Now he knows he’s lost. Why does it bother him? Isn’t this what he wanted? To be lost to them, forever?
He scoffs and leans on a tree, one of the hundreds that surround him. The forest is deep wherever he looks. The only thing he can do now is keep walking ahead. Try not to return.
He’s tired and hungry, so he decides to rest. He has a piece of bread with him, the only food he managed to take. He should’ve planned this better. He might find some fruit in the forest, but what if he picks something poisonous? Maybe he could hunt, but he doesn’t really know how. He has a small knife, nothing more. He bites the stale bread and sighs. Everything is better than staying there, isn’t it? Somehow he’s not that certain anymore.
Then he hears something. He hopes it’s just a rabbit, but he still draws his knife. He listens. The leaves crack. It must be something bigger than a rabbit. His eyes widen as he looks around. It’s coming closer, but he’s not sure from which direction. Then he hears a sweet laughter. A woman. But where?
“Don’t worry, I won’t harm you,” a soft voice says.
Suddenly, he sees her. A beautiful young woman, dressed in brown leather, bow and arrows hanging over her shoulder.
“Who are you?” he manages to ask, half conscious and still afraid.
“Just call me Artemis,” she shrugs.
“Artemis? Like the Greek Goddess?” he smiles. He feels more confident now.
“I look like her, don’t I?” she smiles. He nods. She really is a strange looking woman.
“What are you doing here?” he asks.
“I just live here,” she shrugs.
“Oh…” A forest woman. Strange.
“And what are you doing here?” she asks.
“I’m just… Running away I guess.” Her smile is nice, but there’s something strange about it, almost dangerous. Her eyes seem wild. Maybe it’s all in his head.
“I can help you escape,” she says. “There’s a lot of forest to go through. You might need help.”
He looked down, at his piece of stale bread, lying on the ground.
“Well, I guess I do need help.”
“Follow me, then. Are you hungry?”
She bites at the meat, but he doesn’t feel hungry anymore. He remembers the eyes of the poor animal, the panic, the pain, the blood. So much blood.
“Is something wrong?” she asks.
Her voice is sweet, her face kind, despite her piercing eyes. Her beautiful brown hair falls over her shoulders. It almost makes him forget what she did. Still, he doesn’t touch the meat. You don’t really think about it when it served on the plate. You don’t think about the murder, the living creature before it became food.
The moon is already up when they reach a river. He drinks the cold water, his thirst finally satisfied. She’s sitting on the river bank, her feet in the water. She looks at the moon and seems peaceful. There is something different about her. She looks the same, but the expression of her face is changed. There’s no wilderness in her eyes. He sits next to her, and he feels peaceful, too. She looks at him, and she almost seems sad.
“Do you really live here?” he asks.
“For centuries,” she says.
He touches the fingers of her small hand. She draws them away.
“I just… Thank you,” he says.
“Why are you here?” she asks him.
“I just ran away. My life… I felt like I was losing control over it. I just felt like… Running. Starting fresh. I don’t want to spend my entire life in that small, boring village.”
“You seem to be on a crossroads,” she sighs. “So, that’s why we’ve met…”
She is sad. Why? The night suddenly grows darker. He looks at the sky and he doesn’t see the moon anymore. Dark clouds appeared over it.
“I hope it won’t rain,” he says and turns to her. He finds her changed again.
She stands up, her eyes wilder than ever. No, not wild. Dark. Powerful.
“What are you running away from?” her voice is different, too. It’s unnaturally clear, but not loud. He tries to get up but fails. “Are you running from responsibility? From others? From yourself?”
He wants to ask her what’s going on, but he cannot find his voice. It’s not her anymore. This is a different person. She looks almost more beautiful than before, but much more dangerous. He hears crows screeching, and he is certain he didn’t hear them before. On one side, the water rises. Little drops floating in air. On the other, leaves fly up, and form around her like dark aura.
“Who are you?” he manages to cry out.
“Three roads,” she says. “One goes back to where you started. You ask for forgiveness, and become what you were. No risk, nothing changes. The second road leads to failure. The third leads to everything you’ve wanted.”
He tries to stay calm. To think.
“How do I know which is which?”
“You’ll have to guess it.”
In that moment he wanted to go back. Forget this strange, terrifying day, be who he was before. But he’s not that man anymore. He’s made his choice, and making a choice always means change. A change within. The old is dead, and the new is born.
“Then I’ll guess,” he says. One foot after the other, he went ahead, wherever it may lead.
“In the later poets, Artemis is identified with Hecate. She is ‘the goddess with three forms,’ Selene in the sky, Artemis on earth, Hecate in the lower world and in the world above when it is wrapped in darkness.”
– Edith Hamilton, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes