How to rightly move through a forest // a short story

How to rightly move through a forest?

First, one must have all the necessary equipment, or as the professionals will loftily call: paraphernalia. Before plunging oneself into the foliage, one must say a prayer in case one does not make it out of the labyrinth within. It will be good if one has a partner – preferably a dependable and resourceful one whom knows by heart the rules of forest-traversing, and whom will know what to do should in case one clumsily slips into a hungry but indolent quagmire. Having a partner too will relief one of boredom. There isn’t much of a conversation to be held among the stern-looking branches, the haphazard assembly of leaves, the bustling insects bustling in the busiest haste, the coiled up python ready to spring, the growing flower eager for beauty, the pillars of sunlight that support a webbed canopy, the berries that shine in sugary venom or even the unfortunate traveler who leans motionless against the trunk of a tree, gradually becoming one with the forest. The quiet can be quite tormenting.

Upon stepping out of the sunlit field and into the murkiness of the forest, one may immediately feel encroached upon by a sense of horror, as if some slumbering evil palpitates at the center of that menacing system. And it is natural to want to back out of the adventure, or even angrily chide one’s own foolishness at having agreed to it in the first place. Death rises up before one in such clarity that one begins to wonder: what happens if I really do die – where will I go? It rises up in such immense force that one will almost be able to feel a physical repulsion. Hence, one’s courage must be firmly anchored.

Once inside, one must make haste, but at the same time be careful to not fall into the many traps laid by the forest. The paths usually diverge after every twenty paces, each leading into a misty unknown that echoes in terrifying emptiness. Always take the leftmost path. Sometimes, that path may be blocked by a disowned branch or a tree felled by ravenous decay. This is again the work of the forest’s deviousness. In its loneliness, it longs only for company. And in its longing, it will do its best to mislead the traveler.

Haste is no less important than making the right choices. For when the night arrives, the entire forest shall be shrouded in an impenetrable darkness, and all those strange creatures from grim fairy tales will begin their prowling. But not to fret, for if the equipment had been properly packed, one should find in one’s bag a vial containing an invisible potion, which if one duly consumes, will last one through the night. Nonetheless, it is always better to not spend a night in the forest.

In such a haste, one may sometimes carelessly graze oneself against a hostile twig or be pricked by the temperamental thorns of a wildflower. But one must not panic. Panicking will only pry a crack open for fright and anxiety to seep in. One must calmly treat the wound, and then quickly carry on. Furthermore, the forest can easily sense uneasiness. And when it does, it shall know exactly where lies this hapless victim. And when it does, a nightmare will be all the more easier to orchestrate.

If in the unfortunate case that it rains while one is traversing the forest; when the ground is slippery and the earth soft, one must be especially careful. The rain will blend the quagmires into the ordinary. And one must surely know how relentless a quagmire is once it grips on to its prey. So take one step at a time; test the grounds beyond one before setting one’s entire weight upon it.

Finally, one must always have hope – hope that this perilous maze is not unconquerable. One must always imagine oneself bursting through a wall of foliage and back out into the comforting illumination, and squinting as one tries to accustom one’s eyes to the foreign glare. One must imagine looking back into the darkness of the forest and settling one’s heart in an ineffable relief, in a vast openness that guarantees freedom. It is this hope that will stop one from leaning, forlorn and full of despair, against the trunk of a tree because one has circled the forest countless of times and still could find no exit.

It is quiet here. Hurry along, fellow traveler. Hurry along before I begin to feel lonely.