A/N: I literally wrote this years ago and just dug it up again today from my documents… I was going to do something bigger with this idea, but this is all it amounted to. So yeah, I guess it's unfinished. But rereading it now I actually like it simply for the style I had back then. It's very short and simple and strange. Enjoy. –E.P.O.

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Locks

She opened her eyes.

The forest surrounded her, its trees towering over her, silent and unmoving, watching her from all directions with their invisible eyes. They had no leaves, no blossom. She could only see roots, thick, gnarled roots spread across the ground like a nest of gargantuan serpents, twisting around themselves in labyrinthine patterns. She craned her head back to contemplate the trunks. They rose high above until they reached the starless night sky. Here, their branches tangled and slithered into a vaulted ceiling, the shape of which would have fit perfectly in a Gothic cathedral, filtering the moonlight into thin beams. The pale blue light shone all the way down to the roots and soil of the forest floor, where it illuminated the upturned face of the girl.

It was wrong. She knew it. Something was wrong. Perhaps it was the colours. The trees were dark blue on the surface, turning slightly green, like rust on what had once been smooth metal, in the long cracks and crevices where the bark had begun to peel off like old paint.

She looked down, running her eyes over her own body. She wore a short, simple dress, its fabric white and silky against the pale skin of a girl in her early teens. Blond hair hung about her face. Her feet were bare, freezing, planted on the moist forest soil.

Her steps were careful as she walked through the forest. Sometimes she would step over the roots, but more often she would have to duck under them, as they arched and stretched up from the trunks before diving into the earth. The trunks seemed to grow even more immense as she wandered deeper into the forest, and the roots hovered around her in even more menacing shapes. There were no animals, no sounds save for the whispers of the wind. It came from behind her, brushing against the skin of her arms, shoulders and legs whilst playing with her hair. And for a few fleeting moments, she could hear actual voices in the wind – real whispers, real words, faint and unintelligible in the distance.

She turned around. She tried to call to the whisperers. "Hello? Is anyone there?" But her voice came back to her in echoes, strangely distorted by the acoustics between the trees. There was no answer.

Something fell from the branches, fast and thin, reflecting the light in a quick, silvery flash before disappearing on the ground. Another one fell, closer, easier to follow with her eyes. They were drops. Raindrops …

She looked down. There was a large puddle before her feet, her toes almost touching the surface of the rainwater. It had certainly not been there before; she would have stepped in it when she passed by. Her visage was clearly reflected in the surface. She crouched down to take a closer look. Her nose was stubbed, her cheeks delicate, almost hollow, her lips thin and pale.

A drop fell into the water, into the reflection of her chest. Red liquid blossomed in the mirror image between her small, silk-covered breasts.

She rose with a gasp and scanned the forest ceiling for the source of the drop of blood. She saw it instantly. The shape hung from one of the highest branches, upside-down like a bat slumbering in a cavern. It was little more than a silhouette in the moonlight. Its legs were curled up, its back arched and frozen in the last shudder of agony. It had been tied up at the hind legs with a strong rope which hung from the thickest branch above. The head was thrown back, and even from her far lower position at the base of the enormous trunk, the girl thought she could almost make out the eyes, wide and black. The horse hung lifeless, sliced open from belly to throat.

Another drop fell. The girl looked down. The puddle was now entirely red, an oval surface of scarlet in the midst of the pale blue, dark green forest.

She started to run. The breeze was growing stronger now, louder whispers carried in the winds. Still, she could not understand the words. More horses hung from the branches of other columns in this silent cathedral, all of them slaughtered, all of them displayed so obscenely. There were more puddles of rain, turning crimson in the blink of an eye as she ran past them, drops falling into the surfaces from above and spreading their colour with ridiculous speed. She knew where the drops came from; she knew of the horses, but she looked down and kept her gaze focused on soil and roots.

She stopped when she reached the house. The whispers had suddenly ceased at once, as if in reverence or even fear.

The house had no windows. It was enormous, narrow in width, yet high enough for its roof to scrape the branches above, giving it an almost Gothically arched shape. There were no tiles on the roof and no bricks in the walls. All six surfaces were made of the same white material, immaculate and cold as marble. The door was a veritable gate to this church-sized house, its rectangular shape stretching from the threshold at the forest floor to the peak of the roof. Ridiculously, the door handle was positioned in just the right height for the girl.

