I am a creature.
Not a vampire, a werewolf or a ghoul but something long forgotten.
I am a faun, that woodland sprite out of Roman lore.
I first made the change eleven years ago, when Mother roused me from sleep with a whisper.
“Wake up, Dolcunus. It’s time.”
“Time for what?”
“Father will explain. Come.”
Mother took my hand and led me down the stairs, and with each step, Father’s presence on the landing loomed larger, a black chasm I thought would surely swallow me whole.
Soon thereafter I was bundled into the car and brought to a clearing in the woods, where the trees towered over me like ancient sentinels. They formed a circle, these trees—oak and ash and hoary willows, their twisting branches creaking in the slight wind.
Father quickly built up a fire, and in mere moments, the hungry flames licked at the knotted wood. “Come, Dolcunus,” he said. “Kneel.” His outstretched hand gestured to a small stone altar covered in ivy.
I stood up. Fallen branches snapped under my bare feet. The short robe I wore flapped around my skinny knees. I knelt as Father began to play a curious instrument. They were panpipes I would learn later, and the melody that rose in rhythm with my heartbeat was odd and wondrous at the same time.
That’s when they came out of the forest.