Estimated reading time — 25 minutes
It had to be close to 12 now. The silver gleam of the full moon was spilling through the woodland trees, illuminating all it touched. Evan looked at his watch. It was 5 minutes to 12.
Although it was not a necessity, Evan wanted to get there by midnight. For each month that he decided to do this, he planned very carefully. While the moon’s reflected light was growing, he would gather the things they liked, always careful to not pick any metals and plants with vibrations that could harm them. Such items could be to them like sulphuric acid could be to humans. Though if it was to be milk, butter, or of his own body, he would make sure it was fresh. They preferred these things to be fresh.
Some months, he would not come at all. He liked to remind them that he would not rush to appease them; he did not fear them. Though his father had said to him that this is what he must do now that he had moved away from the family home. They would see Evan as independent, so his father’s efforts would not count for him. If Evan abandoned them, things would grow a lot worse for him.
He kept walking through the woodland, not thinking so much as simply just walking and knowing that the correct path was underfoot. Evan had learned that he functioned best when he allowed his senses to take lead – thoughts could be very distracting. His current goal was to get to the burrow in the tree, and that was simply what he would do. As he got closer to the burrow he began to feel more awake; a sign that he was close to it. He heard a sound in the trees, a rustling. He continued walking, without turning to pay it any attention. He had never allowed himself to fear them, Evan felt that he was above that. After all, he saw his surroundings through more than one pair of eyes. In fact, the only reason he could see them was because of this sight.
Evan focused on his own footsteps, his destination, and his goal. He was wearing his hiking boots with the steel toe cap. They were not too keen on the toe cap. Fortunately for them, Evan preferred to keep his feet to himself. So long as he wasn’t provoked, anyway. Walking at night with his hood up, standing at 6’4”, Evan wouldn’t be a silhouette anyone would be glad to see. Though the only people in these woods at such a time were usually the daring, unhinged, or unusual.
The atmosphere seemed to be growing brighter. The moon, the light source, becoming more intense. Though also he could see different colours in the air, brighter colours. He was now in front of the burrow under the blackthorn tree. Evan had formed quite the bond with the tree within the years he’d lived here. The tree was ancient and very enchanting to look at. It was a little distance from the other trees, and always seemed to be in a world of its own. But in the ground in front of it, leading underneath it was a burrow. Generally, it wasn’t very deep, and anyone taking a mere hike wouldn’t think twice about it. But they hadn’t experienced the burrow at a time like this. Considering it now, Evan could see great change. The hole was deep and dark. Although there were orbs of light circling the tree and light cast by the moon, the hole remained entirely black. It was like a black hole, swallowing up anything directed at it and leading to a place nobody knew.
Evan stood a foot from the burrow and slowly knelt in front of it, arm resting upon his bent knee. He watched the burrow and waited for a moment, for them to feel his presence and grow familiar with it once again.
With a calm disposition, Evan looked directly into the blackness. He then pulled his backpack down from his shoulders, unzipped it, and brought out the items. He carefully placed each of them in front of the hole. His father had said that to drop them down would be extremely unwise. They would not take too kindly to it, and would make that very known. Evan then arose and took a few steps back, kneeling back down again and watching the hole. The lights circled around the items curiously, then abruptly moved back. Two small glowing fiery lights formed in the black. Eyes. They stared back at Evan from the hole. Evan didn’t know what it was exactly, though it was the one that most often greeted him here. It felt extremely old, ancient even.
Evan nodded once to the eyes, greeting them. They just stared back, staring into him. Evan knew the amount of layers those eyes could see through was inconceivable to man. It was OK for Evan to leave now. He took his backpack, turned around, and walked without looking back.
When Evan got home the apartment was silent. His flatmate Jon was asleep, he could hear him snoring in his room. Evan got undressed and slipped into bed. He would sleep soundly tonight.
A week later.
Evan’s eyes flew open, suddenly awake. They were immediately greeted with darkness, though the moonlight behind his drawn curtains allowed him to make out the silhouettes of the things in the room. His bedside table, his lamp, his mirror, and maybe something else. Though he wasn’t concerned for any of that. All he cared about was the hill in the woods.
