For those that venture far into woods and forests, daring to brave the dangers of creeks and cliffs, they would know that no adventurer can explore without a properly suited pack. These adventurers know that if someone wants to brave a night under the stars and the trees then nothing is more important than a bag carefully packed with the most useful of items. An important item, unless you want to return home like a red welt is mosquito repellent, which can unfortunately for its small size often be misplaced. Something is rarely forgotten is a tent and a sleeping bag. Without these a night under the stars becomes a night under the freezing cold sky. One of the most double-checked items when packing is the food, because without food there would be some very grumpy campers. The most important thing though, which is often lost amongst the compass, the marshmallows and the flashlight are the matchsticks. If the matchsticks are forgotten it is smarter to turn around and go home instead of continuing. Without matchsticks there can be no fire, and without a campfire there is nothing to stop the monsters of the forest from creeping by. Our story then takes us to a small group of people, who with the sun setting rapidly over the trees of the forest are setting up their tents and rolling out their sleeping bags, unaware of the monsters around them, and the matchsticks still sitting in the kitchen drawer at home.
The gathering of ten ambled around their makeshift campsite, poking pegs into the ground and wishing someone had brought a hammer. Of course though knowing that they would have to hike to reach their site, a clearing perfect for them to spread out nicely, and they hadn't wanted to carry a hammer with them. Instead they resorted to trying to stick them into the ground by standing on them and after some time they were able to look around and smile at their handiwork.
"Let's get a fire going, kids go find some kindling."
The four children ran off eagerly. The three teenagers, who after the day of walking were beginning to lose their eagerness, settled for foraging within an arm's reach. The remaining three adults begun to build up the fire.
Once the children had formed a small pile of twigs and branches, and the adults had arranged them over a wad of newspaper they all paused for a moment.
"Who has the matches?"
Pockets became out turned and bags rummaged through; contents splayed across the ground as desperation set in. No one could remember putting the matches in their bag or anyone else's bag.
"Who was meant to bring them?"
None of them could even answer that. With the scratching of their heads all of them had to admit that they had totally forgotten to bring the matchsticks.
"I guess we won't be having a fire tonight."
The children groaned, disappointed that they wouldn't roasting marshmallows on the fire. There was nothing they could do though, and the group resigned themselves to an early night tucked safely in their tents.
With the children subdued, and the adults allowing themselves to drift off to sleep, the brightness of the moon hovered over the campsite, shining a beacon upon the clearing. If anyone had known of what lurked in the shadows they may have been alert and wary but they knew nothing of what lay in just beyond the edge of the clearing, and the monsters that were waiting for the final person to close their eyes and be taken to the land of dreams.
The moon was high in the sky, streaming light around the clearing that showed everything as clear as day. The monsters, which thrived on this, watched as the moon reached its peak. Now was their time.
Sneaking from the edges into the moonlight they basked in its glow, feeling it warm the shadows of their hearts. Each of the four monsters smiled, and snuck softly to their targets. The adults were of no concern of theirs, and the older children, the ones who had diligently lead the way with the compass, were also of no use to them. What they sought were the young ones, the fresh ones. With the many years of practice it was not hard for them to unzip the tents and reach in. The four children were sharing a tent, arms and legs bundled together as they had fought for the blankets. Now they rested softly, smiles on their lips as they dreamed away the weariness of the day. Easily, the monsters pulled them from the tent and each picked up one in its arms. Without taking another look back at the campsite they moved away from it, once again leaving the warm moonlight.
The adults still sleeping would never know what became of the children, and for many years they would wonder with a tearful sigh if somehow they had been taken away into a magical land. If they had known the truth however they may have smiled, or even laughed and wondered instead if perhaps they were the unlucky ones to be left behind.
The children meanwhile, still asleep in the monsters arms, were being whisked away through the forest, dreaming of wind on their faces.
It wasn't long before they came to a tree, and whilst even if the children had been awake they wouldn't have seen anything but a tree, the monsters saw the door they were looking for. It was red, and in the single beam of moonlight it shone brightly. Each stepped through the door, and as each pushed through to the other side, four children awoke in a place very different from home.
Suddenly awake, as if they had never been sleeping, the children found themselves standing on the ground, the brightness of the sun glaring into their eyes. They tried to rub it away, and blinked several times, and slowly they began to see.
They were standing on a path, with flowers growing around it as if they were beautiful weeds. Off in the distance which was becoming more visible was what looked like a castle; turrets piled upon turrets. Before that though, were buildings, small cottages with smoke puffing out of the chimneys. Their ears were filled with the noises of birds, and laughter, the laughter of gleeful children.
