by Carly Russell
It had been another long day at the office. Phones ringing, fluorescent lights glaring, and greedy co-workers making her feel small and insignificant. There is a reason that people feel as though the weight of the world is on their shoulders, she thought. She felt guilty that she this sad and depleted when she only had herself to take care of. No husband or children to mind. No big bills piling up or illness to bring her down. She had every reason for happiness and yet there was none.
She glanced out her buildings window. The path leading from her small office on the edge of the city, along the forest wall seemed like the perfect place to shed away the day. The evening was clear so she to ventured without a coat. The long sleeved loose shirt and light bootcut jeans fit just right and she already feet better at the thought of moving her body outside.
Soon she had made it to the clearing and away from the office. She felt elated by the openness of the field and wondered why she didn’t always come out here to eat her lunch or walk instead of remaining inside the stale space where she spent close to 10 hours a day. She even felt as though she was breathing deeper for the first time in months; taking in all the fresh new air that surrounded her.
“Annabel, you are so lucky. You have a good man, a good steady job, and satisfied life here. How could you even consider leaving?” It was her grandmother readily spewing all the reasons why not to leave her boyfriend, her partner really, of 5 years to travel for 6 months. “All that money you would spend wasting your time sightseeing could be spent on a house or savings for your wedding; which you most definitely won’t have if you leave.”
“I don’t know. It’s just an idea.” She answered. Anna had never really traveled alone before. She had taken quick trips here and there but always in the company of her boyfriend or parents. Foolishly she had brought up the fleeting thought at lunch and was now paying dearly for ever imaging she could do something so silly.
“Judy you seem awfully quiet for a mother who’s only child is about to run off to wherever. Probably get raped and killed in the first week.” Anna’s grandmother was always a little mellow-dramatic.
“I know she won’t go,” Anna’s mother turned to her “Your grandmother’s right sweetie. You have it made here. Michael loves you but he’s not going to stick around while you dilly dally across the world. It’s time to get married and settle down.” There it was. It was the dreaded phrase that was constantly being uttered at family gatherings and other weddings. Time to get married and settle down. It had been five years of dating and playing house. Who were they kidding? In everyone’s opinion, even Michael’s, it was high time they got they took the next step.
The clear sky that was once inviting was now beginning to cloud over. Within seconds, it seemed, the sunshine was gone and a loud cracking sound shook the little piece of land she was walking along. Instantly it began to pour. The girl was too far away from the office to make it back without getting soaked. She looked to the line of trees beside the clearings trail. Hesitating for a moment, she then stepped off the path and into the woods for shelter from the unexpected storm.
It took a moment to adjust her eyes to the trees. She had barely stepped off the path but she was now completely sheltered from the falling rain. For a moment it even appeared to have stopped so she stepped back out again.”Ahhh,” she cried as big wet drops of rain hit here head and hopped back under the canopy of the trees. The rain was still tumbling heavily down from the sky. She walked a little further in. Not too far, she thought to herself. You don’t want to go and get yourself lost.
Getting lost was not entirely absurd. Beyond the field, the tree line went as far as the eye could see. The depths of the forest also went all the way to the base of the large mountain range where habitation was unattainable for most that weren’t born and bred within it. It was not like the area had not been explored by others but there were many tales as she was growing up of souls getting lost amongst the trees.
Legends of the forest: A few years back there were a few high school kids that decided to have a party out in the forest. They knew they shouldn’t be drinking, staying out late on a school night, or even going out into the woods but they were defiant and did it anyway. So the 2 girls and 3 guys packed up their truck with all the things they needed. Stolen liquor from their parents cabinet, blankets to cuddle up in and flashlights to guide their way through the tangle of overgrown forest. The teenagers had heard rumors that there was a beautiful waterfall and lake within the depths of the woods; a secret place that only a few had returned to tell about.
The group set out late on a Thursday night after their parents had drifted off into a peaceful sleep, unknown to them where their children were going. It was not until morning that it was discovered that the 5 teens were not in their beds and it was not until the next day that there was any sign of hope. That hope crawled out from the abundance of the forest and collapsed at the edge. “Where have you been?” the worried people of the city cried. ‘Where are the others?” All the teenager could muster was that the beast had taken them.
