Temptation’s a cruel mistress, that’s for damn sure. She’d seemed so innocent in the shadows, a flicker of a little girl hiding behind a willow tree. I called out, tried to ask if she was alright. She beckoned for me to follow and darted back into the brush, a little rabbit in her natural habitat. I obeyed; these woods are no place for children. I could barely see her, but her laughter echoed through the forest. All I wanted was to keep an eye on her, make sure she wasn’t hurt or lost. Seems like altruism always finds a way to stab me in the back. The faster I ran the further she got from me, giggling all the while. We made our way through twists and turns, the trees growing denser by the minute. The frozen air burned my lungs and the brambles tore my skin, but I couldn’t stop. Even as I pushed myself as fast as I could go, she still stayed just out of reach. Poor naïve me wondered how someone so small could run like that.

I wasn’t paying attention to my footing, so enraptured with chasing the child that I didn’t notice anything else. She was slowing down, so close I could make out the tattered lace flowers on her dress. I made a great stride and reached out to her... only for my foot to meet empty air. I only saw it for a moment, a grand fissure in the earth long since hardened to rock. I tumbled down, my skull cracking against the polished stone. I bounced between the sides of the crack, bones breaking again and again. The walls grew closer the deeper I fell until my body was trapped between them. Tiny giggles rose from below, taunting me. A little voice called out, thanking me for playing and asking for my name. Like a fool, like a complete god damn fool, I gave it to her.  

I hear whispers in these woods, tales of fairies and spirits. People say things turn strange after dark. They’ll see a little girl fleeing through the trees, and a woman chasing close behind. I can’t complain down here. The maggots are good company, and it’s always nice to feed a new generation of flies. Besides, I’m not alone down here anymore. Every now and then some poor sod will play her game and land beside me for a while. Their bodies don’t talk for long. She always asks for their name, and in the end, they always give it to her.

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