Evan immediately pulled his duvet open and swung his legs round to the floor. He had nothing in his mind but that woodland on the hill. He needed to get there. Without a memory of any dream, or any reason for him to do so. He was only in his underwear, so he got up and went over to his wardrobe, taking out his black hoodie and jeans. He was completely focused on each passing moment as he dressed himself. He then left the room, not at all paying any attention to the dark mass in the upper corner of the wall.
Evan made his way to the front door, not bothering at all to turn any lights on. He did not need his sight in any way. For this situation, they were quite useless guides. He then put on his hiking boots and jacket, took his car keys from the kitchen counter, and made his way out to the car. As soon as he was out of the door and in his car, he was on his way.
Once he was coming up to his destination, he began to feel more relaxed. Though his actions were still without usual logic. But that was mostly what he would expect, what with the strangeness surrounding each day. Every day of his life, even in his childhood, had been distant to normal reality. No day had gone by where he had not seen something the human eye was not supposed to see. Evan didn’t know why, but he didn’t have average human perception; that was something he was used to. And still, after being so different from those around him, he managed to get on well with everyone. All through education, and at work, he had been popular, admired, even an object of lust. He didn’t feel lonely or unstable, no matter how distant his world was from everyone else’s. Maybe that was because his family accepted him, maybe it was because he had always received adequate attention from those around him. A day at school, socialising and studying, to a night of being watched by black masses of smoke standing at six feet tall. He could adjust and accept greatly.
Maybe it was just because it was his life. To him it was normal, so there had never been anything to get used to.
He parked on the road beside the bottom of the hill, switched off the engine, and stepped out of his car. He looked up towards the hill on which this part of the woodland resided. The moon was watching over the trees, though she was pale from the blanket of clouds before her. Evan could see patterns of energy emitting from each tree. Though radiating out from amidst the trees was darkness. And that was where Evan had to focus.
Evan began to climb the hill, treading straight through the vegetation. He could feel something watching him from the darkness. It was calling to him, beckoning him up the hill with its energies. It had reached him from his own bed. Each step felt natural, as though he was being led. Though he felt so out of touch with the physicality and solidity of his surroundings. He had experienced things like this before, though this felt much more intense.
Once he was up in the woodlands, amidst the trees, he could see clearly in his head where he had to go. A clearing… He had been there before. It was sloped, populated by blackthorn trees. Though in the centre was an oak tree of great age. The trunk was very wide and rough, and thick moss-coated branches came out of it from the top, growing in every direction. The clearing was quite high up on the hill so he would have to trudge through ivy to get there. The image was still in his head but it didn’t feel like a thought or memory, it felt like he was seeing it as it was.
Evan made his way through the clear path. He passed a few young foxes, gaunt and wary. They were about to run off but the peculiarity emitting from the young man caused them to hesitate, eyeing him with curiosity. Without taking their eyes off him, they slowly retreated into the darkness. The moths fluttered straight past him also, preferring the spaces far from him.
Evan continued to walk, with each step he took the image in his head grew clearer. The sound of the ivy brushing his boots, the rough soil underfoot. Every sensation seemed heightened, though still somewhat distant. He knew immediately once he’d reached the clearing. The moonlight had grown dimmer, blocked off somewhat by the shrouding branches of the oak tree. It was looming down over Evan, watching him. Though darkness was still in the background, its blackness fixated upon him.
Evan stood in the centre, waiting. For what, he didn’t know – he just knew he had to do so. He was calm, disturbingly calm. There was a silhouette to his left side, average height, man-shaped.
To his right side there were lights. ‘Jack O’ Lantern’, ‘Will-o-The Wisp’, he recalled the writing in his father’s folklore books. He turned to them, his attention captured. They were bright, but gentle. There were three of them, about the sizes of tennis balls. Two of them were pale red, like dim but pigmented fires, the other was white. Seemingly satisfied that they’d captured his attention, they began to move, weaving in and out of each other, dancing around in indescribable patterns. Evan was beginning to get lost in them, when they abruptly blended into each other and became one. Evan’s eyes began to burn and he began to feel light-headed
He looked away. The lights vanished.
