I enter the forest through a door, a door in the hedge of bracken and gorse that whips at my shins and tries to stop me from going in. The overhanging branches start to close in over my head so that I can only see downwards as I slip down the slope over the buttery mud, past the badger sets protected by oak roots and I stumble as my gaze lingers too long on the blackness of the holes waiting for a pair of eyes to stare at me defiantly for disturbing their sleep but they don’t come yet. My legs have already moved on and I smell the dampness of the dead leaves, layered little hands dragging me down into the depths of old footprints and watery troughs approaching the edge of the stream. I quicken my pace as if this will stop me sinking forever into a dimly lit underground peaty pit where I would lie curled and cowering to be scolded by the hibernating creatures who would eventually give me up to the witches and warlocks to do as they pleased with me and make broth from my sins.
I hear a loud crack from overhead and I break into a run. I’m not the only one startled; a large crow has taken off from the upper branches, its wafting black cloak of wings scattering twigs and baptising me with teardrops of rainwater. I wish I could fly.
What’s in the shadows? It’s a hint of something, an ominous gloom, a darkened shape of something, a threat, an inferior remnant, a constant companion. Is it a phantom friend? A guardian, a silhouette of my alter ego? The light is fading, my sight clouds from the edges to blackness. I hear nothing more. I am the shadow itself.