The Forest Etude

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
What began as a routine writing exercise has now become one of the many short stories I have composed. A few days ago I thought up a random scenario to write about, which happened to be a "man lost in a forest," and it flourished into this.


So yes, this is the summary: A man is lost in a forest. Read on!

Submitted: October 15, 2009

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Submitted: October 15, 2009

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It had been a long time since I’d lost all sense of direction. The sun was hanging precariously above the sky like a flimsy chandelier, threatening to collapse on top of me at any given moment, telling me it would soon crash down and render my already inept sense of direction inexplicably dark. I gave my brass compass a glance. Still, it was as useless as my very own sense of direction, impeded by neglect for common navigational practices, which I would have learned had I taken outdoor education with the rest of the jocular forest types. Maybe I had at some point, but if that was the case, I’d evidently forgotten. I gave the glossy surface of my compass a flick and returned it to one of my many pockets, defeated.

The setting sun continued its descent into obscurity, behind the prickly pine trees and mountainous panorama to the west of my current standing. It’s difficult to put an exact time frame to the number of painstaking days I’ve been wandering, as a large expanse of the forest I now find myself trapped within spends most of its time bathed in darkness, due to the extraordinarily large trees that served as a veritable wall between me and civilized society. I say civilized because it is very apparent that I’m not alone – the forest was lively with the melody of life both day and night, whether it be the dissonant song of birds unknown to me, or the baying of wolves and wily coyotes, the latter of the two being known to harbor an unquenchable hunger for human flesh if their appetite was right.

All I had at my disposal was a broken compass, a set of keys in which the keychain-sized compass was affixed to, a plastic button that popped off of my now defunct button-up t-shirt, a book bag, and a wallet filled with rectangular slabs of plastic and multi-coloured paper slips with numbers and people etched into them. The most useful of these items happened to be the tiny plastic button, and that’s only because I have come to think of it as a good luck charm.How I landed myself in this situation, I must admit, is still a complete mystery to me. You see, my memory has been tampered with by nature. A few days ago, or at least what I perceive to be a few days ago, I awoke in this very forest with a reeling headache and a violent dose of nausea. Beside my head lay a jagged, bloody rock, and from there I’m sure you can piece together the rest of the story. I pulled out my wallet almost instinctively and inspected my identification card, so the only useful information floating around my head for the time being, aside from man’s natural instincts, is my name, which is Elliott Burton. Since then, I’ve been wandering aimlessly, searching for any indication of my whereabouts, and hoping to holy hell that I’m not the only bipedal mammal with a large, rational brain in the vicinity of this maze-like forest. Perhaps there were people searching for me somewhere out there, and perhaps they could tell me more about myself.

With this in mind, I reluctantly continued my search. Up until I lost my memory, I imagined that I was fabulously well-to-do, and that I’d been fed very well as a result, but now my only source of nutrition were the various berries and mushrooms I found scattered about, and even the very grass I tread on, when my hunger became desperate enough. I am far too inept to hunt and ensnare any wild game that may roam this forest, and I’m much too afraid to start learning. So instead, I wandered about looking for rotten tree stumps or piles of manure in which to procure mushrooms of various types, stuffing them in to my book bag, hoping that nature has the mercy to spare me of anything poisonous or unfriendly to the finicky palate of a human being. So far I’d been very lucky, as the fuzzy parts of my memory sometimes tell me that there are worse fates out there than the bitter taste of raw mushrooms. To my delight, I’d sometimes come across mushrooms that bore a striking resemblance to white coral. They possessed a very meaty taste, which kept my sanity tidy and reserved. These thoughts and more ran their course as I picked those very same mushrooms, shuffling them in to my diminishing supply, as food had been scarce lately. My hands were caked in earth and general filth, and I was almost relieved to be alone, as the stench emanating from my body was profound and offensive. After picking mushrooms to my satisfaction, I continued west-bound through the thicket of branches and wildly growing grass, allowing the sharp branches to dig in to my flesh and rend my skin, where I used to avoid them like the plague. I seldom spoke, because there was nobody to speak to, and I often treated my mind like a classy fountain pen and a genuine leather-bound journal, and this often lead me to believe that before my accident I had an affinity for writing.

“I’ll be there soon,” I murmured to myself uncharacteristically, pretending that I was making good progress, even if I consciously understood that I wasn’t. As I pressed on, one foot trudging after the other with renewed strength, the path opened up into a clearing, and the violent wish-wash of a river became eerily recognizable as it came into sight. Upon approaching the rapids, I bent my knees and scooped up a handful of the cold, wet liquid and splashed my face a few times, then my chestnut-brown hair, and finally various other parts of my body that needed washing. I then funneled some of the cool liquid into my mouth, thirstily, as it was the first time in many days that I’d come across a body of water that wasn’t stagnant and teeming with bacteria. I could tell my body was thanking me. A random fact then struck my mind, one that I had forgotten upon hitting my head: The human body can last at least a month without food, and only three days without water. If I hadn’t occasionally consumed those little purple berries I’d been finding, I’d probably be a future compost heap on the forest floor right about now.

