DRAFT I

Control of the shadows belongs to the sun as it dips slowly towards the horizon leaving the trees shrouded in rapidly spreading dusk and rain. From the cloud-blanketed grey sky comes a mist of crystal crimson drops that stain everything they touch. The leaves of trees are left dripping bloody, but he knows that it isn’t real. Nothing around him is real. This evening finds him sitting below the crying leaves lost so deep in thoughts that no longer make sense and unsure how he will find his way out. This soul is beginning to question the very existence of the trees even though he knows that they are something he cannot possibly escape. As much as this land is his home, it is also his prison. There was a time, before these storms came, where he searched through the twisted trails for a path that leads beyond these trees, a path that was carved directly into his heart, but he’s long since given up on that.

Desolation and despair are the only things that remain in these woods. The whispering winds blow through carrying an echo of what used to be and for a moment he imagines that they are a voice. Instead of music, the wind brings with it the scent of flame and decay. There is something new happening in his trees. He rolls his eyes and looks away from the beauty of a setting sun and in the darkened distance the lick of flames catches his gaze and then his attention. The forest is burning alive. He can hear the screams of the trees and he knows that bark he once touched to remember is being swallowed by something that will force him to forget. It is everything he has dreamed of. All he has ever wanted is to forget, but his memories have never erased the way he wishes for them to.

Instead they have twisted into something that he can’t trust to be honest. Every second that has passed is another one that he cannot be sure of. It is just as likely that his mind chose to remember it that way because that is the way it seemed to be as it is that it actually occurred that way.

Even though the breeze has sent him a smokey warning, the man does not move from where he sits. Is this threat another twist of his imagination? It does not matter in this moment and this moment is all that matters to him. Should the flames not be a trick of light and mind and they swallow him along with the forest at least he will have ended in the place that he certainly began.

From the direction of the fire comes an all too familiar seduction and a woman comes through the trees to catch his eyes.

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope with no address?” She purrs out each syllable with liquid temptation.

He looks to her and shakes his head slowly, “I have no destination. This is where I belong.” His voice is hollow and his soul seems content and resigned.

She smiles for a flicker of a second before it melts into a laugh and she offers him her hand. “Do you remember the steps?”

It is then that he is aware of the music floating through the air; another ghost of his mind. It twists through the trees and finds him and he closes his eyes. The notes wash over every part of him before he answers.

“I remember everything. I remember all the things that I wish to forget.”

For a moment she appears sympathetic, but that isn’t real either. “Dance with me then.”

Without rising from the ground he pushes her hand away and shakes his head. “I don’t want to dance.”

Hurt becomes the backdrop of her eyes and she cocks her head to the side as though confused. “Why not?”

Again he shakes his head. “Just as a memory may be a paradise from which we cannot and do not wish to be driven, it may also be a hell from which we cannot escape.”

She scoffs, “quotes and riddles.”

It would be easier to just come out and say exactly what torments his thoughts, but then he’d have to admit that something causes him pain. Rather than face the truth, he remained silent in his actions. Every reaction feeds her desire to trap him in a cage of his own making and he does not wish to allow her the pleasure.

“I can help you out of here,” the manic temptress isn’t swayed by his lack of response.

It is the greatest tease, but he doesn’t dare fall prey to empty promises. “I’ve heard that before,” the words are bitter on his tongue and they make him sick.

“I’ve never lied to you before.”

It pains him to admit that these words ring true as they drip from her lips.

“I know,” but he doesn’t take the first step that would lead them into a tango.

“You bleed, Loki. Look around,” she holds up her hand and those bloody raindrops create a network of spider webs across her skin, “you deny and run from the truth. Now the truth has come here for you to the place you cannot escape from.”

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