By Henry Black
Kate MaCory made it out of Sleeping Wood. Everything was a whir. Her legs did not stop moving, even after crossing the boundary into the real world from her hellish hallucination. She wished it was a hallucination. Her lungs were a ticking time bomb on the verge of detonation. Her legs were spaghetti in a boiling pan, failing to stay rigid with every passing second. At the edge of the wood, the lights watched her. Like predators eyeing up their prey. She wretched at the sight of them, and at the thought of the corpse of Ellis, battered and broken on the floor. Kate staggered through the hotel lobby like a drunk before crashing through her door and collapsing on her bed.
Two months had passed since the events at Sleeping Wood. Ellis had been declared a missing person but when Kate had explained to them the events of that night they suddenly closed the case as if it were nothing. It had been buried in the deepest archives of the department never to be heard of again. Kate had quit her job at Paranormal Weekly. She had been promoted to the position formerly held by Ellis. She could not face entering the office every day and sitting in his seat after how cruelly he was taken from the world. She had been unemployed since then. Kate truly believed that having any form of magazine on her CV would make her the ideal candidate. Unfortunately, nobody took her seriously for it. Especially with what she had witnessed.
Kate lazed around her home all day and night. She had nothing to do. The boredom weighed down on her spirit. She hadn’t showered or left the house in days. She was alarmed one evening when her phone began ringing. Nobody ever called her. She jumped eagerly to her mobile. Her face resembled Edvard Munch’s famous Scream. The name was Ellis. She answered with trembling hands and raised the phone fearfully to her ear. Was it all a part of some sick joke? Tears welled around Kate’s eyes as she listened to what the horrid prankster had to say. It was him. It was his voice. His ghostly echo rung through Kate’s ears causing her to drop the phone to the floor. He continued to speak.
‘I’m okay Kate. It’s all better now. I’m at peace. Things are better here, it really hurt at first. I was in agony.’ He chuckled. ‘The pain only lasted for a few seconds. It’s truly a better place here in Sleeping Wood. You’re very special you know Kate. They told me so. That’s why they let you go. Find out who you are.’ He hung up.
Kate welled up as she stared at the phone, now cracked, on the floor. Her face was a picture of fear. She pondered what he was implying for days. Kate sat down at her laptop one evening. She poured herself a glass of wine and browsed her ancestry. A stern look remained on her face as she travelled deeper and deeper into the internet. She discovered that many generations back, one of her direct decendants had been adopted by a rich couple after being given to them by a Mr Douglas Herringway who died not long after. Kate was intrigued and dug deeper. She discovered that the birth mother of the child was Ianthe Herringway nee Eales. After the death of Douglas she returned to her original home but was later executed by vigilantes for being a witch. The glass slipped from Kate’s hands as she continued to read. It shattered to the floor, spilling red wine all over Kate’s white rug, similar to a blood stain. Ianthe allegedly cursed the forest that she lived in so that all trespassers would be killed. It was Sleeping Wood.
Kate was a direct descendant of the witch who cursed Sleeping Wood. She was horrified. That was why she was able to escape. That’s what Ellis meant on the phone. The lights did not want to kill her. She gasped in horror at her computer screen at her new found discovery. The picture of Sleeping Wood on her screen sent shivers down her spine. It was a black and white photograph from the same entrance to the wood that Kate had taken the night Ellis was murdered. A small light began to flicker from inside the forest. Kate squinted to see if what she saw wasn’t just some cruel illusion. The light flickered on the screen still. It grew with every flash. Kate moved closer to the screen to observe the movement. It definitely wasn’t a video. The light grew bigger. Flicker. Flicker. FLICKER. The whole screen was now bathed in the white ethereal glow of the light. Kate slammed her laptop shut and ran to her feet, cutting herself on the glass on the floor. She ran from the room running her hands through her scalp erratically. A candle on her bedside table lit itself. She needed to put a stop to this.
The train whirred through the English countryside. Kate gazed out at the luscious green fields and the beautiful mountain backdrop that lay before her. It still was not enough to put her nerves at ease. She still did not have a conclusive plan. She rested her weary head against the glass, finding no comfort there as it bumped and shook her around. She sipped the tiny bottle of wine she bought for the journey. She had never been much of a drinker but her nerves were put on edge by the whole experience. She was a wreck. Her limbs could not stop shaking. Luckily, the train was fairly empty so there was nobody to notice the state that she was in. A large lump rose in Kate’s throat as the train screeched into Danton Fey train station. Kate stumbled to her feet and made her way off the train, squinting to find the exit. She had difficulty because she was fairly intoxicated. The small bottle was not the only one of its kind that Kate had drank on the one hour journey. An old oil lamp on the platform lit into life as Kate walked by.
