Erik’s neck throbs as he opens his eyes to find that he is standing. Any memories of the fall are gone, let alone the attempt to kill his wife and her boyfriend. The only thing on his mind currently is why his neck hurts and how he managed to sleep standing up. At least that’s what he assumed he was doing seconds ago. The answer came quickly when his feet came into focus. Erik’s feet were tied together to a large wooden trunk. He looked up to see above him the green leaves and branches of a large tree. The biggest shock through made him breathless when he looked forward into a world unfamiliar to anything he had ever seen before.
In front of him was a forest of trees. Each tree had two sets of ropes tied to it, one above the other. All the trees seemed to be the same circumference and they all had a body tied to it. It was dark but light snuck through small sections of the leafy canopy. The light seemed to highlight certain trees more then others. Erik assumed there had to be at least a thousand trees in front of him. The majority of the bodies tied to the trees stood with their heads down. Sleeping… dead… Erik didn’t know. Erik began to access how he got here because last he recalled he was standing in front of his house pissing and moaning about his marriage. There was no forest this large in Perry, Michigan… Nothing this large in Michigan, he thought and wouldn’t it be hard to keep the cops from finding a forest of human bodies from the cops?
Someone screamed loudly from behind him after a loud slapping sound. It sounded as if he was smacked with something. That was followed by several others and it seemed like a train of agony was heading toward him. He tried to look behind him to see what he could but the tree was too large. Several more screams. Women and men screamed with the same velocity. The sound of crunching leaves behind him automatically tensed every muscle in his body. Erik couldn’t even expect anything, which was terrifying. His mind began to search for an explanation.
Erik was an alcoholic, it was a demon he fought since early in high school, but he had never passed out and found himself in a situation he could not explain. This was similar to an extreme episode of Criminal Minds and the X-files. The last time he passed out he found himself outside The Office, a bar off of Second Street. Erik was lost in thought and almost missed as a taller man in a hooded red coat stepped from behind the tree and swung a leather strap. The strap hit him hard across his bar legs causing pain to shoot up through his body. He cursed loudly but didn’t scream. The hooded man turned and looked up at Erik. His face was gaunt and his eyes were red, as if he had been up all night. The man then turned and walked forward. He swung the strap and slapped the body in the tree ahead of him. Erik looked to the left and found a line of similar dressed individuals doing the same thing. Erik looked right to see the same thing. Within minutes the screaming had passed like an ocean wave following the current.
Erik struggled with his ropes. His feet were immobile but his arms seemed a little loose.
“It’s a pretty dire situation,” said a sorrowful voice behind him. Erik paused for several seconds, not expecting someone to start a conversation in this situation.
“Is that your opinion,” Erik snapped. “I don’t know why I’m here.”
“I can’t help you much answer that,” said the voice. “My name is Gabriel. I’ve been tied to this tree for maybe three days… I think. Can’t really tell but I might be able to help you if you help me.”
“How are you going to help me? I’m assuming you are tied to a tree too.”
“Correct but I can see that your knots are a bit loose. I can walk you through loosening them.”
Erik followed Gabriel’s instructions and managed to free one hand then the other. His feet sat on a small platform. With some work Erik untied the rope around his ankles. Once free, he was only about 3 feet off the ground so he leapt.
“Brilliant idea, Gabriel,” Erik said as he turned to help his new friend. That’s when he noticed that his friend was not human, at least not as he understood human characteristics. Gabriel was at least seven-foot tall and a pair of wings were tucked behind him. The corners of the wings made him maybe 10 feet tall.
“Yes, I’m sorry I did not tell you,” apologized Gabriel.
“Did not tell me doesn’t even cover have the crap I’m seeing right now but at least now I know I must be dreaming.”
Erik untied his new friend who quickly leapt off the small ledge. Erik stepped back as the large man shook his wings behind him. Several feathers fell to the ground. Erik looked to find that many feathers covered the ground.
“How long have you been tied to the tree?” He asked.
“Excuse me, step back,” Gabriel said as he exercised his wings. “I think I’ve been tied to this tree for years. Lost count after a couple months. We better move on before the forest guards catch us.”
Gabriel began to walk forward when Erik stopped him. “Can’t you fly us out of here?”
“My wings have been tied behind me for several years. Not at the moment.”
Erik and Gabriel stepped forward toward the North end of the forest. Erik noticed that most of the other bodies within the trees were asleep. Some moved slightly but a few others were wide awake and screamed when the two men passed.
“Don’t leave me here!” they pleaded but Erik ignored them the best he could.
“You have to tell me two things, Gabriel,” said Erik. “Where am I and where do I get a pair of those?”
Gabriel laughed which shook the leaves above them. He then quickly stopped. “This is the Forest of the Damned. It is an entry point for creatures coming into this world. It is also one of two prisons designed for creatures that refuse to follow the rules. I am Gabriel, as I have said; my wings were grown upon my back at birth so you cannot receive a pair. I am a harpie, we are native to this land. We need to move…my laughter may bring trouble.”