Enid rode a bike through the forest every Sunday. She wasn’t particularly fond of the route she took but it was the most efficient and so, being Enid, she refused to try alternatives, despite the fact that some of them could have brought new experiences to the young woman’s mind and saved her from a potentially unfortunate event.
On one disjointed Sunday, after spending the night at her father’s, Enid cycled back home; down his unswept, winding lane to the single tracked road that led to the entrance of the forest. Enid sped up and took the corner, off the road and onto the track, without a second thought, and without slowing down.
It was dusk, and the leaves swept about her long socks as the autumn wind picked up making her lean forward to gather more speed. When she did this it felt as though the trees in front leaned away from her, making way for her and her bicycle. So she pedaled faster.
The track was straight but long. She knew this. This was her seven-hundred and thirteenth time cycling back this way - after making dinner and cups of tea for her elderly, solitary father. Since his new wife had died suddenly a week after the marriage, he had become a recluse and had moved back to his family cottage, further from human contact than Enid thought necessary. But she respected his wishes. Regardless, he was not well suited to living alone, whatever he told everyone as well as himself.
Without warning, an unseen force lashed out at the rider in a concentrated stream of leaves from the treeline. Enid bounded from the saddle as the bicycle began to reverse away from her. It followed the instructions of her whispered commands, half-lost in the flow of the gusting winds. Enid had her fists clenched. Whatever had just tried to topple her was rude. She knew that much. It had gone not for her head but somewhere else. And it was going to pay for that. Or at least be forced to explain itself.
Enid stopped at a bank a good quarter of a mile from where her bike had rode off and looked into the denser parts of the trees and leaf floors ahead. The wind was pushing leaves up the bank and some even broke free, tumbling into the dark haven where she looked on. She stood still and silent. Waiting for something. Someone.
And then from the seemingly bleak brown portal, with leaves falling about them, a figure rose up.
It was made of the fallen, already mulching, rotting leaves and branches that had once belonged to the ancient plant life that shook still upon the arrival of the new form.
The figure grew and stretched its limbs in a way such that it fed itself more material from the ground beneath it.
Enid looked on. Unamused but surprised at herself for not recognising the thing at first. It was the old woodthink. A collective singleton representative of the forest community. The form frowned, exaggerating a face-like shape out of ash twigs and all manner of seed bearers and leaves.
Looking quickly around, Enid whispered a hurried forest greeting to a nearby crow that had hesitantly hopped down from within the other bank. The dismissed crow flapped up and vanished behind the woodthink.
Silently, the air had returned to being light to breathe; and the sun pierced through the canopy. With a gust and a rush of fallen leaves, the forest life had agreed to peace once more and Enid was alone again, her bike by her side.