On the night that she comes for you, you are dressed in white. A simple dress, plain shoes, and a scarf for warmth are all that adorns your body. Not your usual choice of clothes. You are not yet used to how they feel. But every girl like you must wear their first dress at some point. Hours restless in your room, waiting. At last after so many moments of anticipation the knock at the window and the faint voice arrive, and you know that it is time to depart.
You rise from your chair, not yet daring to look at the window; fully aware of an intense and otherworldly gaze laid intently upon you. A strange sense that this gaze not only sees but transforms. You grab your phone, wallet, and keys; unsure of why you would need these banalities after tonight. You suspect they will be of know use where it is that you are going.
Finally you turn to the window to see that which watches. She smiles an otherworldly smile. Threatening yet oddly inviting. Contradictory messages communicated in a simple show of teeth. Her gaze remains fixed on you, intent and caring. You hasten your step towards the window, not entirely of your own volition. A feeling of being overtaken begins to creep into your head and you wonder if you still have the opportunity to turn around and walk away. But this is what you have waited for. All those years of waiting, planning, dreaming of precisely this moment weigh upon you, push you forward.
She looks at you and asks, “Are you sure you’re ready?” Her voice is barely a whisper and it sounds like it has crossed great distances to finally make it to your ear. You wonder the things she has seen and felt which have left her with a voice so soft, smooth, and injured. Her tone reveals what seems to be concern and care. Does she genuinely want to make sure you have made up your mind?
Her body is close to human but not quite right. Arms and legs too long, hair just a bit thick and unkempt, an unnatural white. A small pair of horns peek through the tresses. She looks at you with eyes too big, smiles with teeth too sharp; stands too tall, voice to quite. Her eyes speak to a life far too long and difficult; full of injustice and suffering. A faint glow emanates from her dark skin. Her very being begets contradictions. All of these features come together to give a sense of not quite right, not quite familiar. Like you, but not completely. Something only partially other. It strikes you that she has not always looked like this. At some point, on a night much like this, she too stood in a white dress and waited. Now she crouches outside your window, watching.
“I think that I am ready” you say.
Her smile turns to a slight frown; understated and subtle. “Now is not the time for ‘I thinks’” she says, “Are you ready?”
You do not answer. You simply reach out your hand, prepared to undertake a journey from which you will not return. The years spent waiting will not be in vain.
Her hand comes forward to meet yours; her grasp is strong. Her skin is cooler than you expected, the warmth from a human body is not present. As she pulls you closer to the window you can feel her nails, or claws perhaps, graze your skin. You are not scared. Despite the strangeness of this interaction you feel safe and cared for.
With your hand in hers, she jumps up from her perch outside your window, pulling you with her into the night sky. Together you float upward into the night sky; drifting north towards the woods. The height is not concerning, her grip is strong and you know she would not drop you. Both are silent as you float towards the rapidly approaching life of trees.
The woods are dense here, packed with douglas firs; ferns adorn the ground. Moss covers most available surfaces. You float silently and quickly between the trees. She turns her head to look back at you. A sad smile adorns her face now. What has to be done will not be pretty.
Eventually after what feels like quite some time you begin to slow. Whatever force propels you begins to die down and you know you are approaching your destination. A general sense of unease overcomes you. Something unnatural is about to happen. You have never been much of one for nature anyways, but the sense of ethereal otherness is still unnerving. You and this thing that is almost a woman come to a stop.
Standing in a small clearing, surrounded by dense forest, she turns to you. She is taller than you, and you have to tilt your head some to see her face. The same uncertain smile. Sometimes, moments of celebration are also moments of morning. “We are here” she says.
So there you stand, in this small clearing, far from any other human, in a simple white dress. “Will it hurt?” you ask, your voice betraying the intensity of your concern.
She laughs at that, though she does not find it funny. “It will hurt very badly” she says. She can see that this doesn’t sit well with you. “Child, by the end of the night you won’t care. That dress will be red, but you won’t care. You won’t remember why you were concerned. You won’t even be you and yet you will be more you than you have ever been”
Of course, you do not reply. There is nothing to be said. Some things must be given up for others to be received. You have known for years that the price for this night would be blood, but for girls like yourself, this is expected.
From a small pouch tied to her waist, she pulls out objects from some other place. Tools with a purpose far beyond your ability to comprehend. She lays them out on the ground between you. She turns to you and touches her hand to your face. You are again surprised by how cold it is. But despite the lack of warmth, her touch is soft, tender, and caring. You look up into her eyes and see tears. As you brace for what is about to come, you realize tears are something you already share in common.
As she touches your face with one hand, her other grasps one of the objects. She brings it close to you and with one last look of care and regret, she plunges it into your chest.
A sense of cold overcomes you, starting at the wound and working its way out from there. You can feel your warmth disappear. It does not hurt, but it is not pleasant. You instinctively raise your hand to the hole now in your chest, and feel the blood pouring out; the last bit of warmth leaving you. And like that you begin to fade.
Your mind drifts and you are no longer in the clearing in the woods. Memories begin to flood into your mind. Every moment you have spent waiting for this night, every tear shed in its absence, every cry to some distant God for help; all of these moments return to you. And then they are gone. The weight of them is lifted. They simply don’t matter anymore. Your mind turns to another memory altogether. That day, decades earlier, when in these very same woods, before these very same dreams, you saw her. You didn’t know what she was, you didn’t know why she stopped walking and turned and stared. You didn’t know what her smile meant. But when you saw her turn and walk away you felt a sense of loss and a sense of longing. Something in you had changed, and something in those woods was calling.
This memory too begins to fade. Your mind begins to reconnect with your body. The woods come back, the clearing returns, and you realize you lay on the ground. She is standing there above you. She smiles. “It’s done” she says as she reaches her arm towards you to pick you up.
Instinctively you extend your arm towards hers. Your skin looks different, your arm feels different, and you still feel so profoundly cold. In that moment you realize things will never be the same after this. You will not return to your room ever again. That which called your from the forest is now silent. You are here now. Here you will remain.
As you rise to your feet, you look into her eyes. Now at the same level as your own. “Will it be a good life,” you ask. “will I regret this?”
“It will be a life” she replies, “and for those like us that is all we can expect.”
There you stand, in a clearing in the woods, wearing a newly red dress. You don’t know what is ahead of you now, but what you left behind feels so distant. Never again will you be the girl who waited all those nights for a knock and a whisper she feared would never come.
Without saying anything, you and her walk further into the woods, hand in hand. You know that others are waiting.