That night, after having a drunken nap in her hotel room, Kate, now hungover, rose from her bed and decided now was the time to confront her fears. She gazed out of the window and into Sleeping Wood. The lights flickered dimly as she watched them. The anger rose from deep down within her. She remembered poor Ellis. Snapped like a twig on the floor. The fireplace in her hotel room suddenly caught a light and became a warm roaring flame. Kate turned and exited the room slowly.
The air was humid and yet Kate still felt unbelievably dry. Her throat was a desert. She had not entirely sobered up. She staggered down the path towards Sleeping Wood. Two lights shone on either side of the entrance. It looked as though it were a sinister face and Kate was walking right into the jaws of death. The sharp branches of the trees became jagged teeth, just waiting for Kate to cross the threshold so they could chomp down on her and devour her. She had done it. She crossed the barrier between the two worlds. There was no going back from here. Whatever she was going to do, now was the time to do it. She navigated the twisted mass of Sleeping Wood seemingly well considering her current state of mind. The lights drew in from the distance, basking her in the glow of a thousand sprites.
The lights tried to blind Kate. The branches seemed to twist around her. They latched onto her ankles and would not let go. She broke free with severe cuts on her ankles. The branches had dug right into her skin. Blood dripped onto the soil, creating beautiful blue flowers spouting up with ease. The lights chased after Kate as she limped through the foliage. She tried to swat them away from her face but they ducked and dodged because their reactions were a lot faster than hers. She reached a small overgrown clearing with an ancient stone cottage that had been severely run down. She knew that the cabin belonged to Ianthe.
‘COME OUT. This ends now.’ Kate screamed as she flung herself around in a circle out of frustration. She approached the cottage and smashed a window. ‘COME OUT NOW!’ The lights gathered around the cottage as a new light began to bloom from inside the cottage. It was brighter than the others and several sizes bigger. The light floated graciously from out of the cottage over to where Kate was standing. The light began to form the shape of a woman. The most beautiful woman Kate had ever seen.
‘I placed a curse on this forest in my dying breath. After what the people of the villages did to me they deserved everything they had coming. Offspring always take after their parents. They would be the same.’ Ianthe bellowed. Her face was not so beautiful with the anger she radiated.
‘Things have changed now. People don’t do things like what they did to you anymore. I understand that it was awful but times have changed. You can’t punish innocent people, then you’re just as bad as the people who murdered you. Don’t stoop to that level. You’re better than this Ianthe.’ Kate pleaded. Unfortunately her pleas fell on deaf ears.
‘I can punish who I please. My daughter was stolen from me before I even had a chance to hold her. The world deserves every pain I bring to it. None can match the heartbreak I felt. The world will burn before it feels the pain I lived.’ Ianthe summoned a great wind that threw Kate off her feet. She tumbled to the ground. The roots from the trees slithered into the clearing and wrapped themselves around Kate, piercing into her skin.
‘Your daughter lived a full life. She was married and had a daughter. I’m a direct offspring of your daughter. She was happy. She didn’t suffer!’ Kate exclaimed. Ianthe turned red with anger.
‘It was me who suffered. I died not even knowing if my daughter was alive. I missed every birthday. I missed her wedding. I missed the birth of my own granddaughter. How dare you enter my home and tell me I have no right to be angry.’ The roots wrapped tighter and began suffocating Kate. She spluttered to try and reason with Ianthe but she couldn’t get a word out. She felt her anger bubbling. The heat was unbearable. A spark. the roots began to ignite. Kate rose from her earthy shackles and rose above the ground. Her eyes completely filled with fire. Ianthe glanced around in horror as everything she loved began to burn around her. Her precious crops. Her beautiful flowers now a burning bonfire. She screamed in fear and frustration. The flames grew with Kate’s anger. Kate emitted a demonic shriek that amplified the flames further. They burned and burned. Ianthe struggled and screamed as her ghost was reduced to dust in front of her cottage. The lights began to converge around Kate to try and stop her but her rage filed the flames more, incinerating every single one of them. The flames burned, as did Kate, until the early hours of the morning.
The police arrived at the scene in the morning to find the entirety of Sleeping Wood incinerated into a pile of ashes. They braved entering the wreckage of the wood to find a blackened corpse. All of its hair and skin had been burned to a crisp. DNA confirmed that the corpse was that of Kate MacCory. The villagers of Magdalen Green and Danton Fey hailed Kate as their saviour. Over the years, the remains of Sleeping Wood were cleared and turned into an adventure park for the two villages. The townspeople no longer lived in fear of the lights in the forest. Some say that on a night, you can still see lights flickering from inside the park, but if approached they disappear out of fear of what Kate MacCory did to them. Sleeping Wood slept at last.
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