I wouldn't say I'm Devilishly Handsome.... I mean, other people say it, about me, all the time, but me? Nah.
I know these woods, but do they know me? I can mend your body, but I might shatter your mind. I can fix your mental state, though there's a chance I'll crack your heart. And healing your heart... that's going to be tricky.
Nothing to do? Nothing to lose? Come into the forest. It's where I'll heal you. Listen for the silence. It's where you'll heal yourself.
I ran through the dark; from my sins, from my crimes, from the people I'd loved and the people I'd hurt. I ran until my lungs burned and I thought my legs would give out. I weaved between trees that reached out to take me, to grab hold and not let go. I felt my ties to them, to the people I had wronged, stretching at my back. The further I ran, the more they pulled at me. Every step became a challenge, until the cord finally snapped. The recoil lashed me in the back and knocked me to the ground.
I lay in the silence and the dark and the cold. Everything hurt. I was empty. There was nothing left. I don't know how long I lay there. But I do know that when I opened my eyes, there was something there, half buried in the leaves and the loam. I pulled myself forward, to get a closer look.
It was a lantern.
It was a disused, abandoned, half-rusted, dented and wretched heap of metal.
We were perfect for each other.
I realized that I wasn't truly empty. That my emptiness was tangible, it was there. The void wasn't void, but rather a dark and seething liquid. It had filled me, churning like a hurricane of black oil. I hadn't escaped my sins. I hadn't been running from my demons. They'd been inside all along.
I held the sad wreck to my chest and cried ebony tears into the lantern. Like ink they ran down my face and fell into the oil fount. I poured everything I had, wondering if I'd ever run out of pain, if the lantern would ever be filled. But of course, in time, the tears ran dry. In time I was truthfully an empty shell.
I stared at the lantern in disbelief. From my worst crimes, from my darkest days, light? It didn't seem possible. Most days it still doesn't. But that light shines for all who stand in need of it. Because my lantern burns on my guilt and my shame, there is no judgement in this forest. Because I found hope in darkness, there is a final court of appeal for everyone, here, among these trees.
We live in a day and an age where common decency, common courtesy, and common sense are less common than depression, self-hatred, anxiety, despair, and the thought that life is not worth the effort. But when Pandora's box is open, when the awful terrors are flown away, there is always hope left. That same hope lit my lantern when there wasn't a spark of light in sight. And if you, fellow traveler down this winding path, cannot find that hope anywhere else, know that it always burns bright here. This is the Lantern Waste. And I am waiting.