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Sylvia laced up her brand-new black sneakers as she stood in her mother's backyard. As a child, Sylvia and her twin sister, Sahara, always had matching black sneakers. Today, Sylvia was lucky if she had decided to run a brush through her raggedy, waist-length copper hair - let alone wear a pair of new black sneakers. Sylvia's unkept hair kissed her face as she breathed in the crisp, early evening autumn air. She was prepared for the solitary walk in the lush forest that lay ahead of her. This was not going to be just any walk in the woods. Nope. This walk was the first one in these spiraling and mysterious woods, even though Sylvia grew up on the country property for 23 years. Why she never decided to explore the forest of her childhood, she did not know. She never was much of a "nature" person; Sahara never was, either. Sylvia's therapist suggested that taking time alone in nature would help her heal from Sahara's sudden death, help Sylvia find her "inner self," whatever that meant. Thus, Sylvia decided to leave her smartphone with her mom before she ventured out. I'm proud of you, sweetie. We will get through this. Her mother's voice sang in her head. The crisp leaves and sticks crunched against her sneakers as she braved her first steps into the luminosity that lay ahead of her.

How did Sylvia ever resist this forest for all of these years? Sahara and Sylvia could have had so much fun in this natural and enchanted atmosphere as children. Golden tones shone down from the sky and reflected themselves amongst the stems of the leaves. The dark green moss blanketed the woody, ancestral trees. She could hear scurrying about, saw some furry little squirrels twitching their noses from side to side while gathering their blessings of nuts. The musky-sweet smell of the organic air tickled her nose; the ballad of nature contented her. Sylvia threw her hands up in the air and twirled around, feeling the energy buzzing in her body. She opened her mouth and started laughing – a sound she had not heard come from her mouth in months. As she was twirling, she caught a peek of a little building nestled between the trees. Intrigued, she strolled towards it.

The cottage looked like it was out of a fairy tale; stucco white walls with deep cracks ran on every side. The brown, musty roof boasted scattered leaves and moss; the tiny front door was wooden and circular. She gasped when she saw a human figure to the side of the cottage. A lady, washing her clothes in a silver and rusted tub with handles. A washboard lay beneath the tub as she scrubbed and rung out a suede jacket. The lady had a head full of silver-white hair that touched her belly button. She hummed as she worked. Sylvia felt like she was peering in on somebody's personal life, doing the forbidden.

"Hi!" The woman stopped what she was doing and glanced at Sylvia with eager eyes. "What a nice night for a walk, huh," The lady's voice put out beautiful high notes as she talked.

"Y-Yes," muttered Sylvia, giving the lady a small nod. Sylvia feinted a small smile as she walked along, darting her eyes toward the miniature gnome statue that sat upon the cottage's small stone walkway. The statue moved its mouth and gave her a slow Cheshire grin. The gnome then moved its hand to flash her a thumbs-up sign. Sylvia thrashed her head from side to side. I'm losing it, she thought. She whirled the other direction towards her mom's house, refusing to look at the cottage, the lady, or the weird statue. She noticed the air was starting to change to a thick and heavy musk.

Twilight was setting in. Her legs felt heavy, almost robotic, as her mind raced with vivid images of grizzly bears with saliva hanging from their teeth and old and warty witches with pungent-green faces. She knew she was being silly, yet it didn't stop her sense of urgency to get back to her mom's backyard. Just keep going straight, Sylvia. Stop tripping. You will be home in less than 10 minutes. She beelined her steps, kept her focus forward. That is until she walked into some large, soapy film that mirrored a gigantic bubble.

Vomit rose in Sylvia's throat at what appeared in front of her. A backdrop of pure blackness made the woman and mirror more prominent. A woman was lying on a full-size hospital bed. She looked like the nice cottage lady, but she was not. This lady was possessed. Her eyelids continuously darted back and forth. Her lip was disfigured, showcasing one large cracked tooth. She laid in the same position, never moving. A full-length mirror was beside her, but the mirror was just floating. A disfigured Sylvia was in the reflection. Sylvia's eyes were darting back and forth and her lip was disfigured the same as the woman. She glanced over at the woman and noticed movement. A black, hairy spider crawling over the woman's glassy eye was the last thing she saw before everything turned black and quiet.

Sylvia woke up, drenched in sweat and gasping for air. Her eyes caught a glimpse of the bedroom ceiling in her apartment. Pinching herself, she shot up in bed. Ah, safe in her bed. She smiled, hugged herself, and stretched. It was just a dream. A feeling of calm washed over her. As she rose, her phone rang. Her cellphone showed a picture of her mom.

"Hi, Mom!" she elated.

"Hi, dear. I've been thinking about you," Her mother's soothing voice crooned over the line.
"I've been meaning to tell you how p-p-r--," Her voice started fading out.

"Mom? Mom, I can't hear you!" cried Sylvia. Sylvia instinctively turned to her bedroom mirror. The mirror started cracking as it revealed Sylvia with a disfigured lip and cracked tooth.

Here we go again...


Image of Through the Woods


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