At first I thought I was just hearing the howling of strong winds, but there was something else. As the wind blew through the gnarled branches of the nearby wood, it carried voices along with it.
The whispers of the woods woke me up from my slumber. My eyes opened to a dark cabin which was unusually cold. Usually I wake warm underneath my down blanket, but this time the cabin was cold. I sat up and looked to my left.
The window of my bedroom was open even though I had shut it before falling asleep. Some would freak out seeing an open window they closed, but I was calm. I knew that heavy storms and strong winds would blow open that window no matter how much I did to keep it shut. The wind would always get in.
So even though I was initially calm, I quickly noticed that I did not feel strong winds coming through the window or the sound of storms. Instead my ears focused in the darkness and I heard whispers.
At first I thought that these whispers were just bits of my imagination. Just thoughts bouncing around in my head, but no, these were real noises coming from the woods. Maybe they are just bugs or birds. Some sort of animals in the woods that refuse to sleep through the night.
I listen longer and the whispers become louder. It is not coming from bugs or beasts. It’s almost like someone is whispering in my ears. They speak a language that is so close to mine but I cannot understand it. A dialect which I try to sort through but it just leaves my ears ringing.
I pull the blanket away and stand from my bed. The wood floors creaked as I walked across to the window. I put my hand on the wooden frame and began to pull, but stopped suddenly. Looking out the window I saw a pinprick of light on the horizon. It was a distant flame or star coming from the center of the forest.
“A fire?” I asked out loud. “Please don’t let it be a fire.”
After seeing this light, I moved quickly throughout my house. I put on my coat over my nightgown, slipped on my boots, and grabbed my oil lantern. I lit the lantern and then opened my door.
The night air sent a shiver down my spine as the whispers continued to get louder and louder. I thought maybe the light and the whispers were both connected. Kids from the nearby village probably just snuck out in the night to have a bonfire in the woods. Or maybe the woods itself was playing some sort of trick on me. The third option was that I was still sleeping and still dreaming, but my dreams never felt this real.
I continued walking toward the woods following both the source of the shimmering light and the sound of the whispers. The forest was calling me and I was following.
Behind my home was a narrow, dirt path which ran toward the woods. It was a path that I sometimes saw animals walk but most people stayed on the main roads. This path was one that might have been popular in the past, but now it was overgrown and almost invisible next to the tall grass surrounding it. I took this path toward the woods making sure to keep my eyes and ears open.
The whispering of the woods was now more of a chatter. Still the words seemed foreign but connected to the language I knew. Even though I could not fully understand the voices, there was a sense of comfort to them. I almost felt like they belonged to friends I had not seen for a long time calling me home.
As I entered the forest I could see the light source clearer than ever. Two thorny tree branches had twisted together forming some sort of gate or doorway. Bright lights of all sorts of color were pouring out like the summer sun shining through stained glass.
“Hello?” I called out to it.
The chorus of distinct whispers coming from the doorway all became louder and unified.
“Home,” A hundred voices all said at once.
“Home? I…I don’t understand. Is this your home?” I asked.
“Bring you home,” The voices replied as the door grew brighter.
“What? No. This is my home. I just came from my home to the woods,” I said.
“Your…your home. If this is your home, then why are you here? Why did you call out to me?” I asked.
“Come with us. Come home.” The voices said.
The door began shining brightly and the whispers arose again.
The voices were so loud that they seemed to overwhelm me. I dropped my lantern and it smashed on the ground, extinguishing the flames in an instant. I clasped both sides of my head and covered my ears.
“Stop! Stop!” I screamed out as I fell to my knees.
“Home,” The portal said again.
I looked up from the ground back to the portal. The light grew brighter and brighter as the voices were basically screaming in my ears.
I could barely make out that there seemed to be hands reaching through the gate, covered in a similar shining light. They reached out and grabbed hold of me. It was a web of shining hands and fingers grasping and grabbing me.
I screamed out as the hands tightened their grip on me and began dragging me towards the gate.
“Let go! Let go!” I screamed.
But the hands didn’t stop and the voices continued to wail.
“Home. Home,” They repeated.
The colorful web of hands grew warmer and warmer until I felt the heat start to burn my skin.
I screamed out in pain.
“Help me!” I called out hoping that someone, anyone would hear my yelling.
But no help came. I was alone in the forest trapped by this being of light. It dragged me into the portal and my screaming ceased. My vision was nothing but a kaleidoscope of bright colors and I could feel all my other senses dull. It was like my mind was being pulled in all directions and torn a part.
Eventually the colors became brighter and brighter until I could only see a blinding white light and I thought I was dead. I closed my eyes but the brightness remained.
I took a deep inhale of breath and began to cough. I blinked a few times and the blinding light was no longer there. My vision instead was of a bright blue sky with small wisps of white clouds. The tops of trees shook gently in the wind. I felt the moisture of wet grass underneath me and the earthy aroma of wet dirt filled my nostrils.
I quickly sat up and looked around. I was sitting on the cold, wet grass on the edge of the forest. It was the same place I traveled last night.
I looked around looking for the gate, but it was gone. The thorny branches that came together were nowhere to be seen. The shining lights were gone. The voices were gone. I was just sitting there alone on the edge of the forest.
I slowly picked myself up off the ground, by body sore and aching, and began the trip back to my home. I was still confused on what happened last night and if any of it was real. It felt real but part of me believed that I must have been having some kind of waking nightmare mixed with sleep walking. I just couldn’t justify the things I saw any other way.
Once I entered my house and I noticed it was exactly how I left it. The bedroom window was shut and the down blanket was thrown off.
I took a deep breath and then grabbed a bucket which was sitting close to the front door.
“I just need to get some water. Take a quick bath. Relax,” I said to myself trying to calm my nerves.
I opened the front door and proceeded to the water pump. I put my bucket under the pump and gave the handle a few pumps, filling the bucket with water.
Then I knelt down to pick up the bucket and let out a gasp. There in the reflection of the water I could see myself, but something was wrong. My eyes. My eyes were usually a dark brown color but both the brown and the white of the eye had been replaced with a shining rainbow of colors. The kaleidoscope of colors had consumed my eyes.
“Legion,” A new voice spoke from within my mind.