Following, I had screamed more desperately than I believe I had ever before. There was no doubt within me that Thomas was dead, and yet I would not accept I was alone in such a dark place. I began running, the scent of rotting earth upon me. I had trespassed in the Forest of Souls - and I knew the Forest would punish me for it.
I think, even now of Thomas Cribbs, and whether the Forest has kept him for its perversities, if he now lies fermenting amongst the undergrowth, his preserved face scurried over by beetles and worms. If I cannot change what took place, I am left only to consider them.
I ran out of breath shortly after I had begun, my lungs seizing up, aching like plagued with sores. I was caught and pulled to the ground, a root spinning around my ankle, reeling me like a helpless fish upon a hook. I had screamed, my nails snapping as I dug my fingers into the earth, clawing and fighting back.
But it was not me who stopped the Forest's will. I recall stopping suddenly, no longer pulled by the root binding me, and being left in silence, only trees creaking and wind howling around me. This moment I remember most vividly, for it was the moment that I met her. I had sensed her first as one standing above me, looking down. I had seen her feet first, pale and chilled as she strode barefoot through the leaves. I had gazed up, seeing a dress of white upon her body.
Her face. I had looked upon it and known, in the keystone corner of my soul that she was the most beautiful of all women that I had ever laid eyes upon. My wife was gone from my mind at that, and I admit that this is one of only few occasions that I have thought of her.
I need not remember this woman, for she is with me always and has not changed a day, yet I commit myself nonetheless, for it was a moment of splendour. Her hair had reminded me of chestnuts, dark and lit with a kind of red seen only in the moonlight haze through the leaves. It had fallen to her knees, impossibly straight, her eyes framed; eyes that seemed colourless. That is to say, each time that I looked upon them, or each time they closed and opened, they were a different shade in the spectrum of blue.
"Hello," I had said foolishly, standing not far from where she stood, unmoving and gazing. "Are you lost? Please, I must -," she had turned away at that, moving through the forest and I, weak to one who seemed in need, followed. She said nothing to my questions of who she was, how she had come to be in the Forest, if she knew how I could escape. I had spoken to her like a fool, and when her indifference began to agitate me, I had reached for her shoulder to turn her to me.
She had then seized me by the neck, her fingers seeming to send paralysis through me. Her eyes had shone like mirrors, I saw none of her and all of me within them, my dirtied, harrowed face seeming to mar hers. I heard the voices in the wind, the sound playful and beckoning.
"Tighter, sister, tighter...that's right," they had said whilst her grip only strengthened until I could not breathe. It was only when I pressed my hand to hers that I saw emotion in her, wonder, to which her eyes had become the colour of tropical seas.
"A gealltanas?" Her first words to me sang like spring birds, and in my last dying moments, perhaps I would not have minded them to be the last said to me. "Human, you are married?"
"Yes," I had said, though then I had wished not to be.
"A boy and a girl. Please...I -,"
On my asking, she had released, and I was left bent, spluttering for air at her feet. Then, she had asked for my name, and I told it. It was once a name of no consolation, and now echoes throughout this world in whispers of hatred and ill-will.
"Daniel. I am Daniel Sherwood."