xxxx. French’s Forest, Form For Me
The day she turned seven, little Eva Marin started having strange dreams at night. They started very innocently, as her curious child’s mind was open to all.
The mural of a mountain, Forest and valley painted on her bedroom wall came alive while she slept—as a distant world revealed itself. It was escapism from life.
In the foreground, a jaguar perched upon a precipice of the mountain―overlooking a lush green valley, that was filled with a silver fog.
In the middle-ground stood a blue wood, through which wound a redstone trail. The scene was as if from a fantastical storybook, but none she knew.
A sign on the path read: ‘Ruddy Stroll’. Down in the lower right-hand corner of the overall mural, the work of art was signed in an almost child-like scrawl:
‘French’s Forest’ by Evan French
There was no date signed—and Eva knew nothing else of the mysterious painting’s origins. All she knew was that it helped her to take off to another place.
When she slept—all along the wall―to vanishing point—the limbs of the Forest swayed with life, like countless restless soldiers in an army of darkness, perpetually on alert for what night held.
Their trunks ran over a sea of rambling hillocks―up the side of a massive mountain, to a darkly crowned ridge―where clouds parted for an old wooden sign that prominently read:
MOUNT MIRAMAR, 8,888 Feet
Above the sign, the moon never waned—hanging full every hour of the month—day or night in the Forest. That lunar landscape was ever awash in light.
In her dreams, Eva could hear coyotes howling—owls hooting—and wailing mating sounds all night long. The cacophony of the wood was everpresent.
Cricket song pierced the crisp Forest air in frenzied symphonies―as frog croaks ballooned tenfold under the heavy dome of darkness—where echoes effortlessly collected, culminating in a chorus wild for the wilderness. The place was so alive.
Shrill cries rang out―as claws clashed in the pitch—and the belly of bedtime held nothing less than every horror Eva’s heart could imagine—to a musical backdrop—with notes of insanity and dischord in ample doses. It was dark.
In the fall, her night visions would gather shade, as the trees shed their leaves―growing more crooked and wraith-like—and the weald turned even more wild than it were―as animal cries ran rampant—and the calls of territorial strife rang out from the trees, rolling all across the valley.
On those autumn eves―the jaguar would pace back-and-forth, lowly growling, always on guard—on watch for whatever might emerge from the shadows. The jaguar was her protector, her keeper from harm, who never slept.
In the summertime, when the mural bore more blue skies—the jaguar took small naps—but when the night rolled in—he remained ever on alert and unsettled. French’s Forest was no place for a young girl to venture forth in alone, so he stayed.
Then down in the bottom of the valley stood a tree, in which were perched seven red ravens, that would occasionally swoop out, especially when the sun was up—so they could soar about, bathing in solar waves. They were so very beautiful.
But like the jaguar, under the cold evening stars, the ravens would ruffle their feathers in concerted discomfort at every eerie sound to come from the Forest. The animals of the wood knew best when the trees tremored to beware.
Eventually, Eva took this jaguar and those ravens to be her true guardians—and she grew unafraid of them. She learned to trust them when it was safe to wander and when it was best to remain under the safety of her silken sheets.
In fact, she came to feel better just knowing they were always there—between her and the Forest—and she started to feel that she would not at all be disinclined toward forging a friendship with them if it were possible. If only that she knew how.
Indeed, with the security of knowing they were there―she became increasingly intrigued by them—as well as the enchanted Forest scene—forever more fascinated with the mural as it continued to become animated for her personal amusement each night. It was a dream.
But every morning, memory of the Forest would quickly fade—until she hit the pillow again that evening. During the day, she would begin to grow numb again, to begin to hate the world and living in it. She would forget what adventure awaited.
Each night then, she would curl up under cover in her four-post bed―peeking out from her sheets at the valley, Forest and mountain beyond—always trying to catch the jaguar moving before she fell asleep, as proof that she was not just dreaming—but the cat never budged an inch before she ever did close her lids.
Sometimes she would pretend to sleep―only to sneak a quick glance―but all animation was still nil while she was conscious. It was only after she had drifted off that the cat came out to play again, to take her away from boredom.
This game of hers carried on for weeks, until one day she was talking to her mother about dreams. Her mother said that she could control them, just by thinking to do so before going to sleep.
“Just say to yourself: ‘I will clearly remember my dreams in the morning. I will easily control them in my sleep. I will make them what I wish them to become. They will be what I dream them to see.’
Eva agreed to try this—and that night, she found that after a little practice, she could master the wheel of her dream well enough to control it. She learned how to bend and manipulate the land of sleep.
So one day, while she was awake, now remembering everything from her dreams for many nights prior, she finally decided to try to speak to the cat directly. So she stood right before the wall mural.
“My name’s Eva …” she said shyly.
The jaguar’s brow then furrowed.
“Why do you only play at night?”
The cat stood up, now stretching.
