THE FOREST

I can't breathe but I don't have to. 

There's no panic, or fear.

I have no urge, no compulsion to inhale.

I require no air.

I am air.

I know I threw water on my face... I remember that.

But when I took my hands away from my face, I wasn't in a bathroom. I wasn't in a room at all. I was in a forest; the forest. 

There were droplets on my eyelashes & I could feel a moisture on my face, but I associated this with the smell; the damp, pine smell of morning when fog has poured in from every crevice of the earth & you feel the way you felt when you first inhaled springtime as a child. You smell the grass & the dirt as if you're buried underneath it. I was never in a bathroom. I've been here, forever.

I know where to walk now. I've been doing it for months. Not that I ever woke up remembering, but once I was here... back home... I knew.

I saw them sitting at a table a few feet away from my coffin. The table had never been there in my dreams before & for the first time in the forest, I felt startled. I was unsure about something & it trickled down my limbs in a tingle neither inside my body nor surrounding it, but felt all the same. As if responding to this reverberation, they called out to me.

I don't know if they said my name or if they spoke any words at all but I heard the call & I began to move closer. All I can see in the moonlight, are the flowers, & they're everywhere; all of them a brilliant white with splashes of pink or blue or yellow. But with every step, different details of the table & its lone guest comes further into focus. The candelabra caught my eye initially, as I'd never seen anything like it. There were two arms on either end holding large, white, lit candles; the arms were low & almost touching the table, & the ornamental metal twisted out from under each stick & rose up to form a hovering triangle at the center, in which boxed in a circle. The circle wasn't smooth at all but rather jagged at multiple ends that overlapped toward the center, almost like the blooming of a flower. At the top most point of this triangle sat the third candle; the only one yet unlit.

The table was littered with black marble ornaments & golden cutlery; chalices & plates & utensils, as if there would be a feast hosted here, but there were no guests. None except me & my host.

"Please, have a seat"

They don't even blink as they say this, their eyes a sea of red, a deep, dark maroon with no iris, or pupil, or anything. I can't tell if they're wearing all black or just have skin as dark as the midnight air around us. I can see only flashes of nails or teeth, & all the adornments of gold they wear; rings, necklaces, chained earrings, bands, & bangles. 

"Tell me who you are!"

As my words crack in my throat, I see the slightest, faintest twitch on their face. Was it a smile?

"Every one of you is so obsessed with rules & definition, it must be exhausting! โ€” but please, sit. I may not be bound by time but I still hate wasting it."