Yesterday was the Summer Solstice.
Yesterday I walked into the woods to die.
As the sun ever so slowly sank out of view, I headed into the woods, not too far from my house, trying to get as far away from society as possible. I didn’t want to be rescued; I didn’t want to be found. Not yet, at least.
Scrambling over fallen tree trunks, tripping over roots that shyly peaked from the earth, and stumbling down the dirt path, I slowly went deeper into the woods, the trees providing cool shade from the sleepy sun.
Yet, despite the pleasant atmosphere, I felt cold and worried. What would I find? Would I really die? What if they never find me? I stared at the ground, keeping an eye out for anything that might trip me.
When my brain had finally shut down, forcing me out of my worries and fears, I realised I had no idea where I was. When did I go astray?
A bit dazed, I sat down on a large rock, trying to get my bearings. I had ventured pretty far into the forest, I could no longer hear the roads that were a few miles beyond the woods. I could no longer sense the presence of other humans. When was the last time I saw the bright orange ribbons on tree trunks, a symbol of hope to those who were lost? My thoughts had been: maybe I should take a break. Eat some food. Drink some water.
So, I removed my backpack, and opened it, gingerly pulling out a plastic water bottle, and a bag of crisps. I had some other food and a second water bottle, but I wanted to eat the bag of crisps first. To bring myself some comfort.
Right as I pulled on the bag, the crinkling noise startled me, it’s loud cries cutting through the peaceful quiet with spring peepers singing. Cursing under my breath, I slowly opened the bag to try and be quieter. A bit successful, I took one crisp out at a time. Strange, I know. But I wanted them to last longer. I wanted to savour the taste. It would be the last time I eat these, I had thought to myself.
After finishing the bag off, I wiped my fingers against my jeans and stuffed both the empty packet and half-drunk water bottle into my backpack, before placing it over my shoulders and getting up.
I’m not really sure what time I entered the forest, I didn’t check the time or bring anything with me to tell me the time. All I remember was wondering how much longer until the sun finally disappeared until the next day.
I also don’t know how long I walked, until I came upon a clearing. By then, my legs were burning, and a cramp had formed in my stomach. Defeated, I collapsed onto the ground. I knew I couldn’t go any further, nor could I go backwards. Laying down onto my back, I gazed up at the green canopy, only catching glimpses of the darkening sky.
“Why are you here Sweet Meat?” a voice asked me.
Alarmed, I sat upright, grimacing as my stomach clenched.
“You don’t have to move so fast; I won’t bite.” The voice was sharp and mocking. My eyes landed on the person speaking to me. Well… the humanoid talking to me.
It had a lithe body, and resembled a shadow person, but with glowing yellow eyes, completely luminescent orbs. It was sitting posed, lying on its side with a large, sharp fingered hand supporting its head. It regarded me.
“I’m surprised you weren’t discovered by the others. Like the longest night we prowl around. The line between man and beast thins on these days, you know. Thankfully I’m what you humans call a vegan.” Its yellow eyes vanished for a moment, as the creature closed its eyes in amusement.
I couldn’t seem to speak, which displeased the creature.
A low growl rose in its throat, and now, those hostile eyes revealed themselves to me. “You’re not a mute. Speak or I will claw your face off.”
I should have stayed silent; it probably would have killed me. But the way it spoke, with ill intent coming from it, made me speak. If it was motivated to harm me, it would make sure I suffered for as long as possible.
“I came into the woods to die,” I mumbled weakly. “I… I heard from someone that on the winter and summer solstice demons roam around. Demons and gods. Demons, gods and the dead.”
The creature purred, the sound similar to the old, fat cat my grandmother once had.
“There we go, much better. I’m surprised humans even remember this. After all, we are careful to not expose ourselves to humans. If we do, we will evoke the anger of the Ancients, who are far stronger than beasts or gods. But tell me, Sweet Meat, why do you wish to die? Not to mention from beasts. I’m sure you humans have other methods.”
I hesitated, and flinched when it gracefully got up, and I realised, with a sinking heart, it was tall, way taller than a normal human. It walked towards me, and, removing my backpack, pushed me back down onto the ground. It then settled next to me, pressed against my side. Its body was cold.
“Don’t speak,” it hissed in my ear. “There’s a nasty beast around here. As long as you don’t speak he won’t hurt you. That, and seeing me here, he’ll go away.”
As if on cue, another demon came into view. It looked similar to a bear. A giant bear with gore dripping off of its fur, and missing half of its face. A growl erupted from its throat. It made different guttural noises, and the demon pressed against me also answered in kind. With a start I realised they were talking. I could tell they were talking about me.
Closing my eyes, I prayed that I wouldn’t die to either of these two. Now that I was here, witnessing such monsters, I was suddenly regretting my decision to come out here to die. I should have gone out another way.
The disgusting smell coming from the demon faded away. Nervously, I opened my eyes, and flinched when I turned my head to see the first demon staring at me, its face mere inches away from mine. It watched in amusement when I scooted away from it.
“Like I said, I don’t bite Sweet Meat.”
“How can I trust you when you keep calling me Sweet Meat?” I spat, hugging my backpack against my chest.
“You smell sweet,” the demon replied, stretching. “Now, why do you want to die?”
“B… because I’m bored with life,” I mumbled, face burning. “I’ve done nothing with my life. Today I just turned twenty-nine. I haven’t done anything. And I won’t do anything with my life after twenty-nine.” Angry with myself, I hissed through my teeth.
“You humans are strange,” the demon said, flipping onto its back and writhing on the ground, reminding me of a dog scratching his back against the carpet.
“So strange. I can offer to kill you, but unlike the others I take no joy in killing. So, I will demonstrate what I, or what any beast, would do to you.”
The demon flipped onto its stomach and reached out to tap my leg.
I won’t talk about what I saw. But I will say this… it will haunt me for the rest of my days. And when the demon withdrew its cold hand from my leg, I was crying and rocking back and forth, unable to breathe.
The demon waited for me to calm down. When it spoke, its voice had gone soft and gentle.
“I can’t tell you where your soul goes after you die. But I can tell you this - if you die right here, or at the wrong time, your soul will be tormented for dying wrongly.”
“W.. what about those who killed themse-”
“They pass on peacefully. However, you won’t. It’s not your destiny to die like this. You need to return back to your life.” It stood up abruptly, and with the ease of someone picking up a pillow, plucked me up by the back of my shirt, making a clicking noise in delight as I struggled through the air, panic in my face.
“I’ll see you out of here.”
Yesterday was the summer Solstice.
Yesterday I walked into the woods to die.
Yesterday I left the woods alive.