As her eyes once more adjusted to the light she realized that despite the heavy covering of branches it appeared to be brighter in the forest than it had been in the field. Almost as if the sun that was previously shining had some how gotten trapped in between the limbs. The girl took it all in; seeing the forest with a new perspective that didn’t include horror stories. She decided to go a little farther in. For a brief moment she gazed back towards the park and even spotted the office building off in the distance, surprising herself on how far she’d walked. The moment of hesitation had now passed and she purposefully moved one foot in front of the other through the space, dancing into the density.
“I can’t believe your not going to come anymore,” said Ruth. Ruth, Anna’s oldest and dearest friend had invited her to visit her in across the ocean where she had been living for almost a year. It was the invite that had sprung the whole idea for 6 months of exploring through unknown lands (unknown to Anna at least). What had started as a simple invitation had turned into a big and beautiful adventure. Anna would first fly to spend a month with Ruth and use the rest of her time exploring on her own with Ruth’s encouragement and keen travel guides. “What happened? You, actually WE, were so excited a week ago. If its money, we can figure it out. Hell, I bet I could even get you some work at the bar.” Ruth, who was just finishing up her first school term there also worked a couple nights a week and the bar below her flat.
“Its not that. I just… I dunno… don’t feel like its the right time for me to be doing something like this.”
“Something like what? Visiting your best friend, having an adventure. Its just going to get harder to do something like this as we get older. The time is now!”
“It’s just that I know Michael won’t like it and my mom said…
“Your MOM!” Ruth interrupted, “Your mom said what?”
“I don’t know. She just made some good points. Like if I sell my car to afford it then I won’t have a car when I get back. I won’t have a job. Maybe I won’t have Michael.”
“What about having experiences? What about adventure and romance? Remember all those things you said you were missing in your life. And someone sure forgot fast how unhappy she was in her relationship a week ago. Unhappy enough to even cheat.” It was true. Anna had been unfaithful to Michael not only once, but a few times. It was quite a stupid thing to do but Anna had had every intention of breaking up with Michael. Not for the other guy. Just for herself since she realized how unhappy she was in their relationship.
“My mom is right, Ruth. Who am I kidding? I love the life I have. I love our apartment, I love my friends, and one day Michael will have a good paying job and we will be able to travel wherever we want then. I won’t even have to work. Can just stay home and take care of our kids.” Anna wasn’t lying was she said this. At least she thought that’s what she wanted. It’s what she is supposed to want.
“Oh Jesus, babe. That sounds tragic.”
“Maybe to you it does. You’re good at this stuff, Ruth. Being independent comes easy to you. Not me.” It was clear even on the phone that Anna was beginning to get upset.
“Okay, I’m sorry. I’m just disappointed, that’s all. If this is what you really want I’m not going to push you. I just want you to be happy,” Ruth continued after a short pause, “All I ever what is to see you happy.” Ruth was sincere. Long friendships allow for swift forgiveness.
“Yeah, yeah. So tell me about that new guy you’re seeing…”
As the girl made her way deeper into the brush she felt a twinge of excitement. It was rare that she was ever alone and the freedom of solidarity now was very present. How strange it was, she thought, that I am never alone. Maybe briefly while in the toilet but otherwise always (in some way or another) with other people. She suddenly felt very nervous with the realization that she didn’t know how to be alone. She had never been to a movie or out for dinner. She didn’t even like to eat lunch alone at work. Always waiting for someone else to join her whether she liked their company or not.
Within her thoughts she still moved through the trees and shrubs. Not really paying much mind to how far she had ventured in. Her new found independence only seemed to bring her farther away from the present moment and focused on her past. A tiny seed of regret began to root itself within her heart.
Before the girl was able to focus too much on the root of regret she stumbled on a log that had fallen across the path that she was creating amongst the trees. She instantly felt foolish and wished that had been watching where she was going instead of daydreaming. A trait her grandmother often scolded her for. The women in our family don’t daydream, the girl reminded herself. “I don’t day dream,” she said aloud. It felt odd to hear her voice after not speaking for a while. Even odder hearing without it being part of a conversation or greeting. “Hmmmm,” she continued, “Hellllooooooooo.” There was no echo to say hello back to her. The sounds just drifting off into the distance. In a flash she became aware of how far she had walked. Stepping over roots and around thick ancient trees. “Oh, what am I doing wandering around the forest like some crazy person? Time to go home.”
“When are you coming home?” Anna asked Michael on the phone.
“I don’t know, babe. The boys are out in full force tonight.” She could tell Michael had had a couple. So had she. “Come join us.” Oh now he asks me, she thinks.
