Elliot Walker is a criminal, or at least, that is what the state decided. He was caught with double rations and has since been sentenced to exile. He will walk tomorrow.
Nearly eighty percent of our world is shaded beneath the immeasurably tall and dense thickets of wood. Our civilizations are dispersed throughout the increasingly rare, flat patches of land where crepuscular rays are able to shine through. The wood has crept closer to our villages over the years. The leaders tried to fight back by starting fires and cutting them down, but no matter, the trees would continue to encroach. No one has explored further than a mile into the wood and been seen again; it becomes so incredibly dense that it is impossible for one to find their way.
Elliot was woken while it was still dark. A bag was thrown over his head and he was marched to the edge of the wood. The bag was removed from his head, and the guard beside him placed in it some supplies: three days worth of rations, a flask of water, a large blade for moving through thicket, and a smaller blade for… personal use. With that, Elliot was thrown through a curtain of greenery and never seen again.
But this is Elliot’s story, not ours.
Once thrown into the woods, Elliot wondered whether he would be able to dupe his way back to his home. Then he wondered whether he would want to. After a moment of pondering, he continued further into the woods.
Movement was slow. Thick shrubbery covered every inch of earth; it became increasingly easy to fall. Even fifty feet in, every remaining decibel of society was smothered to silence, leaving only the echoing hymns of the trees. Elliot continued. He hacked his way through brush and vine and exhausted himself in the process. After marching for an hour or so, he laid to rest. The sonorous melodies of the forest, however, implored him to continue forward, towards whatever being may have created those sounds.
He saw little signs of animal life along his trek other than a common insect every now and then. The brush further thickened and the canopy blocked out nearly every lost photon of the sun. It seemed the forest itself would bombinate, resonating with reverberant recollections of travelers passed.
The sounds were akin to that of a Siren, enticing his further exploration. After only a short while, it came to a point at which Elliot was unable to direct his cognition towards any other thought. He released his grip on his blade, and it fell to his side. He moved faster, using his overgrown fingernails to claw through the thicket. Vines, thorns, and branches swatted his face and arms; thin cuts decorated his skin. He shed the bag over his shoulder and began to run. He tripped, stumbled, and fell, yet autonomously returned to his crazed sprint. Any sense of time that once existed had perished. There would be no light. He would never see light again.
Then he saw light. Bursting through a wall of ivy, Elliot fell to his knees. He looked down at his hands. He saw his hands. Looking up, the cool, bioluminescent light was blinding to his still dilated pupils. Soon, what he did not believe to be reality faded into view. There was a clearing, no more than ten feet across. Immense, glowing leaves surrounded him. They emitted brilliant hues of pinks, greens, purples, and blues which refuted any previous understanding of the world he believed he knew.
He realized it was silent. He could hear the blood rushing through his ears; he could hear his heart sending wave after pulsating wave of freshly oxygenated blood to his limp appendages. Elliot stood and moved towards a leaf even larger than himself. He felt compelled to touch the leaf, and so he extended his arm and gently laid his quivering index finger upon the glowing mass. An enormously prepossessing sound radiated from his touch. He reached towards it again and the same glowing note emanated through his skull. He moved to another leaf and brushed it against the back of his bleeding hand. A different — yet equally beautiful — tone was released. Elliot began to move from leaf to leaf, touching each and allowing the overwhelming ecstasy to swallow him. He moved faster, running around the clearing and touching every great, gilded leaf in sight. He was laughing. He laughed and laughed as he ran faster and faster. The sounds would harmonize and build, forming chords and melody which seemed to transcend any former understanding of his senses. He heard a most beautiful cacophony.
Then the forest ate him.