There was no mistaking it, now. It was more than just a voice in her head. She began to shake from very deep within her, causing her teeth to rattle at each breath.
“If you enter, you will be different because of it,” a voice said beside her. The girl gasped and jumped. A large stag stood several feet away from her, old with gray whiskers and long, glorious antlers. It’s hooves were beaten from wear and its coat was marred with dents and bare spots. It looked at her and blinked slowly, breathing heavily through its gray nostrils.
“What…?” was all she could manage.
“If you enter, you will be different because of it.” The stag did not move its mouth. Then she felt ridiculous for assuming it would. She shook her head and rubbed her eyes but the stag was still there.
“I…” the girl collected herself. “I have to go in.”
“Why will I be different?”
The stag just looked at her in response.
“What is in there?” she asked, cautious to raise her voice above a whisper.
The voice of the stag took a long time to respond. So long that the girl wondered if it was just a statue.
“Do you remember your family?”
The girl drew back. “Of course.”
“Then why are you here? Go back to them.” the voice was more urgent, hurried. The stag began to breathe heavier, its eyelids rolling back a little further.
“Because they’re all dead.”
“No,” the voice cried and the stag hung its head. “I cannot help you bring them back!”
“I’m not trying to bring them back!” the girl protested through her tears. They were free of this world. This world that would leave two children motherless, alone to lay cold and cry at the sounds they heard at night. This world that would drown a man in his own tears or hang a child.
“Then why?” The stag watched her closely through its clouded eyes.
Her face was soaked with hot tears. “Because I don’t want one more thing in my life to start and not finish.” She didn’t know how else to say it. How else to convey that she had grown a love for someone in the darkness, but she didn’t want the darkness, anymore. She wanted her love to grow in the light. And if she had the power, the slightest bit of a chance to change it, she would.
The stag watched her. The moon emerged from behind a heavy cloud, revealing the entrance of the woods to the girl.
“If you enter, you will be different because of it.”