“Guys, I don’t think this is the way back.”
Asgrim had come to a standstill a short distance ahead of us. He turned around to face me, Fenrir and Tuomas. His black hair hung in tangled strands past his shoulders, bits of debris and spiderweb caked in it. Like the rest of us, he wore a frustrated expression on his face.
“How the hell is that possible?” I demanded even though, looking around me, it was pretty obvious that we hadn’t been in that part of the woods before. Moss dotted the tree barks in light green and turquoise blotches and there were lots of gnarly shrubs in between the trees I did not know the names of. The trees were more densely packed together too, as though they were trying to crush us to rubble. Well, that’d probably happen if one of them were to fall on us – which wasn’t impossible, since the trunks of many were threatening to disintegrate from decay.
Asgrim shrugged in response to my question. “Don’t ask me. I thought it was going to be simple: go into the forest, do the photoshoot and come back out.”
“It got dark sooner…than…we thought. The woods look different…at twilight,” Tuomas panted. He’d heaved the tripod and camera bag onto his shoulders and carried them like that during our past two hours of walking. Dude looked like he could do with taking a break.
“Yeah, I suppose the canopy doesn’t let enough sunlight through. Here, let me take that,” I offered.
The load was heavier than I’d thought and I respected the guy for carrying it all the way. Our camera gear were probably the only things not affected by the trek through the swamp-like undergrowth. The camera bag’s canvas felt only slightly damp against my jacket. Probably from the fog I no longer felt since it seemed to be everywhere. The woods were more of a mess than we’d expected: rain and snow had made the ground soggy, and wet branches and ferns perpetually slapped against our limbs. The musty smell was so intense, I found it difficult to breathe.
It was no fun trudging through all that with the darkening sky above us, the sound of nightlife in the forest increasing and of course no bloody clue where we were actually going. I think the guys finally realized that we weren’t as tough as we would have liked to think. Talking about walking through grim, frosty forests and muddy woods sounds really amazing and everything, but actually doing it is an entirely different story.
“Don’t be such losers,” Fenrir scoffed. “Let’s keep on walking for a while and see where we end up.”
I nodded, even though it probably wasn’t such a good idea. One was usually better off not disagreeing with Fenrir.
We kept on walking. With the camera gear on my shoulders, I had to take extra care to avoid low-hanging branches. After a couple more minutes, the sound of water reached our ears and we turned in the direction it was coming from. Maybe a landmark like that would help us find our way back out of the woods.
“A stream,” Asgrim stated matter-of-factly when we reached the source. It wasn’t too wide – one big step would probably be enough to get across. It was the ground on either side that was the problem. It was black-brown in colour and looked pretty solid enough to step on, but as soon as Tuomas tested it with the mud-encrusted toe of his boot, part of the bank turned into watery sludge.
Yeah, that pretty much summed up how we all felt.