“Where are you?” Anna can hear laughing and music in the distance.
“Umm, just some bar. You know the one with the weird lights.” Anna knew the place.
“Yeah, I remember the one.”
“I’m sure we’ll be here for a bit. Come. I’ll buy you a beer.”
“Oh, my hero.” Anna hung up the phone. She didn’t need to do much to prepare as she just gotten home from work dinner party. A party that Michael had been too busy to accompany her to.
As she stepped out of their shared apartment Anna was already dialing a mesmerized number. It only took a couple rings before being answered. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?” her mother often bypassed simple greetings in order to get right to business. It was also right at this moment that Anna realized how drunk she was.
“Hi, mother. Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. I was just calling to say hello,” Anna replied.
“Oh, well your father and I are in the middle of a movie. Isn’t it a little late?”
“It’s not that late. Say hi to dad for me.”
“That’s it? Okay, goodnight.” Her mother hung up. Anna felt a mixture of relief and hurt at the abrupt ending. It was good since she didn’t think she could handle a conversation with her mother when she was this intoxicated. She pulled out her cigarettes and lit one. Ahhh, thats better, she thought, as the inhale instantly calmed and rejuvenated at the same time. She had arrived at the bar. She put out her cigarette on the ground, leaving the butt, and fished into her wallet for her I.D. At 25 and petit it would still be awhile before Anna wouldn’t get asked to show it.
“You know we close in 30 minutes?” The bouncer, a predictably bulky guy, asked suspiciously. “Last call is about to happen.”
“That’s fine. I am just here to meet my boyfriend. Thanks.” He handed her I.D back and let her pass. Michael was not wrong in describing the bar at ‘that place with the lights’ since the lights were the first thing you tended to noticed when you walked in. Dark reds, purples, and blues filtered through various fixtures creating a seedy, yet inviting feel.
The place was pretty much empty except for a few stragglers hanging out by the one solitary pool table. No one appeared to be playing, just chatting amongst each other in between gulps of their beers. There were a couple familiar faces among the group but none that were Michael’s. She walked towards them. “Hey, Anna!” rang out from the center of the group.
“Hey Trev,” she replied to one of Michael’s acquaintances. He was tall and lean with a dirty blonde hair. The kind of hair that had always tempted Anna to run her fingers through. “Where’s Michael?”
“Oh, umm, I dunno. I think they left. But uh, you’re welcome to hang out with us.” Trevor gestures to the remaining 4 members of the group. Anna looks to the group. They were an unappealing drunken bunch that she really had no desire to spend her remaining nightlife moments with. “Or… I could walk you home. Just to make sure you get there safely.” Anna pauses for what can only be described as a millisecond.
“Yeah, that would be nice.”
With the decision to go home firm within her mind the girl began to turn around. As she was turning a dark figure appeared to dart behind a tree. She jumped and breathed in. What the hell was that, she thought. She continued to hold her breath until realizing that she needed to exhale. She looked all around her, body tensed. She circled from where she came to where she had been going now frozen on one spot of forest floor. After a few minutes of being on the edge of fear she concluded that it must have been nothing. “Yeah, it was nothing. Relax,” she confirmed to herself aloud. “Just relaaaax.”
“Okay everyone, now just relax.” Anna was lying on the floor of a dark room. She was breathing heavily and could feel the beads of sweat that had formed upon her brow. “As we make our way into our final rest allow the mind to clear. Imagine it as a completely empty space where there is no need for thought.” How on earth does this guy think I am going to clear my mind. He is mad. After a strenuous 50 minutes of her first yoga class Anna was exhausted and figured it would probably be also be her last yoga class. He continued to speak but Anna wasn’t listening anymore. Just as she hadn’t listened throughout class. I can’t twist my body into all these different shapes and be able to relax at the same time, she thought. He had made her hate the word relax, the other girls in the class had made her hate their bodies, and the mirror made her hate herself. If only Anna had listened to the teacher she would have found peace with the word. If she had listened she maybe would have kept her eyes in her own space instead of looking at others. If she had listened Anna could have learned to let go of judgments and appreciate the person in the mirror looking back at her. Alas, she did not hear any of those things.
In the whirl of circling in fear the girl had now completely turned herself around. She darted looks from one way to another. Front and back did not exist anymore. Every direction looked the same. She had no clue which way she had come from or which way she had intended on going. Fuck, she thought, this is just what I need. Oh, yeah just go and get yourself lost in the haunted woods. ‘Your mother would love that’, she said aloud this time.
