Image by Gregory Tan

Written by: Gregory Tan

 

She awoke to darkness.

Shapes began to take form as her eyes adjusted to the blinding dark: looming trees that seemed to tower indefinitely with their canopies dissolved into the tenebrosity above, the ground below enshrouded in shadow. Hordes of trees surrounded her as their trunks faded into the blackness in the distance. She had no memory of how she arrived here.

But something felt amiss. The trees were watching. It wasn’t long before she realised they were everywhere. Some were hanging from the branches while others were embedded into the trunks, glowing a dim eerie light that scattered like orbs throughout the dark.

They watched. They stared. They glared. The trees had eyes.

Petrified by the black, soulless irides that glared ominously at her, she could barely move a muscle. Frozen in terror, the silence then overwhelmed her: she could hear her own blood gushing through her veins, every heartbeat, and every bit of air that struggled to find its way into her lungs with every asphyxiated breath she took. The feeling of dread came gripping and crawling up her spine, as her mind began to tear itself apart.

She prayed it was a nightmare she could wake up from. It wasn’t.

Her knees collapsed as she came crumbling onto the ground with her hands gripping tightly into her hair – the agony plagued her. Tears came streaming down her face – she could almost drown in them. The eyes kept watching, and the anxiety kept devouring her. It was driving her to the brink of insanity. It was all too real.

Unable to withstand the looming anxiety that was withering her mental being, she screamed. She screamed until her lungs could implode, hoping she could scream herself out of this nightmare and return home. But nothing happened. Her scream only echoed through the trees before dissolving into the darkness as the silence took over once more.

Then another scream echoed back.

Swiftly, she wiped her tears with her sleeve and glanced around. She wasn’t alone, she thought. Still trembling in terror, she anxiously picked herself up from the ground and began to take steps, albeit slowly, into the direction where the scream came from. The eyes followed her every movement, but she kept going, trying her hardest not to see them.

“Hello?” she gasped into the dark.

There was no response. Perhaps she was hearing things. Perhaps she was finally going insane.

“Hello?” she stammered.

The silence still reigned. She knelt onto the ground, feeling lost and afraid. Her hope was dwindling. The eyes were still staring at her, as she used her remaining strength to resist the rising dread the glaring eyes brought.

Then the sound of scurrying coming from within the trees nearby abruptly broke the silence. She wasn’t alone after all. But she knew it wasn’t someone.

Her heart was racing, her breaths were heavy, her pupils dilated. Staring warily into the darkness of the trees, she examined for even the slightest movement within them, but she could see nothing in the dark.

Then the sound of faint footsteps crept behind her. She turned around and from the blackness, it emerged: a creature, looming over her like the surrounding trees.

Without a second thought, she ran into the forest, deeper into the darkness. The creature gave chase. She could hear the monstrous stomps of the creature behind her, inching closer and closer. She made a sudden turn, and as she cast a quick glance behind, the creature was seemingly gone. She hid in between the roots of a tree – the creature still had to be somewhere nearby.

Sure enough, the creature emerged nearby from the darkness once more, but it seemed unaware of where she was hiding. It had no face, only a blank white facade greyed in shadow, save for a wide mouth filled with razor teeth. Its long, cadaverous arms were armed with hands with talons as fingers. It was far taller than her, wearing what resembled a worn sweater and a skirt similar to her own apparel, and it had hair that eerily resembled hers too.

She stayed silent, covering her mouth and making sure not to make the slightest sound until the creature left. But the trees were still watching: the eyes looked at her. With the presence of the creature lurking nearby, she could hear her thumping heart echoing from her chest, her lungs crushing under her ribcage. But still the eyes made it worse.

They were driving her mad as she struggled to remain silently still. Plagued by the dread, feeling as though it were biting through her skin and flesh, she couldn’t help but to writhe in agony.

Snap!

She broke a twig next to her on the ground. She panicked for a moment but calmed down – it couldn’t have been loud enough for it to hear her. There was no sign of the creature, only silence.

But she couldn’t stay there forever – she had to keep moving. With both her hands and knees on the ground, she tried to crawl away to stay hidden and remain as quiet as possible. The creature could still be anywhere.

The eyes were still watching. Even when she wasn’t looking back, she could still feel them piercing through her psyche and soul like a million needles. The excruciating agony was eating away at her, but despite it all she kept on crawling through the forest floor.

Then a sudden drop of water fell in front of her. A drizzle perhaps, she wondered. She looked up to the forest roof but could see only blackness. Then another droplet fell onto her face. She wiped it off with her sleeve, only to realise it was viscous. It wasn’t water. She looked upwards once more and facing her now was the pale faceless void of the creature, etched with its sinister smile, its sharp teeth dripping with saliva as it emerged from the shadows above – it was gripping onto the tree trunks with its claws. It had found her again.

