• Chapter 1

    The dark forest looms high above me as I swiftly step past the foliage and into the damp darkness that lies before me. I can no longer feel the sunshine on my skin, but instead feel the darkness taking it's place. The forest is cold and menacing, strange shadows playing across the ground as some sunlight seeps through the leaves. Moss covers the bark of the ancient oaks leaving them looking sickly and disgusting. I reach out to touch it, but something tells me not to. Something tells me that this forest harbors more secrets than I ever imagined.

    After pausing a moment to dig up enough courage to continue on, I walk deeper into the forbidden forest. My great-grandmother, the town medicine woman, had warned me about this forest ever since I was a small child. Her stories were meant to frighten me, but all that came of them was my curiosity and fascination with it. The tales of the children disappearing and the bodies found stripped of their skin didn't scare me one bit, but made me want to solve the mysteries of the forest. After she died, my mother took her place as the medicine woman, but not before my great-grandmother taught me everything she knew, everything I would need to know for when I ventured into the forest.

    This recollection brings me to a stop as a wave of sorrow washes over me. It's so strong and powerful that I find myself doubled over gasping for breath. It feels as if someone has taken a dull knife to my heart and is slowly cutting it to pieces. I don't exactly understand this kind of pain, but I know it doesn't all have to do with my Grams. I knew the consequences before I took my first step into this forest, but it's still hard for me to believe that I actually left him behind. He had begged me not to go, but I just couldn't resist the impulse to venture into the unknown, to solve the mystery. After he realized that he couldn't change my mind, he left. Ian didn't even show up to wish me luck and see me off. I was sure he loved me, but I must have been wrong. You would think by how much I loved him, he wouldn't have left.

    I find myself with tears running down my face and I quickly brush them away and continue my trek deeper into the forest. It's darker now and the sunlight only occasionally fights its way through the tight nit canopy of leaves. I entered the forest at noon and already it was around three in the afternoon. I glance behind me expecting to see where I had entered, but the tree trunks and foliage block everything from sight. I was almost positive I had a clear view of my entrance only moments before I was doubled over, so what changed? Fear lodged itself in my throat and a cold sweat broke out on my neck. Were the stories true?

    A loud crash brings me out of my thoughts and racing through the forest, jumping over roots and brush. My heart is racing in my chest and my breath comes out in spurts. I don't know what made that sound, but it was something big. I could swear that I felt the ground shake below my feet. I stop by a titanic oak and rest against its trunk where the moss has not infected it. I hear more crashes and they seem to be coming towards me, getting louder each time. My heart thumps and I know I should be running, but something holds me here, an unknown force of some sort.

    The ripping of a tree being snapped in two makes me scream out and lunge away from the tree, but its roots have wrapped around my legs. I fall to the ground with a soft thump and my head hits a rock. I can feel blood oozing out of the gash on my head, but I can't do anything about it. The tree's roots have taken a hold of my arms and I can't for the live of me break free. I try to scream, but all I can do is lie on the ground seeing doubles. The ground is literally shaking beneath me and trees are being snapped in half like twigs. Crashes and booms and ominous growls resound through the forest and all I can do is wait for my end. All I can think is that I hope it's fast.

    I can see the trees parting now, sunlight finally finding it's way into the forbidden forest. I open my mouth to scream once more, and surprisingly something comes out. I can't stop screaming now and whatever is coming for me doesn't seem to like it. The crashing and booming becomes closer together before I'm bouncing up and off the ground by the sheer force of the beast. I close my eyes tight as I see a flash of fur through the trees, realizing that I'm about to be mauled by a gigantic wolf. I can hear the creature growling as it circles me. Behind closed eyes I see my Grams' face and know that she would be greatly disappointed in me if I didn't go out with a fight. I open my hazel eyes just in time to catch the bright color of a red cloak atop the beast. My mind is filled with confusion, but I can't dwell on it much longer as the thing lunges towards me. I see a bulking mass of gray, pearly white teeth, and the savage but gentle face of a man. I open my mouth to scream once more, but nothing comes out as I feel teeth ripping at my shoulder and everything goes black.