Dense trees obscured the stars, letting in only the faintest light from the crescent moon. An eerie silence covered the forest. No owl calls echoed through the trees. No animals prowled in search of late night meals. No crickets played their songs. The only sounds came from the footsteps of a young man lost beneath the dark canopy. He wandered in circles, following the faint patches of moonlight that managed to reach through the night.
In time, the trees thinned out and the young man found himself standing before an odd stone structure. Four tall, broken pillars sat atop a circular platform. In the center of the platform was a pale figure that glowed like moonlight, with eyes that shone with a golden light. The stranger studied the young man for a moment and asked, "Are you lost?"
The young man nodded. Something in the air felt strange, tense, like the trees had closed in around them. Every part of him was screaming to leave the place but he couldn't move.
"I am the spirit of this forest," the stranger said. "I can tell you how to leave."
The spirit's words sounded flat and reheared, almost bored. Their pale face showed no concern or kindness. Could the lost man trust such a spirit? Did he have a choice? He listened as the spirit gave him directions. The spirit spoke quickly, not even pausing to take a breath. Despite the young man's efforts, by the time the spirit finished speaking, the instructions had already flown out of his head. Not that it mattered; he still couldn't bring himself to move.
Stepping down from the platform, the spirit said, "Perhaps it would be easier if I showed you the way myself." They smiled as they walked away, a glowing beacon in the darkness. The tension broken, the young man had no choice but to follow.
They walked into the forest, turned, and found themselves back at the platform. The spirit frowned, then led them a different way. Still, they returned to the platform. Another path, back again. Over and over again, they tried to leave, and the man wondered if the spirit was playing a cruel trick. It felt like they'd been walking for hours. Strangely, the moon had not moved from its spot overhead.
"I see," the spirit signed.
The young man watched the golden light fade from the spirit's eyes. The strange tension from before returned, holding his feet in place as the spirit climbed back onto the platform. The spirit turned to face the man again. A chill ran through the young man as he watched the spirit's eyes turn black.
"I told you that I'm the spirit of this forest. Do you know what that means?" the spirit asked. "The forest cannot live without me."
The forest closed in around the platform. Beyond the pillars lay only darkness.
"However, I cannot exist without new life."
The young man tried to run, but his body refused to move.
"Once in a while, the forest brings me something to restore my power."
The cracks in the pillars started to glow.
"Tonight, it is you."