Though it was spring, it was as if the forest’s heart were stuck in winter; and Sade’s chilled bare feet grew increasingly numb. Despite the cold, Sade’s attention was focused on the swarm of glowing insects flapping their wings together and emitting a papery whisper; it was something that Sade had never seen or heard before. And before she had realized it, she had run deep into the darkness of the endless evergreen forest.
(Art by Ivan Bilibin)
She glanced all around her, noting the proud ferns and the graceful branches of birch trees. And then her throat suddenly grew dry as she remarked that the lightning bugs were now flying faster than she could keep up. As their light dimmed, a shadow darted past her. The dark shape brought with it a gust of frozen winter air. Sade bit her lip from nerves. Had she just seen that? As if in response to her unspoken question another thick shadow rushed past her. The leaves of the forest trembled, and then to her horror, they all stopped at once leaving the forest all too entirely silent.
Even, her breathing felt too loud. A chill coated her spine, and she had the sensation that someone was watching her. Whirling around, she saw a darkness nestled between two white birch trees, blacker and colder than the night around her. The eyeless creature moved its head towards her as if he could see her, and stretched its hooked hand out to her. She took a step back with her breath catching in her throat and a different shadowy hand hooked around her shoulder, burning her. Sade released a scream as the thing’s spectral touch began to scorch through her brother’s old shirt.
A sudden burst of white dashed through the trees. It was blindingly white like a perfect field of snow. For a moment, Sade couldn’t distinguish what it was, and then she saw: a white stag. The elegant creature lifted its front legs up and kicked back the shadow tucked in the trees. The stag’s antlers were glorious; Sade had never seen antlers so massive and so intricate. It was as if the creature wore a never-ending crown upon its head. The snowy doe swiped its hoof against the ground, and lowered her antlers in a silent threat towards the shadows. The shades darted back hissing, revealing monstrous fanged and fiery mouths. It was as if their throats held a swirling flame embedded in their maw, powering them. And It was the singular moment Sade could truly distinguish them apart from the dark.
Cautiously, the deer bleated in Sade’s direction and stared at the girl with an intelligence and wisdom that the young girl had never seen before in an animal. The stag’s endless black eyes were like the star speckled nighttime sky above them. The illustrious deer lowered itself as if…as if telling Sade to get on. Cautiously, Sade walked towards the stag. It hadn’t flinched at her approach, like most deer would have. She tapped the stag’s antlers like she was testing it to see if it would bolt. Miraculous, it remained there, waiting. Ever so slightly, the brilliant creature turned its head towards Sade and grunted, urging her to hurry.
A branch snapped nearby them, and Sade glanced over her shoulder in panic. More shadows swirled in the back of the forest. The dark things opened their mouths and growled revealing the swirling heat in their throats. Sade didn’t have the luxury to question the impossible events occurring.
She wrapped around her fingers around the perfect antlers, and climbed onto the creature’s warm back, and then they disappeared with the wind.
Continue to Installation #5