The darkness hides my imperfections, contouring the outline of my face, my body, giving me a more seemly visage. I stroll among the scented pines, enjoying my freedom, letting the night air infuse my pores and move inward to my soul.
I glance around me, catching a twinkle of starlight, a glimmer of moon. The leaves rest in quiet complacency against the roughness of each tree's armor. The light makes these woods seem more gentle, more comforting. And the forest does not seem to mind my presence.
I feel free. I feel perfect. My hair feels like fine Chinese silk as it brushes against my face. I run my fingers through it and pretend it cascades down my back. I feel my heartbeat, so strong, so alive within my chest.
I step lightly over the pine straw, disturbing small creatures that rest beneath it. I feel giddy from breathing the strong night air, and my legs begin to move. I dance, I float, I become one with the magics of nature, and my body becomes graceful and gladly responds to my command.
I reach the clearing, and the drunkenness I had felt is gone as quickly as fortune. I walk the three circles around the clearing, chanting the mystic runes. It is time for the ceremony I repeat each full moon. I walk to the sacred stone and stand upon it, raising my hands in time-honored supplication to the sky.
Hours later, I struggle out of the woods, the now menacing woods. The moon had not appeared. It had not cast its rays upon me. And once again, I had performed the ceremony to no avail. I was not healed. The perfection I had felt was a great lie, a grand illusion.
The children, as I approached, shrieked as always. A mother turned her child away from me so the babe would not be inflicted, so my eyes would not meet the child's. My left foot dragged in the dust, leaving behind a trail that would bring ill fortune to any who dared cross it, and my shoulders stooped over in pain with the burden of their hump. But the veil which hid the hideousness of my face also protected me from the bright rays of the rising sun. It was the only illusion I had left.