. “Are we at least getting close? This place is like a national park!”
At that moment he halted and shushed me. I was grateful for the rest and wanted to sit down but the intent look on his face stopped me. He was listening. Out of curiosity, I did too but heard nothing. Frowning, I opened my mouth to ask what he was doing and that’s when I heard it.
I held my breath and listened. There was a rustling of leaves but the air was still. There was no wind, no breeze. An animal? It was larger than a bird. There was some kind of scrabbling noise, as of an animal trying to find purchase along tree bark.
“What is that?” I asked. It was quiet enough that my whisper was clearly audible.
“It’s the forest born,” he said, his voice as quiet as mine.
I was about to tell him he couldn’t be serious when he grabbed my arm and pulled me forward.
======== End of 9th Installment ========
Tune in later this week to get your first glimpse of the forest born! What do you think it will look like?
Really, you know they’re running for no reason. It’s actually going to be this little guy running around stuffing his face.