Orange and red leaves covered the ground as Phil and I walked through the dense forest. It was getting colder, and I wondered how long we would still have light. As we climbed over fallen branches, I could see Phil’s confidence dwindle with every step.
Finally, he stopped walking and turned to look at me. His eyes were full of worry, his brow creased. “Babe, I think we’re lost.” A sigh escaped my lips, but I held back the rest of my frustration as he looked on and waited for me to reply. All I could do was shrug. “Look, we came from that way, right?” He asked, pointing behind me. “So we just have to…turn around?”
“I don’t know,” I said, looking in that direction. The forest was so thick it didn’t even look like we had walked through it. “We’re surrounded by trees. There’s literally no landmarks, Phil.”
Phil began to pace back and forth, his favorite thing to do when he was stressed. Crossing my arms, I planted my feet and tried to brainstorm our next move. “Why did we decide to hike in a new forest, Julie??”
I let out a laugh. “Hey, it’s not my fault you got us lost!”
Phil turned to look at me, throwing his arms up, exasperated. “I didn’t know this trail was just gonna disappear! We should really be mad at the trail, if we’re gonna point fingers.”
“That’s silly, Phil,” I sighed, beginning to walk again. “We’re going to walk until we find a way out, then we’re going home.”
“W-wait!” I could hear Phil jogging to catch up with me as I walked through the trees, confidently going into the unknown. The rangers had told us this was a circular path, so it was only a matter of time until we found our way out.
As the sky grew darker and the woods grew thicker, I slowly realized I might have been wrong. Behind me, Phil was muttering under his breath just loud enough for me to hear. “We’re even more lost,” he was saying. “We’re gonna have to live out here, babe…we’re gonna be forest people. We’re gonna have to survive on berries n’ shit…”
“Phillip,” I started, turning to look at him. He widened his eyes. “Could you not? You’re not helping.”
Phil looked away from me, visibly upset. I knew he had a point, though; I was not making anything better with my idea of just…walking. Turning back now made no sense as well. “If the ranger was right,” I said aloud, “we should be coming up on the beginning of the trail again.”
“Baby, I don’t think we’re on the trail anymore,” Phil said, his voice steady. I looked over at him to see that he was just as nervous as I was. “We’ve been climbing over shit for hours now. A trail wouldn’t have this much to walk over, you know?”
I nodded, pulling off my backpack. I reached in and grabbed my flashlight. “You should get your light out,” I told Phil. “It’s getting too dark.”
Phil followed suit, and together we stood in the illuminated darkness. “What do we do?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted, looking down at my feet. “Our phones don’t work out here, right?”
“My phone’s been dead for a minute anyway.”
“My phone doesn’t work out here, so I guess we can’t call anyone.” I felt his hand on my arm and felt a little speck of comfort. “I guess we just…keep going?”
“Yeah, I guess. What else can we do?” We trudged along in the dark, stumbling over roots and rocks, until I felt Phil grab my hand. “What?”
Phil tugged me back to him. I could feel him trembling as he pressed me to his chest. His voice was shaking as he spoke. “Look over there, Jules.” I pointed my flashlight towards the direction of his light beam, not seeing anything but trees and dying foliage.
“Babe, I don’t think anything is over there.”
“I thought I saw something…”
“Wanna go investigate?” I teased.
“Hell no,” he grumbled, letting go of me. “Let’s just…”
As he spoke, we both turned our flashlights away from the direction they were in. Before he could finish his sentence, I noticed a soft glow from the deep forest. “Hey,” I interrupted him. “I think I see what you’re talking about.”
Phil instantly pulled me back, shielding himself from the soft glow. “What the fuck is it?!” He was so scared so fast.
I shook myself off of him and started walking towards the light. “Let’s go look, babe.”
“What?” Phil looked at me as if I was crazy. “That could be anything, Julia!”
“Okay, Phillip, but maybe it’s just the light from the cabins? You don’t know! That’s where we’re trying to end up, so let’s see if that’s what it is.”
Phil shook his head. “That’s too spooky for me, Jules.”
I sighed. “Babe…come on, we’re going to at least see what’s going on.”
As we walked into the trees, I could hear Phil nervously cursing under his breath. “We’re gonna fuckin’ die. My girlfriend is going to get us killed…”
“Shush.” I turned off my flashlight to better see the glowing, and quickly noticed that it seemed as if it were coming from within the trees we were heading towards. The blue and white light wasn’t man made in the slightest.