It was then that he noticed the shadow that initially had been one at a distance had now become several. It was moving towards him, seemingly from all sides.
They were mirroring each other. At first it had seemed like they were sliding human shapes, but as they approached nearer it became more apparent that they were masses more than anything. Shadows, blackness. No matter where he turned he could still see them. He closed his eyes and they were still there.
The light-headed feeling intensified. Evan pressed his hand to his forehead, as if that would somehow still his increasingly spinning head. He could feel them around him, wispy, though intense. Touching him in ways that no solid thing could.
Finally, he felt himself being torn from his body, shooting up into Nyx and being thrown into the blinding brightness of Aether.
Evan’s eyes opened and he found himself in a corridor. He sat up slowly, becoming aware of the pounding in his head and his sudden blurred vision. He slowly looked around him, observing the environment he was in. His vision had grown slightly clearer, but not by much. He could make out more of his surroundings, the corridor was very long and empty, the walls were white, and the floors were grey. The floors seemed to shine and looked like they should have felt cold, yet the sensations of temperature seemed to be non-existent. There were rows of doors on each corridor wall, and there also seemed to be moving shapes between the spaces. His eyes kept attempting to focus on the things around him, but they were failing miserably. Though this place, it still seemed familiar. He had never seen it before, but he felt like he had been here before. He began to rub his eyes.
It was then that he felt it. Something was in front of him, staring straight at him. Evan got to his feet and allowed his eyes to adjust. Directly in front of him stood a human-like shape, like Evan himself it was tall. It was made up of patches of dull and grim colours, the occasional vibrant one. It stretched out its arms, long and thin they were, and its long fingers pressed onto Evan’s eyes. Evan was taken aback, flinching. He felt a strange liquid on the thing’s fingers, greasy and unpleasant. In an involuntary response, Evan tightly closed his eyes. Upon reopening, everything was perfectly clear.
The first thing he noticed was that it appeared like a man in his early-twenties, like Evan was, or a bit younger. His nose was long and thin, his lips were also thin, and deep crimson. The colour stood out in contrast with the milky whiteness of his clear, taut skin. The man’s hair looked soft and shiny, shoulder-length and raven black. But the features that stood out most on his face were the eyes; large and maroon with black vertical slits in the centres. Evan observed the man’s attire. He was dressed in a way that reminded him of an Edwardian or Victorian style of dress. He wore a tailcoat over a white shirt, a black bow tie, braces attached to his trousers, and a bowler hat and shiny shoes. His entire outfit looked new and crisp, the fabrics perfectly smooth.
He, or rather it, appeared in a way that a third dimensional being could understand, and that was simply what it was. Evan remembered his father warning him that they did this, and going on to say that behind the deception was something not even Evan could picture or perceive in any way, shape, or form. The man was not recognisable, though he was also not unfamiliar to Evan. Much like the rest of the environment.
“What is it this time? I’ve been leaving you things, just like my father said to,” Evan said.
“Your father doesn’t have all the answers.” Its voice was low in pitch, and had a somewhat unnerving, unrecognisable accent.
Evan chuckled sarcastically, not taking his eyes off it. “So, have you made a personal name for yourself then?”
Backwards words. Evan noticed it immediately. He was no stranger to the games they liked to play, “How interesting. Well then I’m called Nave.”
“Nave,” he repeated, “I may use that sometime.”
Something about the blankness in the man’s response unsettled Evan. There was an uneasiness about the man, the way his mouth remained straight, lips unmoving when he spoke. The way he did not blink, not once. Those eyes – a deep, intense colour – the shade of dark, fresh blood. The slits were focused on Evan, thinning then dilating slightly. Why did they do that?
For a moment, their perception just stayed there in union. Or rather, the creature stared at Evan, observing him. The eyes were doing more than just watching, they were digging. Evan knew they were seeing far more than they appeared to. Those eyes could see through anything, including illusion. “They trick you,” Evan’s father had told his son, “it’s called glamour.” Though his father had also said it could never be perfect. They would never be just like humans, no matter how accurately they attempted to mirror them. His father had been right so far, Evan was seeing it right then. It may have looked like a man, but there was nothing human about those eyes.
