The Red Forest, also known as a Hartle-Hawking state, is a theoretical condition where time ceases to exist. It is the goal of the Army of the 12 Monkeys to destroy time and bring about the Red Forest.
In visions, induced by the red tea, the Red Forest is a forest with tall, red grass, and red trees and leaves. In the middle of a field stands a house made of cedar and pine. Inside, the house is empty except for sparse furniture, such as a long grandfather clock. The Witness communicates to his followers with written messages that appear on the walls. Titan City is also visible in these visions through a window in the house. Cassie interprets this as a place where The Witness feels safe. However, when the Red Forest is almost accomplished by Titan and the Monkeys, many areas begin to collapse and the ground becomes a mix of igneous-like rock and lava.
Relationship to Time
In reality, the Red Forest is not a singular, physical location as it appears in visions. Rather, temporal disturbances turn foliage red as a result of organic matter being in a state of flux. The Army of the 12 Monkeys believe that destroying time will create a Red Forest, a place where there is no time, and as a result, no death. It is the goal of the Army of the 12 Monkeys to live infinitely in what they envision as an eternal paradise. In order to achieve this mission, The Messengers are sent back to various points in time to paradox Primaries. However, this mission was meant to fail, as the true purpose of Titan is to create a paradox so huge that it cannot be undone, bringing upon the Red Forest.
Red Forest Leaves
Leaves which have been turned red by the Red Forest temporal disturbances have unusual properties. When made into a tea and drunk, they untether the mind from time. This property has been put to various uses:
- Jennifer Goines, Cassandra Railly, and Katarina Jones were dosed with the tea, which caused them to hallucinate. Jennifer saw the Witness, while Railly was able to enter the Red Forest and the house of cedar and pine, under Olivia's guidance. In Jones's vision, she learned about the nature of time and the Primaries.
- Olivia and the Pallid Man have used the tea to induce visions where they can enter the Red Forest and speak with the Witness in the house of cedar and pine.
- The Witness was able to possess Cassandra Railly's mind and control her body after she was forced to ingest the tea a second time. It is not known if he has done this to any other individual. Katharina Jones was able to concoct an antidote that prevented the Witness from possessing Railly again.
- James Cole has the ability to use the Red Forest leaves to project his consciousness back in time to any point in his own past and take control of his own body at that point.
After awakening from her coma, Cassie finds Cole living in the house of cedar and pine. He cuts himself while sawing wood. Cassie takes him into the house to clean the wound. As she washes away the blood, it begins to rain. At this moment, Cassie realizes that this is the house from her visions. She also realizes that the poem Olivia recited to her seemingly prophesied this very moment.
After speaking to Lillian, Cole goes to the Pine Barrens and finds that the Red Forest temporal storms have spread to this time.
After being released from prison, Ramse travels to Virginia and meets the Army of the 12 Monkeys at a mansion. In the backyard, Olivia brings together the amulet that Ramse obtained from Jennifer in 2043 with its present-day version from the Pallid Man. This results in a time paradox that turns all of the foliage surrounding the mansion red.
During a meeting at Markridge, Jennifer Goines interrupts to speak with her father. She keeps repeating, "Everything's changing. Green to red."
In 2015, the Pallid Man captures Cassie and takes her to a plant nursery. There, he prepares a hypnotic potion which he forces her drink. The Striking Woman then recites a poem that talks Cassie through a walk in the red forest. She tells Cassie that she has been there before and that it feels like a memory of tomorrow. Cassie sees The Witness in the Red Forest.
Weeks later, after Cole splinters away, Cassie notices plants turning red in his wake.
Ramse, under the guise of Ethan Seki, begins funding Elliot Jones's research into time travel. He instructs Elliot to prepare the time machine for a trip to 2043, with the hopes of returning to his son. While preparing for this trip, Elliot begins sending leaves to 2043. Elliot and his assistant discuss how leaves turn from green to red as a result of organic matter being in a state of flux.
While invading the temporal facility, Cassie discovers a room filled with red plants.
A time-traveling Cole finds Cassie in the CDC headquarters at the height of the plague. As she lays dying, Cassie asks Cole if he has found the Red Forest. When he expresses his confusion, Cassie remembers that not everything she has experienced has happened for him yet. She then assures him that he will find the answers he's looking for.
Red leaves begin appearing on the chair of the time machine in late 2043. Jones requests for Dr. Adler to figure out where they are coming from and why they are appearing. He discovers that they come from a time period when the earth had more greenhouse gases, coming close, but not fully uncovering, that the leaves are products of Jones's ex-husband's time travel experiments in 2015.
Red storms begin to emerge in 2044. These storms are a byproduct of paradoxes being initiated by The Messengers in various years in the past. Throughout much of 2044, the storms continue to develop and increase in severity. The storms destroy dozens of locations, upsetting the laws of physics, causing the corpses of adult victims to turn into corpses of children. The storms ultimately envelop the temporal facility, destroying it and killing Katarina Jones.
Cole eventually uses tea made from the Red Forest leaves to send his mind back to 1957 and correct his failure to prevent the final paradox. This causes the temporal storms in 2044 to completely recede, and undoes Jones's death.
Olivia drinks tea brewed with the red leaves to track down Athan Cole. In her vision, she enters the House of Cedar and Pine. She sees Athan through the mirror. He is in the House of Cedar and Pine with his parents on December 26, 1959. Olivia relays the information to Katarina Jones and her team, who travel back in time in pursuit of Athan.