So I lifted my head from my wish-washy savior, and just as I was about to spring to my feet and continue alongside the white rapids, the image of a woman caught the attention of my peripheral vision. My head snapped in her direction; across the river in the far distance stood a light-skinned, slender woman, completely nude and still, with only her long feathery hair tastefully covering her breasts. “Elliott,” she cooed, still as the pine tree beside her. She cooed again. “Elliott…” I was completely taken aback. I tried desperately to think of something to shout back to this strikingly beautiful woman, but it kept coming out in awkward gurgles and stutters. So instead I waved both of my arms at her, and when I did she slowly turned in place and ran off, tip-tapping away, as if she were as light as air.


“Hey,” I shouted, “Where are you going? Wait!” Even so, she continued to sprint in the opposite direction, and it didn’t take long before I was pursuing her. I ran along the river’s edge until the river was narrow enough to leap to the other side, and when I did I quickly sprinted into the expanse of forest in which she retreated.“Where the hell could she have vanished to?” I spit, out of breath and angry that my energy hadn’t yet replenished itself. My sprint demoted itself to a brisk walk, and then diminished to a slow trot as I tried desperately to catch my breath. I then sat on a nearby tree that had probably fallen due to the previous night’s colossal gusts, balling my fists and cursing my rotten luck. It had been a long time since I’d touched somebody, let alone spoken to them. The womanly figure in the clearing was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, even if my memory had failed me. Just as I was about to slam my fist into the rough bark exterior of the downed pine tree, however, a melodic laughter carried itself on the quiet breeze, and in an instant I knew it had to be her. With a renewed burst of energy I jumped to my feet and continued along the path, ignoring the branches whipping at my eyes and face. Her laughter became louder and louder, and as it did it became more and more sinister, until I came upon yet another clearing in the forest, where I had at long last caught up with the most beautiful woman in the world, though now she was completely silent. She stood there with a coy smile, and as I went to approach her, she raised her hand. “Stop,” she commanded. So I did. She took a few steps back until she was near the other end of the clearing, and then she stopped as well. “Why do you keep running from me?” I asked. “Who are you?” My heart sunk when I was met with silence. Her smile had also completely vanished. “Are you all alone?” I asked. “Are you lost, like me? What happened to your clothes?” Still, there was no answer. I bit my lower lip until it bled and I started to edge towards her once again, her face turning sour as though she’d sunk her teeth in to a lemon. I was about to ask her another useless question and was interrupted by a loud, piercing shriek; my ear-drums felt like they were going to rupture, and like a reflex I cupped my ears to dilute the sound that was offending my most delicate of sensibilities. Sets of glowing, green eyes activated like high-beams behind her, and from the thickets a pack of large, slobbering wolves emerged, standing at her side defensively with threatening snarls.

“Watch out!” I shouted as a sickly adrenaline rush struck me, and it immediately occurred to me that it was a foolish and grave decision to make. Still, I bolted in her direction to rescue her from the hungry, ravenous beasts, and as I did the pack of wolves reacted in kind, one of them diving at me and hurling me to the ground with its gargantuan weight. I had the wind knocked out of me, and I was reeling from the blow to the stiff, unforgiving ground, but still I pushed away at the beast as it snapped at my neck hungrily, every now and again looking off to the side to see the most beautiful woman in the world, who now looked haggard and malicious, grinning and bearing her wolf-like fangs, as though she was incredibly pleased. She looked hungry, too.“Help me! For the love of God, make them stop!” I managed to plead, though it came out as more of a squeak than a scream. She lifted her finger and pointed in my direction, and for a moment she had lifted my hopes, but they came crashing down the moment the rest of the feral wolves began to ascend upon me. Their sharp fangs and claws dug into my flesh like a hot knife through butter, tearing strips and flanks out of me, opening wounds and feasting from them, the pain excruciating. My vision began to blur as the ugliest woman in the world approached me, her skin now sallow and scabby, and I could’ve sworn that I heard her laugh, as she reached into my pocket and confiscated my lucky button.

The world went dark.

My eyelids fluttered lazily, allowing intrusive beams of light to leak in. A butterfly landed on my nose, tickling me until I sneezed loudly. Fingers curled, I felt the ground for stability and to gather my bearings. I smacked my lips a few times; my mouth was bone-dry, and my throat wasn’t feeling much better. I sat up, blinked once, then twice. For some reason, I couldn’t remember anything. “Where am I?” I carefully scanned the area. “Who am I?” I let my hands feel my face, drinking in the familiar details. There was an empty book bag sitting on my lap. “What happened to my head…?” I questioned myself, noting the jagged, bloody rock that sat beside me. I instinctively reached into my back pocket, retrieved my wallet, and sifted through it for any viable information. Inside there was some money, a debit card, a credit card, and an identification card. It was entitled to an “Elliott Burton.” That was me.

All I could think of to do, like clockwork, was to stand up, gather what I thought belonged to me, and search the area for any familiar signs; for anything to help me remember who I really was and how I ended up here in the first place. As I walked along, I dropped my hand in to my pocket, and felt something familiar. I pulled it out, saw that it was a plastic button, and for some reason I felt that I was lucky to possess such a handsome thing. I returned it to its rightful place, and disappeared into the vast forest surrounding me, confident that I would find my way out soon.

In the distance, I could hear the baying of wolves.


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