Astonished they gaped, and it was only one of them, a bright young boy, that looked behind.
Four people stood there, two men and two women, but all with the same long golden hair. They smiled with a nonchalant warmth, and their eyes shone like the colour of moonlight.
"Who are you?" Was the first thing he could think to ask. The others turned at the sound of his voice, the same questioning gaze on their face.
"We're your guardians," one of the woman said to him.
"What about our parents?"
The woman knelt down. "They're waiting for you, just in that town over there. Don't you worry about them for now, you'll see them soon enough." Her voice was warm, like caramel sauce on ice-cream and he had no choice but to believe her.
"Where are we?" Another girl, not used to holding her tongue, piped up.
"Why," said the other woman. "You're in the Forest of Luciola, the home of childhood."
Each child's imagination grew. One saw a land full of horses, and her perched daintily upon its back. Another saw magic, books reading themselves as he waved his hand towards it. The third saw a land of infinite lollies, hours spent tasting the most delectable of delights. The last saw themselves flying, wings beating steadily on their back as they soared through the crowd. None saw what they had left behind.
"Let us show you the town."
The children eager to discover what lay in the new forest, followed the adults without a second thought. As they walked down the path they found that all around was a forest, though the trees were distant, and what they must be in was a large clearing. Behind them the red door within the tree grew further away from them, and even if they had looked back, they would not have remembered it was there that they came through.
The path that they were going along was paved with an odd gleam, and as the children stepped along it, they saw their reflection under their feet. There are some things known to everyone and some things known to few, but then there are things which are only known to the one who sees and these things will never fall into the mind of another. Those are types of things the children saw and if anyone ever asked them what sights were under their feet they would lie and say the soles of their shoes. Sometimes though, they might wonder whether they were looking at a different type of soul.
By the time they reached the town with the castle towering above it they were transfixed, and their memories of home were forgotten. What did they care of the adults frantically calling their names, or the older children wondering if they had said something mean to make them run away?
Here in the town were the wonders of dreams; the Forest of Luciola. Around them children run, shouting and laughing and smiling. For any child who ever liked to play, this was what they dreamed of. There are many other wonders that could be talked of, but like the pavement, each child saw a different thing. What they saw can be said to be what they wanted to see, their land of childhood.
A woman, the most beautiful woman with hair the colour of a silver ring approached them and stopped where they stood at the edge of the town. Her dress which fell to the ground matched the colour of her hair, but all thought the dress looked like it grew from the pavement.
"Welcome," she said, though it was more like a laugh. "I hope you enjoy my humble forest."
"Your forest?" The girl who always liked to have something to say said.
"My name is Luciola, this is my land."
The children were awed at the woman whose forest they had been taken to and none knew what to say.
"Can we stay?" Asked the girl who had been silent til then.
"Of course," Luciola smiled. "My land is for children, for those here and for those that do always get to be happy." For a moment a shadow passed across her face, but in the next instance it was gone.
"Children are magical creatures, full of imagination and dreams, but sometimes some children need a little help imagining. I create imagination here, for those that can't create it themselves. A child will always hear the imagination in another child's smile. Will you help me with that?"
"How can we help?" The girl replied.
"All you have to do is run and play and laugh, the children will hear your smile, and they'll imagine themselves what joy could create a smile like that." Her smile by now was broader than one could imagine a smile could get. "They'll share in your dreams, your happiness, your imagination."
The land around them was full of children with smiles brighter than a beam of moonlight. All they could hear was smiles and happiness and each one wanted to share in that.
They nodded, one by one.
With the nod they agreed to a life of smiles, of dream, of imagination. They agreed to a life of childhood in the Forest of Luciola.
It's hard to say what became of the children, there are so man in that forest that it's hard to follow each one. They would of though, like every child there, have spent their days in living happy lives, never worrying about growing up. Perhaps they would miss the chance they never had, but a life beyond childhood was something they had left behind at the red door, and was not something they remembered to wonder over. All they need care about was their smiles, and the children who heard them.
No one would wonder much about what would've happened if they had remembered the matchsticks on that night. The adults returned, and found the matchsticks in the kitchen, and sighed that they did not get to roast marshmallows with their children one last time. They didn't think about the unknown monsters, or a land in a forest they didn't know existed. Perhaps it was the adults then, and not the children, that needed to hear the smile of imagination. Anyone can do it, all they need do is listen and open their mind and the smiles of the lost children of the forest of Luciola will come drifting in and their imagination will be full of dreams.
A/N This was for a competition for a writing site called 4thewords, the Forest of Luciola is based from their site.