The forest we are travelling in is densely polluted by smog.
The forest, unfortunately, becomes larger and more caliginous each time we visit here, and it has been quite a few months since our last visit. Although, it can’t be too large as I can still hear the inharmonious sounds of the village nearby. Or perhaps I am just travelling on a never-ending path. Being deceived by every lacklustre step I take. I don’t care, not anymore.
The further my brother Stephen and I travel into the forest, lost beings appear. In the beginning of our journey, it’s just packs of feral cats, some dogs and birds too. Perhaps abandoned by their families for behaving badly, not being what their families expected, becoming unlovable and then thrown to the side, left to fend for themselves. I suppose that’s the cost of being different. They have matted, mangy fur, eyes like a blood-drenched rock and their teeth, the few they have left, brown and rotting. Hunger? Thirst? Or, maybe, just the aftermath of a fight. I don’t know. It won’t be long before they’re gone for good. There are a few mangy rabbits and hedgehogs too, however, they don’t come near us, far too untrusting of our unfamiliar exteriors, as though they believe we are going to take what little they hold close in their now miserable lives.
There are spiders, much to my dismay. Big ones and small ones. Other insects, reptiles and rodents as well. They, unfortunately, appear to be immune to the smog within the forest that casts a shadow over most of the vulnerable creatures. Perhaps they are the cause of the potent smoke. Stephen said that he believed they were cool, sort of like an alien race, an upper class of sentient being. He says he wants to be like a spider. This, however, did not make a difference to me. Why would you want to be a verminous creature, feared by most? Maybe to them, the fear is disguised as a sort of morbid respect.
Further, into the forest, the lush flora and fauna that is found thriving relatively near the entrance of the forest began to be replaced with more trees, dead ones, fallen branches and stones. Stephen swears he saw an elephant, I think he’s delirious. I saw a tiger. However, it was not a Tiger’s usual vibrant orange, white and black colour. No, it was almost as if it was faded to a black, grey and white, like in a Charlie Chaplin film but harrowing. I could see its ribs protruding out of its frail body, I wondered how this mighty beast has fallen? Gambling? Drinking? Substance abuse? Unfortunately, a sight like this is not uncommon in an area like this. It’s a shame really.
Every which way I turn, there are all sorts of animals. Dogs begging, birds squatting in trees being scared off by antagonised squirrels who have made it their home. Snakes gorging themselves on dead mice in barely noticeable dark crevices, hissing if they catch you watching. In this forest, this is the norm. Although, many visitors of the forest are shielded from this; they like to pretend that this side of the forest does not exist. After all, it’s not real if you don’t see it.
Our sick Mother, who we are travelling to find, often used to take care of Stephen and I. However, as the days go on she becomes more unable, too vulnerable and so we do what we please. At school, the teachers asked us a lot of questions about our care, threatening to get the police and social services involved. They wanted to take us away, just as the spiders and snakes wanted mothers house. So we decided to stop attending. We haven’t been to school for many days. I don’t care. I have always believed that the education system we are subjected to from birth is one that teaches us we are only worth the percentage we gain on paper.
Our absence from our mother’s house and the school pleases the beasts. It gives them a reason to act in the manner they do. Our deprivation has provided us with a primitive sense of thinking. Survive. They don’t like this.
My Mother says our family has lived in the centre of the forest for many generations now. She says she, her mother, her mother’s mother and so on have all witnessed the growth of the forest. The immigration and exodus of a variety of different animals and the effects- both positive and negative- that have come from this. She once told Stephen and I while we were staying there that beavers brought their building skills and that has benefited the forest, whereas snakes came with their sharp teeth and venom and the determination to take over every part of the forest, which has had negative effects on most of the animals in the forest.
She says this year, however; the growth of the forest has not been good. It has tried to consume her house; it has already succeeded with most of the residents of the middle of the forest. She is the only original resident left. She has been scared by the beasts and so she has stopped leaving her house. The last time Stephen and I saw her, her body had become small and weak. Her fingers, long and bony, her dark veins punching past the surface of her scarred, mature flesh. She has stayed in her house with all of her belongings; piling up around her, magazines and books forming a labyrinth. The air in the house has become stale and the door handles have become thick to the touch with dust. We loved our Mother and at the time, we liked staying with her. Although, there wasn’t much in regards to our entertainment. We didn’t mind though. For a while, we entertained ourselves. Eventually, I could no longer stand to watch her body corrode. Stephen and I then began to sleep other places. Our mother never questioned us. I think she was just too tired of fighting her sickness and the predators. I don’t know. I don’t want to know.
When we eventually stumble upon Mothers house, the lights are not on. I know this means she is gone. When we enter the house, stale, dead air, much like the smog, consumes my nose. I reach for the rusty tap to see if it still works. It doesn’t. Leaving the inner pipes of the house to dry up and become creaky. Letters and bills have been piling up behind her door. Her dead body is in the house somewhere. We don’t want to look; we can smell it. We knew the end of her fight was coming, to the illness and most upsettingly, to the spiders and insects.
During mothers life, she aimed to help. She helped the vulnerable animals of the forest; the prey. In doing so, she never received any help back. Only bombardment from the predators; the spiders and reptiles. The animals took and took until she couldn’t handle life anymore and decided to do something about it. Now that burden will be thrust upon Stephen and I. I don’t know. I only know how to survive. I suppose now that she is gone her house will be able to be consumed by the forest, to accommodate the spiders, snakes and the like.