I always had a fascination for fairy tales and horror stories. It must have had something to do with the macabre, the twisted, the feeling of never being sure what would happen next. I’m not sure if I was born with this fascination, or if it slowly grew over time. I think my grandmother felt the same way. She lived in a small house outside the city, at the edge of the forest. I wonder now, if there was something about the quality of the forest, its inherent mystery and folkloric unpredictability that stimulates the imagination?
In any case, my siblings and I often visited her. We’d spent all day in the forests and my grandmother sat with us, smiling, watching us throw rocks into rivers, collect sticks and climb the many oak trees that surrounded us. When the sun began to set, she urged us to return for dinner.
After dinner, she would tell us stories before bedtime. I was fascinated. Her stories were beautiful, and somewhat scary and macabre too. There was one story I’ve never forgotten. I’m not sure why, but to this day, I think of it. Hansel and Gretel was the story we would always ask her to tell us, because her descriptions of the witch were so vivid. She’d make her alive through her wrinkles and crooked expressions. My brothers would be in tears, but for some reason I would be so attentive and marvelled by her folkloric performance.
When I was a bit older, my grandmother said she could tell from the look in my eyes how excited I was, how I always craved for more, and I remembered this was exactly how I felt. It was as if the darkness called for me, as if it was trying to pull me toward some place unknown, and it’s a force I still find irresistible today. I just wanted to explore its depths, to see what I would retrieve from within them.
My grandmother passed away when I was eight. I became even more fascinated by dark stories and places, maybe it was trying to find some sort of connection with her. I remember night, dreaming of a dark forest. Did I say dream? It could have been a nightmare but anyway, the thick dark forest reminded me of the illustrations of my grandmother’s Hansel and Gretel book. I wasn’t aware that I was dreaming, and I felt as I could find my grandma in this place. After hours of searching, I did find her, standing tall under an oak tree with burning branches. She hugged me and kissed me. “You know where to find me,” she said. “I’ll always be here waiting for you.”
She vanished before I could reply, so did the burning tree, and the forest turned dark again. I woke up crying, remembering that she had passed, and decided to return to the forests where I used to play as a child.
It was cloudy, and I walked quickly into the forest to find shelter from the wind. Perhaps an hour passed, I’m not sure, I lost track of time thinking about my grandmother, and only snapped out of it when I saw an old mansion by a small lake, surrounded by trees, and realized I was lost.
The mansion was massive, with spires towering into the sky, walls crumbling like paper. I sat down for a while, taking the sight in, and I wondered about the centuries that had passed with the mansion rotting and decomposing to nothing. Almost all the windows were broken, and the roof was caving in. A terrible smell emerged from it, like old cardboard boxes filled with mouldy clothes. My heart was pounding, and I felt that old familiar pull again. I knew I had to go inside, to see what I could find.
As I explored the mansion’s rooms, I felt an energy surrounding me. It was odd, powerful and vibrant, and it made me very cautious. It was as if the walls of the mansion were alive, containing the ghosts of whoever lived there. I carefully placed my hand on the wall, and suddenly felt a rush of freezing cold shoot through my arm. Within seconds, I passed out.
When I woke up, I had no idea what had happened. I thought an hour passed, and I felt fine, perhaps even more curious than before. I rose to my feet, and started walking until I stumbled upon a room unlike anyone I’d seen before. Its walls were adorned with intricate symbols and runes. I felt drawn to it, and when I stepped inside, I was swallowed into another world immediately.
I was afraid. I felt powerless and hopeless, but I was even more curious. It was dark and the air was charged with magic. I took a few steps, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized I was outside once again, surrounded by trees. Then I noticed a shapeless figure looming in the distance, its eyes glowing in the dark.
I had disturbed it from feeding off its prey, and it released a deafening roar when it spotted me. It charged toward me immediately, but I stood my ground and met its attack head-on. With a fierce battle cry, I unleashed a wave of magic with my sword, and the creature crashed into the ground.
I continued and encountered lots of strange creatures, some twisted and deformed, others sleek and thin. I kept walking down the path, feeling that it was my only way out. Along the way, dark spirits whispered curses in my ear and skeletal warriors clattered towards me, rusty swords in hand. I was already comfortable with my new found combat abilities so I clattered those bones back where they came from.
The fiercest of all the creatures in the forest was a massive dragon, with black scales and glowing eyes. As soon as I laid eyes on it, I knew I was going to be in for the fight of my life. The dragon roared, its breath hot enough to scorch the air. It charged, jaws open wide, ready to devour me whole. But I was ready and stubborn: I was born for this moment. I drew on all of my magic and unleashed a torrent of fire and lightning at the dragon, striking it with all my might. The dragon fought back fiercely, its tail lashing out and its claws slashing at me with deadly precision. But I dodged and weaved, never giving up an inch of ground. I was determined to win, no matter the cost.
After what felt like an eternity, the dragon finally let out a final roar and fell to the ground, defeated. I stood over its massive body, panting, covered in sweat and blood. I couldn’t believe what I had done. I felt like a hero and this feeling stroked my ego. What a world. I was victorious, and I knew that I had proven myself worthy and had conquered the world that lay before me.
Then, I heard my mum calling me. I was surprised to hear her voice, but it all made sense: I was dreaming. I was annoyed at the sound of her voice as I would have loved to see what would happen next in the dream. Was it a dream or a nightmare? I was in love and I hoped I’d have more of such dreams.
From that day on, I knew I would always be drawn to the dark and twisted corners of the world, so I started to seek adventure in the darkest of places in my real world. Scary, right? I knew that I had the strength and the courage to face whatever lay ahead, and that I would never be afraid to embrace my little dark twisted fantasy.
27 April, 2023