Lady of the Wood
The thinner branches low on the trees stung his face and arms as he tore through them. The wooden foot bridge was directly in front of him now, only several yards away. His youthful but strong legs pumped hard as he tried desperately to outrun the apparition closing on him from behind.5 minutes earlierAlex crept behind the large redwood careful not to step on any loose sticks or twigs that might snap giving him away. He should not be out of bed at this hour, much less be in the woods, but he had heard his mother leave the house that evening. Try as he might, he couldn’t go back to sleep. His mother would surely punish him if she discovered him out here but for some nagging reason he had to know where she had gone. It had only ever been the two of them in the house and he worried about her, felt protective. Finally, after some time, he had gotten out of bed, dressed and slipped out of the house into the cool night air.He could not explain why, but he had a feeling where she may have gone and followed it as if drawn into the dark woods down the street beyond their house.The redwood grove, perhaps 100 trees in all, stood as a monolithic anomaly in an otherwise normal forest and attracted any manner of inquisitive types…and those seeking the abnormal. For those in tune with such things, there was an unmistakable power that emanated out from the grove, from the massiveness of the trunks, and this crowd had gathered in their center to channel it. A sort of natural chapel was formed in a low spot at the center of the trees with their massive trunks surrounding it not unlike the stone columns of a cathedral that held up a vaulted ceiling.In the glow of the light from a burning fire, Alex could make out his mother’s face. They stood almost encircling the fire, facing east, at him. In front of them knelt a figure as if in prayer, wide shoulders, short hair, a man.At first, the assembled group, all women, chanted, deep and calm. They began to sway in unison, shoulder to shoulder, arms low each holding the hand of woman next them. The chant progressively picked up in tempo, a slow energy building. The cadence of the group’s swaying slowly, steadily increased as well. Arms were raised and lowered, and a woman in a mask came forth, approaching the fire and spoke words. The man did not move, head bowed slightly.Alex couldn’t understand what the woman was saying and in any event he didn’t much care. He watched his mother, center in the line of women, hair adorned with forest trappings. He had never seen her like this; she looked beautiful and wild, her face expressionless, lost in the ritual. There was a grace about her, a delicateness that shown from her as the light of the fire reflected off her. He was transfixed as he gawped at her, a familiar longing, jealousy of her femininity, welled up within him.The woman closest to the fire, a priestess of some sort, chanted loudly, stoking the women around the circle; their reverie, an urgency to her tone. She danced and swayed hugely, arms gesticulating wildly as she spoke the words of her incantation. She raised her arms in a climactic gesture, the women around her all followed suit, their voices loud and feverish. On cue, the women all dropped their hands at once and the flames of the fire extinguished, leaving only the inky blackness of the forest and an eerie quiet.Alex watched, confused by what he had seen. His eyes were not now accustomed to the dark and he mistook the small glow coming from the circle to be a trick of his eyes. He blinked, but the glow quickly grew brighter and larger. A silvery apparition soon took form, head, arms and torso. It was the spectral image of a woman, her form shimmering in silvery light, the definition to her features blurred. She stretched her arms and took stock of where she was. She seemed to speak to the silent coven around her, but Alex could not hear the words.The priestess was just visible in the entity’s soft light and seemed to motion to the dark figure kneeling before them. The apparition turned to the figure, floating down toward him, his outline becoming clear to Alex, backlit from the specter’s glow. She hung in front of him and Alex saw the man’s head tilt up to face it. Fear grew within Alex, and his heart started to pound in his chest. He didn’t know what he was watching but he felt certain something was about to happen to the man.The apparition raised her hands to the sky as if summoning the stars, her radiance growing, casting a beautiful and bright silvery light across the assembled group and the great trees beyond. The forest around Alex was lit brightly and he could see his mother and her associates around her smiling pleasantly at the man. The apparition slowly floated up then flew in a wide arc around the grove, gathering speed before soaring up and then diving down fast, straight into the man’s chest. A shriek rang out, high pitched, and the specter emerged slowly out of the man’s back, reforming as she did.Alex, startled, let out a yelp, slapping his hand to his mouth. The glowing woman seemed to hear him and cast her eyes directly at his location behind his tree. Her indistinct features suddenly came into sharp focus; he could perceive every detail of her. She was beautiful, picturesque, with a fierce look about her. She had long silvery hair floating and fluttering around her face and shoulders as though the air around her was gently moving through it. Her high cheekbones and slender nose seemed fitting companions to her devastating smile. He saw everything about her as if in high definition.And she saw him. Her arms stretched out and she beckoned him come to her.Alex spun behind the tree in a panic, frozen, back pressed to the bark. His mind was in overdrive but seemed to come back around to action. It seemed to be getting brighter around him. He peered out from behind the tree. The silvery woman was floating slowly toward him swiftly covering the ground between them.Terror flooded through him as he bolted, headed back toward the forest edge and his house beyond. His adrenaline-soaked mind smartly remembering the little wooden foot bridge would be the fastest way across the obstacle that was a small stream ahead of him. He did not zag or weave, but ran headlong, as powerfully as his young legs could, through the small trees and saplings that made up this part of the woods. He hazarded a quick glance behind him, careful not to lose his balance as so many clichés of a horror movie. The phantom followed him, gaining on him, her arms outstretched to grab him. He ran faster still.At last the tiny wooden bridge, lit brightly by the specter behind him, now stood only yards in front of him. He sensed crossing it would deliver safety.Ten yards…His