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A little bird, a hummingbird once envied by all but now old and grey, sat on a branch near the entrance of an ancient forest.
In the morning, it was the most beautiful sight ever witnessed by any creature.
The gentle wind would whisper to the lonely traveler, and guided the swaying trees.
“Come to me,” it would say.
“Come to me.” The trees nodding in agreement.
But in the night, as the little critter knew, the forest would show all those within its darker purpose for it was no ordinary forest.
In it lay something long forgotten.
Something of which the people dare not speak.
All who knew what hid inside the dark twists and turns of the thick forest had perished to the evil that roamed within.
The little bird though, small, weak and weary as it was, still remembered.
Remembered what would happen to any and all who ventured too far and long past its gates.
It knew the whispers, knew the words and it even knew the being behind it.
A terrible thing, one that had scarred its little soul for this existence and the next.
And for this reason, the little bird would sit on his branch near the entrance, the maw of the great forest, and warn any passersby of their impending doom.
“Return now, for only death awaits those fools who venture onward!” it would cry out in a fiendish shriek.
Often, it would have the desired effect.
It was not the message, for warnings are seldom heeded by humans, but the startling cry, a cry of utter despair that would often break the spell the forest had on its prey.
But sometimes, when a mind was just too curious, or when they were there on their own accord, it would not work.
The little bird could do nothing but see the doomed walk towards their end.
Then, under the cover of night at exactly three past twelve, one standing near the entrance could hear the most horrifying things.
Cries, wails, screams and final prayers of those still on the beast’s grounds.
When, after a few minutes, depending on how many had entered during the day, the cries would stop and a faint laugh could be heard.
A laugh and a whisper.
“Come, little critter, come to me.”
The little critter would answer the same, every night of every day.
“Why would I?”
“A life for all life."
“Come to me and I will slay no more,” the whispers would say.
The little bird, old and wise as it was, knew this to be false but still…
It hurt the small, gentle creature.
It slowly chipped away at its soul, at its sanity for it was a saintly deal to be struck.
Imagine one had the power to stop all disease.
The price, a life.
Your very own.
Would you do this?
Most would, but what if it were a great risk?
What if it were uncertain that the disease would even stop, would one persist?
The evil knew of this inner conflict as it knew all within its dark domain, for it repeated the damning words every night of every day.
One dark, winter’s day, after the beast had feasted well, it once again spoke to the bird.
It whispered into its ear the same thing as it always does.
“Come, little critter, come to me.”
Only this time, the little bird fell off its branch near the entrance of the dark forest.
It crashed to the soft, leaf covered ground below and lay there motionless for what seemed to be hours.
Eventually, the bird got up and started walking the path.
It hopped along, one of its legs slightly injured from the fall, toward its doom.
I just sat, watched and listened.
Then, at what my watch claimed to be exactly three past twelve, I heard a faint whisper in the dark.
A whisper so gentle that if one tried to force it into his mind, it would break and be lost forever.
It spoke thus.
“A little bird, old and grey, sat on a branch one dark, winter’s day.
“It sat and watched the people below, warning them of utter woe.
“Yet the people did not heed the cries of the little bird, and fell to me, their undying guilt.
“For this forest, a forest of death, with a creature of own design.
“It haunts us all, just a matter of time.”