Evan cut his thoughts short, not wanting the man to know them anymore.
The eyes just continued to stare back at him. “There is something here for you to see.”
The man began to walk. Not too slow, nor too fast. As they passed each door, Evan got cryptic hints of what may have lurked on the other side. Each door emitted its own sound, and each chill he felt brought with it its own very individual and unique sense of dread. It was all too bewildering.
Nearing the end of the corridor, Evan could see golden light emitting from the right corner. Evan subconsciously began to slow his pace, distancing himself from the man, wary of what was round there. As soon as he became aware of what he was doing, he picked up his pace again. They turned the corner.
Evan could not believe what he was seeing.
They entered a vast room. Inside of it was a sight Evan had never seen before. It was beautiful and enchanting. The walls were covered with art – naked bipedal male and female bodies, with skins in many shades of browns and reds. Sparkling lakes in jade and sapphire shades, flowers with petals in colours Evan had never seen before in his entire life. Nothing like any colour of the known colour spectrum. Right ahead of him was an altar. The wood looked like mahogany, but Evan knew it wasn’t truly that. And around the room stood gold, brass, and silver statues of the gods and mythological creatures of many human cultures. There were also unusual stones and crystals upon the altar. Some of them looked like known stones, though they were not quite the same. Everything seemed to create one big picture. It seemed to portray existence in some sort of complex way. Or maybe they were just mocking humanity and their ways.
Far too filled with awe, Evan had initially not been able to say anything. The environment had been too loud, louder than even his own thoughts. Curiosity brought him a voice, “What is this place?”
The man turned to face him. He looked pleased, “Perception.”
The man smiled softly. But it looked wrong with his features.
Evan noticed the atmosphere changing around him. The room seemingly melting, the pigment of colour fading out. Evan turned, watching it all disappear before him, marvelling at it. Everything once seemingly solid became liquid, then blurred out to gas and became simply a room, just as plain as the corridor had been.
Evan turned to the man for some sort of familiarity and stability. Though he discovered its appearance had changed along with everything else. It looked like the male appearance, but now female. Raven black hair, though now flowing and long, porcelain white skin, deep crimson lips. Though her eyes, they seemed more human. Still not perfect, however. And the face, it was a face he’d seen many times before. He’d been seeing it in his dreams and nightmares since he was a child.
The clothes were gone. The woman stood naked in front of him, small breasts, thin at the waist. Evan could feel his mind-set begin to alter, his instinct take over. Sense was slipping away, not much seemed to matter anymore. It was their creation of illusion, glamour. And even though it was becoming apparent to him that the whole purpose of this visit had most likely been their idea of a fun game, Evan felt his resolve moving increasingly further away from him.
The woman took a sudden step closer to him. There was an impish quality in her expression as she pressed her unclothed form against him. He suddenly felt it then, like he was a part of her somehow. It was as though she wanted him to feel like she wasn’t as foreign as she seemed. He rested his hands upon the body, allowing them to slip down the small of her back, and wander round the curvatures of her exposed hips. It felt soft, like skin. He pressed his nose into her hair – her scent was light and feminine. Instinctively, he pulled her body tighter against his. His flesh was satisfied at its womanhood.
But his mind was not.
Evan’s perspective began to change, and he loosened his grip on her. He felt her energies turn dreadful. As her body lost contact with his, he saw her face again. It was blank, featureless. Just white skin. He felt a pang of fear, and pushed her away, startled. This enraged her, turning her skin grey, scales forming upon it. Her eyes formed once again, though into burning red fires. It was then that a hole stretched open where a mouth should’ve been, and a shrill, piercing sound escaped from it. It was ghastly, unlike anything Evan had heard before. An inhuman sound provoking dread, fear, and terror in their deepest forms.
The wailing formed words, “YOU’RE NOT THEIRS, YOU’RE OURS!”