“Babe,” Phil almost whispered. “What’s going on? What do you see?”
“Nothing yet, just light,” I called back as quietly as I could. If there was something in the light that was deadly, I didn’t want to bring too much attention to us. Our footsteps became more and more easy, until the two of us were tiptoeing closer and closer to the source.
We stopped right at the edge of the light. It was not very bright, but it was behind a thick wall of trees. It was almost like looking into a filter. I looked up and couldn’t see the sky at all. We were too deep into the forest to turn back now.
“Babe, what’s going on?” Phil asked, gripping my arms tight. He was shaking so much, he was causing me to vibrate as he held onto me. “I’m fuckin’ scared.”
“It’s okay,” I soothed, still looking up. “I don’t think there’s anything scary about this, right? Just a weird light coming from the middle of the forest, no big deal. Just a normal Saturday.”
“I hate this Saturday.”
I looked back at the trees in front of us, trying to find an opening to continue forward. “Phil, you can let go of me,” I said as nicely as possible. “We have to keep going.”
I turned to look at him. His eyes were wide with absolute fear. I hadn’t forgotten about his fear of the dark, but it was something different to actually see it on his face. I placed my hand on his cheek and he flinched slightly, quickly embracing it once he realized the touch was gentle. “Phil, if we don’t keep walking towards something, we’re not going to get out of this forest. The ranger said this is one big circle, did he not?” Phil nodded once. “So, this might be the middle of the forest,” I told him. “If we cut through whatever is past this light, we can get back to the cabin a lot faster than if we try to backtrack.”
Phil’s brown eyes studied my face for a long time. I could tell that his gears were working through his fright. Finally, he closed his eyes. I could tell he knew that I had a point. “You go first,” he said after a long pause. “I’m right behind you, I promise.”
Nodding, I turned towards the light. It was ethereal, peering out from behind dying trees. I walked towards the tree line and saw that there was a small opening through to the other side. “We can probably both fit through here,” I said out loud, trying my best to be quiet. “Let’s squeeze through.” Without hesitation, I hooked my leg through the opening and squeezed my way into a clearing.
Bioluminescent flowers, mushrooms, and trees greeted my eyes as I stood, trying to figure out where we were. The blue and white lights were coming from the trees, glowing from within. There were flowers of every color, twinkling in the light of the full moon and giving off their own soft glow. There were glowing mushrooms everywhere, big and small. Some were even tall and thick like the trees themselves. Every light was pulsing with life, as if the forest was breathing.
“Holy shit,” Phil’s whisper came from behind me. “This is beautiful.”
“Yeah,” I whispered back, looking up to see a canopy of flowers and leaves glowing up above. When I looked back down, I noticed there was one spot in the ground that wasn’t glowing. I instinctively started to walk towards it. The foliage underneath my feet seemed to move out of the way as I approached the dark patch.
Suddenly, I got a good look at what was laying in the patch of darkness. A figure was laying in the glowing plant life, seemingly asleep. I froze in place.
“Babe?” Phil had noticed me stop walking, it seemed. His voice seemed far off. “Babe, what’s wrong?”
I couldn’t speak. The figure looked so peaceful amongst the glowing woods. I couldn’t help but get closer, as if I was being drawn to it. As I approached, I noticed that this figure wasn’t sleeping. It was a corpse.
Phil’s footsteps were growing closer, and I spun around quickly, holding out my arms. “You don’t want to see this,” I said, not able to hide the trembling in my voice.
“Why not? You’ve already dragged me out into this weird glowing pocket in the woods, what else is there to look at?”
“Uhhh, trust me, babe.”
“I mean, I do, but what is it?”
“It’s something bad.”
Phil looked confused. “Okay?”
I let out a distressed sigh as I turned back around and walked towards the body. My heart was pounding in my chest. I knew Phil was too curious to let his fear keep him away from what I was looking at. When I heard him gasp, I knew he had had the same realization. “I know, shh,” I murmured. I steadied myself and got within arm’s reach of the corpse.
“Julia, stop,” Phil hissed from behind me. “That’s a body!! We should be getting out of here!”
Ignoring Phil, I studied the face of the corpse. The cheeks of the man in the flowers were still rosy, his skin still flushed with life. The only giveaway to his being dead was the lack of movement in his chest. Otherwise, he really did look like he was just sleeping.
“I’m freaking out right now,” Phil’s voice called out to me. “Julia, what if he’s freshly dead? What if whoever killed him is coming back?”
