CHAPTER 1: Into the Woods
I can feel the cold earth under my feet. My toes curling and uncurling the dirt that had made their way on my skin. I shiver, this was a new feeling. I ponder for a moment trying to remember how I got here, barefoot and under dressed. I wrap my arms around me trying to keep myself warm.
Had I lost my mind? I let out a sigh, taking another step deeper into the overgrown forest.
The sun was sinking from somewhere, making bright yellow lines appear and slowly sink around me. It was getting dark and I had no idea which way was home. Dead leaves and twigs break under my weight as I carefully walk towards what appeared to be a path of some kind. Decorated conveniently by little mushrooms. How odd.
I follow the path as the light slowly left me alone in the darkness of the forest and the limited glow of the moon. Fear grips my chest and I breathe faster.
"Keep walking. Don't stop. It's going to be okay." I tell myself, repeating it again and again in my head like a Mantra. I almost convinced myself when I hear a sound not too far behind me. I catch my breath, the feeling of dread slowly sinking into my blood stream making it ice cold as the hairs on my arms go up.
I shiver again, just realizing how much the temperature had dropped now that the sun was gone. I try to remember what made me do something as crazy as this. I had been sitting on our front porch, barefoot, enjoying a book and a glass of homemade honey milk.
I had been sitting when... when... I blink and frown, forcing the memory out of the corners of my head. There were lights, yes! Lights! My eyes snap open finally remembering why I had ran so fast without hesitation into the woods. The odd dancing lights. They were so many, moving so fast and making sounds. Sounds like... Bells! That's it. Bells.
I look around, ears searching for the familiar ring but heard nothing. Which I had found weird, aren't forests supposed to have forest animals? I sigh and shake my head, smiling. It was funny enough I had come here without shoes or a coat but believing I had seen... I can't even finish the sentence.
I laugh silently, if someone else was here and saw me they would probably label me as someone crazy. I straighten my back, feeling a lot braver now and continue on the path. It must lead somewhere if not home.
A sudden emptiness sweeps over me, only for a second, remembering the days I had been in this very same forest. Trying to catch... fairies with my grandfather. I feel a familiar tightness to my chest as the image of my grandfather flashed in my mind. How people had labeled him as... different and "sick". I never saw him that way, he was always the fun person to be around with until he got himself lost in this forest, searching for creatures that don't exist. I feel hot tears run down my cheeks and I wipe them off, almost too aggressively and got a grip of myself.
He died, after getting lost in the forest for two days. He just-went away. The odd thing was, he looked as if he had spent his last days like he was the happiest man on the planet. He died, with a smile on his face.
My feet step on something cold and I bite back a scream jumping off whatever it was. The moonlight was not providing me with much vision but I swear I saw something move. A chill runs down my spine as I try to walk a little faster, praying to the heavens that I get out of here alive. My parents would die of a heart attack if they found my body in here.
After a few minutes of panicked walking my feet had started to run and before I knew it I was gasping for air, holding on to a tree cursing under my breath for forgetting my shoes. How far did this forest go? I slump down on the ground in defeat and let the hopelessness of the situation swallow me whole. I started crying already thinking about how they were going to find my body here full of worms and maggots.
"Oh. Eliza, how did you get yourself into this mess?" I ask, out loud only to be answered by the silence of the forest. If this was the silent treatment the world was giving me then it was winning. I memory knocks at the corners of my brain, a memory I had tried so hard to push back because they only led to things like being trapped in a forest in the middle of the night. I bury my face in my hands that already smelled like dirt and leaves. I can't believe what I am about to do.
I sit back up and hold on to the pendant that has been hanging on my neck. It was shaped like a small flute, with just one whole. It was more like a whistle to be exact. Carved by my grandfather himself. He had given it to me when I was 8. Telling me if I ever got lost, all I had to do was blow a tune and help would come. And by help, he obviously meant fairies or the like. I laugh bitterly at the cold, my breath making swirly fogs in front of my face.
"I'm going to die here anyway." I say as I hold the pendant close to my mouth and blow. No sound came.
"It doesn't even work!" I shout, unintentionally. Pulling the pendant off my neck and drawing my hand back ready to throw it away out of frustration but something stops me. A sudden feeling of someone else there. I look around, eyes wide with my hands still up gripping the pendant tightly.
"Why on earth would you use something like that in a forest as quiet as this?"
I jump at the voice coming from behind me and spin around, almost losing my balance, only to face something that made me wish I had lost my balance.