|Photo courtesy of Tijs Zwinkels via Flickr|
She placed her hands on the trunk. A warmth emanated from the tree. It was a welcome warmth and she took comfort in it. Shivering and lost, she had spent the past few hours wondering if she would ever find her way out of the forest. The tree smelled good too. Not like oak or the green moss that veiled its trunk, but something else she couldn't define. She lay her cheek against its rough bark.
Someone was trapped inside the tree.
The feeling hit hard and she pulled back. Her heart sped up. "That's ridiculous," she said aloud. "How can someone be trapped inside a tree?" Tentative, she scratched at the moss with her fingernail. It came away in a chunk and left a raw spot.
Suddenly, she heard a voice. She froze. Her stomach went in knots. The forest was silent except for the sound of her own breathing. That wasn't a voice, her thoughts chattered. That was somebody else's thoughts.
"You've been wandering for too long," she whispered. "You're starting to hallucinate." She took a step back, unsure of what to do. The desperate plea started again, assailing her brain. And it was coming from within the tree. My God, I have to get him out. "Hello?" She hit the trunk with her fist.
A bitter wind invaded the forest. Leaves sliced down from the branches overhead. Brushing against her bare arms, they left a trail of blood. Her blood.
She stared at the wounds, confused. Blood trickled down her arms and along her fingertips. The ground was splashed with crimson.
The pleading stopped.
Backing up, she tripped and fell over the roots that undulated from the forest floor. Her breath came in gasps as she scrambled to her feet. More leaves rained down on her, slicing through her skin like knives. The trees seemed to close in on her eagerly.
She was certain of two things; the man in the tree had been there for quite some time...and he wasn't the only one.