The Boys of the Forest

Listen, boys, of the boys of the forest. The boys of the forest with three hundred eyes do not feed on human flesh but ingest only the finest imported Saharan sand, and thus their teeth are always polished clean. Their eyes are not spread apart like Argus’s but gathered unevenly where human eyes are, so stand far away and they will look normal but approach and you will see the delicate capillaries running across their hundreds of translucent eyelids. The only sacrifices they make for such an ocular experience are their abilities to taste and their proper digestion: violent contortions now seize them when they eat anything but Saharan sand. Some of the boys control their writhing such that they can take a bite of an apple and spit venom, unconsciously and painfully, but with enough skill to stand at precisely the right angle and position so that when they collapse for those few seconds the venom shoots forth sharply on target. I have seen trees wither in front of their teeth, boy and tree flailing in synchrony. But the boy will snap back up and kick the apple away and stare into the wind, while the tree keeps sinking slowly.

When the forest gods descend in autumn, the springs flow white, and the trees grow pale. The wails you hear in your dreams of that season are the wails of the boys. They are the sounds of that evil change: as the boys finish their rites and drink from the springs, their throats constrict, and their screams sharpen into piercing birdlike shrieks. The silk coccoons begin to grow over their eyes, and the venom begins to flow into their veins. When they see again their visions have shattered, their stomachs have twisted, and their souls have been eaten by the ghosts of the forest. From then on they will walk among these ghosts, haunting and haunted. They will no longer be boys but they will be boys forever. Never again will they taste, or dream, or dance in the twinkling sun.

May 2016