There was a calm in the air, a calm which no man could truly experience for the fact that his very presence would upset it. It was not a calm formed of silence, but rather a tranquil rhythm to the falling leaves, the flapping of wings, and the cracking of twigs under padded feet. Michael was the exception to the rule of men in the realm of the green. He was entwined with the forest more closely than the roots to the fertile earth.
The woodsman burrowed his back into the pit of a tree, legs hanging lazily on the branch. The tattered green coat that that enveloped him blended him with the pines that surrounded him on all sides. Only the fleeting strands of light strained through the canopy fell upon his hooded face, rough and layered in unkempt hair the color of flecks of gold lost in dirt. Four years. Had it really been that long? It seemed only yesterday he had woken up with blood on his hands, and memories of another living within him that he could not control. It seemed only yesterday he had fled into the wilderness, away from those the other would hurt. But no. It was not yesterday. It had been four years.
They must miss me, he thought, My family, my friends. God, what were their names? I've hardly thought of them for so long, I can't remember what they look like. How long was I on their minds before they gave up and let me fade away? It doesn't matter. He jumped down to the forest floor, the energy of the forest powering his heart with the still, powerful, grace of the wolf. I've been dead for a long time.
Michael stalked the woods, scaling a mound of boulders and lowering his hood, feeling the wind race through his hair as he basked in the mid-morning sun. He sprouted a thorn from his wrist and drove it into a narrow space between the boulders, wedging it deep within the rock. The spike melded flawlessly into the thick, lush vine growing from his wrist. He dove over the edge and crashed into the side of the rock face. He could feel a shard of bone jabbing his side with each breath, but he kept his hold on the vine. The rib slowly mended itself inside his torso and he began letting the vine out, belaying down the side until his feet touched solid ground. The end of the vine slithered from his wrist, the long green rope dangling before him. He could hear something rustling in the brush behind him. He didn't have to turn to know what it was. He had been here too long to surrender to such a simple response and spook his prey. A thorn slowly snaked out of his wrist. He took firm hold of the spike, teeth clenched in anticipation.
In a fluid motion too fast to see, he spun on his heel and cast the thorn with expert precision into the shade of the treeline. There was a thud, a screech, and a stomping of hooves as the tho stabbed into the base of the deer's throat. The deer thrashed, his antlers gouging the dirt and bark as he played out his death throes. Without fear or hesitation, Michael walked up alongside the writhing buck, pine needles cracking with every step. He placed his boot heel on the butt of the thorn and delivered the act of mercy.
Michael carried the buck over his shoulder, sliding down the incline and hopping over brush. The trees fell away, the hillside carved into the shape of a bowl, and at the base of it was his dwelling, his home. The distant trees were bound with vines, all converging in the center to form a web, thatched with bark and mud. Shafts of wood jutted up from the ground to form a wall for the circular house. This was no desolate hut. Between his powers, his skills, and years of refinement, it was the definition of luxury sprouting from the dirt, entwined with the forest itself. He passed through the doorway and dropped the buck down on the dressing table right outside. His bed was along the back wall, a dining table and chairs, lord knows why he made two. Every piece of furniture was ruggedly crafted, whittled smooth by his own hands. He threw his coat up on the hook, which was really a thorn driven into the wall, and sat down on the couch. He felt the fine fur stretched across the seat. His white t-shirt had turned grey, holes worn through at the shoulder, chest, and back. His jeans were brown up to the knee from mud, his shoes caked in the same forest grime. He sighed, running his fingers through his whiskers. He had shaved once with a thorn that he sharpened on a rock. It hurt. If it weren't for the medicinal green blood that spilled from his every wound, he would have lost a good portion of the skin on his face. Memories aside, he felt the years marked upon him, growing out like ivy slithering up and encasing an old, abandoned house.
As the sun began to wain, the woodsman rose up and took the thorn, sharpened to a razor's edge, from the kitchen table and walked back outside. The air had cooled. The woods were alive with creatures making their last rounds and settling down for the night. Some, at least. He rolled the dead deer on his side and began cutting. He set a few chunks of meat on a spit over the fire pit built of rocks and quickly ignited a small blaze, stoking it and building it up until the meat began to sizzle. He stored the rest of the deer meat and took a bucket of water from under the dressing table, washing his hands. The dirt and blood that had clung to his hands for years was too stubborn to be washed away beyond the superficial stains. He chewed a fistful of herbs as the meat cooked
He stretched out his aching arms and wandered into his home. He crawled onto his hard, unforgiving bed. He dared go to sleep, knowing that he could very well wake up as the other. Still, before laying down, he sat upright and closed his eyes, whispering his mantra and steadying his heart. He listened to the forest, whispered to it, asking for it to keep him, guide him, protect him. He went through these exercises of repression every night and every dawn, perfecting the art to bury his enemy deep inside himself. As he finished, he lay down and waited for sleep to embrace him, hoping once again that he would be the one to wake up. If he was fortunate enough to be the one, he wondered how the next day would be of any difference from the monotonous days passed. What would tomorrow bring?"
Days since last relapse: 46