The icy wind bit into the exposed flesh on her face, while terror and anger lashed out at her from the forest. She pressed on and wrapped her arms around her middle as she tried to hold onto the scrap of warmth beneath her leather coat. The wind sought it out, devouring the heat until only a hollow shell remained. She shivered, not knowing if it was from the cold or from the dread that emanated from everything around her.
Trees loomed overhead as sinister projections of a skeletal forest. They trapped her in their midst, stalwart guardians of a long-dead legion. Stars glittered through the empty branches that hung low, encasing her. Cold moonlight wove through them, illuminating a faint path.
Slowly, she started down the narrow band of moonlight. The trees grew thicker, branches intertwined, and the bark sloughed off to the barren ground, crunching underfoot. Someone – something – was watching. No matter how hard she looked into the shadows, there was nothing. Only a deafening silence surrounded her.
All around her, the trees came to life, rattling against each other in the howling snow. Ahead, the path seemed to grow darker, and a cold wind started to blow. Stumbling at the sudden noise, she raced down the small path, finally escaping onto a worn road.
As her knees hit the rocks, the silence became deafening. A tear trailed down her cheek, and she turned to stare at the forest. It was still and silent again, and the trees were lit from within by the moon. Down the road, the moonlight glinted off of an iron gate.
Her footsteps came to a slow stop. The gate’s shadows were only inches away, and she was afraid to touch them as they seemed to move in the silvery moonlight. A breath caught in her throat. She had never been this close to the gate before. The terror that emanated from the gate send her thoughts into chaos, and she bolted for the shroud of the woods.
A flash of movement raced beside herself, and she lost her footing. She stopped, and her muscles tightened as she prepared to flee. Her eyes darted frantically, searching for the cause of the movement. Nothing. The forest was lifeless.
She whirled around when a flash of blue blazed to her left. She tried to locate the blue object, but her eyes only found unmoving trees. In a band of moonlight, a massive cat’s tail flicked into view, then disappeared into the night.
“Hello?” she said softly.
Her voice echoed in the dank stillness. There was no response. The forest ate her words, swallowing them like it threatened to swallow her.