Author’s Note: as of April 1st, 2017, this chapter has been removed from the LotSF timeline.
If asked, I couldn’t explain exactly what it was that made it feel like the ladder was calling me. I would’ve guessed it was curiosity that encouraged me to reach out and touch the lowest plank, as if I intended to climb it, but it felt like there was something more. I wasn’t the one who’d made the ladder but I wondered if I’d ever climbed this tree. It certainly didn’t look familiar. I couldn’t bring up any memory of this tree in particular, no matter how hard I thought about it, so if I hadn’t climbed it, then why did it feel so important to me?
I ran my thumb along the rough, weathered wood musingly, trying to put a finger on why this tree was special. Was it intuition, or was I just missing something? Did the forest woman have something to do with it? Was this the moment that I was supposed to trust myself? And was I supposed to climb it?
I looked up the tree trunk dubiously. The ladder would make the climbing easier, but it was an awfully old ladder. Some of the planks were split and most of the nails were rust-ridden–if they weren’t missing entirely–and the ladder only went up so far. At a certain point, I’d have to climb onto one of the branches and then I’d be on my own. I’d gotten a lot of practice tree-climbing when I was younger but I hadn’t done so in several years. Too many years. The last thing I needed after everything that had happened was to fall out of this massive tree and break my neck.
But the tugging. This tree, this ladder–they were pulling at my soul, yanking on my bones, driving me forwards until the urge to climb the ladder was almost too much to bear. I put one foot up on the first plank, contemplating the wisdom of going ahead with this. My body was still aching, my shoulder complaining loudly behind my curiosity and my hips and thighs knotted with a quieter pain. Could I even physically get myself up the tree? If my shoulder or legs gave out… I backed away from the tree, firmly decisive. I couldn’t do this. It was insane. I would just get more hurt. And there was no reason for me to climb this tree. I needed to find Faith. Unless she was waiting at the top, perched on one of the branches, climbing the tree wasn’t going to help me. I had to move on. But my feet felt rooted to the spot.
She told you to trust yourself.
I can’t trust myself if I’m dead.
Why are you so afraid? You can fight bearskins but not climb a tree?
I’m not afraid of the tree. But my fight with the bearskins is the very reason why I can’t climb the tree. I’m injured.
I’m injured. My shoulder is torn up. I can’t climb a tree.
You know you can.
Yeah, well, I know I shouldn’t.
I’ll regret it.
Maybe. Maybe not.
I ground my teeth and shook my head, turning away from the tree. I didn’t need this indecision. I didn’t need this crossroad. How could I even think about climbing it? My body was too battered. And it had honestly been years since I’d even attempted to climb a tree. I could just imagine the struggle I’d have to go through to haul my butt up there. And not to mention getting down at the end. That would be a disaster.
…it would be kind of fun.
Nooo, it wouldn’t be fun. I shook my head again, scornfully. What part of hurting myself would be fun? Absolutely none of it. But being up in a tree again, high above the ground, pretending I was a bird, one with the wind… that was the part that would be fun. That was the part that my landlocked heart longed for.
I turned back towards the tree, taking a hesitant step. I could at least try… I touched one of the planks, giving it a little tug to see if it would support my weight. It seemed sturdy enough… and my left hip seemed to hurt less than my right, so I could use that leg to pull myself up…
I was so tempted. But my shoulder. It was hurting even more now, as if reminding me how bad an idea this was. I sighed and let go of the plank. There was no way. It was an entertaining idea, and on any other day I wouldn’t have hesitated, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Not today.
Making up my mind once and for all, I turned sharply away, picked up my boots, and started walking in the opposite direction. I cast a yearning look over my shoulder, just one last glimpse of that enticing tree, and as I turned my eyes back to the forest, I caught a flash of white along the edges of my vision. I followed the movement, pausing uncertainly, and saw it again–a dash of white darting between the trees, caught for a second in the moonlight. I watched it with narrowed eyes. What was that? I couldn’t think of anything white that would be running around in this forest, but I supposed that–
–the white flash stopped, frozen in place for just a heartbeat, and my breath caught in my throat.
It turned dark eyes towards me. We stared at one another. It took just a fraction of a second, barely enough time to think, and then the connection was broken as it leapt and sprinted away.
But the image was seared into my mind.
It was a unicorn.
It was Snow.
Whaaaaat?! LotSF so soon?! I know, I know, it’s exciting that you don’t have to wait two months for a new chapter. Please, try to contain yourselves.
In all seriousness, though, I actually couldn’t wait to write this one. For a while there, as I was writing the earlier parts of this story, I had veered away from my original vision and inspiration, and I think that may have been a factor to why it was so difficult for me to update frequently. But now I’m getting back to the raw spirit of the story and it’s exciting! Thus the early update, hooray!
And a unicorn too! I have always always always loved unicorns. Still do. But I’ve never really had the opportunity to write about them. (Well, there was this one story I attempted when I was younger, but that was a flop. I’ve never had the opportunity to write dedicatedly about them, we’ll put it that way.) So this is an exciting experience. We shall see where it takes us, yes?
For now, I am going to have to take myself to bed. Toooo tired. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Have any exciting plans?
Good night, friends.