The girl pulled her shoulders back and looked around with a new dose of determination. She realized that the tree she had thought someone had jumped behind was in view. Okay, that’s a start. She started to walk but stopped suddenly. She then looked down to the forest floor to see what she could collect to mark the direction that she had come. All she had on her were the clothes she was wearing and her house keys. There were pine cones scattered around as well as small branches and twigs. She bent down to gather enough to carry a short distance. The girl felt she had only walked a short ways. As she reached her hand to the ground she touched the earth for the first time since before she could remember. She lets her fingers press further into the mossy earth. She felt a vibration through the soil and into her fingers. For that moment in time she was completely still, at peace even with the simplicity of playing in dirt.
“Don’t touch that! Judy don’t let her touch that.” Anna’s Grandmother May was sitting in a lawn chair. The way she sat, however, one would think that cheap lawn chair was a throne. Anna’s mother, who was in the middle of making herself another drink, looked casually over to where Anna was playing in the garden. “Anna! Get out of there. Judy, she’s going to get sick. Who knows what diseases are running rampant in that dirt.”
“Alright mother, calm down,” Judy responds as she leaves her drink and walks towards her 3 year old daughter. “Okay, enough playing in the dirt, Anna. You will get sick if you put your hands in the mud.” Anna looked up at her mother, confused.
“Sick, mommy?” She asked.
“Yes,” Judy leans over to pick up her daughter. “Playing with dirt and mud will make you sick according to your crazy Grandmother.”
“Sick with a slew of unknown diseases,” Grandmother May adds paying no mind to the second part. Anna, not understanding all the words in between, holds on to the ones she does. Dirt, sick.
The girl was now sitting with both hands in the earth, eyes closed and breathing calmly. She opens her eyes and is aware of how long she’s been there. What had started as a few fingers grazing the ground had turn into sitting on the forest floor with both hands pressing into the moss and shifting around the pine cones and twigs that she was meant to be picking up. The girl starts to feel foolish again for what she is doing, imagining familiar faces laughing at her. She starts gathering bits and pieces. “SNAP” sounds out through the trees. First the girl thinks she has stepped on a branch beneath her, but then another “SNAP” reverberates from a few feet away. She jolts her head up. Her calm breath traded for quick panicked puffs of air. “Who’s there?” The girl utters; again startled by the sound of her own voice. All that echos back to her is the sound of the wind moving through the leaves. “This isn’t funny.” She can feel the panic within her beginning to transition into anger. Watching herself on the cusp of transformation she stands tall. She begins to walk with purpose towards the sound. At least where she believes the sound is coming from.
The trees slightly part and in between them is a large rock that fits nicely into the side of a small rise in the round. The boulder almost appears to have been placed there and as the girl get closer she sees there is a small opening. She slows her pace almost to a tip toe and crept closer in.
Anna crept towards her apartment door. Michael was most likely passed out in their bed but she didn’t want to take the chance of having to have the conversation of where she’s been all night. It would be easier tomorrow. Everything would be sorted out tomorrow.
She gently put the key in the lock and turned it, so familiar with the workings of her door that she was able to be as quiet as possible. The bolt clicked into the unlocked position. She opened the door and waited. Waited to hear a hello, foot steps or snores. But snoring was what floated to her ears and Anna felt momentarily relieved. She closed the door and took of her coat and boots with a little less care knowing that Michael was safely passed out. She made her way to the bathroom and turned on the light. The person looking back at her a was more vivid version of her former self. Hair tasseled and rosy cheeks. There was even a hint of a glow on her skin. Anna shrugged her new appearance as evidence of her late night wanderings. She turned off the bathroom light as not to stir any guilt.
She went into the living room, grabbed the cordless phone off the couch, her cigarettes, and went out to the balcony. When they had first moved into the apartment Anna had been disappointed that their bedroom didn’t open out onto the patio. She had envisioned waking up early in the morning and stepping directly outside to greet the day. Now she was happy it didn’t. It became her sanctuary for private phone calls and daydreams.
With the cigarette in hand and lit she dialed Ruth’s number. It rang only once before she answered. “Beautiful, Anna. To what do I owe the pleasure? Ohh geez, what time is there? Must be super early.”
