You have to walk, walk until your feet get sore. You have to walk over the bridge and along the riverbank until you see the red vested kitsune komainu guarding what seems, at first glance, to be nothing more than an animal’s tacks, meandering down from the mountains. Step over the threshold of the woods, beneath a forgotten and crumbling tori gate. If you scrape your shoes against the hallucinogenic green moss at your feet you will uncover the start of that winding cobblestone path. You will see it shining slick even in the half-light of dusk as it drapes itself across the forest floor. You must push on further, deeper into that vaulted cavern rising claustrophobically around you. Follow the path as it matches the tortuous course of the stream running by its side. There is a spring nestled at the foot of that grim titan of a tree, holding court in its arboreal kingdom. This is where the road ends.
It feels like they are watching you, the denizens of the forest, watching you with their many thousand eyes. It feels like they are watching you – but you are of less importance to them than the gilded wings of a dragonfly, less important than the echoing, hollow calls of ravens, no more than the empty promises of the wind. The tormented sounds of the city fade away, the sounds of cars and trains, the sounds of yaki-imo hawkers and of aeroplanes disappear beneath the dome of the canopy. Our ancestors held this place close to their hearts; they lived alongside the spirits of the wild, for they knew better than we do that you should keep your friends close – but your enemies closer. If you should happen to pick you way over the tangled roots of the old oak tree, skirting around the edges of the dead, swampy pond, try to stay close to the gnarled trunk of that king of the forest. There you will find it. A door in a tree.
We have one thing in common, you and I. We have both stumbled, too curious, too excitable, into this world. We have found ourselves lost. If we can’t remember our way in, how can we find our way out? We have to keep one another alive in this perpetual half-light, keep each other out of harm’s way. We have to fight until our dying breath, although it would now be a most inconvenient death. They are coming for us now; I can hear their scuttling claws against the cobblestones. This has to be the right path; I can’t keep running much longer. I miss the stars.
This story is for Steph over at BeKindRewrite, thank you for the wonderful (as usual) prompts. I used I miss the stars, We have one thing in common, Where the road ends, A door in a tree and An inconvenient death. So, all of them. Thanks Steph!