Land of the hopeless part two, read part one here first
The Forest of Broken Dreams
Time went on, or didn’t, Kay grew exhausted, hungry. She became desperate, despondent, discouraged. The last drop of hope was coursing through her frozen veins, barely keeping her upright let alone moving forwards. Kay had grown used to the monotony of the environment and had long since given up paying attention as she walked, so when she finally did stumble into something she couldn’t quite believe what her senses were telling her. She tripped, stumbled, landed on a floor, springy like early summer grass but still as white and flat as snow.
Rubbing her eyes she looked around. ‘The Forest of Broken Dreams’ proclaimed a sign, suspended between two poles above her head, one side hanging significantly lower than the other, the fog drifted and swirled lazily around it. “At least it’s something different” she said to herself. Brushing imaginary dirt from her knees, she clambered back to her feet and re-assessed her surroundings. Before her lay a gully leading to a large plain, hulking objects were anchored in the sea of fog and stuck out here and there in odd angles. It didn’t seem threatening, just… sad somehow. “Let’s see what’s here” she whispered, carefully climbing down the steep incline.
The closer she got to the bottom, the clearer the air seemed, the fog dissipated into a fine mist but took some of the light with it, she was trapped under a low swirling ceiling, it was claustrophobic, dark and depressing. The already frigid temperature plummeted, each of her gasping breaths was momentarily suspended in a puff of steam. At the bottom, strange and twisted shapes materialised from within the depths of the mist, coming closer she recognised them as trees but they were dead, black and rotting. Their stretching limbs reached up and through the low hanging bank of fog above her.
Hanging from the bare branches were dreamcatchers of every size and shape, walking through the grove she stopped to examine a few closer, all of the beaded strings were snapped, twisted, tied back in knots or hanging in tatters. Kay turned away sadly, her heart jumped into her throat, there was a figure swaying through the trees just ahead of her. Calming down she crept towards the haunting apparition in trepidation, deciding against calling out. Hanging from one twisted branch was a wedding dress, ripped, dirty, old and forgotten. For the first time in what felt like forever, she noticed the first signs of life, maggots crawled through the rotting material and flies buzzed around it. Something cold brushed the nape of her neck, spinning on her heel and letting out a surprised squeak, she saw another dress in the tree next to her, and the one after that… wedding dresses of all shapes and sizes, once white or cream now grey, mouldy, blackened at the edges. Once loved and cherished, now thrown out, abandoned.
The longer she walked through the forest the creepier things got, sections of trees were dedicated to various forgotten dreams, the trees were riddled with children’s toys, teddies with their stuffing hanging out, headless dolls and wheeless cars. Graduation gowns hung forlornly in tatters. Ditches were filled with sports equipment and musical instruments, deflated footballs, rotting violins, tennis rackets with their strings snapped, smashed drums, torn catchers mitts and pianos with half their keys missing. Leaning against the bare trunks were suitcases, their insides spilling out around them, clothes, jewelry and passports littered the ground. She noticed money flowing around her feet, blowing in the breeze caused by her stumbling gait, currencies of every nationality, notes of every size, charred at the edges. Everything was infested, infected with maggots and god knows what other bugs and worms.
Kay couldn’t wait to leave this place, even if it meant returning to the nothingness of the Land of the Hopeless, she couldn’t stand being in here a moment longer. It wasn’t that she was particularly scared, it was unnerving to say the least but more than that it was heartbreakingly sad. Combining the name of the place and the contents of the forest, she somehow knew, that every hope and every wish that was not achieved, that never came true, came here to die, to rot. Tears were streaming down her face without her even realising, she continued searching for the exit, trying not to notice the graveyard of dreams around her.
Looking resolutely ahead of her, Kay noticed a sparkle, a tiny speck of light, shining faintly through the trees. Charging towards it, she stumbled and tripped, caught herself on a tree, her hand went straight through the rotting wood bringing down a shower of maggots that had been infesting several books, caught in the branches above her. Kay screamed and shook herself off, maggots and rotting splinters flew in all directions around her. She shuddered, made sure she was clean and sprinted towards the light.
The closer she got, the more the trees closed in around her, forming a narrow hallway, the branches overhead interconnected, blocking out the last of the dying light, making the faint glint ahead shine brighter in comparison. Kay had almost completely reached the weirdly shining objects before she realised what they were.
Mirrors, they were broken mirrors, facing each other in lines like in a funhouse but instead of reflecting her image in funny, distorted ways, they reflected something much darker. Inside the mirrors were people, trapped and tortured. Some people she vaguely recognised, people who may have been famous, or tried to be, politicians, authors, artists, dancers and singers. Some were silently screaming, their expressions twisted in pain and terror. Others were crying soundlessly, arms stretching towards Kay as she walked passed, as if they could reach through the glass and hold her. But the most disturbing by far were the ones with their mouths sewn shut. Their eyes shining with unparalleled pain and anguish, they shook their heads at her as if warning her, to never lose her voice, never to let it get lost in a crowd. She didn’t know where this thought came from or how she knew what they were trying to tell her, it’s just something she knew, deep in her bones.
At the end of the hallway of horrors stood two mirrors, easily three times the size of the others, they stood flanking a dark tunnel, facing her. As she approached them, the one on the left started playing scenes of her life, her darkest moments. Her drunk, abusive father prowled towards her, face red in anger. Her cold, uncaring mother turned her back on her cries for help. Her classmates at school, ganged up and laughed at her second hand uniform. Her childhood home, an empty house, cupboards bare. She saw herself aging, becoming a teenager, the moment she went off the rails, the moment she started drinking, the first time she tried drugs, the first time she used a razor blade as an answer to her problems. Her very worst moments, played over and over, faster and faster until she screamed. “STOP, STOP. Please, that’s enough, I know, I know what I am, just please stop!” The mirror immediately went dark.
Kay stood in the dark, crying, shaking, ashamed and alone. She finally remembered what she did last night, she had finally found the answer to how she had got here. It was the last image in the loop, the bottle of vodka, the pile of pills. She was dead.