Sunday, January 24, 2016

- The Withered Heart -

(This story came from being inspired from my jaunt to Meeman Shelby Forest today. This is a creepy story; however, you should know by now that I'm pretty good at writing creepy stories. Anyway, I hope you enjoy! All photos were taken at Meeman Shelby Forest)

Once upon a time, or so the storytellers say, lived a girl named Caledonia who could not love. She lived in the city, filled with much wonders and delights, with her family who loved her very much. She was the youngest of three children and her parents were creative and free souls. The house, painted in a lovely shade of lavender, was always filled with much laughter, lemonade in glasses, and tools to stimulate and educate their brains. The family prided themselves on being such welcoming people, never to turn away a person who needed help, a sad person who needed a smile, or a friendly pat on a puppy or a kitten.

Although the girl lived in such a wonderful home, she did not feel such colours within herself. While her family and siblings wore bright, bright colours, she preferred drab greys and blacks. When the family went out to ride their bicycles, she preferred to stay indoors to read books written by those long since passed. When the family sang Christmas carols to their neighbours, she preferred to sit in front of the fireplace and stare at the burning logs.

"Dear Caledonia," said her older brother Francis one day, "what on earth makes you so sad?" Caledonia could only sigh and shrug her shoulders, for even she did not know the reason.

"Dear Caledonia," said her older sister Minerva the second day, "why can you not smile?" Caledonia could only sigh and shrug her shoulders, for even she did not know the reason.

The family spent night and day worrying about their lovely, lovely Caledonia, thinking that perhaps, she was beyond help. There was even talk of "asylum" and "going away", under the hushed light of the full moon.

One morning, Caledonia decided to take a walk into the forest that lay at the end of the city. She tiptoed through the house, careful not to wake up her family, and left dressed in her most drab black dress and sturdy black shoes. When she reached the forest, she turned back once to look at the city and then continued forward. However, what she did not realize was that this forest was special, magickal even.

The pathway snaked like a slippery serpent as Caledonia walked along. The chill of the air caused her to sneeze once, yet she continued on her walk.
"I know not why I am sad," she said in a low tone. "Perhaps this walk may change me." She walked and walked and walked some more. Birds flew overhead, their black wings fluttering in the cold sky. Every so often, she would turn around to see if anyone else walked the winding path, only to find no one else. Suddenly, she felt afraid and wondered if walking in the forest alone was a good idea.

Just then, she heard a small twig snap behind her. Caledonia whirled around and saw a young man dressed in all black, like her, sitting on a rotting log that had been previously unoccupied.
"Who are you?" she cried, her feet rooted firm on the path from fear. The young man looked up and stared into her eyes and said, "I am Lucian and I live here. Tell me, who are you?"
"You can't live here," she replied, "for I just walked by that log and saw no one." She moved closer towards the black clad man. "Who are you, really?"
"I tell you that my name is Lucian and yes, I do live here. In fact, I am a spirit of this forest." Caledonia's eyes grew wide with surprise as she moved closer towards him. She noticed that his milk white skin contrasted well to his coal black hair. His eyes, however, were the brightest of purple.
"Your eyes," she remarked, "are quite lovely."
"Thank you," he said as he got up from the dead log and moved closer towards her. "Tell me, what is your name?"
"What a lovely name," he sighed as he continued to walked closer. Soon, the two were only a foot away from each other. Caledonia sniffed the air.
"You smell like burning leaves," she said, causing Lucian to grin. "Like the forest."
"I come from the forest, my parent as it were. Tell me, how is it that you were able to see me? Most people who walk through here are not able to."

"I truly have no idea," she replied. She reached out and touched Lucian's arm; it felt colder than snow on Christmas Day and lighter than a down feather. "Are you real?"
"I am, at least I think so," he replied. Lucian then touched Caledonia on her arm and it felt heavy and warm. "You feel so warm," he replied. He then took her by the hand and led her down a side path from the main road, towards a little grotto of trees. He sat down on the dead leaves and she followed suit. His purple eyes grew wide as he said, " I think I know why you can see me, as opposed to everyone else." He then opened his shirt and revealed his chest, or rather, what was left of it. Caledonia gasped as his deathly white ribs showed rather than skin, while a small dull red thing slowly, slowly beat.
"You see my heart," he said with a sad tone, "or rather, what is left of it."
"Are you dead?"
"Truly, I do not know." Suddenly, a murder of crows flew over their heads in the bleak sky, their cawing sounding like the laughter of Death. "They sound so happy to me. Don't you think so?"
Caledonia stared at the bleak sky and watched the ravens. She then looked at her "companion" then said, "I must be returning home, Lucian. Will you be okay here?"
"Of course," he said as he buttoned his shirt and smiled. "Since you can see me, will you come back soon?"
"I . . . will," she said as she felt something strange inside of her. She looked down at her drab dress and touched her chest.
"What's wrong?"
"I'm . . . not sure." She looked at Lucian then said, "I need to get home." Without another word, she got up and left her friend in the grotto and returned to the main path towards home. When she finally arrived at her front door, the smells of a well cooked dinner greeted her. She sniffed then let herself in. That night, after a wonderful dinner with her family, Caledonia lay in her bed and stared out of her window at the night sky. She wondered about Lucian and if he was truly dead. Although the bed was warm and perfect, she could not sleep. Was Lucian going to be okay, she wondered?

The next day, Caledonia woke up to a sunny day, yet her heart felt heavier than ever. She worried about Lucian all night and now that it was another day, she had to find him again. She quickly dressed, grabbed several pieces of bread and fruit, and then made her way to the forest again. As she approached the forest, she felt the same strange sensation in her chest. Ignoring it, she moved on, desperate to find him again. As she turned the corner on the path, she saw Lucian seated on the log, staring at something in his hand. She raced towards him just as he looked up and saw her. He got up and waved at her.
"I've . . . brought you food," she puffed in an attempt to catch her breath. Lucian looked at her offering then at her.
"You did this for me?"
"Of course, why wouldn't I?" Suddenly, Caledonia touched her face. "I'm smiling!" she gasped.
"Of course you are," said Lucian, a little puzzled. "You smiled at me yesterday."
"I did?"
"Of course. Here, let me help you with that." He took her bread and then led her down to the grotto once more. They sat down on the dead leaves and enjoyed their food. As they ate, Caledonia felt the feeling in her chest again, yet was no longer shocked to feel it. What she felt, as they ate and talked, was happiness. Although Lucian was dead, or remotely close to it, he felt as real to her as her family. She loved him, right down to his stark bones.

In Lucian, she finally found a a reason to smile.

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