“More like super late,” replied Anna. The time difference usually made it difficult for the two friends to talk so Anna was relieved to get her best friend on the phone. She needed someone to talk to. “I did it again.”
“Did what again? Oh. That. When? Who with?” Ruth had a non-judgmental way of communicating
“This guy, Trevor, who hangs out with the group sometimes. I was drunk and Michael had left me and Trev offered to walk me home.”
“Well what happened, exactly?” Ruth quizzed.
“Not that. Almost. The closest I have ever been with anyone other than Michael.” Anna and Michael had been together since their first year of university. He had been her first for a lot of things, most notably losing her virginity. But also all the other landmarks in young sexual exploration. Before Michael she had only kissed a few other boys. On more than one occasion when girlfriends were comparing notes of their exploits Anna always felt left out. Getting bored of her own stories being told in her head over and over. “I wanted to and I wasn’t doing anything to stop it from going there. But than he starting asking about Michael. Like if we were broken up, breaking up, or if I was just cheating. That kind of killed the mood. I just got home from his place a few minutes ago,” she continued, “I don’t think I want to stay here, with Michael I mean. Tonight felt so good. Just kind of freeing.” Anna smiled. She felt almost giddy.
“Wow. Well I hate to say ‘I told you so’ but this definitely has been a long time coming. You obviously haven’t been satisfied in your relationship in a long time.”
“Years,” Anna adds.
“Yeah, years. Like years of your life. You have to make up for those now.” Ruth didn’t like that her friend was a cheater. She didn’t respect her in way because of that. Always acting as if being in a relationship was better than Ruth’s choice for short term flings. If you need to cheat to stay happy in your relationship, Ruth thought, I just feel sorry for you. Ruth felt sorry for Anna for a lot of other reasons but most of all because of the fear she could see her living with. She wanted to help her. “What are you going to do now?”
“Move out I guess. This is Michael’s place. I don’t even pay rent.” Anna felt her first twinge of fear at the sound of the words leaving her mouth. Rent. Something she had never paid for since she just went from living with her parents to living with her boyfriend. Anna put it in the back of her mind. “I just need to get out of here. Quickly. I know if I hang around too long I’ll talk myself out of it.”
“Oh, well I have the perfect excuse.”
“Come visit me. Now is the perfect time.” Ruth’s voice went up a pitch with the excitement she was feeling. “I won’t have classes for a few weeks and we could just hang out and take it easy.”
“That sounds amazing. I would want to be gone longer than a few weeks though. Long enough to let things cool, ya know. Too bad you don’t have longer off. We could just go wandering for 6 months.”
“Ya too bad I can’t, but you still can.”
“Yeah, why not? You don’t need me. In the month that you are with me I will prepare you for solo travel so good that you’ll be itchin’ to get away from me.” Ruth was a seasoned traveler and proud of it. She was never short of tips to pass onto friends or fellow wanderers. Anna felt if anyone could teach her how to be alone it was Ruth.
“I have some money saved and I could sell my car for more.” Anna was getting excited. Imaging herself in a new place. Free of her mother, her grandmother, and Michael. Completely free, she thought.
The girls feet moved softly through the leaves towards the cave-like entrance. As she got closer her eyes began to make out a shape lying in the opening of the earth. The girls first thought was that it was a bear. She stopped, now guarded by fear. The continual seesaw from determination to fearful self-doubt was beginning to wear on her. She moved closer. Each step she remained watchful of movement or even breath but their was none. Finally she was standing right over the animal. She slowly reached down to touch it. The fur was soft, yet dense. The feel of it beneath her fingers was soothing and warm. She reach further and let her open palm rest on the dark brown hair. Suddenly she felt movement under her hand. The gentle rise and fall of breath is ever present. Before she could move away the mound of fur stood sending the girl flying backwards. She lay, stunned, on the ground. She looked up in awe as a giant furry animal stood before her. The Beast, she thought in terror. They were right.
“I know what happened with Trev.” Michael was sitting in their living room in the dark when she returned home from lunch with her mother and grandmother. Already defeated, she did not have the strength to try to lie.
“How did you find out?” She responded solemnly.
“A couple of the guys saw you leaving together around 2:00 am or something and it wasn’t till 5:00 am that I heard you come home. I’m not stupid, Anna.” Anna wanted to lash out. Attack him, just as he was attacking her. But when she looked into his eyes all she saw was pain. Pain she had caused.
