What can I say of my wife? She is wretched, and I do not love her…if love even exists in our town. We all must reproduce for our kind to survive, though I do not understand why. Why must we bring new life into this horrid world, and allow our children to suffer and starve and live in such filth as we have? The Lerewood is a cursed land—all the townspeople say so. So what is the point of having a mate? Why don’t we allow our kind to die?
Perhaps my poor opinions of our town are biased, due to my cold-hearted mate. For as long as I can remember, my wife had always been demanding, and any love or caring was nonexistent. I hadn't chosen my wife out of love, but by random selection. She hadn't known how weak and unskilled I was, and I hadn't known of her rage. My parents—my father, who had vanished after having entered the wood to hunt for food, and my mother, a fallen victim of disease, had encouraged me to mate at the youngest possible age, and to reproduce as often as possible. They had found a young woman who lived close by to our own shack, who was looking to mate as well, and so without introduction, without any chance of knowing if we would get along, man and woman were wed. The act of marriage in Lerewood was a simple one; an idea of bonding with another individual for purposes of continuity. There was no ceremony to celebrate the union, simply nothing but a made decision. As the first months of our union went by, my wife's true lack of humanity soon became inescapable. By the time our second child was born, she had refused to reproduce any more with me, enraged with the reality of her existence. As a young woman, she had hope and believed in discovering a new promise land outside of Lerewood. Angry from the realization that hope was just a myth, and no hunter ever in history returned from the forest, she became crude, temperamental, neurotic, and abused her family. She told our children that I was a disgrace. She expected me to be the one who would find a better life for them. Our children threatened me with ruthless words and attacked me, for I was too much of a coward to ever enter the woods. I thought back to the last day I saw her, and the way she screamed at me, dared me to kill myself.
"Wretched filth!" screeched this middle-aged woman. Her voice was like the sickening cry of a barn owl. She was thirty-two, just entering her mid-life, yet she looked to be nearly sixty, with her ragged, torn clothing and defining lines of age. Her teeth were decayed, her nails were caked with dirt, her skin sagged, and her hair was brittle.
The wife continued to yell after the man, "Wretched filth! Why don't you keep walking, right into the woods! Have the creature get you!" She laughed hard on that one.
"You are indeed a dog, and everyone knows it. As far as anyone will ever know, you never had a name. Otherwise, no one knows what it is. You are nothing. No one knows who you are except you have the appearance of a scrawny man. You are not worth a name. It is written all over your face. You don't even have the confidence to justify it." She spat at his feet in disgust. "Run off and face your death, you coward."
~Chapter 1 of The Lerewood
So, perhaps I do not think well of our society because of my wife. If I were to have been paired with a kinder, more gentle woman—if such a woman exists in Lerewood—then maybe I wouldn’t be so inclined to consider our extinction as a blessing.
But then, there is Ilere. She may not be quite a woman entirely, as I do think she is more of a repulsive creature than woman, but I dare to consider her one nonetheless. She is exceedingly tall, nearly seven foot in height. Her body is skeleton-thin, and the dark green, almost black cloak she wore drapes over her bones. The only visible parts of her body are her hands, face, and hair. Her skin is a pale, sickly green. Her fingers are long, thin, and bony, like those of a reaper. Dirt cakes beneath her long, yet uneven, ripped fingernails. Her hands seemed to have never been washed, as well as her hair. It seemed to never have been cut, for it extends past her knees and leaves, twigs, and dirt intermingles with her black curls, giving it an olive-green appearance. Her face is scrawny and long; her eyes, nose, lips, and jaw are tight and stern. The color of her eyes is a bright lime, and they burn you like acid. And yet, despite her appearance, she is the kindest soul I have ever encountered. I traveled far in the Lerewood forest to find her, and when I finally did, she spared my life because she saw that I was not as savage as the other townspeople of Lerewood.
"Because there is no reason for you to die." Uallas stopped immediately when he heard that sound; it was like two married sounds, one a branch cracking and the second a ghoul moaning. So frightened, his entire body caught her statuesque disease from those few small words, unable to move any part of his body, even a shift in his eyes. Her voice had a certain tone beneath it, like it was that of another animal. It radiated with darkness; it didn't sound completely demonic, but was certainly inhuman. The man looked up at her gaunt green face and gave the beast a mystified expression. "What did you say?" "I said, because there is no reason for you to die." She paused, and Uallas blinked. "I will not just kill you, when you have done nothing to hurt me. Considering the many I’ve slain in self-defense, I think it's reasonable enough to spare at least one individual of Lerewood who actually has some peace of mind. There aren't many like you, I assume." He didn't know what to say. Was this truly the creature from the stories he grew up hearing, the woman, with her dark magic, able to sever limbs from bodies and melt skin from bones? Was this the savage who ripped her claws into your chest and pulled out your organs one by one? And if this was in fact the very Ilere whom everyone thought they knew, was she truly telling him she will not kill him because he does not wish to inflict pain upon her?
~Chapter 5 of The Lerewood
Mayor Fendley is the most savage of them all. Ilere’s greatest enemy, she believes that he is the pure essence of evil. He does not listen to reason. He is bloodthirsty. He is not human. I fear that our end will come about the day Mayor Fendley orders the town to hunt us down, Ilere and I. Ilere’s purpose, her goal, is to protect the world from Lerewood’s evil. We are an infection, a deadly virus that must be contained within Lerewood’s walls. If Fendley were to escape Ilere’s boundaries, I fear the rest of the world can face only doom.
Fendley interrupted. His voice flickered higher and burned hotter. "Her intentions are nothing but tricks to help her kill us off. This is my theory of Ilere, lad—she cannot leave the woods. Not once has there been a report or a sighting of Ilere leaving her home. Journals of my ancestors and many rumors state that the creature is cursed to remain in the Lerewood forest, so she can prevent us from ever escaping our isolation. As pleasing as slaughtering all of us at once may seem to Ilere, our town is barren and lacks a terrain she can control. Unable to be released on us, she starves in her forest, hungry for the flesh of man. She wishes to crunch our bones with her sharp teeth, claw our eyes out with her fingernails and let them fall to the dirt so we can watch ourselves suffer death. She will lure anyone into those woods to fill her hunger and stay alive. Do not be one of the many fools that listen to her. She has poisoned this town. She has made us hate her; she has made me hate her, and my father and grandfather. She has made me hate myself, for not having the power to save this town and prevent generations of suffering. Our forefathers have suffered for us, and she wants us to suffer for our children, and the process will continue infinitely if someone doesn't kill her."
~Chapter 9 of The Lerewood
But, for now, I must prepare for my journey to the outside world. Ilere has refused my offer to stay and help her contain Lerewood’s evil, and she has convinced me to leave this horrid place. I do not know what I’ll find, but I hope I will at least get there safely.
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