‘Dear Eva,’ he said, for the first time confirming his sentience, for the first time coming alive during the daytime. ‘It is you that only comes out at night … … …’
But despite her amazement at his animation, she frowned in confusion at the black cat’s cryptic statement. She did not yet understand how her imagination lived.
Seeing this, he said: ‘Child … During daylight hours, humans are the ones dreaming. It is only when they go to sleep, that they are finally truly so freed.’
“So, if it is daytime now, and I am awake, then I am dreaming. The only difference being that I am in charge this time. I am in control of my sleepwalk.”
‘That is precisely correct, child.’
After a pause, Eva then asked:
“So … What is your name … …?”
‘I have none anymore. Not now.’
“Then I will name you―let’s see …”
Just then the clock struck twelve.
“―Midnight!” she squeaked high.
It became habit thereafter, that whenever Eva could not sleep, if Midnight were awake, he would keep her company, telling her stories from his many years in the Forest. He had countless tales to tell.
He told her all about how the weald was where dead people went to sleep―and where the living who had rejected the dream world came to live—in order to divine their futures free of the constrictions of that old third dimension.
He warned her that much about the Forest was both terrifying and fascinating—and should be respected and feared at the same time. He said that there were things lurking under shroud of darkness that should not ever be underestimated.
‘It is the Wood of the Unconscious, Dear Eva,’ he explained. ‘Through astral projection, anyone can visit here in ‘dreams’. However, that does not restrict access to only good people. Evil ones come here to, in order to sow their hurt.’
Needless to say, Eva was impressed by all of it―and she found herself growing increasingly curious about visiting French’s Forest. Each day she would ponder on what discoveries she might come across that night in that weird old wild weald.
She was the only child of a single mother who was a full-time nurse―and so she was forever looking out for adventure far from her lonely home life. French’s Forest screamed to her a chance for a break from the mundane, from the same.
“Midnight … Can you take me deeper into French’s Forest someday?” she asked during one talking session. She wanted to explore further, despite the dangers. She wanted to see what that wood harbored that was so intriguing.
Midnight slowly, solemnly shook his head side-to-side. ‘It is too dangerous for a child, Eva. You must not go deeper.’
“Please?!” she begged―fronting her most pitiful eye-set. “What would be the harm? What is so scary in the Forest?”
‘It is just a bad idea, in every way.’
“Enter here—never return!” the red ravens cried in unison, chiming in on the conversation―supporting Midnight’s doubts, by offering their similar warning.
‘You cannot flee family issues, Eva … You cannot escape the world you live in, even if it is mostly a dream. You must learn to embrace it with open eyes.
‘French’s Forest is really more for those misfits of the mind―and outcasts of the soul―who have nowhere else to turn to for catharsis in life, who cannot wake.
‘You have your mother to think of …
‘She loves you here and now in this world. It is just the two of you—and you deserve her support—just as much as she now needs yours. You must not leave her.
‘She has been working too many hours—and you miss her so much. We know it is hard sometimes to embrace life—but we think you ought to try. For your own sake, it is better. It is best to stay.’
Eva grew tearful. She wanted to leave so badly it hurt. She hated this world so much, all she wanted to do was sky along the Ruddy Stroll free as a fawn.
‘Please, don’t cry … Now, Eva …’
Eva nodded, still pouting heavily―but tears stemming off. “Will I ever get out of here even just once?” she blubbered. “Mom will never know the difference, if she thinks I’m sleeping …”
‘Poor Eva, you must understand …
‘A boy, Evan, who once lived here before you―who painted this mural and divined this powerful gateway to the Forest—lost himself over there forever.’
“Oh my God, what happened?”
‘One day the wood consumed his consciousness completely—and he was exiled from your world. He was lost to it.
‘His father found the bed empty the next morning—and he assumed the boy had run away. He was never seen again.’
“So he never escaped the Forest?”
Midnight shook his head shortly.
“I will be more careful, I promise … Take me to French’s Forest just once! I swear to God … I will never go back there ever … ever again … I swear, I swear …”
Ultimately, Midnight fell to his pity.
‘You may very well be safer knowing how to explore French’s Forest anyway, I suppose,’ he said. ‘Otherwise you may someday find your way there on your own―and go getting yourself killed …
‘But listen―French’s Forest is a dangerous place … You have to stick to the redstone at all times … Never, never, never stray from the Ruddy Stroll …
‘Never interact with anything at any time. Never make eye contact, nor allow yourself to be tricked by any illusion.
‘As a general rule, leave no trace where you go, so you do not draw unwanted attention your way, ever …’
Eva nodded slowly, but felt excited.
She recognized the tone of grave advice—but she could not wait to have an adventure for once. It was time for her.
‘When you first arrive in French’s Forest―you are just a manifestation of your sleeping mind. You are not real.
‘But the more you grow used to going there—and being there―the more control you will gain. Just as you learned how to control your dreams—you will now learn how to navigate them to their fullest extent. Your powers will grow in turn.
