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The forest was the type of forest that horror movies were set in. It wasn’t a picturesque, beautiful, airy, or light forest.
No. Not at all.
The forest was still and dark and eerie.
In the car, the sun had blazed overhead, filling the car with a stifling heat that the old air conditioning system had no chance of beating.
Now, the trees huddled together, hissing insults, and muttering under their breath, and the joyous sun had no chance of getting through.
So the sun had ignored her, as so many people did these days.
Her legs felt on the edge of giving out, her breath like shards of glass in her lungs. Her throat had dried up, but she had long since drained the measly bottle of water that she had brought with her.
She had hardly looked up during this whole ordeal. She placed one foot in front of another on the soft pine needles that covered the forest floor, but her brain did not process anything she was seeing, instead, it was lost in lonesome thoughts of misery.
Maybe that was why everything happened. If she had been focusing, maybe she would have realized she had strayed from the trodden path that weaved through the forest. Or maybe she would have noticed that the path seemed to have dissolved, like seafoam on a beach, where even the most determined hikers turned around. Maybe she would have realized that it was time to turn back, to return to the shelter of civilization.
The poisonous web of society.
But she was not focused, and so the next step that she took was onto uneven ground, and her ankle twisted, and she fell, letting out a sharp cry as she thudded to the ground.
She made a small noise, something between a whimper and a grunt of pain, but she grit her teeth and exhaled sharply; groping around for something to hold onto and pull herself upright again, her palms scraping against rough stone. And she might have thought nothing of it if she hadn’t opened her eyes and seen the ground directly in front of her face. It wasn’t the downy pine needles that she had grown accustomed to, nor the solid, packed ground beneath it.
Instead, the ground had transitioned into the chalky white rock that you often see in the picturesque (photoshopped) images of cliffs .
The girl got to her feet, bewildered by the sudden change in the ground. She twisted back to face the way she had come, but there was nothing to show for her trek but a couple broken plant stems here and there.
A faint noise snagged her attention and after a few tentative steps in its direction, a quiet sound that swarmed around her and settled into the dark recesses of her mind. The foliage that had shaded her journey began giving way to a to a cornflower blue sky, and the sunlight once again brightened her vision. With every step she took, the sun’s rays got closer and closer to her eyes and within a couple seconds she raised her right hand to shield her eyes from the glare.
Her hand partially blocked her vision, and at first she failed to notice the dramatic change in her surroundings, her hazel eyes squinted against the glowing sun.
Slowly, slowly, the noise that had floated around her grew in volume, the pressure building and building in her chest until she was completely overwhelmed by its power, and she removed her hand from where it covered her eyes.
The air left her lungs in one great whoosh of amazement.
The sun, unobstructed now that she was free of the dark trees, shone freely. The joyous heat absorbed her into a bubble of pure joy, with no room for hate, or sadness, or any of the misery she had been existing in during years past. The heat that radiated from that ball in the sky that represented happiness and all things cheery filled her with a feeling of weightlessness as she observed her secret refuge.
That noise, that all-powerful, sentient being, it was a waterfall. Sparkling water that crashed and bubbled and murmured and giggled, not at all like the trees that hissed and spat. There were no other words to describe it than… gushing. The water tumbled over itself, rushing to get to the finish line -where it fell off the cliff face- and the cool water spraying on the girl, dampening her clothes lightly.
She walked to a ledge that jutted out, but her steps were nothing like the plodding ones that had carried her through the forest. Her steps were light, almost silent, so not to disturb the peacefulness that weaved its way through this asylum.
She approached the ledge-more of a rock that was brave enough to protrude out- and the realization that she could simply step off crashed down on her, filling her head and her consciousness.
Just step off, and just like that it would all be over.
No more of this dark monster of depression that squatted inside of her.
Just...nothing. Blissfully nothing.
But how could she? How could she ruin this harmonious sanctuary?
Within days the police would swarm here, with their yellow tape and loud voices and heavy boots trampling everything.
Nevermind the physical effects- how could she let everyone down like that? How would she ever get to experience the moment where she found the strength inside her to slay that looming monster?
The breeze teased the ends of her hair, nudging her closer and closer to the edge, but she didn’t allow it. Instead, she sat down stubbornly, and refused to move.
The ledge that she perched on was made entirely of rock. Sedimentary, she realized as she recalled sixth-grade science lessons that had been drilled into her head. The rock wasn’t smoothed, as she had thought it might be, and it was evident that no one had ever visited this secret haven that she had found for herself. The jagged edge bit into her thighs, but the sun had warmed this particular cliff enough that she barely registered the pinpricks of pain. She kept swinging her dangling legs and drinking in the sun that was giving her a wonderfully glowing warmth throughout her body. The birds twittered valiantly in the treetops, but their sweet melodies were drowned out by an even sweeter sound to her ears; the rushing of water as it crashed down a sheer cliff of 300 feet. She was lucky, she supposed, that the rock ledge she was relaxing on was solid. Though the wind rustled her hair gently, urging her to give in and fall off the edge, she refused to move. Not now, when the world seemed perfect. Her eyes finally fluttered open, as she took in the beauty around her. Behind her, the way that she had come, trees huddled together, whispering secrets to each other in the dark shade where the sun’s rays could not penetrate. But when the soil beneath their roots gave way to the chalky white of the rock she was sitting on, the trees stopped growing, and it was just her and the waterfall.
Eventually, the sun began to dip behind the trees, and she reluctantly got to her feet, vowing to return to this sacred place that had saved her life.