Today I decided to follow through on a writing prompt based off of a combination of one on a Writing Excuses Podcast episode, and one a friend of mine came up with on her own.
Take different characters’ perspectives of a thing in your world
Silvertongue spent more time pounding ‘danger’ signs into the ground then they wanted to. Spending even that amount of time near the haunted forest make them shiver. It wasn’t a place that always had a bad taste to it. Only in recent years had it festered into an almost living, feeding creature of its own.
The trees had a tantamount uneasiness that could only be described by those who had experienced it firsthand. Original accounts from other dwellers in the commune expressed a force coming off the trees like a mist, drawing them in. Survivors counted themselves lucky to have overcome the feeling of calm, fuzziness akin to alcohol that clouded their minds into numbness. The trees were witnessed grabbing people in and sucking out their life force.
It was hard to believe at first, until the survivors showed up at their doorstep. Silvertongue made a great effort to reduce casualties not only by putting up signs, but also by formulating an elixer to counteract the negative effects of the fog, and the tree’s life force drain. As the sunlight faded, the bonfire was lit in the center of town, and it was time for them to join the meal of fish slathered in tree sap, and salt water whiskey.
There was a moment, when he was in the haunted forest, Thorn had almost forgotten the effects of the fog. It was dangerous to inhale too much of it, whether or not he had plant DNA. The effects worked on any living creature with blood running through its veins. With that in mind, he inhaled sparingly, and if the trees tried to grab him, it was easy to bat them away. Even if they had a tiny bit of free will of their own, he could still mostly control them.
It was insane to think his father had done this. An entire section of forest was now cordoned off because of an experiment he had done years ago. It was a way to combine human and plant DNA. Or so his father had thought. When too much magic was pumped into the trees, they grew a deadly life of their own, craving more life force. Within days, the magic was siphoned off between trees, and spreading to the entire section of forest. It was fairly isolated from the other areas, the fens and rocky outcrops kept it from spreading to the whole island.
Although Thorn never found out why his father had done the experiments in the first place, he suspected it had to do with the experiments to follow.
She spent half her life in the town, and not once had she asked about the haunted forest. She knew it was there, and what had created it to some extent, but felt it was best to steer clear of the place. Silvertongue would agree with her, and that was that. Wiling away the hours, Thistle learned how to harvest the hardy plants that grew near the cliffsides. In order to reach them, she traversed the fens that skirted by the heavily fogged woods.
It was spooky, and she grew tired of the stories people would bring back to Silvertongue regarding it. There was enough history in her life to go without the scary stories of people getting trapped, the life sucked out of them, their shriveled bodies draping the forest floor like dead leaves. The thought of going in there terrified her. It was bad enough her father created it, but now there was a constant reminder of just how horrible he had been in her life. Thistle sighed, at least she’d never have to see him again.
Spooky places and scary stories were Sahara’s bread and butter. When the legends floated up from the other villagers, she was there. She spent most of her days out of the Inn she lived at, exploring every nook and cranny of the island. The caves and tunnels carved into the sides held the barrels where they aged their whiskey, and the cliffsides hosted a hearty grain harvested every few months. The weather was consistent, with mild changes from heat to coolness. And the way the saltwater smelled was her favorite.
At night she hung around the bonfire for dinner, same as anyone. However, Sahara would sneak off in the middle of the ceremony, clutching a torch, and go off to watch the fog rise. She could stand just at the edge of the forest, where it was safe, and under normal circumstances, the moonlight would reflect off the fog just perfectly to watch it rise. It sometimes got as high as the tallest trees’ leaves. Closer to dawn, or during a rainstorm, the mist would lower until it only covered the ground in a thick layer. The nights where it got the highest, those were her favorite.
Thorn told him more than he ever wanted to know about his father’s experiments. When he got to town, he didn’t expect it to be so real. The memory of his father was as thick as the fog that carpeted the ground. The smell was damp, earthy, not at all like he expected. It smelled like home, except for the layer of scent that burned his nose like ash or fire. The smell of magic so strong it left a choking sensation behind. He inhaled the fog, not on purpose, and coughed like he had just swallowed burning ash. The fogginess didn’t affect his mind the way he’d heard it was supposed to. Spike assumed it was part of his DNA. An experiment of his father immune to his father’s experiment. Still, he didn’t want to breathe in any more. It burned his lungs.
Small wispy branches flailed at him with intended malice, but Spike’s attention was elsewhere, and he easily batted them away with a flickering glance. The only good about his abilities, Spike thought. At least it was a peaceful place.
Catherine despised the way the haunted forest wasted a perfectly scenic part of the island. If she had her way, someone would’ve been discovering a way to fix it. Eradicate the fog, absorb the magic, even cut down all those evil trees and use them for lumber, or dispose of them in the ocean. What harm would they do if they were dead? They killed every other thing that walked in there, why should they deserve to stay?
Whatever Silvertongue thought they were doing to help the village cope with the monstrosity, it certainly wasn’t enough. For all the villages shared resources, and minds, Catherine expected something should have been done by now.
However, she wasn’t there to complain yet again to Silvertongue about the trees. No, she was there to see Thistle for the first time in a while. Perhaps this time, Thistle would come back with her to Alden town, where she’d be much closer. The visits were beginning to wear on Catherine. Besides the distance, everyone lived in communal housing, and travelers took the extra rooms. Tiny, cramped lodging with communal bathing, everyone eating together for meals. It was unnerving to be so close with such a large group of people. Fay Hollow had had it’s share of closeness while she grew up, but more and more the accommodations of Alden town had become a part of her. Large houses were split with a storefront, but only housed one family instead of many.
Pushing the thought out of her mind, Catherine went up to Thistle’s quarters and knocked.
Kali had never seen the forest in person, nor heard of it until she actually got into town. She stood on the shadowy edge, looking up into the impossibly tall trees. They stretched like dead fingers into the sky. Even the sky, a brilliant shade of blue, looked gray and dead when contrasted with the forest. The grass a few feet outside was dead. All but the wind was silent.
Some villager had warned her to steer clear. The trees looked dead because the magic they’re infused with drained them of all their color, they had said. Kali hadn’t believed it. The story was just too out there for her to entertain the thought that trees could suck out people’s souls. She still didn’t believe it. Sure, the forest looked spooky, dead, and had a lack of wildlife. That didn’t mean it was haunted, or had life draining fog, or any of that other superstitious stuff going on.
She took one look behind her, than back at the ‘Danger’ signs before going in.