This is a story I wrote based on the song “Cradle of Forest” from Silent Hill 4. It just sort of evolved into what it became as I wrote, none of it was initially planned (but that’s how most of my stories happen it seems).
The sound of distant music drifts to my ears and something soft brushes over my face. I open my eyes slowly and see a butterfly fluttering its wings against my cheek. I move my hand up to touch it, but it flies away before I can.
I blink slowly and tilt my head to the side, glancing around to see where I am. Tall trees surround me. The sky above is dark and filled with shining stars. Soft grass cradles me as I lie on the ground. Still I hear the faint sound of music, further ahead.
I slowly push myself up to my feet, groaning softly as I stretch. My body aches from inactivity. Now that I stop to think about it, I have no idea how I got here. I can’t even remember anything from before waking up here, no matter how hard I try. The thought frightens me.
I run my hands over my face and through my hair. My hair is matted and wild, feeling longer than I remember it being. No, I don’t even remember what it usually is like. I slide my hands down my neck and over my chest. A ragged shirt covers my torso, and going lower I find ragged trousers as well. My feet, on the other hand, are bare. That would normally be a problem, but the grass here is so soft that it doesn’t bother my skin in the least.
I let out a sigh and finally decide to move on and figure out where I am. Perhaps I’ll remember something, too. I move through the forest slowly, glancing around for any signs of life or movement. Darkness covers everything, yet I can still see some things clearly. It’s like a dream lit by starlight and fireflies.
In the distance, I see another source of light. It looks like a fire, like a camp fire. Maybe there’s someone here and I can ask them where I am. The music is louder now, but as I draw closer it’s not what I originally thought it was. It’s not from a radio or anything of the sort. It’s not even from a live instrument.
I hear the voices of children, laughing and humming. The music comes from them, giving the illusion of more than just song. It’s an enchanting sound. I blink slowly and glance around. There is no camp fire either, but rather a cluster of glowing flora and fireflies in glass jars.
I go still when I realize that there are so many children around me, dancing with each other. They don’t seem to take notice of me, or if they do they don’t care about my presence. I look between all of them, breathing slow and deep.
All of the children are young, under ten years old I would say. Boys and girls both, all of them wearing thin white clothing. Some of them have crowns of flowers on their heads, bracelets around their wrists and ankles, or rings on their fingers. They all look happy and carefree, just the way children should be. No worries in sight.
I walk over to the center of this little encampment of theirs. Now that I look at it, this appears to be a grove, tall trees circled around this wide open space. I crouch beside the jars of fireflies and glowing mushrooms in the center of the grove, tilting my head. They almost seem to hum an enchanting tune, slow and rhythmic, relaxing.
A warm glow touches my back and I turn around to see an ethereal stag with a blue-white glow. I go still, gazing at it. It gazes back at me, then turns and bounds away into the trees. I shiver a little, glancing around. There are other glowing, ethereal animals visible around me, bounding and playing alongside the children.
“What… what is this place?”
“You don’t know?” I turn at the sound of the girl’s voice. She stands behind me, wearing a white dress, a smile on her face. “You don’t know where you are, mister?”
I blink at her and slowly shake my head. “No, I just… woke up here.”
She tilts her head and smiles. “Oh, I see.”
“What are those?” I ask, pointing to the glowing animals.
“They’re our spirit animals. We can summon them to play with us whenever we want.” A glowing fox bounded to her side and she knelt down to stroke it, a smile on her face.
I stare at her for a long moment before asking, “You’re not normal children, are you?”
She blinks at me. “What do you mean?”
“Children don’t normally live in forests,” I say. “And they can’t summon spirit animals. Where is this?”
“Our home,” she said, wrapping her arms around the foxes neck. “And do you know why you’re here, mister?”
I blink again and shake my head. “No, I don’t. Do you?”
She smiles and whispers, “You’re our new guardian.”
I stare at her for a long moment. “I’m what?”
She points toward a darker section of trees. “Go talk to the other guardians. They’ll tell you what’s going on.”
I glance toward where she points and sigh softly. “I guess that’s the only place I can get any answers, huh?”
She giggles and runs off, going back to join the others in their playing and songs. I turn back toward the path she pointed me to and walk toward it slowly. It’s darker this way and it gives me a slight chill. What could these “guardians” be? And how is it that I’m one now, too?
I stop at the entrance of a cave, breathing deeply. It’s pitch black inside, but I can hear things. Deep, heavy breathing. I swallow and call in softly, “Hello? Are… are the guardians in here?”
There’s a rustle and a growl and I take a step back. A large figure slowly emerges from the cave and I nearly stop breathing. It’s a wolf. No, it’s not a wolf. It’s too big to be a wolf. It’s huge, and slightly humanoid. This is, no doubt, a werewolf.
It gazes at me with its gold eyes, then snorts hot air in my face. “Oh, you’re the new one,” it says in a deep voice.
“N-new one?” I say softly.
It chuckles, circling me slowly. “You don’t remember anything, do you? What’s your name?”
I open my mouth to speak, but then hesitate. I can’t remember. I can’t remember my name. I shudder, slowly lowering myself to my knees, pressing my hands to my head, wracking my brain. Why can’t I remember?
“Thought so,” the werewolf says. “That’s what happens when you’re changed. You forget everything and are reborn into this new form. But don’t worry, it’s a good life. Protecting these children is what we do.”
“Why… why… what’s happening to me… tell me!”
The werewolf slams into me, pinning me to the ground. I gasp, staring up at it as it bares its fangs. “You invaded,” it growls. “We attacked. You’re infected. You’re turning into one of us. The transformation will happen tonight. Look.” It raises its head up to the sky and I glance up, breathing shakily.
A full moon glows above us, but it isn’t normal. It’s a blood red color. My eyes grow wide and I whisper, “What is this place?”
“It’s your home now,” the wolf says. “You will protect the children as your own. Love them, cherish them, play with them. This is our home, this is our family.”
I let out a cry as my body begins to throb. It feels like my bones are breaking and reforming all at once. The pain is too much for me. The wolf above me says, “Don’t worry, it will be over soon. Just close your eyes, we’ll be here when you wake, brother.”
Blackness overtakes me. Existence ceases. But then I open my eyes, gazing up at the forest around me. The soft grass cradles my new form, fur covering my thick body. I stand slowly, stumbling when I realize I have to be on all fours. I blink slowly, sniffing the air. Everything is new and different.
A young girl skips over to me and wraps her arms around my neck. “You’re awake, good. Let’s go play.”
I blink at her and glance over my shoulder at the cave. The larger werewolf sits there and nods. I stand slowly and go with the girl, lightly nuzzling against her. My old life is forgotten. This is what I live for, now.