Once upon a time there was a girl named Aislinn who wasn't really there. Aislinn lived in a world of her own creation, a world where nothing real could ever touch her. She called her world Shadowland because that was what it was. It was a place of endless darkness. But Aislinn didn't mind the dark- rather, she reveled in it, because in the dark it was easier to hide.
Aislinn was a very pretty girl with long black hair and eyes of the fiercest green. She moved with a grace most could never capture, and her voice was that of a thousand whispering souls. She lived and breathed in all things magical. But she was shrouded in death and darkness and chaos and madness. She was tainted by shadows.
One day a man came to her house. She lived in a small cottage on the edge of a tangled forest with her black cat Mort, who was her only companion. She answered the door with that silent resolute in which she did everything.
He was standing there in his long black coat, shivering against the wind. His face was mostly covered by strands of his long black hair. His collar was turned up. From the tangles of hair she could make out one eye, one blood red eye.
"Hello," he said, and his voice was like a rush of chills up her spine. A howling wind blew out from the depths of the forest.
Aislinn smiled at him, trying to keep her manners about her. But there was something in his eyes that made her want to run away screaming for help. Instead she was frozen. "Can I help you?"
The man was silent as the grave for but a moment. Then, he asked her, "Are you very happy here?"
Aislinn glanced behind her into her miniscule cottage. Mort was meowing from where he was perched by the window. Something in his stance terrified Aislinn even more. Her blood moved through her fragile veins at a sluggish pace.
"I think that I am," she told him at last. "I think that I am."
Something flickered in the man's red eye. "But, look," he said. "You're all alone. Don't you get lonely, scared? Don't you wish you had someone here to talk to?"
Aislinn shrugged a little. "I have Mort. He makes for good company. He's very quiet. I like the quiet, you see, because it allows me to think, and I've found that in this world there is so much to ponder, so many things to consider."
The man looked a little startled here. Like that wasn't the answer he was expecting from her. He stared at her long and hard, contemplating, and Aislinn tried not to show her discomfort. Behind him, a crow called out. When Aislinn had been only a few years old, someone had told her that whenever a crow sounded, somebody died. She shuddered again.
When the man spoke again, his words were softer. "Do you not want to feel love, Aislinn?"
Aislinn's eyes went wide in shock. She was certain she hadn't told him her name. But it was the question that truly bothered her.
Knitting her brows, she replied truthfully. "I do not know what love is."
She thought the man's expression turned somewhat amused, but of course his face was blocked from view. "Love is everything good," he replied. "It's happiness and joy; it's feeling someone else beside you. It's the vacancy of all negativity. Love heals wounds, you see, and it leaves you feeling wanted. It's like stepping into a very bright light after years of living in darkness."
Aislinn thought about this. She thought that it sounded positively wonderful. "Yes," she told him. "I suppose I would want that."
"I can give it to you," the man said quickly. "And more. I can take all your sorrows, all your darkness and hurt, and turn it into only good feelings. You won't ever have to fear again- not anything. I can make you immortal, immune to death."
He said all this very quickly: Aislinn had to struggle to keep up. But she knew that this place or whatnot that he spoke of sounded positively blissful. She wanted it, oh how she wanted it, that escape from death and tears and blood and pain. She wanted to revel in the endless joys of this thing, this love that he told her of.
"That sounds lovely," she murmured, but there was an underlying tone of wistfulness. Surely she could never have something like that. She was not meant to belong to such a place. She belonged here, tending to her forest and her cat and her loneliness.
"It can be yours," he told you. "All you have to do is promise to come with me. I will take you to a place where you will not feel it. Any of it."
Aislinn glanced once more into her house, her home built upon faded memories and broken dreams. Mort was looking out at her with his wide eyes glossed over. Like he knew something. Like he just knew.
When she turned back, the man had extended his hand towards her. Hesitantly, she took it.
As he led her away through the shadows of the forest, a crow cried out into the darkness of the night