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Forest of Darkness

The fairytale of a man who searches for a new life with such desire, he's willing to sacrifice everything.

Once there was a young man who put on his bright cloak and decided to go on an adventure to the Forest of Darkness. He heard that there were many creatures of the night that lived there: spirits, goblins and demons that would do things for him as long as he offered them a piece of himself. The man was desperate. He was very bored of his life and found no purpose or joy in anything. Day after day, his life remained the same and his self-esteem was as small as a crumb. He didn't see much worth in himself so he was ready to sacrifice anything for a new life.

When he reached the forest, he waited for night to fall for one could only enter the forest in the dark. When the moon started rising on the other side and the face of the sun drew itself away, he found the gate made of thorns and entered through. Immediately, demons and spirits started appearing. They pulled on his cloak and turned his clothes black. His heart beat with fear and the spirits knew it.

‘Are you afraid? Give me your heart and your fear will leave with it too,’ the Spirit of Pride whispered in his ear. The spirit’s voice seemed vicious underneath a breath-taking and large coat full of rhinestones and diamonds. I’d give anything to look like that, the man thought. So he reached into his chest and gave his heart to the spirit. Immediately, he started walking differently, he walked as though born of royalty and a mirror appeared before him that moved with him and followed him everywhere. Whenever he looked ahead, he only saw his own reflection.

Further down into the woods, as the man stumbled onward, trying to see past himself, another spirit approached. This was the Spirit of Shame, who had a large bat that rested on his shoulder. ‘Give me all your clothes and I’ll move the mirror out of your way with this,’ the spirit pointed to his bat.

The man undressed himself, the cold running up and down his body pricking at his skin and turning it blue. The spirit hit the mirror so hard it flew miles and miles ahead. He could still see himself, but now, he was only a small, insignificant and naked creature of no standing or strength.

The goblins and demons of the forest laughed at him as he trembled his way forward like an old man crouching down over his cane.

The night seemed endless and so did the forest. Shortly after, he stumbled upon a nest of snakes and out from its centre slithered the Spirit of Deception. It wrapped itself around the man’s body until it reached his neck. ‘Careful what you step on, sir,’ he said in sibilance. ‘Apologise!’

The man didn’t understand what the snake spirit wanted for he had no remorse: it was given to the Spirit of Pride along with his heart.

When the Spirit of Deception saw that the man refused, he squeezed him tight and sucked all the truth out of him as punishment. His tongue was now the same as the snake’s and it only spoke in lies.

The man managed to drag himself through the rest of the forest, where the demons and goblins were throwing him out. They laughed at his inability to talk or see or even walk as he used to. They played and bragged about the parts of him that they now owned and teased him for his foolishness.

By the time he’d reached the end of the forest, it was winter. Snow settled everywhere. The fields turned into an empty field of ice with dark sparkling mountains in the horizon. The moon now shone brightly above his head.

‘What happened, my friend?’ the moon asked him as his light was never welcome into the Forest of Darkness.

‘I wanted to be new. To walk with confidence and have a soul of power. And yet, look at me. They promised me pride and now I have shame, they promised me confidence and all I have is fear, they even took the truth out of me. How am I supposed to become someone new?’ the man asked the moon, kneeling on the cold ice, his tears turning to snow as soon as they dropped down from his eyes.

‘I have a friend who can help you.’

‘Who?’ the man jumped. ‘Tell me. Is he the same as the others?’ The man struggled to stand up. ‘I don't have much left to give,’ he whispered to himself.

‘You need to see the Spirit of Love.’ The moon shone down his light like a beam, and led the man toward the spirit.

‘But what will he want? Will he ask me to give him my soul? To give my mind? My body? What will my payment have to be?’

‘Everything.’ The moon rose above and stopped before a large mirror made of ice. It stood above the ground on frosted steps while beams of snow shot out of both sides of the mirror. ‘Wait here,’ the moon said before he left him.

The man walked up to the mirror to look at himself, but couldn’t see anything. The mirror was cracked and fogged and all he saw was a slight shadow of a man somewhere blurred inside it.

A sweet voice as that of a nightingale sprouted in the background. The voice asked, ‘Do you see yourself?’

‘No, I don't. I don't!’ the man shouted and in rage punched the mirror. He didn’t realise how delicate it was for the glass shattered into millions of pieces as soon as he made contact with it. Glass fell over his naked body leaving bruises and cuts behind. The man looked down into the shattered mirror yet again.

‘Do you see yourself?’ the voice repeated.

‘No! I’m nothing. I’m nothing,’ the man began weeping.

Suddenly, a woman appeared before him as tall as the sky itself, with a dress of gold and a face so rare that its light was too bright to look at.

‘The Spirit of Love,’ the man gasped. ‘Take everything!’ He lifted up his arms in surrender. ‘Take all of me, I don’t know what you’ll do with it, but it doesn’t matter. Only Death itself can save me now.’

The woman came down to him as graceful as a dancer and covered his body in her dress. She wrapped herself around him and the heat from her face made him melt. Slowly, he felt great pain in his chest like being beaten with a hammer, a sting in his eyes as though shattered glass moved around in them, his skin was prickled by what felt like rolling needles and his tongue was on fire: a flame that had him shriek into the heavens for mercy. Regret hit him hard with the thought that this was Death in disguise.

Moments later, everything went dark.

‘Awaken,’ the voice said.

When he opened his eyes, he stood again before the mirror. Confused, he searched for the woman or the moon, but both were gone. He stepped up onto the mirror’s edge, took a breath and looked at himself.

His cloak had returned, his eyes were a magnificent blue and his stature was like that of a mighty warrior.

‘I’m sorry about the pain,’ the voice spoke from within him. ‘I was merely calling back all that you gave away in the Forest of Darkness. But now they’re yours, and when each one goes through my light, they transform into their true selves. And now finally, you can see all that you are.'

‘…and I am beautiful,’ the man said.



Illustration: Moe Balinger

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