Evan froze and became dizzy. His head began to spin rapidly, faster and faster. It felt as if the sound was seeping into his pores and filling his entire being. He felt himself being lifted, and suddenly spinning with it. Brightness closed in around him, encasing him, blinding him. He was losing touch of this place; this world. He was being thrown around the spaces between the dimensions of the cosmos. And then he felt nothing.
Evan awoke to the sound of morning birdsong, and trees whispering to each other in the wind. He felt the cool breeze of the morning air on his face. He opened his eyes and found himself lying under the oak tree in the clearing, the forest was still and the air was tranquil. Though he felt a bit rough. He had no idea what time it was, but judging by the dim daylight glow it had to be somewhere around 7 a.m. Evan’s eyes felt itchy and sensitive, he rubbed them as he slowly arose from his spot. It was then, standing up, that he became aware of his pounding head. He groaned, holding a hand up to it. He didn’t want to have to go to work today. He then remembered it was his day off, and felt a sudden gratitude. He began to walk down from the clearing, through the ivy and onto the pathway. Even though he was experiencing pain and discomfort and wanted to get home quickly, he forced himself to take a slow stroll to his car. To fail to do so would result in a stronger headache. Once he’d made it down to the car, he climbed into the vehicle and drove home.
It was 7:08 a.m. and Jon was sitting on the 3-seater chair with a glass of water. When he’d woken up this morning it had become apparent that he was alone in the apartment. This was no concern to him. He’d thought that Evan must have risen earlier than usual and taken a walk. It wouldn’t have surprised him; the guy was rather spontaneous. He hadn’t heard Evan getting ready and leaving the house, but Jon was a heavy sleeper. It was very unusual for him to be awake so early on a weekend. It was possibly because he had such an early night. He had gone to bed at around 8, something about yesterday had drained him. He didn’t know what, all he knew was that he had just wanted to sleep. Now he was awake. He’d brushed his teeth but not bothered with anything else yet. He just wanted to sit for a while.
He heard the front door open and turned to see Evan coming through the door. He looked rough – bloodshot eyes, his usually neatly-styled dark hair was a mess, and his clothes were dirty.
“What the hell happened to you?” Jon asked.
“I have the biggest headache,” Evan replied, ignoring the question.
“Where have you been?”
Evan allowed himself to drop down beside his friend. Jon got up, took an ice pack out of the freezer, and threw it at Evan. Evan just lay there with his eyes closed. Jon sighed, picked up the ice pack and applied it to Evan’s forehead. Evan let out a sigh of relief.
“What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“They’re too bright.”
“What’s too bright?”
“Who are you, my mother?”
Jon sighed, “Well what am I supposed to do? Stay silent? You just come back here looking like you’ve been dragged around the woods all night. And you’re making no sense.”
Evan didn’t respond. He just stared up at the ceiling blankly. After a while he said, “They want me more than ever now. I think I’m going to find out.”
“Find out what?”
Jon didn’t say anything more about it. Evan coming back in such a condition began to make a bit more sense after that. Evan didn’t need to say anymore, Jon just knew it was something that would only make sense to him. He thought Evan was weird, but he didn’t think he was crazy. Jon thought back to all those times as children, when he had stayed over Evan’s house. Sometimes, when they were sleeping, something would wake Jon during the night. An unsettling feeling, an energy. He could feel it coming from Evan. He would look over and he would be able to make out in the dark an even darker spot, a great pitch black shadow looming over his friend. Watching him sleep. On the rare occasion, he would see Evan lying there talking to it in whispers. Though sometimes he’d be still, just staring at it. Jon remembered growing fearful. Evan had looked dead. He had been so still, and his eyes had been so empty. It was as if the shadow had been death, pulling the life out of him. Sometimes Jon could have sworn it had eyes. Glowing orange eyes. Jon would just close his eyes again, pretending to be asleep, swearing he wouldn’t open them until morning. Sometimes he had hated it when Evan stayed over. Not because of Evan, but because of the nights. He had hated sleeping in the same room as him. The day and evening would be great. Evan’s mother would put cartoons on for them and they’d watch them all evening. Evan would sometimes even teach him how to draw. Drawing was something Evan still loved to do to this day. They’d listen to music and not care about girls, college, or money or anything like that. They were kids and life was simple. But some of those nights caused Jon feelings of dread.