In an instant, she burst into a sprint. The creature dropped to the ground and took chase. She kept sprinting as the muddled petrifying noise of the creature’s growls and heavy treads drew closer and closer toward her.

Eventually, she came to a halt, arriving at a ledge where below ran a river of black water that bore no reflection – a flowing void of desolate blackness. The creature arrived behind her and she was cornered like prey in the presence of its predator: there was nowhere left to run.

There was only to jump.

She took a deep breath and leapt into the river, plunging into the darkness of the water. The current dragged her brutally downstream – she could barely stay afloat, let alone keep her head above the water. As she desperately gasped for air, helplessly attempting to swim, the water gushed into her mouth and nose. She couldn’t breathe. Her vision slowly faded, and within moments she was left unconscious, her body motionless as the water washed her downstream. Her mind though, spiralled into a dreamscape deep within the attic of her skull…

–––

She found herself falling through an abyss, a seemingly bottomless pit. She kept falling and falling before abruptly tumbling onto a bench in a playground. The sounds of children’s voices and laughter filled the air. She sat on the bench, all by herself, gazing into the nearby distance where the other children were running and playing. She wished she could join them, but there was always an invisible barrier between her and the other children – she was never accepted.

Suddenly the children stopped moving and stood still. It became silent. Stunned, she stayed seated, unsure of what to do. Then one by one, the children ominously turned their heads facing her. None of them had a face, but a large eye with a dark iris embedded in the place where their faces should be.

She felt like screaming, but even the dread had constricted her throat. Petrified, her arms and legs were cemented – she was frozen. Her breaths were asphyxiated, her heartbeat accelerated, and her eyes were locked wide open, unable to make even a single blink.

The children began to slowly step forward as they came creeping toward her in a horde, inching closer and closer, the eyes on their faces staring menacingly at her. She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t close her eyes to unsee the horror. She had no choice but to look straight back into the eyes of the children approaching her, and in a moment they came swarming over her, drowning in them, until eventually she blacked out…

She awoke once more, seemingly in her bedroom. There she was, curled in a fetal position atop her bed with a book beside her and a mirror on the wall ahead. She saw her reflection in the mirror: the same hair, the same sweater, the same skirt.

But her reflection had no face.

Her reflection approached forward with its hand reaching out toward her, calling out to her.

“Come away with me my darling,” it whispered. “In darkness I will bring to you the solace you desire, and you shall never again have to dread those eyes that have tormented you.”

In frustration, she threw the book at the mirror, shattering the mirror to fragments and pieces along with her reflection.

The surroundings faded and darkened into nothingness: there was only her in a black void. An open doorway emerged in the distance, glowing a white light. Drawn to the light, she stood up and made her way towards it, reaching out to the doorway once she arrived as she stepped into the light…

–––

She coughed out water as she inhaled a large breath of air. Her eyes opened, finally regaining her consciousness, as she gradually took in her surroundings – the current had brought her safely to the riverbank. Wearily, she picked herself up. Trees and darkness still surrounded her.

And the trees were still watching.

Still feeling the uneasiness, she avoided a single look at the eyes of the trees and kept walking forward into the forest. She had no plan but to wander aimlessly in the shadows of the forest floor. There was no escaping this place, she knew that. Onward, she kept walking mindlessly deeper into the forest like a lost soul in purgatory, finally losing her will to care if she would be cursed to wander forever and be haunted by the eyes to oblivion, or be devoured by the creature. A lonely tear dripped from her left eye and streamed down her wrinkled cheek.

Silence once again reigned in the forest. The eyes kept staring, as she could feel her mind and soul festering away from each piercing glare. She was drained. She felt empty. Exhausted, her eyelids drooped over her bloodshot eyes. Her arms dangled by her sides lifelessly and she dragged her feet, shuffling wearily across the ground.

From the darkness of the shadow ahead of her, the creature emerged once more, towering over her. Its gaping mouth opened wide and let out a horrifying screech, exuded with its saliva. She stopped. But she didn’t turn to run. She closed her eyes, finally accepting her fate in the hands of the creature. But for moments nothing happened. She opened her eyes, only to see the creature had transformed into a little girl.

It had the same hair, the same sweater, the same skirt.

But no face.

Its right arm reached out to her, but it remained silent.

Trembling, she lifted her arm and took the hand of the creature, now a faceless little girl. Her.

There was a pause. What was once the creature then melted to the ground in a puddle of thick black liquid. It seeped to the feet of the little girl and slowly ascended, engulfing her in its blackness. Soon the girl was fully devoured by the black liquid, resembling a silhouette of her former corporeal form.

Out from the darkness, she rose as a demonic spectre, blacker than the darkness that plagued the forest. She rose towards the unknown that lay above the canopy of trees, with the eyes of the forest as her final witness.

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