She was in her childhood forest again: her hair was still crimson silver, but her face had no wrinkles. She had become younger. She wore her hoody again, and she had a pack of food and drinks in her hand, enough for her to travel three days.
The forest had not changed much: there were still trees and sunlight trickling down through the leaves like a sunny rain. The trees were elevated, layer by layer, creating splashes of dark shadows on the ground she walked. And something seemed to be missing from the forest: the animals. No appearances, no tracks, no sounds.
The forest itself was silent.
She definitely felt strange, yet she knew here: she knew where the mushroom grew, and they were still there, with dew and light, they looked like half-foot tall dolls with elegant dresses; not only that, she recognized the river that she loved, with crystal-clear blue water that shined like diamonds. Across it was a trunk that one of the lumberjacks had chopped down, making a bridge. Red was cheerful to see her familiar memories, and she hummed her favorite song, which her grandma had taught her, with joy.
But the forest was still silent.
Suddenly, she saw something in her view – a town. Not a town with people and happy faces, beautiful markets and tasty food, but an abandoned town. The diverse colors on the walls before her had faded, revealing the pale brown of the material itself; some of the building had crumbled into rocks and ashes, reminding of the desert she had seen thirty years earlier. She was amazed by all the buildings that were carved by rocks, waiting for their owners. The town sat in anticipation, but she could not figure out of what.
And the street was silent.
As nightfall began to creep a bit closer behind her, Red lay down beside a pile of rocks and built herself a fire. When she put her head down to sleep, she drifted off quickly.
Darkness. She could only see black shadows. And then suddenly, she saw two bloody eyes coming out of the stones, turning into the eyes of a gigantic wolf. She could see the knife-shaped teeth. The figure of the wolf came to her silently, like the forest itself, surrounding her with fear and terror. She backed up, tried to run, but her feet were stuck in the ground like roots. She looked up only to recognize even more wolves coming towards her. They barked without sound, and they tore her into pieces, swallowing her into an eternal black hole.
She gasped and woke up. She was still lying on the ground. Only the charred remains of the wood in her fire, indicating that the red, flaming fire had died out several hours ago. Red stoop up as swift as a breeze and looked down herself: nothing had changed. She was still in her red hoodie, and her feet were free to go. She turned and patted her clothes, which were covered in dust. She would move on, she told herself, instead of staying near the bricks and in that nightmare.
But when she started to walk, the town and forest around her became dark again, and the earth grumbled as it shifted. The shadows cast from the buildings were transforming. They became sharper and sharper, pointy like black needles reflecting on the ground. She slowly turned, and there it was: her nightmare, the wolf. Its teeth poked out of the mouth, and the burning eye focused on her terrorized pupils.
Her blood was as cold as an ice spike. Her brain was freezing and all she knew was to follow her instinct.
The wolf followed her, winding like a snake around the obstacles in front of it, catching up to her panicking pace with a slithering footstep.
She ran through the forest, jumping through another tree trunk, and sunk into a cave created by roots. The earth was trembling under her body, and dirt flew panicky from her footprints. She knew that the red eyes were pointing at her back. She felt the wind against her neck and she pressed her head against the wall she clung to. The last thing she saw before it disappeared entirely was the wolf’s spiky mouth held two inches from her hoodie.
When she slipped down the rocks on the backs of her heels, she stopped suddenly at the base of a great castle. Similar to the town she had just walked through, this castle has not a hint of history on it. It was clean and seemed as if brand new.
In front of her were a set of winding stairs, a sort of bony white, which blinked under the dawn light. The calm around her, the vanishing of the wolf like smoke being sucked in by a vacuum, made her felt safe again.
Red’s curiosity toward new things came back, as swiftly as the fear went away.
She walked up the pale stairs. There was an elegant arch in front of her, carved with the pattern of a delicate vine. And so she stepped in.
Darkness engulfed her again as the entryway transformed into the wolf’s mouth, with knife-like dark teeth and an eternal vague space. The crimson red eyes were the only things shining in shadow.
She had been swallowed, and she could feel the immeasurable pain all over her body, as if she had been sliced by thousands of spicks and daggers. She screamed, though no one could hear. She felt her heart broken into pieces, and her mind began to fade away. Before she had gone entirely, she heard the sound of blood dripping from up high and the sound of teeth grinding…
And she did see something. She had seen her death.