Meet Me in That Nightmare Forest

I was walking a solitary path through a deep, dark forest. There were no sounds around me. I glanced left and right as I walked, but there was nothing to see except the trunks of trees so thick and tall no light broke through from the sky above, their bark so rough I thought my skin would be sliced open if I reached out to touch them. Despite the darkness, I was not frightened. I did not wonder why the leaves did not crunch under my feet nor did I ask myself where I was going. The path narrowed and curved suddenly but the forest barely seemed to change, no matter how far I progressed.

On a whim, I glanced back over my shoulder and was certain I could make out a lone dark figure following behind me, just coming around the bend in the path. Even though I could not discern any distinguishing features, I felt a deep aversion to that dark figure. It did not matter what it was or why it was following behind me. I dared not look back again, somehow sure that were I to do so, that figure would be even closer.

I looked down at my feet, overcome with the desire to walk faster, but they kept moving at a steady pace, and I was carried ever farther along that forest path. The ground grew suddenly steep, and the path widened enough for two people to walk side by side through the trees. I felt a surge of panic, as I could not quicken my pace as I started up the incline. Try as I might, I could not force myself to move faster and, even as my fear of the dark figure intensified, I tried to resist the urge to look over my shoulder again. The need to know what was coming overcame me, however, and I stole a fast glance behind me.

The dark figure that had been almost one hundred yards behind had gained on me by more than half that distance.

A certainty that I must quicken my pace gripped me like an icy fist. But try as I might, I could not force myself to move faster, although I did not grow weary or lose my breath as I climbed up that forest hill. I felt a chill run down my spine and I knew the dark figure was closing in on me. I lowered my head and pumped my arms desperately, but my feet stubbornly continued to move at the same pace. The silence around me was as the thickest liquid through which I attempted to push my legs, pressing on me from all sides.

It was at that moment that I heard the unmistakable sound of a footfall.

My heart beat faster and faster but my legs continued to walk with the same maddeningly slow stride. Another footfall, and then another, echoed in the dense forest of trees and my eyes rolled frantically from side to side as I searched for any route of escape from the path and the figure that pursued me. I stole one more glance back over my shoulder and saw the dark figure just ten feet behind me. It, too, seemed to be walking at the same, ever unchanging pace, yet it had gained on me so quickly. It was tall, but with no distinguishing features other than the long, long legs that carried it ever closer. When I turned back to the path in front of me, I saw that I had almost reached the top of the slope. More footfalls rang out, and I suddenly realized that the steps were not coming from the dark figure behind me.

They were coming from the hilltop in front of me.

Slowly, as though rising from inside the earth, you approached me from over the crest of the hill. At the very top of the path, you stopped and waited for me to meet you, your arms outstretched. Your face seemed to glow with a heavenly light that banished the darkness deep into the trees. Your smile brought hope to the lonely, never ending forest and you regarded me with eyes so full of kindness. I reached out my hands to embrace you just as the chilly breath of the dark figure gently grazed the back of my neck. It was then that your gaze shifted ever so slightly and I knew that you caught a glimpse of the dark figure that was practically upon me. Your arms dropped to your sides and your expression changed to one of such horror, your eyes wide, mouth straining to scream, your entire visage twisted into a grotesque parody of human emotion.

And then I woke up.

Upon awaking, I cried bitter tears, only not because of my fear of the dark figure in my nightmare or the eerie forest from which I could not escape. Not even because of the look of abject terror on your face that was the last thing I saw before emerging from a fitful sleep.

I cried because I longed to return to that nightmare forest and walk that path again. For it is only in the dream that I can remember your face.

On Writing

Michaelangelo said that every block of marble has a statue inside, and it is up to the sculptor to “let it out.” Could the same be said of other forms of expression?

Inspiration is the lifeblood of those in creative fields. For a writer, this could translate into the development of story ideas, characters, plotlines, and any number of other elements that combine to form a piece of creative writing. But where do these elements come from? A likely answer would be that they come from the mind of the writer. And this is undoubtedly true but, for me anyway, it is also the case that each story idea comes with its own unique features that are inherent from the original idea itself.

I would never presume to speak for any other writer but, when I start a poem or story, I think of a general idea for any given piece of writing, usually with the beginning and ending well formed in my mind, and simply start writing. I will almost always have an idea of the major events of a story when I begin, but the smaller details will not necessarily all be worked out in my mind. For me, this is not a problem because the story exists, and so it will tell me how it goes as I go on writing. In other words, I know what a story is about and where it will end up. Then, I start writing and the details of that story reveal themselves to me as I go. For me, this is the most natural way of writing and it is just about the only way that I feel I can write (not that I have really tried any other way!). I enjoy writing in this way as well, as I feel that it provides me with a feeling of security; any time I feel like I am “stuck” and cannot continue with a story, I simply put it aside. In my mind, this simply means that the story has not fully revealed itself to me at that moment. Many times I have put a piece of writing aside, sometimes for weeks or months, only to take it up again and finish it in a matter of days at a time when I can better perceive the details of the story.

Of course, my particular method of writing definitely has its drawbacks. It is certainly not the most disciplined or efficient way of writing. If I do not feel that I can continue with a particular piece, I simply do not go on with it at that time. While I always hope that I will be able to “see” the next part of the story at a later time (and most of the time this does seem to be the case), there is always the chance that a piece will simply go unwritten. It also means that my writing often comes erratically in sometimes wildly uneven bursts – I might write one page one day and ten pages the next. And I am probably more rigid than many writers about making changes to my stories as, to me, each work is a complete whole with features that are inseparable from that whole. As such, it can be very hard to bring myself to change even minor details such as character names as, in my perception, they are fundamental parts of the story.

I should note that by no means do I think my habit of waiting for a story to “form,” and to reveal itself in some organic manner as I write, is the best way of writing, nor do I think that it is any way more correct than any other. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong way of putting one’s ideas down on paper; there is only the way that any given individual does it. To me, the process is just that – a means for expressing oneself and recording one’s ideas. It is up to individual writers to determine what works and what does not for themselves, and to find what will allow them to achieve their personal writing goals.