heart pounded in his ears, breaths quick and shallow.Five yards…More breaths.Three more strides from his aching legs was all he needed.He planted his left foot and leapt for the bridge thinking he might just make it. As his foot left the ground, he felt a warmth and electricity in his lower back, a strong hand pushing him hard forward. His new momentum carried him well farther, to the far end of the short bridge, and as he tried to land down on his right foot, he could not stay upright. He crashed into a rolling heap on the far side of the bridge. He came to rest on the dirt path, curling quickly into a tight ball as he did, awaiting his fate. He shrieked as he covered his head, expecting the specter’s grasp.Nothing.He held firm, a trick perhaps?Nothing.He chanced a quick glance, but all he saw was utter darkness.He picked up his head. Indeed, she was gone, vanished into the night. Perhaps his intuition had been right; the bridge was some sort of barrier to her. Whatever the case, he didn’t hesitate to finish his escape. He picked himself up and began racing the half mile back to the house. He knew this path well and the moon graciously lit his way.He took stock of himself as he ran. Scrapped knee and elbow for certain. He could also still feel the exact spot where she had put her hand on his lower back, just at his belt line. It didn’t hurt exactly, but it was warm and pulsing and it felt as though that warmth was spreading as he ran. Soon, he felt a strange sensation around his hips and into his groin. It felt like things were shifting and moving. His skin tingled up his torso and around his chest then up through his face and around his head. A dull ache rose into his abdomen and he stopped running, doubling over as the sensation continued to roll through him. He could feel the change in his groin, and another wave of panic flooded through him. He felt nothing between his legs, save for a very new sensation.He wasn’t far from home and pushed on, running full out. Tears streamed down his face, adrenaline and fear giving way to emotion. By the time he hit the back door to his house he was sobbing uncontrollably. He kicked his now loose shoes off at the door, his mother’s strong conditioning holding firm; no muddy tracks through the house. He dashed down the hallway to the bathroom they shared and swiped his hand across the light switch bringing a halogen white glare to the tiled room.He squinted in the light and took in his reflection between sobs. In the small mirror above the sink, his soft face shown dirt and a few red marks from his dash through the trees. He looked down at his shorts, not wanting to confirm what he already knew. Hesitantly, he unsnapped the button and pulled down the fly, letting the shorts drop to the floor in a heap. His white fruit of the looms seemed bagy in the front, further confirmation. Slowly he hooked his thumbs into the elastic band and pulled it outward revealing the scene that was his crotch.Nothing was there.The waist band snapped back into place as he rushed down the hall in his socks to his room, sobbing. He flung himself on his bed, burying his face in his pillow. Even laying on his stomach now felt different. He cried for some time, reliving the frightening events of the past hour, trying to comprehend them and take in the notion of his morphed body. As emotion gave way to fatigue, his weeping subsided, and he grew calm. Soon he picked his head up from his warm, tear stained pillow.The light beside his bed was on, throwing a soft glow about the room. Near his bed stood his mother, beautiful, a forest crown in her hands, smiling down at her boy. He bolted upright trying to think of the words to use to sidestep the punishment that was surely coming. She said nothing but sat gently beside him wrapping her long arm around him. She smelled of the redwoods and faintly of a campfire. His emotions flooded back to him and he wept again, burying his face in the soft fabric of her long dress. She swept her hand across his head petting him, soothing him until he was done.He thought to explain what happened to him but knew his words couldn’t possibly make sense. He wiped his eyes and bravely stood up to show his mother what had happened. Without a word he took a step and turned to her, bringing his hands to his underwear. With a deep breath, hands trembling, he pushed his cotton briefs down to his knees exposing himself for her inspection.His mother smiled in recognition, her eyes going soft giving him a reassuring look despite his remonstrations. She stood as he pulled his underwear back up over his new sex and brought him into another hug. She looked down at her little girl and asked her why she was so upset. Confusion crossed Alex’s face as if the problem should be obvious.Her mother let her go and with a knowing smile, took a few steps over to her former son’s dresser. She pulled open the second from the bottom drawer, bent down and dug around behind the three sweaters he never seemed to wear. She stood back up and turned, holding one of her long satin negligees he had hidden, the hem almost touching the floor.Alex balked, pretending he had never seen the nightgown before. His flush red cheeks suggested otherwise. She hung the nightgown over her arm and returned to the dresser, slowly pulling out several more items: a silk camisole, one of her slips and a dark, satin like leotard she used performing in her dance company. She laid them on the bed in front of Alex.She no longer needed to hide. The spirit had blessed two men that evening, one in the ritual circle and one spying in the woods. Her body now matched what her mind already knew she was meant to be, and the pain she felt in hiding, the confusion she lived with, would no longer haunt her.Alex began to cry again as the realization that the burden he had once carried, a girl trapped in a boy’s body, was gone. She was free.Her mother kissed her on the head then led her young daughter to her own room. She helped her undress and then pulled the long nightgown over her head, the hem just touching the top of Alex’s feet. She went to her own dresser and pulled out a similar nightgown to wear then sat Alex at her vanity to slowly brush the evenings events out of her short hair. She then had Alex brush out her own long hair and the two women, mother and daughter, got into bed, turning out the light as they did. Her mother came close, wrapping her arms around Alex, her daughter, as exhaustion took hold and sleep quickly claimed her.A soft light shown through the bedroom window, the glowing figure of a beautiful woman framed by the windowsills. She smiled upon her children and faded again into the darkness of the night.Please tell me what you think of the story! Leave a comment.