It started with my sister. She was eight. She was kind and gentle. She was smart which is why it never made any sense to me why she’d go into the woods on her own.
We were careful, always. Mama taught us to forage for chicken of the woods, to differentiate between cow parsnip and water hemlock, and never to go past the dead log that crosses the creek.
Mama was devastated. She stared out at the tree line for weeks. She went into the woods looking every day, and every night I’d watch for her to come back.
Until she didn’t.
I told the men of the nearest town what’d happened and into the woods they went, but they didn’t come back.
The missing people became a spectacle to the surrounding towns who sent more and more people into the woods, not to return.
When hundreds went missing, they sent news crews, which brought in hundreds more. Each convinced they’d be the one to solve the mystery of the woods.
Thousands went into the woods and never came out. It seemed it couldn’t get worse until a video leaked to the news. A soldier had been wearing a camera, uploading video directly to his website.
Hell broke loose. It was as though a spell passed over every person who watched.
They had to come see the miles of lush vibrant moss and leaves so green it hurt; to feel the ambient wind that blew the drapey curtains of the willows they saw in that video.
Thousands turned to millions and my town went silent. The TV aired nothing but static. Everything went still.
I couldn’t understand the effect the video had on everyone. I watched on repeat, hoping to feel the overwhelming urge they felt. But nothing came.
So I waited.
For weeks, I waited for someone to come and find me. To tell me they didn’t understand either, but no one did. My heart ached; for my sister, for mama…for myself, all alone.
When I had nothing left, I walked into the woods, past the log and through the willows, until I came to a clearing; huge and circular, carpeted with soft moss.
A woman stood in the middle, like a tree come to life.
“Please,” I wept, “take me, too.”
She smiled a soft, sad smile.
“You had a chance.” She whispered along the wind.
She left, and the clearing went with her. I was alone, in the dark, swampy woods. I don’t know how long I cried, just until I had nothing left.
I think I’m the last person on Earth.