Jauneice’s pace sped up, as she stepped out of the pasture and onto the road. The forest loomed closer, its vegetation lush and bathed in shadow. It was nestled against the side of the mountains like a dark leech sucking out blood. As she neared, Jauneice expected to feel that cold creeping sensation, or that knife twisting in her gut, but the calm that descended over her was maybe even worse. It brought with it a sense of finality, that this was it. Whatever happened, happened. There was no changing it from this moment onwards.
She pushed branches and leaves aside as she crept into the darkness of the forest, guided by an unknown force. Walking into Urtern was like breaking through the skin of an animal. She felt like she was touching a snake with an infinite number of arms, and with each brush of her fingers against the vegetation, she felt it encompass her. The ground pulsed and a sense of shrill anticipation and triumph filled Jaunice. She gripped her chair leg harder, as if the jagged end would be any use against whatever resided inside the forest's skin. It was becoming harder and harder to distinguish where she ended, and where the forest began. Water dripped here, and water dropped there, and as she folded another layer of foliage away, she saw movement.
A human form crouched atop a set of rocks across from her, unnaturally still. She stepped forward, eager to know who this was, her curiosity still getting the better of her. A lifetime habit of poking her nose into places noses should not be poked in cannot be unlearned overnight. Jaunice grabbed onto the nearest branch as she leaned forward trying to get a better look at what was in front of the squatting person.
She was so entranced by the set of gouges on the ground, she forgot to ask who made them. And why? Something dark and heavy dripped onto the dirt, startling Jaunice out of her reverie. Her eyes followed the path of the fluid right up to the hands of the figure. He was as unfeeling as a statue as he watched the liquid slowly drip down. Jaunice saw the red path it left on the rock; the thin veins of it that pooled in the crevices. Her eyes snagged, unable to take in more of the scene. “Veins,” Jaunice shuddered. She knew that that liquid belonged in someone else’s veins. For a moment she seemed to forget she was there. The majority of her childhood was spent playing amateur detective, and it took her dangerously long to realize she was at the epicenter of this mystery.
Sobering, Jaunice took a step away from the clearing, starting to raise her makeshift weapon. Then it hit her; who the figure was. Bob. Her eyes flitted about, in search of further danger. Taking in the darkness, the shadows, the mossy rocks, crawling vines and- and a body. She felt a cold panic rise in her, for the second time, complete terror and rage. The body belonged to Adriel.
Her limbs were gracefully sprawled among the lush undergrowth; her dark hair was thrown behind her head. Adriel's soft, feminine body beautifully contrasted the harsh lines of the forest. The image would have been serene if not for her dress which was soaking in her own blood, old and new, wet and crusted, and for a gash across her neck, from which flowed more of that life giving liquid. The ground around her was dark and crimson, and Jauneice felt a scream building up in the back of her throat. She felt herself become an animal, no longer human. She saw only blood; so much blood. Her eyes were clouded by it, her mind fogged. Terror, her newfound feeling, filled her every cell. She felt a pulsing triumph in her chest, and for the first time since she entered the forest she could distinguish her own feelings from its.
She returned her gaze to Bob, her weapon ready to be swung. His face slowly rose to meet hers but his eyes were closed. He threw them open, revealing glowing orbs in his eye sockets. All at once, eyeballs on every surface of the forest came alive, glowing, and turned their pupils towards Jauneice. One protruded from the very rock she was standing on. It swiveled around to face her, hungry. She stumbled back, desperate to get away, but the eyeballs were on every surface, and all their gazes were glued to her skin. The animal that Jauneice had become dropped her weapon and ran.