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Marie couldn’t help the shiver than ran through her as she stopped in her tracks once more.
“Nope, there is definitely someone following me…” She shivered again at the implications of her thought. “Who is it though?”
Marie had been walking through these woods since she was six years old, and each time she heard those same footsteps. Always they followed her.
She wondered why someone would constantly follow her. She was nothing special. Marie lived a very modest life as a bookstore owner in the small town she had been born in. She knew that she would never leave the sleepy little town and had never had the desire to do so. She loved her home and her cats. They were her life and she was fine that.
Having been followed every time she entered the woods, Marie was used to the footsteps she heard. Whoever it was never appeared to her and never seemed to follow her outside of the woods. Marie never felt threatened by the presence, it was just the opposite. She felt like she was being protected by whoever was there. She only wished she knew who it was and why they followed her every time she came to this place, her sanctuary.
A strong desire to speak to her follower overcame her, but as every time before she let the desire pass and continued walking forward in silence.
“You should not go that way little one.” Marie froze as the voice resonated from behind her. “You have lost your way. What consumes your thoughts that you have mis-stepped and gotten lost in your own forest?”
Marie turned around slowly. The man, or so she assumed from the deep voice resonating behind her, was covered and hooded in a black cape. Marie could feel her mouth dry up. The man’s face was cast in shadow, shadows that should not have been there when they stood in broad daylight.
The forest she lived near and played in since her childhood was not very dense. The trees grew in random spots but it was still very easy to maneuver through them.
Marie still didn’t feel threatened, though the Shadow Man had appeared from nowhere and his features could not be seen.
“Little one?” He called to her, and she could hear the concern.
Marie averted her eyes to the ground.
She heard a rustle of leaves and then he was there before her, lifting her chin gentle with a gloved hand. Marie looked up at where the man’s face would have been, but still the shadows remained, masking him from her.
“You’ve always been here with me. You’re the one who always follows me when I go into this forest.” Marie stated gently.
“Yes,” he breathed.
“Why?” It was a simple question, but she could feel the tension roll off the man.
“When you first entered here you ran straight into a den of wolves. You thought that they were dogs and tried to play with them, even when they had bared their teeth at you. I had felt a presence within the forest and so had come to investigate. I came to you just in time to keep the wolves from tearing you to pieces.” The man whispered.
Marie blinked in confusion. “I don’t remember that.”
“You were terrified of the dogs… and of me…” The man said. Marie heard overwhelming sadness in his voice. “I did not wish you to fear the forest, or myself, so I clouded over your memories.”
Marie’s mouth opened but she couldn’t any make words come out. One thought kept playing itself through her mind and finally made it’s way past her lips. “How?”
She could feel him tense once more.
“I’m not like you little one. I’m very different. I must stay covered as people are terrified of my appearance and even my presence. It is the reason that I live out in the woods, so that I will not disturb anyone.” He spoke cautiously.
“I’ve never felt threatened when you followed me. I only felt that you were there to protect me. What happened to you that people would fear your appearance.” Marie questioned.
“Nothing happened to me, little one. It is just how I was born. As I said, I am not like you. I am not… human, little one.” The man spoke haltingly.
Marie’s eye widened. “What… what are you?” She asked hesitantly.
The man sighed heavily. “I should not have revealed myself to you. Please know that I will never hurt you. I would only ever see you happy and safe. I will not appear to you again.” The man turned his back on Marie, walking away from her.
“Wait!!!” Marie said as she ran after the man.
The man turned toward her just in time for Marie to crash into him. The man tried to stabilize them to keep upright, but Marie had caught him off guard and so they fell to the soft leaves beneath them.
As they fell the cape became twisted between them and so the hood fell from the man’s face, breaking the shadows and finally revealing him to Marie’s curious gaze.
“Oh my…” Marie gasped as she looked upon the face of the man who had been a sort of Guardian Angel to her. She reached her fingers and traced the black markings that swirled against his blue skin.
Marie had glimpsed his eyes widened in shock as they had fallen and knew that his eyes were not normal either. He had his eyes closed now, she assumed so that he wouldn’t scare her more with his inhuman coloring. For it was just that, that was not normal about him. His face was human, but his skin was the dark blue like the sky right before the sun completely disappears for the night. The markings seemed to have no real pattern that they followed.
Marie was fascinated with the black markings and continued to trace them on the man’s face. The man barely seemed to breathe as she continued her entranced exploration.
“Open your eyes.” Marie whispered. She was scared to move herself off of him, afraid that if she moved the spell would be broken and he would leave. She wasn’t afraid of him. His appearance had shocked her certainly, but as she took her time to study his features she found that his face was perfectly shaped. It almost seemed as if he had been sculpted from marble to have smooth and beautiful features.
“Little one,” He breathed.
“Marie,” she corrected him.
“Marie,” he said and Marie felt a jolt of pleasure run through her as her name rolled off his tongue. “I do not think this is such a good idea.”
“Please, open your eyes.” She said gently as she caressed his eyelids.
The man sighed and slowly opened his eyes. Marie gasped and the man quickly closed them.
“I…I didn’t say to close them.” Marie said shakily as she felt herself tremble.
The man began to tremble slightly underneath her, but he did as she commanded.
Marie could see the worry in his eyes and the fear that she would reject him. Marie let out a shaky breath as she looked into his eyes. His were yellow where hers were white and red where hers were brown.
“You are beautiful.” And Marie meant it. His features were severe but they held such mysterious beauty that drew her in.
The man’s eyes widened in shock as he registered her words. “Beautiful?” He whispered as if he didn’t quite believe she had said it.
Marie smiled brilliantly down at him. “Yes,” she reassured him. “Your features are shocking but once they are studied it’s easy to see the beauty in the deep blue of your skin and how the black markings enhance your facial structures.”
Marie stopped as an interesting thought raced through her mind. “So,” she smiled shyly as she blushed, “do those markings go everywhere on your body?”