By Ryan Forgosh
A forest sprawls out in front of you. The night lights the forest in a brilliant shade of blue, as if it were part of the sky. The stars and moon give you just enough light to see ahead of you. You watch a firefly circle in front of you before it moves past you. You turn around to follow it with your eyes, but behind you, there is nothing but darkness. You stare for a brief second, looking into the dark. Something about it unsettles you. It’s as if you can feel something there. Something watching. You turn back around, deciding to ignore the dark. You take a deep breath, letting the fresh air enter your lungs. The night that surrounds you is silent, save for a quiet hum, carried by a gentle breeze. The quiet is calming, yet intense. You can hear your heartbeat. The air around you is cold. It wraps around you as you lean into its embrace. You can feel the blood running through your veins; the only warmth in the cold forest. How did you get here?
Up ahead, you see something shining. You’re not sure what it is, but you’re pulled to it nonetheless. Your heart starts beating faster. Why? Is it fear? No. No, it’s not fear. You walk on without hesitation. The glimmering gets closer. Anticipation? No. You have no idea what’s up ahead. You have no expectations, and yet… Excitement. You’re excited. What’s up ahead is a mystery, but one that you are eager to dive into. The darkness behind you fades as you approach what’s been dragging you forward. You arrive at the lake.
Standing at the edge of the lake, the moonlight reflects up from the water and onto your face. If one could peer over your shoulder now and look at your face reflecting in the water, surrounded by the stars, their heart would surely stop. Alas, there is no one else. You stare down at yourself, just enjoying being. The weight of the world is that of a feather here. Nothing seems to matter. Not for you, anyway. You choose to spend some time just standing here; enjoying the breeze on your face and the humming of the environment. Enjoying this moment that you have. And yet, something is eating at you. You start to remember. You know why you’re here, and you know that this moment has to end, yet you can’t bring yourself to be the one to end it. Far behind you, back in the darkness, a quiet crack sounds. You turn around once more and look upon his face. You knew in your heart that this couldn’t last forever, yet a part of you still held onto the hope that this moment would never end. You chose to walk back to the lake, where you were meant to walk away from.
You take a step away from the lake, and it grows markedly less beautiful. You start towards the man standing in front of you. He is gaunt, yet handsome. And tall; unnaturally so. He is dressed in all black, in stark contrast from the vibrance surrounding him. His eyes have no color at all, yet are as vibrant as the forest around you. They’re like pools of black that you long to swim in. They invite you in, begging for you to dive headfirst into them. You shiver slightly as a small tingle goes down your spine. Yet through this feeling you do not waver.
You look up at him. The same reflection that shimmered in the lake now stares back at you from those pitch black pools. You stare back, maintaining eye contact with both the man and yourself. You examine yourself in his eyes. You’re the same as you ever were. Nothing has changed. Whether in the lake or his eyes, you’re still you. The beauty that shined in the lake still continues to shine. With every second that passes as you stare, the ground beneath you seems to crack and crumble. Darkness starts filling your peripheral vision, the world around you fading out of existence, and yet your eyes remain locked on the man.
The man calls to you, beckoning you to approach, and you want to go to him. You need to go to him. Your foot moves, as if on its own. Your other follows suit. You walk towards him. The shiver that you felt when you first saw him grows. The tingle down your spine becomes a shock. And yet, you still walk onwards. With each step, you get further and further from the lake, and everything around you starts to fade away. A warmth washes over you. The breeze that tickled your nose when you were by the lake is no more. You don’t seem to notice and take another step. The gentle humming that calmed you before is gone as well. Another step. As far as you could tell, it was only you and the man. You stop momentarily, a foot away from him. You manage to pull yourself away from his eyes to glance back at the lake one last time.
Sensation returns to you as you do. The breeze once again tickles your nose. The quiet humming of your surroundings are as calming as ever. And the lake is just as beautiful as ever.
As you look upon it, it is constantly shifting. The lake moves a bit and it is filled with a dark purple. The man beckons you to follow him. You do all you can to ignore his call. Another moment passes. The lake turns red. He attempts to summon you once more. You glare at him quickly and turn back to the lake. You won’t give up your last moment with the beautiful sight. Another moment passses. Blue. Another call from the man. Mentally, you beg him to give you just another moment here, looking at the serenity of the lake. Just a little more time. That’s all anyone wants, isn’t it? Just a bit more time. Just one last precious moment. One last time to be with the lake.
The lake shifts once more. Black. The lake is the purest black you’ve ever seen, just like the man’s eyes. You stare into the pool. There’s something peaceful about the lake. It’s as black as night right now, but you know that it will soon return to being blue, or red, or yellow, or any other color you can imagine. It shifts, it changes, and it’s beautiful.
Your shoulders slump. You cannot stay here. You know that. You know the man is right to beckon you away. You know that you must follow him. And yet, it is so hard to leave. You take one final glance at the lake. It is now white. No matter how the lake changes, it continues holding all of the images of the night sky, but holding your gaze in it no longer. You turn back around to the man, ready. You look into his eyes. They are now green.
He stretches his hand out to you. You stand between the man and the lake. It would be so easy. So easy to just turn around, go to the lake, and stay there, forever. But, you’ve made your choice. Looking at the man, you realize something. No one knows what’s to come, or even if something will come if you leave the lake, and yet you know that it is the right thing to do. After a moment, you take his hand and walk alone into the unknown.
I will miss you. I will remember you. I will forever hold you dear. I will watch over the lake in your absence.
The sun rises, and the lake shifts.