My girlfriend broke up with me today.
Another inevitability. But I’m not upset to be honest, because I saw it coming, like I do everything. And that’s what brought me here.
My name is Griff Adler. And I’m about to- best case scenario- end my life in the crux of the Everfree forest, more commonly known as “Stygian’s Grasp”. Landmarks like these- y’know, urban legends and stuff like that, have always been a foriegn concept to me. It was easily difficult for me to grasp the thought of travel. Whether it be by carriage, or by fleet, or by hoof. It’s never really interested me as a mostly Umbrumian boy.
But I’m at least old enough to realize that some creatures don’t go to those secluded islands for sightseeing. Needless to say, I’m not travelling for that reason either.
It’s said that anyone that’s ever entered the forest has never come out. Which, I mean, it’s a forest. People could totally just be dying off from natural causes. I dunno, like starvation, or hypothermia, or something else. My big sister used to say that Stygian’s Grasp got its name from the era in which the pillars had been yanked into limbo. Around the time before the Ghastly Gorge became the Ghastly Gorge. Apparently it’s been shrouded under a belligerent penumbra for a long time. Like, a long, long time.
Yeah, evidently it’s been sucked lifeless ever since Stygian had become a huge shadow. When my hooves touched the ground I felt a cloud of dust collecting under the beds of my trotters. My nose scrunched violently in disgust- anything to do with dirt or muck made my heart race in agitation.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist, meaning that I’m never really happy with what surrounds me unless it’s perfectly accommodating my needs at the current moment. It’s...one of the reasons she left me. I was never happy enough for her. Always angry, always aggressive.
My eyes met the ground for the first time since I landed. I watched as the warden waved goodbye- I saw my weary eyes tinted gold in the vehicle’s reflection. It hissed at me with judgement- or perhaps that was just how I felt while I glared at myself.
My violent red eyes and solid, unmoving black pupils centered perfectly in the middle slightly unnerved me. They say that one’s eyes are windows to the soul.
I was feeling very empty.
My unkempt, pearly white locks spilled over my shoulders, and my supposed yellow pelt tinted a nasty grey. I hated staring at my ugly mug in the reflection. Because it showed me who I truly was.
...I’m rambling, right?
I was talking about...about the forest. Stygian’s Grasp, Hold, whatever the hell it’s called. Yeah, apparently all who enter start feeling some kinda way about themselves. And then they can never get far because by the time they’ve entered the heart of Stygian’s Grasp they end up killing themselves.
Yeah, I’m not buying into that. But I guess I may as well humor myself since I have nothing better to do. While I trudge into the forest, I spot a whole bunch of dormant trees. Their branches twist and tangle into a visual cacophony, and already I’m slightly irked.
But I figured that if this was all the madness Stygian had to offer me, that I should continue on my journey. My saddlebags stay clutched to my side as I trek forward into the unknown; I was definitely glad I’d brought my hoodie. Or at least layered. I wore an off white hoodie in contrast to my mocha brown overcoat, and topped it off with my dark orange cap. I wanted to try my best not to undermine my little “experiment”- if I’d died of hypothermia or something I wouldn’t get the chance to truly prove my theory. Or society’s theory. How the hell does a forest make you kill yourself?
My plan was to bring my notebook- the one I’m writing in now, obviously- and document my thoughts on the side as I surveyed the environment. And so far? Not really feeling it. The fog swirled ominously around what would be clear skies; though I wasn’t very mentally intimidated it was admittedly a bit unnerving to watch the dust collect and loom around me.
Watching my every move.
Waiting for me to prove everyone right.
I surveyed the dead trees with frantic eyes for a moment.
“...wait a damn minute.”
I just entered this forest like five minutes ago and already I’m giving myself a vibe check. I mean, it could just be dumb luck. After all, the circumstances in my love life would outweigh whatever the hell could happen in a secluded spot in the Everfree. Maybe I was just getting in my own head about things. Maybe I’m just downing myself on purpose. Maybe I want to think that this is actually gonna work.
I don’t care about that right now. So I shook my head and continued on my journey. The sun slipped past the horizon faster than I could keep track of- like the moon made a hundred-yard-dash just to beat the stars into the dark skies. It was almost like everything was in a rush to intimidate me.
The night was frigid- it appeared that even the multiple layers of clothing wouldn’t shield me from the unbearable cold. I wasn’t very bothered given my best interests at the moment- my greatest achievement that night was to die. But again, I’d prefer my death to be by my own doing rather than natural causes.
I’m repeating myself again. Almost like this never ending forest. I swear to Sombra I’ve seen that tree before. Isn’t that the mound of dirt I kicked over an hour ago?
Not even a night spent in these woods yet and I was already facing a critical trial and error. I still haven’t found anywhere to rest due to the fact that I’ve been stuck in a never ending limbo for three fucking hours. Yeah, it doesn’t get any worse than that.
It strikes me even now that lashing out at myself and everything around me wouldn’t result in anything groundbreaking. Unless it was a few plucked wing feathers, or a sore hoof. But nothing could compare to the overwhelming dread I felt when I was finished.
Chunks of broken bark lay splayed in front of me. I’d lost track of time and had thrown my notebook into a bush. So naturally, it took me an excess ten minutes to fish it out of the place I’d thrown it. It seemed almost like the further I reached for it, the more it would slip away from me.
Why couldn’t I handle a simple problem without lashing out?
I should be smart enough to realize that anger fueled physical exertion doesn’t do anything. So why is it so easy for me to blame everything else?