“Why? Is this because I forgot you were coming there? Payback for my drunken forgetfulness,” he added.
“I don’t know. I just wanted to … to … feel something.” The more Anna looked into his eyes, the more guilt she felt weighing down on her. All her plans of flight vanishing. All she wanted was to stop the pain of the man that she once loved. “It was a stupid mistake. I love you. Only you. Please forgive me.” As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted it. Even the sight of Michael’s eyes brightening didn’t bring relief from the heaviness she had placed upon her heart again.
“I forgive you.”
The girl remained frozen on the earth awaiting the death that she was sure would come. She had no fight left in her. Failure had made its way in between her muscles, joints, and bones. Already numb from the life she was living, death was the welcoming next step. The Beast approached her on its four limbs. Bigger than any bear she’d ever seen in books or movies. Its hair wild and claws long brought the girl solace, imaging death would be swift. The Beast stood tall on its hind legs. The girl cringed. But as it moved closer it began to transform. Each movement shed away a layer of fur. Each inch closer to the girl, the beast became more and more beautiful. Pieces of fur falling onto the forest floor leaving behind ivory skin and long delicate limbs. The only wild hair that remained was on the newly transformed woman’s head. The hair of the Beast tumbled over her soft shoulders and her feminine form.
The women stood tall and strong yet still had the essence of pure peace. Complete knowing. “Anna,” she began, “I am so happy that you have come.”
“How do you know my name? Who are you?” Anna’s words came out in a surprised panic. The woman smiled and turned. She moved around the rock and deeper into the woods. Anna was in shock.
The mysterious creature stopped momentarily, glancing sideways towards Anna, beckoning her to follow. Although Anna felt fear hinting at her, the power of curiosity was too strong. She scrambled up off the ground and followed.
Anna knew the woman was not leading her back to the pathway of the city because as they ventured farther inward it grew noticeably darker. Anna watched in awe at her movements. So precise yet also so delicate. Almost as if she was simply floating through the trees and over displaced roots. Anna’s movements were just the opposite. Stumbling over and getting caught on branches as she clawed her way behind the woman.
After a few minutes of walking through the brush, it had grown even darker from the density of the trees. It began to get harder to move through without getting caught on something and Anna was sure she wouldn’t be able to find her way back out again. Anna’s fears began to overpower her curiosity of the woman since her transformation. She hesitated, looking behind her. Without a glance the woman spoke, “There is nothing for you that way anymore. Come. You are almost there,” and continued gliding. Anna looked behind her again and saw something moving. It was the Beast. How could that be, Anna thought. She watched it follow at a safe distance while she clumsily trailed behind the woman.
Then, out of nowhere, there was a break in the trees spilling light into the darkness. The woman passed through leaving only her elegant right arm to gesture Anna to follow. She looked behind. The Beast had reappeared and stopped, waiting in the darkness. Anna could only make it out from the steady movement of its breath. Not wanting to allow the Beast the chance to move closer she passed through the break in the forest. When she emerged, Anna found herself on the edge of a high cliff. Directly across the break of space in the rock was a waterfall. The light of the sun danced upon the falling water reflecting sparkles over the entire clearing below. Anna’s eyes followed the waterfalls path to the pool between the rock. Clear, perfect water made its home in the reservoir before moving along down a gentle river that the sun also shone on.
“Jump,” said the woman.
“What, are you crazy? I can’t jump down into that. I don’t even know how deep it is.” Anna was startled by the woman’s request. How could someone so perfect expect something so foolish? Anna could feel herself getting angry at the woman for misleading her.
“The waterfall and what lies beyond it is your freedom. Freedom from fear, freedom from anger, freedom from hate,” the woman answered.
“I don’t want to jump.” The thought of jumping into that unknown pool sent Anna’s heart racing.
“If you don’t jump the only way back is the way we came.” Anna looked towards the trees, the Beast was there waiting for her. “You can either live with fear and all the things that spring from it like ignorance and pain. Or you can jump beyond it to happiness and peace.” Then without warning the woman jumped disappearing as she did. Anna held her breath, afraid.
She looked to the woods. Even if she made it past the Beast how long could she really run from it? She stepped back towards the density and released the air she had been holding in and took another circle of breath, feeling the serenity that accompanied the flow of oxygen. She closed her eyes and in that moment felt peace. She felt her fears beginning to drift away. She let go of hate, and abandoned ignorance. Anna turned back to the glowing waterfall and jumped.