‘Then, the better that you get, you will begin to be able to materialize yourself more and more firmly onto the Forest plane—and each time that you return, your force will in turn reinforce itself—as you feed off of the ley lines—and develop your purest astral body. You will be born.
‘Beware, however, that if you stay too long for any reason, you will begin to disassociate from your corporeal body more and more—until you finally lose yourself to a false reality—just like Evan did. Beware Evan’s fate dear sweet Eva.
‘Never call French’s Forest home.’
Eva then nodded most emphatically.
“I promise! I will never stay there.”
‘We will see,’ the cat said gravely.
“So how do I get there? Tell me.”
‘I will now tell you just this once how to get started―so listen closely, as I doubt I will be so willing again, given time to think about it. Do not make me regret.’
Eva bit her lip in tense anticipation.
After a short silence—Midnight said:
‘All you must do, is close your eyes and let your thoughts drift back to a carefree place … Back to lighter times.
‘Then rise up high, to the zenith of clarity, over the crown of the trees in your mind―and you will see a blue light there, that is the Sun of All Sacred Eternity …
‘Now, say the words seven times:
‘French’s Forest, form for me …
‘Say it with me now, Dear Eva …
‘French’s Forest, form for me … French’s Forest, form for me … French’s Forest, form for me … ‘ Midnight began to chant—and Eva joined in. “French’s Forest, form for me … French’s Forest, form for me … French’s Forest, form for me … French’s Forest … … … Form for me.
“French’s Forest, form for me …”
Eva opened her eyes to find herself walking the Ruddy Stroll toward a golden plain and French’s Forest beyond. Trees rolled across the horizon—as Mount Miramar loomed up behind in the misty distance. This was truly the place beyond.
She spotted some colorful birds at the wood—and some prowling eyes trailing beside her for times. She was undeterred.
She heard some beautiful sylvan songs—and some blood-curdling calls—mixed together in a dance. It was wild.
She got so close she often almost broke her promise to Midnight about non-interaction—but then she would retreat to her waking life, until the next night, when she would begin again to explore the woods. Each time she came closer to it.
Her mother started asking her why she spent so much time in her room―and she explained that she was just in there reading her books. She was just escaping.
She always kept her bedroom door locked after eight anyway, so that her mother would not come barging in to find that her bed was empty. She was smart.
The few times her mother knocked to say goodnight, Midnight covered for her—imitating Eva’s voice―calling back: ‘Good night, Mommy!’ He imitated well.
So then, for eleven years in this way, Eva stayed on the Ruddy Stroll―ever remaining an aloof observer—heeding Midnight’s warning. She was wise enough.
But when she turned eighteen―at the summer solstice―her caution finally weakened—and in a moment of poor judgment, she decided there could surely be nothing wrong with veering off of the Ruddy Stroll for just a little bit on her birthday. She felt like she must have finally earned it—after all those years of patiently padding that old redstone path.
Then while crossing through a remote nook of the wood by the Payne, under a majestic canopy of constellations―she came on a pool, where she stripped down to swim under stars.
After awhile, the clouds blotted out the cosmos, darkening the sky into a storm-front—and when a wall of rain rolled in, she decided that she better get back.
But as she started to swim for shore—lightning started opening up all around. Then a great bolt crashed down into the pool—instantly electrifying her body now.
She cried out—as the water turned into a silver twister and swallowed her up. She writhed in agony under the eddies—undergoing a supernatural transformation that would change her life forever then on.
Her ears pointed at the tips—as her hair bled to black—horns protruding from her head—as her skin turned silver—and eyes grew green as grass. Faye was cast.
Then She rose out of the water, dripping liquid silver, ascending through the air—when from out of the depths of the pool below, a great anaconda shot up high into the atmosphere, spiraling a thousand feet toward the zenith in the clouds—before eventually slowing to a stop—then coming back down in long, graceful swoops and arcs—until ultimately slowing in descent—coiling in around Her waist. The ghost of the long dead silver elf, Lady Faye of French’s Forest, was finally reborn. The Silverskin was home.
Eva was now posessed by the One.
She raised Her hands up in submission to the dark clouds—as the powers of French’s Forest infused Her with their otherworldly vibrations. She howled.
Then lightning blasted―striking Her upon the head, channeling down through Her upstretched arms—out through Her feet—for a split second parting the pool below—sealing her new fate as Lady Faye.
From that day forward, She was no longer Eva the Observer—but Faye the Destroyer. She was as much Devil as all.
She was no longer just a girl, but now She was a dark and twisted, demonic huntress. She was two sides of spectrum.
In Her left hand, She formed Her bloodshield Hete—and in Her right hand—Her blue firesword Ierre—and from then on, to a distant day―whenever She went to sleep at night—She lived on as Faye, roaming French’s Forest to sate the seat of Her sadism. She shed pink skin for beast.
(Author’s Note: If you are enjoying The Silverskin, you can buy the full 400 page Revised & Expanded 10th Anniversary edition paperback here. Forever Yours In French’s Forest, Rian Torr)