The hours passed by like the wind that swept through the trees and the grass, making them dancing creatures of an alien world. The silence was almost agonizing, the only sounds that echoed through being the occasional chirp of a bird or the rustling of the dancing leaves. Zen would keep his head high and his chest puffed, pushing forward with his cool, wide golden eyes.
Suddenly, something began to catch my attention. Something in the forest felt off, like a missing button on a coat. It was because the forest had fallen into complete silence; no birds, no wind. Only our footsteps that grazed the dirt beneath our feet. Something felt off about the silence, and that fact made the hairs at the back of my neck stand up.
And then, a strange sound broke the silence. It sounded like sobbing at first, like a child that had lost its mother. Zen had frozen in place, listening intently. If he hadn't been a human, I would have imagined two dog ears moving side to side, trying to tell where the sound was coming from. Even in this situation, I bit back a chuckle and moved to stand by his side. He was so preoccupied that he forgot to glare or move away.
The sound grew louder. It was now the sound of metal grinding on each other terribly slow. It pounded through my head, causing it to ache. It only seemed to get louder and louder. I pressed my eyes shut, as if I might block out the noise somehow. And before I began to press my ears, it cut off abruptly, as if interrupted. I forced my suddenly heavy eyelids open, groaning audibly. My head pounded painfully, and as I massaged it to ease the pain, I turned to look up at Zen. All I saw were trees and grass.
"Zen!" No answer. Just the rustle of the trees in the suddenly chilly wind. "Zen?!" There was nothing. Just the echo of my desperate voice that rang throughout the empty forest. And then, there was a voice. So enchanting that I forgot all and everything at once. It was musical like a bell, and heavenly like an angel. I held my breath.
Cut the strings of hope
Burn all means to cope
And set the spirit free...
"NO! SIDNEY, SIDNEY LOOK AT ME!" My surroundings came back to me all at once, making my head spin. I held on to a nearby tree and exhaled. There stood Zen, breathing heavily with sweat trickling down his cheeks and forehead. His eyes were wider than usual, panic-stricken like the rest of his tense body. It was the only emotion I was allowed to see before relief washed over him and his shoulders relaxed.
"Where did you go, Zen?" I managed to choke out, my voice low and musky. He looked at me strangely and turned to glare at the towering trees ahead as if they had done him wrong. I awaited an answer, or an explanation. None came. I, too, turned to stare at the very spot he was looking at. The grass looked beaten and worn, as if walked on many, many times. I felt my stomach drop. That hadn't been there before. "Zen, answer me!" I gasped, and he turned to me slowly without batting an eye. His eyes were glassy and lifeless like two golden buttons.
"I never left." He muttered out, in a faraway place, and turned his back on me. I stood there as he walked away, my legs feeling like they would give out any second. I tried to piece together the shattered parts of my mind, to chase down the answers. But no matter how hard I tried, I was short of time and broken. Just as Zen disappeared behind the crowded trees, I wandered after him like a lost puppy. The eerie melody that I had heard echoed in my head on repeat like a forgotten incantation that only I knew, making my already aching head spin. Zen and I were not on speaking terms once more, and he acted as if nothing had occurred at all.
Then my world began twisting and spinning dangerously, and I barely felt the ground meet my head and torso. When the darkness finally cleared, I forced my eyelids open. There was that enchanting, eerie musical voice again. She was singing a different melody now, and it was mixed with a male's, as if they couldn't decide which one would work better.
Do not venture on,
for you'll soon too, be gone
Feast your eyes on this
This final foretoken of mine
And right there and then, there hung a man from a tree. The voices grew louder with each word spoken, and my grip on reality began to slip bit by bit. His skin was as pale as the whitest of snow, and his dark eyes were glassy and lifeless. Breathing got harder the more I gazed at the man.
Do not venture on,
You shall not survive for long
There are secrets you shan't know
Things you mustn't tell
That was the last I heard before everything stopped all at once. Time, sight, consciousness. Even when I wasn't awake, the voices continued to haunt me. And they haunt me to this very day.