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The Sacred Forest

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Melanie trudged up the hill and silently cursed herself for getting lost. This wouldn’t be happening if we had just gone to Hawaii again, she thought. But, this year, her sister had decided that she’d like nothing better than to go out into the woods and rough it with her family. When Emma suggested her plan with her infectious enthusiasm, the entire family was charmed. Except for Melanie, that is. Oh, but she made an effort and ended up playing her part extremely well. The family believed that she loved the idea and they unanimously decided to go. Right about now, she was wishing that she had just grown the backbone to voice her opinion.

Deep down, she knew that nothing would’ve come of it if she had. Majority still ruled and the majority wanted to live in a tent. She didn’t know why she was against the idea. No, that was a lie, she did know. Being away from civilization and living in cramped living quarters would push her to spend time with her family. In Hawaii, she was able to avoid her family the entire week and hang out on the other side of the beach. In a tent, they were closer than they had ever been, literally. Another thing- she really did not like nature. It wasn’t that she hated nature, she just had no patience with it. It was boring, and you never knew what was hiding in the bushes. She didn’t like living in the city that much either. The gray, smoggy sky and sidewalks harbored a lot of the same monotony and boringness that she disliked about nature. At least in the city, she didn’t have to worry about peeing in a bush.

But all of this was putting her in a bad light. In truth, Melanie was the more sensible sister, and, if you’d take the time to get to know her, the kinder one. Emma didn’t have the best ideas or common sense, but she was fun and impulsive. People tended to like Emma more than Mel, though. Emma was contagious. It was easy to catch her latest obsession and get caught up in it with her. If Emma suddenly decided that it’d be cool to start wearing a toga around, you’d see at least ten people the next day sporting their Egyptian cotton. Emma was so enthusiastic about the camping trip that Melanie even got caught up in it. That is, until they reached the campsite. There was a pit that she assumed was for the fire, and there were holes in the ground where previous campers had placed their tents. It wasn’t that bad to begin with. It was only a weekend trip and the first day consisted of lazing around the campsite. The second day, Emma wanted to go on a hike. It was supposed to be a simple loop around their campsite. Only, the forest didn’t agree. Emma decided that she wanted to leave the trail and really rough it. Melanie half expected her to pull out a giant knife and start hacking their way through the forest like Indiana Jones. The thing about forests is there are trees. Huge, green trees that look exactly alike. One minute they were tripping over logs as a family, the next- poof -Melanie’s flat on the ground and her family is nowhere in sight.

Now, she’s wandering around, trying to find something that looks out of place in the sea of green. She rounds a corner and sees something strangely colored. It turns out to be a beer can. A collection of them, really. But, to her, this is a sign-a sign that humanity is not too far away. Sadly, the rusted metal does not give her much hope. From the looks of it, those cans have been there for a while. Faded and rusted, they look like something from the Middle Ages.

It seemed to Melanie that it was getting harder to walk. She hadn’t noticed but she had started walking up an incline. In her self-loathing, she had gotten high enough to see a lot of the forest. She started searching for a clear spot in the trees so she could see everything underneath. They must’ve noticed me missing by now, she thought. And they would’ve by now, but she knew that they probably just noticed. She never really fit into her loud, impulsive family. They were all exactly like Emma and Melanie was less loud and less impulsive. Whenever she made a joke, she could tell that they didn’t understand it by the overenthusiastic laughing and awkward silence that would follow. She could read their thoughts plainly on her parents’ faces, Where did she get this from? Certainly not my side of the family. Nevertheless, she loved her family because she had to. You don’t get to choose your family, but they’re the only people in this world who will love you just because you’re there. And that’s why her family loved her; because she was there, and because she had the same last name as they did.

Melanie had just reached a point clear of trees that she could see out of. She hadn’t noticed how far she’d been walking, but she was really high up. She frantically searched what she could see of the forest, but couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary. Not even their campsite was in her view. She sighed and continued walking. Thinking that she saw another, bigger clearing, Mel started to run, pulling the straps of her orange pack closer to her chest. She tripped over a tree root. Cursing nature as she flew sideways, she waited for the thud of her hitting the forest floor and closed her eyes. When she didn’t hear anything she opened them- she was falling off of the hill. She heard a sickening crack before it all turned black.

***


Ungh, where am I? Melanie thought. She had woken up on the forest floor with the towering trees staring her in the face. Checking her body for any injuries, she realized that she hadn’t broken or scraped anything. She found this highly unlikely. Surprised, Melanie started wiggling her toes and everything she had. There really wasn’t anything wrong. She felt as if she was being watched. Looking at the surrounding trees pensively, she got up and shook the thought out of her mind.

Melanie looked to where she had supposedly fallen off of a cliff, but couldn’t see anything. The trees blocked everything from view. She wandered deeper into the forest trying to concentrate on finding the campsite and her family. As she walked, she noticed a change in the mood of the forest. That feeling of being watched was still there, but different. She felt safe and knew that whoever was watching was keeping her safe. Every now and then she’d stop and pluck a flower out of the ground or bush and stick it in her hair. For some reason, it didn’t seem weird to Melanie that those flowers just happened to be in a rather un-exotic forest. Even the mindless constant trees seemed to change in her perspective. When a gust of wind made them bend towards her, she, for a moment, thought that they were bowing. Reproaching herself, she still felt a little uneasy. The feeling left when she saw a flower with orange petals and a purple stem.

Without trying, she had forgotten about finding her family and going home. She came across waterfalls and trees and bushes that were dripping with fruit. The colors were unreal and she felt out of place in her sensible clothes. Her neon t-shirt especially irked her-it stood out so much in this beautiful place. Her clothes were really the only tie she had left to the world she had left. With time, her clothes grew frail and discolored, until finally, they completely fell apart. She wouldn’t admit it, but she was changing, too. At this point, she had completely forgotten any thoughts of her past life, before the sacred forest. She had named it the sacred forest because, to her, this forest had saved her. It had saved her from a life of discontent and monotony.

One day, as she was wandering, she came across to a section of her forest that was very different. Gone were the colors and flowers. As Melanie walked she felt a sharp pain in her foot. She had long before rid herself of her otherworldly shoes and had unwittingly stepped on a sharp stone while she gawked. Stunned more from surprise than pain, Melanie felt unease wash over her. She came across a place that was all too familiar. From here, she could see a high cliff that had trees covering its pinnacle, deceiving in the sense that it was impossible to tell that there was a drop. Up ahead, she saw the ugly neon orange that had haunted her.

Cautiously, she walked towards the neon figure. When she could see it fully, Melanie backed away in horror. The girl strewn on the ground was bent at an unnatural angle and her eyes were still half open. Melanie regained her strength and, stupidly, tried to wake the girl up. After what seemed like hours of shaking the girl, Melanie gave up. She tried to right the girl to a more natural pose, but failed. However, she did succeed in closing her eyes. Kissing her forehead before she left, Melanie went back to her forest and forgot the outside world for the second time.



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Mtrench7809 said...
Jul. 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm
I'm not sure how I feel about this article. It's not bad at all but I don't really understand what's going on until the end, then I feel like you just thought up an ending that was rushed. It's very intriguing in an odd way however I think the ending needs to be a little longer and, I'm not entirely sure, more personal for your character but not deeply. I mean even if you didn't know it was you, how would you feel if you seen yourself dead? Something compelled Melanie to try and fix herself and ... (more »)
 
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