She followed the little light into the forest.
At first it was a glow into distance, down a pleasant, welcoming track. It beckoned her with a promise of light and warmth, and the night was very cold and very dark, and she knew she should not venture so far from home. But now, now, as she saw the light, all the fears melted away, snowflakes kissed by the moonlight, accepting a gentle dissolution.
But as she drew nearer, the light became more distant again.
I am sure it was only this far, she thought with confusion, as the light now glowed ever deeper in the forest. I am sure my eye could not have tricked me so!
But the moonlight shone down from a darkening canopy of night and told her no truths, betrayed no secrets, and she presumed she had been mistaken.
A trick of the light, she thought, quite literally. But still, it is so pretty, I must follow.
Three times it teased her and she followed, ever deeper into the forest, convinced each time she had been mistaken but would surely soon be in the warmth of its glow. But after the third time, doubt crept within her soul, twining itself around her inner thoughts, making her little body tremble with more than just the increasing cold of the night.
And for the first time she turned, sure she must abandon her quest, and return home.
But behind her the path had disappeared, as though the sheer effort of her footsteps had eroded its sureness and its clarity. Where once she had walked freely, now there were messy, dangerous entanglements of forestry and bushes, their sepulchral branches and twigs twisting before her like wicked arms and hands eager to grab her, drag her down.
It cannot be, she thought. And yet it was.
Then I must continue to the light, she thought, there is nothing else for it.
But on turning again, only a similar threatening darkness of forest was found. Darkness behind, darkness before, and only in her small space any light.
How can that be, she thought, how can I see anything at all now?
And she looked up, wondering, to see the lantern just above her, lighting the small enclave where she now stood, trapped.
She finally understood. She screamed.
But the night was dank and dark and silent, and no-one would hear. No-one would ever hear her again.
(c. ) Helen M Valentina 2019