The light shone through each leaf in the canopy of trees. As the cool autumn breeze bellowed through the evergreens, the roof of the forest fought for unity. There was a glow about each beam of sunlight that kissed the protected ground of the forest. It was a golden hue of life. Never had I seen such picturesque charm from God’s giving hands. It was as if a deity itself had sewn its gentle hands into the trees and enthralled each omniscient fingertip around the canopy of leaves. The warmth of the sun was outshone by the inviting affability of the forest. As if to say, “Come my child, come lay with my creation as my own.” It was as if the entrance to Eden had presented itself to me in all of its inexpressible beauty.

            The fact of the matter was how ordinary this forest had presented itself before. It was monotonously typical. However, today this creation decided to grace me with its presence. As if a door had opened. A realm sought for by mankind. A transcendence into heaven on Earth. I took off my shoes and exposed my bare feet to the embrace of the velvety blanket of grass. My toes tingled as each blade reached upwards like beggars pleading to be released from my toe prison. As I walked toward the entrance of the forest, I looked down. Observing every dent in the luscious greenery reminded me of my concerning tendencies of destruction. It was so utterly satisfying to make a wearing path into the forest.

           As the shade hit my line of sight, my right foot hit a root of a tree. It didn’t hurt like the coffee table usually does. It was more like a promisable texture change. I welcomed the root in my path, grabbing the root with my toes to feel the cold oak. It felt rough, uninviting unlike the hospitable grass. I looked up to see a path of entangled roots that stretched beyond my field of view. The hues of lights danced as the roots. However, the further they went on, the darker the forest grew. This darkness wasn’t a void in the sense of a cynical wickedness. On the contrary, the murky dusk that marked the vast nothingness was golden. It was as yellow as the light that skewered the canopy of leaves. The mist had a welcoming mystery as did the entrance. Flakes of lustrous saffron danced in the mist and turned as if to echo the sweet secrets that lay beyond.

            I was curious, so I decided to play a game. Each sagacious root led way like wise footholds to freedom. My feet made solid, purposeful connections as I maintained a constant gate without touching the forest floor. It was utterly freeing. Often, I over analyze every minute detail. I’m aware of being undemonstrative and analytical to a fault. However, in this moment, I felt free of the chains of practicality. I leapt across roots like a child; filled with the overwhelming sense of adolescent excitement. My exhilaration was all but lost when my foot hooked under one looping rootlet. On a normal day, such an abrupt disruption would completely ruin what was otherwise a genuine moment. Nevertheless, the plunge threw me into the embrace of a wall of leaves. The force of my fall sent me rolling through and onto a thin layer of turf.

            As I lay on my back, I couldn’t help but to laugh at my blind ignorance. The lack of care I would normally take to meticulously watch each root reminded me of how free I felt in this insignificant moment. I was giggling like an infant whilst I would normally be the Atlas of my worries. Regardless, no sneaking bout of worldly responsibility could destroy this fleeting moment of clumsy joy. After a beat and a deep sigh of ecstasy, I stood up to take in the space. There was a large sward. Unlike the grass outside, this expanse could barely grasp at the heavens. It was equally as satisfying to play with in between my bare feet, but also disappointing in that there was more of a shallow footprint as I walked. The vast field of greenery stretched several feet, congregating into the base of what can only be depicted as the largest tree God has ever gifted man. The roots of this imposing behemoth plunged in and out of the green ocean like an interminable pod of dolphins. They weaved in and out among each other, delving into the unknown Earth. These vivacious roots led to the towering bole of this glorious centerpiece. Its branches reached for the heavens mirroring its converging base. I looked toward the middle of the massive trunk and locked eyes with a blackened void of a hole. The whole irradiated the amber mist that I had seen while looking into the forest before. Although, this instance was different. There was an inherent mystery that was blatant. Previously, it was a question of divinity. Now, it was a question of what divine nature could reveal itself. From the hole jumped a large stag. It had a beautiful coat of brown fur and stuck out its bright white cheat in dominance. The stag slowly walked inward towards me after pronouncing itself to the general space. It proceeded to parade its massive antlers. It was then that I realized that not only did it have eleven points on its first rack, but there was a second set protruding from either side of its mouth. These antlers acted almost as seven-point tusks; gaudy in its extravagancy.

            I couldn’t tell whether this was monstrously beautiful or wondrously grotesque. Whatever it was, it made piercing eye contact with me. In an attempt to maintaining some sort of control in the situation, I returned the striking stare. The silence of this moment was accompanied by the subtle rustle of the wind through the leaves of the lush canopy that covered us. In this instance, I couldn’t help but to give into my earthly desires. I felt memorized by its garish gaze. As if it was itself, temptation. Then, the forehead of the deer began to move. An eyelid opened from within the velvet brown fur. This third eye opened wide, showing a remarkable purple. It was a blinding violet; something so abhorrently unnatural that one could not look away. This third eye began to lure me with malicious intent. Prior, my desires were insignificantly impure. However, this third eye brought me from destroying grass to something much more toxic. It spoke to me in ways that I had never been spoken to. It was temptingly destructive and selfish, but I liked the thought. It whispered in my ear to eat the forbidden fruit and cave in to impulse. I knew not to listen, but I couldn’t resist. It was a need, not a want. I was fooled into thinking my blissful and ignorant journey into the mist would release me from these earthly chains. They all flooded back. This stag was purity and yet it was sin. I came to terms with what I needed. It was necessary that I murder this creature. It was of the upmost importance that I do it here in this paradise. I wanted to ruin this gift so that only I could have this experience. I needed this experience for my own gain. For some unknown reason, this experience is the closest I could ever get to God.

            I maintained a constant eye whilst trying to pick myself up from the grass. My body felt heavy, like dead weight as I labored across the sward. The stag maintained a steady gaze and a strong stance as I inched closer. Once I was there at the feet of this beast, my legs caved from pure exhaustion. I was a grasp away from this might creature and it hadn’t moved a single inch. I mustered up the strength to reach my palm out and put it to its chest. The moment that my palm made contact with the fur of the stag; I was taken out of my body. It was a hot white burn. Like the moment before realizing the pain of a burn. I was in a paralyzing shock. In a multilayered voice, it spoke to me.

            “The sweet release of death is the sweet sensation of surrender”

While the entity spoke, millions of voices flooded the empty white void I was in. The voices seemed to be gibberish, but I understood. Some were answers to my deepest desires while others answered questions I didn’t know I had.

            “I have fallen far from home…yet we are the same”

            I could not make sense of what the stag was saying, but the thousands of voices that overlapped in the distance were overwhelmingly insightful. Nevertheless, this moment was over quicker than it had begun. When I came to, I was greeted by that familiar purple iris looking beyond me. This stag was the gate to infinite knowledge; a fallen keeper of God’s omniscience. This was it; I was resolved of everything I had sough and never though to seek. This moment was mine and mine alone.

I reached up again as the beast kneeled in submission. I wrapped my hands around the robust throat and tightened. It was the feeling as if my life had led up to this moment. I was the noose that would end all temptation. I was the book that held all knowledge. I was God. The mighty deer closed its eyes and collapsed without a sign of struggle. My hedonistic desires were fulfilled. As the deity’s last breath escaped this earth, so did my “infinite knowledge”. As I watched the stag died, I began to lose everything that I had gained like a fleeting dream. I looked past the trees in an attempt to keep something. Alas, it was gone. It was all gone. I knew less than I had when I entered the forest.

~ Julian Broadway