Imagine growing up in a town without any access to the outside world—I’m talking about complete isolation. No contact with anyone. No trading. No government. No laws. No school. Would you wonder about what’s out there, beyond the borders of your town?
Imagine you, and the rest of town, live in such filth and poverty. Would you wish for a better life if you didn’t know it existed?
Imagine that your town has no history. No one knows how the first settlers came to be there, or where they came from. Would you want to find out the answer to that mystery?
Imagine that you, and your town, are isolated and live like animals because your town is completely surrounded by a dark forest…one that everyone says is haunted. Your whole life you’ve been told that inside the forest lives a creature who will kill you if you enter…and she is the sole reason why no one can leave town. You know that many have entered the forest, but none have returned. Would you question the myth of the creature? Would you wonder that maybe, those people who’d gone into the forest had escaped your town and found a better life? Would you risk your death on the basis of that hope? Would you enter the Lerewood forest?
A middle aged man did. And this is his story.
An excerpt from Chapter 4:
The wood was pitch-black. Lingering in one spot did him no good and fear came quite easily, so Uallas found it best to walk again. He couldn't see a thing except the foliage, which seemed to cast an eerie glow. Even in the darkness, the trees acted as lamps, giving off the tiniest hint of green light. The light was so faint, it barely provided Uallas with guidance to see ahead. He could see only the trees that stood closest to him. He felt like the trees had the power to direct him to safety, but they wanted to torture him. They took away his senses and only granted him the vision they wanted him to have, and it was just enough to see the trees that stood like creatures with souls, creatures that watched him with rugged eyes deep inside their trunks. They wanted to scare and threaten him. The man could swear the trees were glowing, and only the trees that led to Ilere would glow, leading him right along that path without his knowledge. Somewhere, there could be a pathway coated in darkness, but it would be the pathway to safety and freedom. Uallas did not trust the trees. He did not like them staring at him.
As he extended his arms to grope his way through the forest like a blind man—which was fearful itself, for who knows what his hands might come across—his hunger began to arise again. Holding his stomach, he took the meat from his breast and brought it to his lips, and it tasted heavenly. No matter how much he ate, he could not satisfy his hunger. His stomach was bottomless. But hunger was something that needed to be subdued at that point. Uallas had other things to worry about, like possibly getting lost and never finding his way back to town, or worse, being killed by the legendary creature.
Lerewood was nothing without its frightening curse. There wasn't a man or woman in town who didn't believe in Ilere. Uallas thought of his wife, and how she liked to use Ilere to frighten her children when they did wrong, how she threatened her husband: 'Go on! Go to the woods! Go to Ilere! You are worthless! You are not wanted here any longer!'
She is right, thought the man. He was worthless. He had no dignity for himself. He never stood up for himself. When he was screamed at and beaten, he didn't say a word. He didn't complain, or fight back. Uallas had no strength. Being mistreated for so long had certainly diminished his spirit. He had no peace in his life.
Taking a walk through town did him no good; the citizens of Lerewood were cruel, vulgar people, and everywhere around him, Uallas saw immoral behavior and inhumanity. He worked all day in strenuous labor that he wasn't even skilled in, and when he wasn't working, he was being verbally tortured. Everything he did was scrutinized. Every word spoken to him was from a raised voice. He had no confidant, no friend, and no ally. But at that moment, he wished to accomplish one goal before his death, and answer at least one question of the never-ending curiosities that filled his mind. The forest had to have held some discovery, even if that meant finding Ilere. His death was unavoidable.
Could any being, man or woman, walk through the Lerewood forest as he did? Though the man was frightened out of his wits, he continued walking. He had bravery, for he was ready to die. His life had never been worth the struggle. His desire to uncover the mysteries of Lerewood was not enough to continue suffering each and every day, for there was almost a guarantee those mysteries would never be solved.
Here in the forest, his hope had just about come to an end. He had strayed away from the glowing trees and walked into the darkness. He was lost; there was no mistake about that. And when you get lost in Lerewood forest, you don't get found. No one comes looking for you, and you don't find your way back. The man scolded himself for hallucinating, thinking that the trees could think and plot against him, that they could glow a green light, in any direction they wished, like choreographing a dance. Because of his silly thoughts, he now found himself in complete blackness.
Again, Uallas thought of his wife and her words: 'Go on! Go to the woods! Go to Ilere!' He stopped walking altogether, stood in the forest for a few moments, then said aloud— surprising not only himself, but the trees and spirits around him,
~ Andrea Churchill
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