I guess I just supposed at one point that puberty makes you a different person. That some make it through their hormonal changes, and some don’t. Some become serial killers, or sexually charged supervillains in the comic books and movies. Like that one mosquito chick in One-Punch Mare that I had a crush on when I was like, six. I wonder how people do it. Putting up with life for so long.
I always had myself convinced that I was some all omnipotent, mature being. But I think the most mature individuals get their shit together enough to scrape themselves off the ground and keep going. Instead of assuming the fetal position after you’ve slit your wrist and crying yourself into a coma.
Maybe I’m not strong enough.
The bark of the trees curled up around me like they were absolutely intent on snatching me up and dragging me into some dead version of Tartarus. Some deader version of Tartarus. Is that a word?
The moon was starting to rise high into the night sky. I figured that I may as well start a fire or something like that since Stygian wasn’t giving me much to work with. So I settled down under another livid tree and rummaged through my saddle bags to nab some matches with my magic. They were enough to toss into the fire and set alight with my own mane or some cool shit like that. Maybe I could have a white bonfire.
I flicked the cherry top of a single match across my bangs and tossed it into the small pile of dead bark that I’d gathered. It immediately shot up into a tidal wave of white flames, instantly snatching my full attention.
I watched the flames dance around in front of me. They looked oddly...like home.
“...I heard about Tucker,” a voice called out to me. Hushed and cautious- like they were trudging on eggshells even though I was surrounded with nothing but dry soil. And then I saw her. Her black mane curled around her shoulders and framed her face. Her forelegs had a dark ombre color- like a smudged pattern at her hooves. Her hot pink eyes stared at me as I looked over the flames. And soon I realized that I was staring at my own teary reflection.
“Your pet ferret,” she continued, her voice trembling with worry. I saw my warm, innocent eyes tremor with sadness, and yet my small frown made me look rather content.
“It’s okay,” I murmured, in sync with my younger self. “I’m used to it.”
Vixen had been taking care of me for a few months at the time of that incident. The pet ferret I’d retrieved maybe a day after she found me was named Tucker. He was the only thing I had when I ran away.
I knew in my heart that Vixen didn’t care about Tucker like she cared about me. She, like any bat pony, preferred to keep to herself. But that didn’t mean she didn’t care for me at all. She would make sure we had extra food for Tucker, or did some extra planning for us so that Tucker could go wherever we were going. Because she knew that I could barely breathe without him in my hooves.
And the night he died was after the few weeks we found out he’d been sick. I’d already spent a month knowing that I wouldn’t be able to hold him like I used to. And I think I realized that although Tucker was all I thought I had, that Vixen would still be there for me regardless of my mental situation, or my history with my parents.
Those glowing magenta eyes had disappeared from the surrounding darkness, and once again, I was left all by my lonesome.
“...Vixen?” I cried, “...Vixen!”
I bellowed out into the air with fresh, warm tears streaming down my face. Those woods were desolated. Deserted. The cold breeze reminded me that I was far from any kind of warmth. That I would be far from it for a while now. That mound I kicked over maybe two hours ago was right across the barren tree trunk. I would forever be trapped in these woods. A never ending limbo.
I would never see Tucker again. I would never see Vixen again. I would never see home again. My home was in these woods.
So I fell onto the cold soil and cried that whole night.
The next morning, I realized that maybe the lack of warmth may have clouded my judgement. Perhaps I wasn’t thinking right- maybe because I was hungry. Or maybe it was the cold messing with my head. All I knew was that I had to make it to that heart. The heart of the heart. Stygian was not about to fuck with me.
I pecked at my wings as I flicked the dirt off my clothes. And just now I’d realized that yes, I had wings. Maybe I could fly up and check out my area.
Not that I was chickening out or anything. It’s just that, maybe last night was what I needed. A change of pace. So, I set my saddlebags down by the dead bark and flared my wings. And it appeared that the fog I’d seen the other day was absolutely not anything to sneeze at. So I coughed.
“Ough- oh, shit-”
I choked in frustration as I lowered myself onto the ground, punching at my chest in hopes of clearing my windpipe.
Home was much farther out of reach than I’d initially thought.
“...no. No, come on, what the hell?”
The circumstances were all too overbearing. Suddenly I think I’m strong enough to overcome a hurdle, and the hurdle has casually adjusted itself so it could fuck me in the ass.
Is it too late to assume that fetal position?
Staring up at that fog was harrowing. Just staring up at the sun lazily climbing up the horizon made me think. Some ponies were having breakfast right about now. Some were probably sleeping in. With the luxury of a mattress. Maybe someone sleeping beside them.
...and now I’m fated to die alone because of my own self sabotage. I only brought enough for a week, and clearly there’s nothing fucking else to eat here besides charred bark and coarse sand.
I promised myself I wouldn’t die of natural causes. I guess my vacation didn’t last long.
Now, I slump down against another dead tree with a smile on my face. For once, I get to experience happiness for the first time. It seems impossible for anything to go right, and that’s the way I like it to be.
Thank you for letting me love, even though I’ve never deserved to love you. You’ve allowed me to discover so many things that I wouldn’t have been able to find on my own. I’m so grateful for you, Yara.
although I was never as successful with keeping up with something I’m passionate about, I think that
And though you’ve always tried to help me embrace myself, I’ll I’ve ever been good at is giving up
All you’ve ever done is ignore me
I still dedicate the last moments of my life to you, Yara, Stygian has his hold on me.
They don’t care about you or I. Everything they find about me ████ ████ ████ ████ ███ ████ ████ ███ ██████
I never ████ ████ ████ ███
Case of Adler