Once upon a time, in a deep dark forest, there was a house. It could be called a house only in the most tenuous way in that someone one once lived there for a while. For a short while. And then they rapidly didn’t. But this is not a story about them, although they are part of the decor.
The house, and again, we use the term loosely, was made of four plain walls. A door in one, a small window in another. A bare wooden floor had been laid, a roof of iron raised above it all, a small stovepipe poking through. Trees and ferns pressed in from all sides, creepers making attempts to drag the house back into the earth. By the right light, in just the correct level of gloom, the house looked part of the forest. Like it had always been there. Like it would always be there. And there was nothing to prove otherwise. No-one remembers it not being there. Always being there, both in and part of the forest, is a possibility.
This is what presents itself to you, these four walls that call themselves a house. They might of been white once, could now be a grey. Or maybe a green. It was hard to tell. Right now, after making your way through the twists and turns of the forest, you don’t care. You place your hand on the brass doorknob, turn it too easily, and push the door open. You fall into the space that those four walls, the floor, the roof create, and with a desperate kick, you slam the door shut.
You lie there, on that bare wooden floor, trying to gather yourself. Your heart rate is racing out of control, your ragged breaths are echoing off that simple iron roof. Your blood is hammering through your veins, pulsing through your ears. Your heart beat, your breath, your blood, that’s all you can hear. All you want to hear. While you can hear them, you’re not yet dead.
Lying on your back, you look at the roof. It shimmers as your vision blurs and refocuses, blurs and refocuses. Constellations of pin holes are arrayed across the roof, sparkling in the distance. You let your eyes wander over them, naming these never before seen clusters of stars. The Devourer. The Unbinder. The Renderer. The last few hours has obviously coloured your naming bias. The I’m Parched and The God I’m Hungry are the next two constellations you name. You look at your watch and realise it’s been 5 hours since you set out.
You pull yourself up to standing and look around. There’s not much here. What’s left of a bed and mattress, a table and chair, a set of cupboards. The mattress disintegrates as you move past it, but the table and chair seem solid. The cupboards, well, they’re probably best left alone. You shrug off your day pack, drop it on the table, and sit your self down on the chair. Poking through your pack, you find the muesli bar you’d brought to snack on and your water bottle. You chew on the bar, sipping on the water to make it palatable, slowly replenishing yourself, quietening the gnawing creature inside you. Finishing the bar, you’re finally under control. Heart rate slowed, breath back to normal, hunger diminished. You take another look around the house.
The window is mainly boarded over, just a few cracks to let through the green light of the forest, to offer a glimpse outside. The door looks solid, the brass door knob tarnished and dinted. There are rust stains on the walls. Rust splatters more likely. There’s a lot of iron in blood and the previous inhabitant had obviously lost a lot rather quickly and in a showy manner. On the wall opposite the door there’s a calendar, an old one, just a day to a sheet. October 21, it reads. 1957. Over seventy years ago since it had last been changed, the 21 circled again and again and again with red pen. Something was going to happen on that day, did happen. And nothing had happened here since.
Surprisingly, the bed wasn’t where the rust seemed to have come from. Following the rust took your eye down to a spot just between where you were sitting and the cupboards. Point zero. Where what happened all those years ago happened. Where someone went out with a crunch. Where you, finishing off your muesli bar and getting down on all fours, may just find what you’ve come here for.
You scan across the floor, running your hands through what you keep telling yourself is just dust and dirt. You push away larger, chunkier bits of bone shaped dust as you search. You made it through the forest today, evaded the creatures that would happily make a meal out of you, to be sorting through the desiccated entrails of this houses previous occupant. You gently scrape and sift and feel your way across the floor until it finally catches your eye, tucked under the bed frame. You catch your breath as you gently reach out and pick up the fragment of bone and gently wiggle out the one thing you would risk your life for. With utmost care, you seperate it out, turning the translucent blue finger length object over, examining it for damage and finding none. You have it.
The canine tooth of a goblin.
The last ingredient you need.
Holding it up the the dying light coming through the cracks in the window, it catches the light and suffuses a blue glow throughout the room. It’s just translucent enough to make out the shape of the window behind it, just translucent enough that it turns purple just as the red glowing eye appears in the crack in the window of the house in the deep dark forest. And you remember just how far from home you are.