Around you, a castle of foliage stares down, surrounding you in leafy walls. Humpf. Your sigh diffuses softly into the crisp winter air, crystallizing into a small cloud that hangs in space. For a fleeting moment, the wasted carbon dioxide holds this form, a half second where it was almost alive. You breath in slowly, drinking up the cool air and savouring the sting of Jack Frost’s knife as he pricks the moisture at the back of your throat. Winter fills your lungs like water released from a faucet, the expansion in your chest rustling the multiple layers of cloth defence against the cold. Smiling down from above, the sun breathes gently over the white snow, yet this warm embrace is met with cold indifference. Scarface like in comparison, the ground is heavily coated with fine powder, crunching lightly as you step forwards and begin to explore the depth of the natural castle. It is painted by your feet, each brushstroke leaving a trail back to where your car lies, a trained animal patiently waiting for your return.
As you begin to descend further into the cold clutches of the stoic castle, you feel its walls surround you and begin to close in, feeling tighter and throwing an uneasy feeling into your stomach. Icicles cling to these walls, desperately holding on as they know that to fall is for them to shatter. Looking closer, you notice intricate patterns that are tattooed across their skin, small unique features which set each of them apart. From the roof, a small piece of snow parachute down and lands on your head, quickly followed by another. Trying to move out of their path, you brush into the walls, causing a cascade of snow to slosh over your body like a bucket of ice cold water. Irritated, you storm ahead, following the hallway deeper into the belly of this bristling castle. Looming high above and staring down over the ramparts, a mischievous magpie malevolently plans a maneuver to attack, defending his home with a fiery ferocity that contrasts against the ice cold surroundings. You duck just in time, feeling the displaced air crash headlong into your cheeks, rosy red in colour from the biting cold. Moving quicker than a deer being hunted, you bolt out of the hallway and into a large ballroom clearing, avoiding your attacker and continuing your exploration. Molten gold sunlight drips tentatively through gaps in the ballroom ceiling, warmth slowly beginning to thaw your frozen fingers, the feeling equally painful and enjoyable.
Experiencing this strange conflict takes all your attention, and you almost miss the slight twitch in the corner of the large room, yet this small movement does catch the corner of your eye. Unsure of what to make of this, you freeze, all thoughts of warmth escaping your head. As you examine this small singularity, a currently unexplainable phenomenon that has taken your whole attention, your imagination begins to run wild. A bead of sweat slowly creeps down the side of your forehead, the visual embodiment of the anticipation in the air, so taught you can barely move for fear of cutting yourself on it. As it reaches its boiling point, your fight or flight instincts are screaming at you to run.
The tension breaks at the same time as the branch, releasing you from its hold, allowing you to turn around and run. The dark hallways of the castle blur as you fly past them, each wall glaring down at you, filled with animosity that you are escaping the clutch of its wooden fingers. Relief floods your mind as you break free out from under the oppressing mass hounding you, and suddenly you can breathe again. Taking in a shaky, frigid breath, you collapse against your car, still waiting as patiently as a faithful steed. Crumpled against the car, you begin to become part of the scenery, a piece of the forest you so desperately tried to escape. Finally, after what seems like an eternity and a half, you manage to muster yourself the strength to slink quietly onto your mare. As you drive away, you look back, and sitting just behind the treeline is an ominous shape, two glowing eyes like solid fire peering back out at you. A monster sitting in his wooden castle.