“I wonder what happened?” I asked aloud. Phil cleared his throat.
“Are you listening to me? We need to leave!”
“Wait, calm down,” I said to him. I could hear Phil talking himself down behind me. “Just, I don’t know, breathe along to the light, yeah?”
“That’s ridiculous,” Phil grumbled. After a few moments of silence, I heard him mumble, “I’m coming over there.”
He tiptoed beside me and looked down. I looked over at him and watched as he got close to the corpse. He was still scared in his eyes, but the rest of him was too curious to back off. I watched him as he stared for a long time. As he stared, his expression changed to one of fascination. It was almost like he was unable to look away.
“Jules,” he whispered finally, his voice laced with wonder. “Does…this guy look familiar?”
I looked at Phil, confused. “What do you mean?”
Phil didn’t look away as he continued. “He kind of…don’t you think he looks kind of like…” he trailed off.
Looking back at the corpse, I tried to put together the puzzle pieces Phil was laying out for me. The man looked tranquil in death, laying amongst the bioluminescence peacefully. I looked back at Phil, who was obviously shaken up at the chain of events. I couldn’t ignore that I was scared as well. I had to look closer at the corpse to see what Phil was talking about.
I got on my knees and crawled into the resting place of this corpse. I could hear Phil behind me, quietly but urgently calling me back to him. “The only way I’ll be able to see what you’re talking about is if I get closer,” I whispered back to him, not taking my eyes off of the body.
His hair was wavy and perfectly coiffed, the skin not covered by his full beard flawless. His expression was one of pain, but peace. It was an odd combination, but the expression looked familiar.
The man was dressed in what looked like a costume; a cloak of dark silk lay crumpled underneath his strong-looking body. The clothes he was wearing looked like a prince costume from the fanciest costume store in the world. I noticed he had lots of belts. In his hands, he was holding what looked like a locket. “What the hell…?”
“Babe, he looks like me,” Phil finally blurted out from behind me. I looked at the corpse’s face once again. Then, I looked at Phil. He was standing now, arms squarely at his sides. I could tell he was trying not to freak out in the way his body was tensed. Phil’s face was twisted in fear, but upon looking back and forth, I could see the same jawline underneath the corpse’s beard, the same wave in Phil’s messy hair. The same figure standing behind me looked the same as the one laying in front of me.
I stood up, looking at Phil more intensely. “Why do you think so?” I asked him, wondering where his mind was at. After all, fear could be making us see things differently. Maybe the body wasn’t even there.
Phil wrapped his arms around himself, obviously shaking as he seemingly tried to calm himself down. “Well, maybe he doesn’t,” he backtracked. “Maybe I’m just scared.”
“No, maybe you two do look the same,” I said, trying and failing to be helpful. I honestly had no idea what to do. I looked back at the corpse. “It looks like this is where he was laid to rest. See? He’s kind of embedded in the ground.”
Phil walked over to me and grabbed my hand. He squeezed it tightly. “We have to keep going, Jules. It’s too dark to be stuck in here any longer.” His voice had changed dramatically. It was as if he got a streak of courage, his fear temporarily gone. He must’ve been way too scared to continue being in this clearing.
I felt myself be led away from the corpse as Phil began to walk me out of the bioluminescent forest clearing. Upon squeezing out of the other side of the clearing, we immediately saw faraway lights that I knew were man made. “Hey, I think those are cabin lights,” I said, mind still in the clearing.
Phil was adamant about getting out of the forest. I couldn’t blame him; I was done being scared too. By the time we had found the trail again, the moon was high up in the sky. The cabins were at the end (or beginning?) of the trail, and I watched as Phil practically ran back to ours. “I can’t believe we made it back, oh my God,” Phil exclaimed, leaving me outside as I slowly walked up to our cabin door.
As Phil’s mood improved dramatically, my mind stayed confused. Why was that corpse in the forest so…alive? Should we tell the rangers? Should we just pretend like we didn’t see? Phil cleaned himself up and laid down in the bed, but I didn’t move from the edge of it for a long time. It didn’t make any sense.
Once I heard Phil start to snore, I got up and walked back outside. I retraced my steps, flashlight in hand, until I didn’t need it anymore. Finding the glowing clearing wasn’t hard the second time around.
I pushed my way into the clearing and saw the corpse laying in the middle, unmoving. Walking up to him, I could feel myself began to tremble. Would he wake up if I got closer than last time?