Back then the idea of ever living in a cabin with Evan would have terrified him. But they were grown now, and slept in separate rooms. The weirdest things to happen these days were usually only caused by Evan. Jon wasn’t a child anymore, he was a man. He would never allow anything to scare him like that again. He didn’t want those damn things in his home. He wouldn’t have any of it.
“What are you doing today?” Evan asked him.
Jon was slightly taken aback at Evan’s sudden calmness and change of subject. “Nothing.”
“Let’s just chill then.”
It was 12, noon. The woods were quiet and still. Evan and Jon had been walking for a while, not much conversation had gone on between the two. Once they were at the woodland hill, Jon began to feel a slight difference in his friend. They had been in the woods together before, though this time it was different. There was a distance in Evan, as if his mind was not entirely with them. Evan hadn’t said much about what they were doing, just that they were chilling out. Jon had showered and dressed without questioning him. Why would he need to be concerned? The fact was that for the past few weeks Evan had been acting particularly unusual. Unnerving, even. So, this walk in the woods was causing Jon to feel ever so slightly on edge. Especially considering how strange the air was around Evan recently. Nevertheless, Jon hoped that this walk would be the thing to get some normality back.
Evan led them to the stream, where beside it he lay down looking up through the trees. Jon stood there, staring down at Evan. Evan gestured for him to sit.
Jon sat himself against a rock, watching Evan.
“What?” Evan asked him.
“What is with you these days?”
“What is with you?”
It was more of an accusation than a question. Evan turned to Jon and glared at him. When he realised that Jon was just going to stare straight back, Evan shook his head and turned away. He continued to gaze through the tallest branches. There was no brightness or blue, just white and grey. He looked up at the whitest cloud. It looked fluffy and soft, though really it was just countless water and ice droplets formed together. Evan thought about how fascinating it was, really. Looking at clouds, for Evan, was an eye opener. It reminded him that everything was formed to create a solid image in the mind. Nothing was truly as it seemed. Existence was merely a vast picture of illusion nobody would ever understand. Not even himself. What if there was no truth? What if things were completely different through each pair of eyes to exist? Evan was beginning to believe, or realise, more and more that truth was simply what each mind and pair of eyes made it to be. Because what the truth was to one living thing was never the same for another.
“Jon, do you remember when we were younger and used to see people in the clouds?”
For a moment, Jon thought Evan was referring to something unsettling, but then he remembered. Those summer days, lying on the dirt and looking up at the clouds. They would each try to outdo each other in finding a cloud with the most interesting shape. Though they would almost always end up being silly and finding a person they knew in it, or someone of the sort.
Jon smiled at the memory, “Yeah.”
“Well, what if they were really people’s faces?”
“Yeah,” Jon replied sarcastically, chuckling, “Because Uncle Paul is really going to be in the clouds.”
“No, shut up. I mean what if there are things that can appear to us in ways like that?”
“Things… Sort of like other conscious things.”
Jon thought about the orange-eyed mass of darkness standing over 9-year-old Evan’s death-like body. He inhaled slowly and sharply “Well,” he said, “maybe there is.”
Evan turned to look at him, “Does it disturb you?”
Jon could see Evan searching for any sort of fear or reaction in his eyes. He wished he wouldn’t do that.
“I don’t know,” he lied.
There was silence for a moment. Jon had wanted to leave it there, but then he got curious himself.
“What about you?”
Evan continued to look up through the branches. He looked calm, no hint of fear or uneasiness in his face. He was thinking about his answer. “It should do, really, shouldn’t it? But Dad told me there was no reason to be afraid, especially not for me.”
“What would he mean by that? Why shouldn’t you be afraid?”
Evan let out a dry chuckle, “Well, really, I have no idea.” Evan brought himself up to a sitting position, decidedly having enough of the clouds. He took a pack and lighter out of his pocket and pulled out a cigarette. He inhaled as he lit it up. “My dad is weird though, isn’t he? He studies that sort of thing,” he said on the exhale.
