Usually, a walk in the woods takes about half an hour at most. But today, the thirty minutes turn into an hour. Then two hours. Then two and a half. And then, you’re walking among an unfamiliar batch of trees. But you’re not worried, even though most people would be. You’ve made friends with the creatures that lurk behind the trees and you know they’ll help you find your way back. A few burnt sacrifices and whispered hellos have made you sure of that. No, that doesn’t worry you at all. Nothing about the woods worries you at all, really. The soft green moss, the rough, yet reassuring bark, and the soothing milky white of the surrounding fog calms and settles the whirlwind of thoughts in your mind.
Before you became familiar with them, and before they got used to you, the creatures would follow you and see if you were worth scaring out of their forest. And, you’ll admit it, they made you very uneasy. But after reading up on them from some of Grandpa’s old books, you are no longer scared. Instead, you are determined to befriend them. After a few fires, many gifts, and a couple of murmured prayers, your labors pays off and they promise to keep you safe and protected from the dangers that creep deeper within the woods. Which is a relief, because you’ve heard stories about those and you are not eager to meet them.
These days you’re the only person who wanders through the woods. The nearest town is four hours away, and your house is the only one for miles. And, even if there were people around, they would be too scared to go in. The woods can be intimidating and disheartening, if you aren’t comfortable with them. But you are, and that’s all that matters.
After five hours of walking you reach a cliff. And from that cliff, you can see the whole forest, and a little bit beyond. It is breathtaking. You feel as though you are a ruler, overlooking your kingdom. Below you, the woods sprawl out. The trees are so close together you can’t see the ground. Above you, a gray-blue sky covers the earth like a blanket. The clouds are few and far between.
You sit on the edge and scan the trees. Nothing really moves much. If you didn’t know any better, you might think you are the only living thing in the woods. But you do know better, and smile at the thought of the secret.
Eventually you stand up, and start walking home. You sense them checking in on you once in a while, and mumble a quiet but meaningful thank you. Without the creatures, you might be dead by now. You’ve heard stories, and you’re very grateful for your friends. It’s a miracle they approached you at all. Maybe it helped that Grandpa knew them so well.
A few carefully placed branches and rocks lead you home. Within a couple of hours, your house appears through the trees. Before you close and lock the door very, very carefully, you turn around, smile, and confidently yell a thank you out into the forest. Of course, there’s no way of knowing for sure if they heard you, but the gently swaying trees and leaves make you almost sure they’re waving goodbye.