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Welcome Home

D&December, 2017

There is no telling how long you have been watching the golden glow bob through the murky forest like a toy boat on the sea. You do know that you have been walking for hours, that the ache in your long legs burns through your thighs and beats a relentless tattoo to the base of your skull. There is no shelter here beneath the spindly fingers of tree that have twisted upon themselves to reach for you. There is no well-worn path.

There is only the forest and the golden globe that guides you through it.

At least you pray that is the case when a snarl slips from the underbrush at your side. You hesitate, wipe the film of sweat from slippery lips and prickly stubble. A whine and then…then a wail that sends a stab of fear through your heart and now you are painfully pumping your legs as quickly as you can and exploding through the trees. There is a sharp snap when your ankle rolls along a slick stones or slippery moss, but you limp valiantly between brambles out of a thick, soupy fog that you could ladle into a bowl given the tools and time…

She's waiting beside the road clutching the stem of the great, glass lantern in one hand, hair tousled and eyes amused. The caravan, painted in sweeping strokes of scarlet and brilliant blues, and its keepers shuffle uncomfortably and you see that they have been resting beside a ruined wooden bridge that gasps and groans as it settles.

"Are you ready?" She gestures with the globe to the road and you see a glint of mischief in her glances, as though she is asking something entirely different.

"Yes," is the answer that whistles from between your lips, tugged out of your stomach in a cloud of smoke. You try to shove it back inside of you, swallow it back down, but it's floating freely in the fog now. The forest falls silent and when her hand envelops yours, the fear falls, too.

Her voice is a lullaby as she leads you across, lantern swinging and swaying with every step.

"Welcome home."

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