“Not too sure. It’s a hobby, I guess.”
“He gets a good amount of money though, on the books he writes about all that weird shit.”
“Yeah. I’d think so too. He has been doing it since way before I was born.”
They took the moment of silence to occupy themselves once again with their thoughts. The stream by them existed in greens and blues. It was somewhat still where Evan and Jon were, as if waiting for more of the conversation.
After that Evan was pulled from his distance by the sudden urge to urinate. He hadn’t noticed it before, but it must have been there. Evan couldn’t even recall drinking anything in the past few hours. He told Jon where he was going before leaving the stream to release.
Evan found a spot behind a tree, unzipped his trousers and did what he had to do. It was then, when he had finished up, that he became aware of a change in the atmosphere. He felt a feeling like a brief shock of electricity run down his back. It was a familiar feeling, an indication of a foreign world. A world consisting of things no solid human being could ever understand. Their world, where time and solidity was nothing. The mirror that reflected a completely different picture of reality. Evan had often wondered what would happen to a person if they were ever to experience this dimension in its truest form, void of any illusion. His father was convinced it would end in death. Evan thought he was right. After all, how could a person truly experience something that foreign? Something that had never even existed to their own senses, their own eyes. A place where every sensation would be completely different, non-existent to their own reality. An experience like that, it would be worse than horror. It would be unimaginable, indescribable, not one word or human experience would come close.
Something like that, it could only kill a person.
Evan turned around.
It had been only about 5 minutes when Jon heard the sound. It had come from the direction Evan had gone to. It had sounded most peculiar, unlike anything he had ever heard. It had sounded so abnormal that it made a great chill run through his body, made it feel a way that it had never felt. The best comparison Jon could think of was being in a vehicle going over a great bump while a stick of ice went through his body – not something likely to happen. He’d felt the sound, more than heard it. It had been slow and rhythmic. Inhuman, ungodly. And then it had stopped.
Jon had been momentarily stunned, as if the sound had infiltrated his entire being and buried itself inside of him. Though now the panic and anxiety was beginning to set in. He quickly got to his feet.
He began to call Evan’s name. No response. He hurried off in the direction that Evan had went, the direction of that dreadful sound. He stopped immediately when he saw it, a gaping black hole, swirling rapidly. He knew then that the sound had come from that. A devoutly religious person would have thought it to be the portal to hell. Looking at it, he began to feel dizzy. His head began to tingle and spin, his eyes grew heavy, his knees became weak, and he dropped to the ground.
The first thing Evan smelled was mud. The first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was a figure in the darkness of night surrounded by candlelight. Evan was lying a small distance away from them, rather confused, anxious and curious. He remembered what had happened, he had been in the woods with Jon, he had released his bladder and then he’d felt something behind him. He’d turned to look, and… his mind was completely blank. He couldn’t remember anything he had seen after that. Though now, he was lying on the ground in a woodland, watching a young woman on her knees surrounded by a circle of candles and holding an old-looking book. She was wearing a black hooded robe, but her youth and femininity had been given away by her voice and slender hands. She seemed to be chanting something. Around her were orbs of dancing lights, she was calling them. Evan watched on in awe. The woman momentarily paused her chanting and abruptly whipped around. He suddenly felt a twinge of fear, as if he was a child caught doing something he shouldn’t be. He couldn’t see her face too well because of the hood, but for a moment he thought she was looking directly at him. To Evan’s relief, she turned back around and continued her chanting. The words were being spewed under her breath, though Evan could only make out “child” and “mother”. It was then that he felt her desire. Her burning desire to be a mother, a desire that could not be fulfilled. She was barren, and was asking them for help. When she had finished chanting, she got to her feet and undid the robe. The woman was wearing peasant clothing; a dark green bodice and skirt. Right out of the renaissance era. She turned around again, wary of what may be around her. Evan was relieved to realise that she had not been sensing him, but rather she feared being caught. Evan got a good look at her face. He could feel his father’s blood in her. The woman then turned back around and pulled a knife out from a pouch. She then sliced her wrist swiftly and deeply, and held her arm out to allow the blood to fall onto the soft earth below. It was her offering in return.