I got on my knees and crawled into his flower bed again, getting as close as I could stand. He was perfectly illuminated by the flowers and mushrooms surrounding him, and I could see his face pretty clearly despite the low lighting. He did look shockingly like Phil, albeit a little more regal, more official. All of the belts he had on looked more like the kind that hold swords and shields. “If Phil we’re here, he’d know what these are called,” I mused softly as I continued to gaze upon this fallen man.
I stared for a long time. The wind was cold now, but I felt warmth in the clearing. For some reason, I could smell a bonfire in the distance. Maybe the cabins weren’t as far as they seemed…
The locket in his hands caught my eye. The silver twinkled in the soft light. I crawled over to his hands, looking intensely at the locket. If I were careful, I could grab it from him and open it…
As I touched the man’s hand, I fell back as visions filled my eyes, crimson skies manifesting in front of me. It was if my body had been pulled into another world. Screams filled my ears, fallen warriors at my feet and villages burning with the people still inside. The smell of burning flesh filled my nostrils.
The forest I knew was gone. Only fire and smoke were visible as I pushed my way through the war zone. It was hard to breathe through the burning fields. I could feel a pressure within my chest, and as I moved my hands, the pressure released and the way was cleared. I knew exactly what I needed to do, and who I needed to find. I had to make sure he was still alive.
“Juliet!” His voice called for me, and I ran towards it. The Prince was fighting valiantly, sword and shield in hand. He didn’t stop fighting as he asked, “Juliet, what are you doing here?”
“Helping you stay on your feet,” I said, but it didn’t sound like me. It was as if I was watching the battle through someone else’s eyes. The magic I wielded was enough to keep the enemies at bay, but not enough to do damage.
“You’re a Healer,” the Prince exclaimed as he sliced through another enemy. He sounded so exhausted. “You should be back at the castle, not here with me.”
I knew the battle could not be won, but I felt myself give the Prince a smile regardless. “You know you can’t do anything without me, Your Highness.”
The look the Prince gave me was one full of love, but it was short lived as the enemy surrounded us. Fire crept up around us, and I did my best to hold it off as the Prince battled the crowd. I could only do so much, but I could not send the enemy away fast enough.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my chest. I looked down at my robes and couldn’t see any blood. Behind me, I heard a roar from the Warrior King. A victory.
I spun to see the Prince knelt on the ground. I touched my chest, feeling the pain, and knew exactly what had happened. Dark magic. “Phillip!” My hands touched his back and I was brought to my knees, the pain bright in my own body. “You’re…hurt…!”
Prince Phillip chuckled, glancing back at me. “It’s alright, my love.” He could speak, but barely so. “Please…go back to the castle.”
“Never without you,” I said. I stood up and threw out my arms. A wall of silk surrounded us as I knelt over him, finding the wound. As blood poured from his chest I began to concentrate, hands glowing, as I tried to heal him. “It’s alright, my love, you’re going to be fine…”
I felt his hands grab my bloodstained ones, gripping tight. His brown eyes were full of fear. “There’s no use,” he spluttered, voice already growing weak. “The Warriors are…they have weapons we’ve never seen. Whatever they hit me with is…” He began to cough. “…It’s too much…”
“No!” I cried, trying to heal him. My heart was pounding with desperation. With every spell cast, I could see the light in his eyes dimming. He tried to push me off, then tried to hold me to him, but I persisted, throwing every spell I could dream of into the wound, into his body. The wall held fast as the enemy surrounded us, flames spreading higher.
The Prince reached up and grabbed me by the neck, pulling me close. With his other hand he pulled off the necklace he was wearing, the locket I had given him for protection. As he kissed me, I tasted blood. “It’s alright, my love.”
And then he fell limp. I stared into the fear filled eyes of my dead lover. And I screamed.
With all of the strength I could muster I stood, my whole body alight. Sound poured from my mouth, healing spell after healing spell, every spell I could think of raining down upon my Prince’s corpse. The wall broke and the enemy flooded in, heat from the flames licking at my back.
An explosion of light erupted from my body. The war screeched to a halt. The destroyed villages were replaced with trees, the flames snuffed out by life. I cried into the sky, the forest coming from underneath my beloved bringing life into every bit of the Earth except the one person I needed.
The war was over. The Prince was dead. My magic was gone. Only the trees remain.
“Julia!! Julia, please, wake up!!”
I shot up in bed, screaming. Phil had a hold of my shoulders, and as my voice quieted, I realized he was holding me tightly. It was morning, and his face was lit by stray rays of the sun. I could hear footsteps from behind him, and I looked to see two rangers in the doorway.