The girl took it in her slender fingers and opened the door. It slid open with surprising ease, considering its size, and without the slightest creak. The house was silent.

The girl stepped into an immense hall, which looked impossibly wider than the house itself seen from the outside. The hall was empty save for the three chairs in its middle. They were situated beside each other, all facing the entrance and the girl. The middle chair was the highest one. Its spindly four legs elevated it to a majestic seat just below the ceiling. The chair to the right was half as high. Spikes and needles jutted out from the seat and back of the chair; they would have pierced the thighs and torso of the occupant. The chair to the left was low enough for the girl to rest there, and so she did. The wooden surfaces were hard and uncomfortable, and the back of the chair rose needlessly high above her head. Strange patterns were carved into the wood, almost like reliefs from an ancient culture, or wires in a circuit board.

The girl craned her neck back and stared upwards. She was just in time to see a hoist mechanism send three boards floating down from the peak of the ceiling, long chains attached to their sides like trapezes. They descended silently, stopping automatically in front of each chair. The first two boards that stopped were too high up for the girl to see what they had carried down, apart from the distant outlines of bowls, but the third board stopped in front of her own seat. There was a blank, white, ceramic bowl on it, filled to the brim with water. She took it in her cupped hands and drank. It was cold.

She put the empty bowl back on the board. A greasy, twitching sound could be heard from the board above at the highest chair. The girl looked up, trying to catch a glimpse of the bowl's contents. And then, with a silent shock of colour in the grey darkness, red liquid spluttered up, trickling over the edge and dripping through the air, all the way down to the girl's chair where it landed on the fabric between her breasts. It left a warm stain behind on the exact spot where the drop had broken her rainwater reflection in the forest.

Instinctively, she jumped off the chair. There was a crashing noise behind her, and she spun around to find that the chair had collapsed in a heap of termite-eaten wood. This was as strange as the puddle of rainwater that had turned crimson; the girl felt certain that the chair had been perfectly sturdy as she sat on it just seconds ago. It was as if things were sped up in this place, sped up to an unnatural extent, like frames being cut out of a spool of film.

There was a door in the wall opposite the entrance, an ordinary door with peeling off-white paint. She approached it, and even as she walked, her steps felt too fast, as though the floor itself were moving towards the door as well. The door was already ajar; she merely had to push it open.

What she saw beyond was more like a shaft than a room – wide enough to house a broad spiral staircase in its centre, but even more majestic in height than in breadth. The ceiling was the size of the girl's thumb from her viewpoint. She began to climb the staircase. Even the width of the metallic steps was humbling. Sheets of white cloth hung from the ceiling, tens of metres long, some of them almost reaching the floor. Between these blank curtains, columns of light descended from a pattern of holes in the ceiling.

Finally, she reached the top of the stairs, where a walkway of steel grating led along the wall past three doorways. The girl followed the suspended path, glancing through the doorways as she passed by. The first one led to an empty hall where metallic spikes and needles protruded like stalactites from the midst of the ceiling.

The second doorway revealed a darker room. Organic structures covered all surfaces, giving off a greenish luminescence, repulsively sleek and gooey. Indeed, the surfaces were almost plant-like, with bizarre roots twisting around on the floor and travesties of lianas hanging from the cavernous ceiling. The organic surfaces culminated at the far wall, where their shapes intertwined and came together in symmetry, in the hollow shape of … a human body? No, the limbs were far too long, but asides from the grotesque proportions, the anatomy was roughly the same. The intricately shaped cavity in the wall seemed to form a resting place, a sarcophagus of sorts, for some being of human-like shape and titanic size.

The girl followed the walkway onwards until she reached the last doorway. She stepped into a hall as large as the one with the razor sharp bed of spikes on the ceiling. There was a bed in this hall, too, albeit one of the normal kind. It had neither pillow nor duvet, but it would have to do. It was situated in the very middle of the high-ceilinged hall, which was empty save for the solitary piece of furniture. The girl sat down on the edge of the bed and stared at the distance to the exit, the distance to the walls and the ceiling. They were like coastlines on the horizon of this ocean, in the middle of which she now found herself adrift. There was another cut, another second missing from the film, and before she knew what she was doing, she had curled up on the hard, cold mattress. The dress rode up to the middle of her thighs. Her blond locks were strewn over the sheet behind her.

She closed her eyes.

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