The air's teeth rattled and nipped my skin. Roots penetrated through open air, curling around themselves, fighting restlessly. They struggled in their lonely shells, reaching, grasping, trying to find the earth beneath them. Underneath myself, I felt the beating of the earth. Trees all about me rose, infinite and motionless. They loomed like ancient monoliths frozen in time. Worse than the stillness of the trees was the tribal dancing of the bushes. The silent swaying of their leaves excited something timeless: a brittle, congealed impulse — a quiet dizzying feeling of every second in eternity. Ants fought their wars on the trunk of the tree neighboring me. I realized that time moved as slowly for them as it did for me, and I shivered.
There I stood at the edge. I realized I lived most of my whole life surrounded by forests. It is inaccurate to say my home of twenty-four years still rested in a forest clearing. All that rested there was its remains. Sour, flexible bones, poking up like moonlight hammered into the dirt. I left that home nine years ago. I no longer lived in a forest and I wasn't standing in one now. Rotted floorboards sighed under my steps. I stood alone, at the edge of my home. Beside me were dim walls that were grayed from old age. A ceiling fidgeted impatiently above me. I was underneath my basement. I was in a beneath-space I didn’t understand. In front of me, on the floor, lay a trapdoor. Wherever it led was no longer my home. I realized this house itself was no longer my home.
Faded wallpaper rippled with mold around me, etched with illustrations of tall trees. Ants crawled upward along the wall from a crack against the floor. I realized I was in a nursery, a small white bed frame sat naked beside the corner. Below me, the floor trembled with the pulsing of a great and terrible heart. Hot drool landed on my neck and I looked above me. A white dog with rough fur rested its head on its paws and sighed.
The dog's tail flicked and flitted nervously. Its movement knocked the ceiling light, and cast dancing shadows on the walls and floors. The shadows rocked between the trees painted on the walls. I stared at the dog. Wendy Darling's dog passed fleetingly through my mind. Like the costumed nurse-dog of that play, I wondered if this creature too was something else wearing the skin of a dog.
I recalled opening a trapdoor to come down here. I don't recall opening the trapdoor that awaited me on the floor. Soon after this, I woke up in my hotel room. All around me were green walls, a brown carpeted floor. The bed was brittle, above it was fixed a framed illustration of flowers. On the wall was a calendar telling me the date. My throat was dry from dehydration but my head felt clear and alive. I saw the yellow wall-light shining off of the clear, marble counters in the bathroom. I contemplated the current date and felt distant. A hum in my chest reassured me I was alive. Today was Friday the 11th of October. I remembered killing myself, one week after today, on the 17th of October. I had followed the Walker into the woods, and allowed him to do what he did. I did not attempt to resist what happened. They found my remains in a hollow tree. I would not get another opportunity to refuse following the Walker. I was already dead.
There came a knocking at the door. It was a man I recognized as my brother. His face was smeared and dripped down his shoulders. “The front door and the report well graced my sunny day,” he told me through the door. I told him I was dead, and he sobbed and sobbed. I told him I was dead, and that I would die on the 17th. That I had already died on the 17th. That there was no trace of me other than the ghost of myself who had already died. I told him how I followed the Walker into the woods, and that I thought I might die. I thought it was maybe a fine way to die. That was my fancy, and my curse. But now the Walker was unfamiliar and distant. And the tree my body was holed up in felt alien itself. I envisioned my contorted pose, arms bent over folded neck, mouth agape and legs cramped against my chest. I realized I was mirroring the pose to my terrified brother. I wished I could see his face to see the tears. He lingered, and so did I, until the day ended.
My brother left in the morning, empty and broken. I did not follow him.
Today was Saturday the 12th. The hotel was large and those who passed through it were faceless. They spoke to each other with words I could not understand. I watched them sleep, and eat, and make love. My eyes peered like fingers clutching around corners. When I saw their eyes, they were clear and white in the dark of their hotel rooms, and I screamed and screamed.
The Walker who would take me into the woods no longer existed. He had died too. It wasn’t until January of 1988 that they found his remains. His bones were dangling from the branches. My corpse was found beneath the basement of my childhood home. I was secreted away there, under a damp trapdoor. The police dog who discovered me took ill, and passed away. I would not live to watch it die, or to learn of its death. I would not live to know where my body was found. I was dead. I had always been dead. I would sometimes forget how my lines trembled and my eyes bent. I was a wretched, malleable thing, and I was made of nothing but leaves and clay.