That's a little too close..
Ahhhhhkkh welcome to the forest, as teeming with life as Canada's largest prefecture, and yet as silent and
imposing as the stern edifice of the ancient monument to mimes would be if it were not named ironically. Our
tale takes the framing device of an aged learned one reciting hypnotic wisdom to a weary dustbitten traveler
such as yourself and will begin as soon as you have relinquished your daily cares, those insurmountable
burdens which you uniquely bear and have immersed yourself entirely in the strange land of which I am about
to speak metaphorically, as if you were placed in an immersion blender, that is how immersed you will
I returned to the ancestral hall replete with success of the days hunt. Winter would be coming soon to the
northlands, seeking to catch our family unawares by preceding fall, the same gambit it had attempted the year
before. Winter is uncreative. However uncreative it may be, it is still a deadly force, transforming
unexpectedly the lush splendor of the forest into the barren frostscape of jotunheim, depriving us of food and
leaving us easy prey for the numerous frost giants which roamed with glacial impunity.
A flash of glowing slitted eyes greeted hungrily me as I rounded a corner. The ferocious snow cats, sigil of
my ancestral house, were supposedly kept well fed, but one could never be sure that they were aware of this.
Apprehensively, I rolled a ping pong ball to distract the fluffy killing machine, bred to withstand the
harshest winter, yet unable to resist a simple bouncing spheroid.
Carefully restocking the trapped pantry took under an hour, and I mused how fortunate I had been to retrieve
such a bounty from the wild. Every week it seemed the forest encroached closer and closer to manor hall.
The trees whispered from that eldritch blackness, invisible individually admidst that collection which comprised the forest.
Make that THE FOREST, I thought, with all caps for emphasis and a double underscore besides. Few
indeed could truthfully claim that they had survived the deep mysteries of that arboreal vault. Perhaps as
many as a dozen, perhaps a few as one-fifth. Cleaning the traps around the perimeter had been the task of
the youngest household member since antiquity and thus the duty fell to me.
Checking the traps was without incident, the forest was quiet, its silent malice pitting its will against my
own. I was uncomfortably aware of the immensity of that power, the ancientness against which my mortal
existence seemed but a fleeting thing. Uncountable numbers of eyes could have peered at me from the jade
blankness of the leaves, and I silently hoped that none of them were owned by the carniverous deer.
Offering the sacrificial oil to mechanical forest reductor, I glanced around once more, filled with nameless
apprehension as I finished the ritual and the steel golem roared to life. Guiding the golem around the house,
it devoured the tops of the miniature trees beginning to spring up throughout the grassy moat which was our
only defense against the sleepless menace of the forest. The completion of this task too passed without
incident and it was with relief that I was allowed to pass back through the wards of the manor and collapse in
cold sweat on the ancestral sofa. Law and order was on, incidentally.
I awoke some days later, greeted by the shining orbs of a snow cat's feral eyes and knew no more. Until,
later when I woke up again and began the journey back to MIT.