“We were wondering how long she’d be asleep,” one of them said, looking at me wearily. “Doing okay, ma’am?”
“Where am I?” I asked, looking around at everything. “I was…”
“We found you in the forest,” the other ranger said. His voice was much more kind. “Your boyfriend here says you both got lost and found the cabin last night, but when he woke up, you were gone.”
I blinked, still trying to figure out what was happening. I was just on a battlefield, wasn’t I?
Phil let go of my shoulders and held my hand instead. I could feel the heat on my face from the fire still, my eyes still wet with tears of mourning. His hand was the only thing keeping me grounded.
The rangers and Phil spoke for a few more moments and then left, leaving the two of us to our morning.
Phil looked at me, unreadable to me. “What happened last night? Why did you go back?”
“I had to get a closer look,” I told him, meeting his intense gaze. “That man looks just like you.”
“I didn’t tell the rangers about that,” Phil said. “Should I have?”
“I don’t know if they’d believe us,” I shrugged. “Babe, when I went back, I saw something.”
Phil rose an eyebrow. “Really?”
“What?” He seemed less confident about whatever I was going to say next.
“I…we…you…well…” I took a deep breath. “I had magic. I could heal. Or, well, Juliet could.”
“That’s what you — uh, the Prince called me. Her. I don’t know,” I sighed as I rubbed my face with my hands, exasperated. “Juliet was a Healer who was supposed to be at the castle, but she went to fight alongside Prince Phillip…you? He looked just like you,” I added. “He was so confident and powerful…”
“Hmm, doesn’t sound like me,” Phil said, trying to joke. He frowned when I didn’t laugh.
“…but he was killed, the Warrior King killed him with some weird weapon. I felt it,” I told Phil, gripping onto his hand tightly. “It felt like I had been killed myself. Then…the Prince died.”
“I guess. The forest, this forest, wasn’t there until Juliet tried to resurrect the Prince.” All Phil did was hum. “I guess Healers can’t heal that well, huh?”
“They can bring a whole forest to life around a dead man, apparently,” Phil shrugged.
I looked into his eyes. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
Phil paused. “It does sound strange. But I mean…I saw that alive lookin’ dead body too. I can’t pretend that it was a dream. Maybe you saw something unexplainable, like a ghost kind of situation?”
“But baby, it felt so real,” I said. “I’ve never had a dream that felt that real before.”
Shrugging, Phil let go of my hand and stood up. “I’m not sure, babe. I don’t know what happened last night, but let’s enjoy our last day here at the cabin, huh? I can make us some eggs real quick while you relax. Can I do that for you?”
“Of course.” Phil kissed my cheek and walked outside, leaving me to sit in the bed. I clasped my hands together, trying to keep my breathing steady. My heart was pounding as I tried to remember every detail of the vision. It was so clear, so real.
I readjusted in the bed and felt something swing around my neck. My hand flew up and grabbed something cold. The locket was around my neck.
Undoing the lock on the necklace, I took it off and looked at the locket. It was a simple locket, small and silver, with an engraving on it. “Protection,” I whispered aloud. My fingers found the seam and I popped open the locket. Inside were two small drawings. One was of the Prince, and the other had to be Juliet. Our hair curled the same way, and if this drawing was anything similar to what she looked like, we could have been twins.
As I looked down at the contents of the locket, I felt a pressure within my body, similar to the vision. I glanced at my hand and saw the inklings of what looked like light seeping from my palm. Quickly, I snapped the locket shut. The light disappeared from my hand, but the pressure stayed squarely in my chest.
I put the locket back on and rested my head in my trembling hands. The heat from the sun lit up the cabin, and my heart couldn’t stop pounding at thoughts of flowers and mushrooms underneath the Prince.
Hello everyone! Today, I wanted to take on the prompt you see above. I took my own creative liberties of course, but I loved the idea of a Sleeping Beauty inspired short story. I have to give credit to my lovely husband Matt, because without him, the story would not be nearly as accurate to the fantasy genre I was going for. He basically helped me write this entire story, so give him some love if you liked this post!
If you’re into my short stories, let me know if you’d like more! I love writing them, and I’m always on the lookout for more prompts. I’m sure there’s some great ones out there, so if you find them, send them to me on Twitter and I’ll do my best to write something great!
Thank you for reading, and as always, I’ll see you next week with something new!