Evan then saw many different scenes flashing into his head. Families that were generations ahead of the woman. Always tears and pain, women with sickly children. Barren maidens. Babies, deformed, or lying in their mother’s arms – dead. The women were not all his family’s blood. Some of them had just married into the bloodline, married into the curse. Though after leaving things in the woods, their children had come out healthy and strong. The memories began to slow down, reaching normal speed on a familiar face.
It was the devastated face of his mother as she wept over the frail and sickly body of a baby. Evan’s father was holding her as she sobbed, all the while she just repeated that she had given them all that he had said for her to. They had finally cured her barren womb, but each child was still cursed. Evan saw his father’s face. There was something in his eyes that said he had a plan.
Evan suddenly found himself in the nighttime woods again. Though these woods were very familiar. They were the woods he had grown up in, teeming with pure nature, life. Evan’s father was kneeling in front of an oak tree. He kissed the sickly baby’s small head, and placed it down in front of the tree. He then walked away, without looking back.
Evan blinked, and it was daylight. A baby lay there in the same spot, though it was very different. Upon its small chest lay a scrap of some sort of material, happy gurgling noises were coming from the baby’s mouth. Curiosity got the better of him, and before he could stop himself he found himself cautiously walking towards it. He walked until he was staring it right in the face. The baby looked like his mother and father, like the baby before. Though the first thing that came to Evan’s mind was their art, their glamour. They were the masters of illusion; things were never as they seemed. Its brown eyes looked up at him curiously, sparkling and healthy. Its mouth was stretched into a smile full of life. Evan knelt to look at the material, etched into it was faded words. It read:
The other one.
Evan then heard approaching footsteps on the vegetation, he stood up and turned to see his father walking towards the child. Evan swiftly moved out of the way. His father crouched down, looked at the note, and gently scooped up the baby into his arms. It beamed up at him. His father smiled back, and with the child he walked away.
Evan turned around and there it stood once again. It stood in his favourite form, the dark-haired female. Though Evan could see it in a new light now, it looked more familiar than ever. He no longer saw it as a foreign being, but more as family. After all, that’s whom it was; his sibling, his twin.
It held its hand out to him.
He took it.
Evan could not remember the first time they had made their presence known to him. He only remembered that, growing up, the ‘monsters’ under the bed and in the wardrobe were real. He remembered the first time he had brought it up.
His mother had been tucking him in, though there had been something else on his mind that night. And he knew that if it was not mentioned then and there he would not have been able to sleep soundly. The question would have echoed in his head, spinning around and bouncing off the walls of his skull. She looked down at him with warm eyes the colour of conkers, her long and silky jet black hair brushing his face, comforting him as she embraced him, ready to say good night. Though he hadn’t been.
He asked her what they were.
She told him his father would finish putting him to bed.
She left the room, a few minutes later Evan’s father came in. He told him that there were many stories of them. Nobody knew what they truly looked like, though they looked unlike anything imaginable. Unlike any visible thing on Earth. They could only appear in ways that brains could perceive. In every culture since the beginning of time, there were only beliefs. Nobody truly knew where they came from, just that they were much older than humanity. Evan’s father said that they were the hidden people, in a place close to his own. Hidden by the cosmos from the direct perception of humans.
And then he read to Evan. It was a folklore tale about guardians of the forests.
That night Evan had fallen into a deep and peaceful sleep.
When Jon awoke, he found himself lying on the ground in the woods. It was still daylight though the clouds had dissipated, making room for the sun. He looked around for Evan, and saw him lying still on the ground. His eyes were open, but they looked empty and blank.
Jon felt a horrible feeling in his gut. He approached the body.
After a few excruciating seconds, Evan turned to face him and said, “Let’s go back home now.”
Jon felt instant relief. So much so, that he wanted to drop down and embrace his friend. Instead he just said, “OK.”
They made their way back, mostly silent. Once home, Evan would carry out his day as usual. Then, once night fell, in those small spaces of darkness between patches of light, in the shadows, they’d still be there watching him like they always did.
And just like any night, Evan would just go to bed and fall asleep.