Peer Review by ALangford (United Kingdom)

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The Lonely Woods

By: neo7v


    Why are you waiting at the edge of the woods? Others might think you're suspicious if you stay there, quietly and without a word. But entering the dark, now seemingly gloomy woods seems like a forfeit of life. If you just crept in the opening, just a few brambles in, you'd blend in all the more and nobody would see you to call you suspicious.
    But what of the dangers? There's a river in the distance, unless the rumble filling the still air is the wolves or the bears, growling at you from inside the darkness. And what of the thorns that tear and scar those who come to close? They're nothing like the roses you grow at home with their bright ruby petals and velvety leaves.
    You are waiting for a friend, you finally realize. Someone to show you the way to the other side of the woods. But your friend hasn't shown up for the past hour and you're starting to get worried. Did they got lost on the way?
    You sincerely hope not. What could have happened to them if they did get lost on the way? They could have gotten eaten by bears or wolves! Or fallen into the river and drowned! The possibilities are endless and quite horrible to think about, but you can't seem to stop yourself. Electrocution. Fire. Plague. Knife. Cliffs.
    Your feet seem to start moving before you can even think to, the ever lengthening list still going in your mind. Thorns tear at you and leave stinging cuts in criss-cross patterns across your bare arms, a few even scratching at your face like claws. The sound of rushing water rises in symphony as the howls of wolves suddenly appear behind you. You look back over your shoulder and find a grizzly muzzle pointed straight at you. And that's the moment you fell off a cliff and into the waters of the river below.
    The waters crash around you, whispering for you to join its embrace, and it's a tempting offer. The sounds of the waves are muffled under the water and you close your eyes, exhaling out your last breath of air. It's quiet and dark and nice for a moment and then it feels scary and overwhelming and what have you done and...
    Your eyes flutter open in panic, but you are still in your bed just as you were when you fell asleep last night, not drowning in a river in the woods. You have this same dream ever night, but it always ends differently. Sometimes the river isn't there and you simply fall off the cliff. Sometimes the wolves bite into you, teeth razor sharp and shredding through your skin as if it's nothing. Sometimes it's bears instead, their claws replacing teeth. Sometimes you never even enter the woods, waiting on the edge forever for a friend who never comes.
    It's the last version of the dream that keeps you up at night, hands clutching sweat soaked sheets tangled between your legs. Your eyes always seem to rove restlessly on these nights, barely blinking away from your lover beside you in fear they may disappear the moment you look away for even one second. They never seem to wake up during these panic streaked nights, sleeping deeply with even a restless quiver to be found.
    You always reason with yourself that it's for the better they don't wake up to find you in such a state. Deep down though, you wish they would wake up and comfort you. Pull you closer and whisper into your ear that they're always going to be there for you. Kiss you deeply and never let you go for the rest of the night.
    But you say nothing and the situation stays the same. The same dream with a different, yet reoccurring ending each night. And your lover stays sleeping deeply beside you, oblivious to the torture you live through each night. Why do these dreams happen to you each night? What can you do to make them stop?
    The only answer you have come to is nothing. There is nothing you can do if you don't speak up and tell your lover what's happening. But you know you won't saying anything. Maybe that's why these dreams keep happening. Because of how alone you feel. It's nobody's fault, but your own.
    And that's always the hardest problem to solve, isn't it? When it's yourself that's the problem and not anything or anyone else.

Peer Review

' And that's always the hardest problem to solve, isn't it? When it's yourself that's the problem and not anything or anyone else.' I thought this was a really strong way to end the piece because it turns all the terror, all the hardships and torment of the rest of the piece onto the narrator. This obviously hasn't occurred to the reader: after all, the narrator appears subject to a number of events in the woods that are completely out of their control. Thus, the narrator turning the tide of blame upon his/herself appears strange to the reader and really encourages us analyse the symbolism of the wood. It is, of course, true that the narrator enters the wood (and apparently with no reason) and makes the mistake of jumping from the cliff: it is their own actions which lead them to the terror marking the nightmare in a crafty piece of metaphor for the inability of the narrator to communicate with their loved one. Yet we do not necessarily notice this the first time round, and so the final line almost makes us turn round and re-analyse everything we have just read. I found that very effective.

It's such a remarkably clever piece that it really leaves me analysing my own actions and decisions, and how far they are actually my own fault. It's so tempting to think of oneself as the victim, and although the narrator of this piece seems to think too far in the opposite fashion, it's so interesting to be forced to analyse how far one brings hardship upon oneself by refusing to speak to those whom one is close to.

What inspired it? I know that's a very generic question, but I just find the central metaphor so intriguing that I keep wondering where you could have got it from.

Reviewer Comments

I wonder if you write poetry often? This piece works best as a piece of prose, I think that's very well-judged, but you have such a brilliant ear for rhythm and sound that I imagine you'd be a very good Larkin-esque poet. You are also a very structurally sound writer, and you use it very well, which is obviously a massive advantage in poetry. I imagine you'd come up with some excellent verse.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It's a work you should be very proud of! I look forward to seeing more of your writing in the future :)