I stood at the entrance of a dark and incredibly dense forest. The trees were twisted, withered by age and lack of sunlight. The day was quickly fading to night, and I was aware that I had been standing here for a very long time. Possibly, forever. I didn’t really know.
All around me shades drifted back and forth, entering and departing the woods. I had been watching them come and go silently, simply observing them as they traveled about their business. They were all dressed differently, each of them unique. Sometimes they stared at me as they passed, with long, mournful eyes. I felt a little defensive when they looked at me that way. As though, they felt sorry for me. I didn’t know why they would feel sorry for me.
The sun had faded from the sky, and night had swallowed the woods when one of the shades finally stopped to speak with me. He was an elegant man, wearing a top hat and an old-fashioned suit. His feet hovered off the ground, leaving a trail of mist behind him as he moved. When he stopped the mist nearly enveloped him before it dissipated.
“Good evening, Winter.” He said. “I must say, I’m rather sorry to see you that you are still here.”
“Well nice to see you too.” I grumbled. I had never met him before, and didn’t know how he seemed to know me so well.
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to offend you.” He bowed slightly. “I simply hate to see that you haven’t yet moved on in your journey. Standing here staring at this foggy forest must be very.” He paused to think. “Gloomy.”
“Well yes.” I admitted. “It is. But I don’t remember how long I’ve been here. Or even arriving really. I only just realized that I’m here, and I only just realized that I should probably be going somewhere. Though, where that is I’m not sure.”
“Ahh yes.” The shade nodded. “Well, perhaps I can help you. Winter, I’m sorry to say that you’ve been here for a very long time. I travel this way every day, and every day you are still here. Staring into the woods, waiting. Watching. I’ve often thought about saying something to you. Trying to help you on your journey. But I never dared stop. Until today. Today I felt compelled to speak with you.”
“Where am I then?” I asked. I was afraid of this place, these strange woods. And most of all of myself, and of my forgetfulness. How could I have forgotten arriving here? Wherever here was.
“You are standing at the edge of the Forest of Memories.” The shade answered. “This is the place where your least favorite memories live. The embarrassing, the bad, the ones that make you angry. The ones you don’t want to see. I for example.” The shade pointed to himself. “I am the memory of when you tripped and fell down the steps at the fancy dress ball two years ago.”
I flinched. “That was horrible.”
“Wait.” I said, taking a step backwards. “These woods are filled with evil memories? There’s no way I’m going in there now!”
“Now, now.” The shade shook his head. “There’s no need to be afraid. We’re not evil. We won’t hurt you, not willfully anyway. We have no malicious intent.” He motioned towards the road that led into the forest. “You arrived here years ago, when you first began to write. You peered into the woods. And you just stared. This is where your writing led you. You need to venture into that place. There are memories you need to meet. You require their help to get where you need to go. Your story won’t be complete without them.”
I shook my head. “But. I don’t know if I can.”
“Perhaps I can help you.” He made a sweeping motion with his arm. “Will you come with me? We only have to take a few steps today. Then tomorrow, perhaps we can take two or three more.”
I stared at him for a moment. Did I dare venture into that place and confront old memories? Or would I rather stay where I was, where I was comfortable? Then again, maybe I wasn’t so comfortable here. Maybe I needed to go, so that I could get to the other side. Whatever and wherever that was. I nodded. “Alright.” I said. “Let’s go.”
The shade tipped his hat at me. “Good choice, Winter.” And we took off down the trail and into the woods.