“So, have you ever been there?” Phineas asked her all of a sudden.
“In the forest?” Sarah was very surprised. “Never. It was forbidden to go there,” before continuing she stopped for a minute. “Though, I shouldn’t be here either,” replied with a happy little smile on her face. They were sitting on the grass resting their feet in the cool lake water, behind Grandma’s house.
“You know, you’ve changed a lot since you got here. At least now you have shoes” Phineas smiled as well.
This statement made Sarah laugh loudly. She looked at her white ballet flats she got from the old lady. “Yes, I had lost the old ones and my parents said they did not have enough money to buy me a new pair. But yes, I like living here pretty much,” she explained thoughtfully.
The boy started to think about it. “Did you regret? Leaving them behind?”
“To be honest, I don’t know. I like living here more than there but they are my family after all. But..I don’t think they miss me. Or if they do, it’s because of the housework,” she smiled bitterly. “But hey! We’ve got away from the point! Have you ever been there? In the forest?” Her slightly depressed mood changed into unbelievable excitement.
Phineas became so surprised by the sudden change that he at first couldn’t say a word.
“Ooh, yes! I’ve been there once. But I was about six so I cannot remember every little detail,” he stopped for a minute. “Okay, I have to say that I was a little child so I wasn’t familiar with the horrific tales that were and still are famous all around the area. Especially the one with the monster in the forest. Have you heard about that story?
“Well, yes.” She blushed. “Actually, in my village, people were so afraid of that monster that these stories were taught at school,” admitted slightly ashamed by the old-fashioned thinking of her villagers.
“Impressive,” stated the boy jokingly.
“Anyway, what was it like?” Sarah was enthusiastic.
“It was dark. Very very dark and scary. Actually, I can’t remember how I had got there but there were others apart from me.”
“Who? The monster?” She interrupted continuously.
“Hah, I don’t know. I think I knew them but I can’t remember their faces. A couple took care of me there. They were strange. Kind but strange. I was afraid of them. We were at a house made of wood and on its yard there was a swing and they took me there to play. I used that swing regularly, and someone from that couple was always with me. I don’t know how long I had been there but I can’t remember Grandma being there, at least not from the beginning, so I suppose it wasn’t her who played with me on the swing.” Phineas stopped again waiting for Sarah to interrupt but she was speechless, so he kept speaking.
“The other thing I remember is that I was standing on a pathway alone and cried. And what is interesting is that I called my Mom. But actually, I can’t remember my parents at all. It was always Grandma who took care of me.”
“Hmm,” Sarah sunk into her thoughts. “How did it happen that you moved to your Grandmother?” She asked.
“I don’t really know. She appeared once and brought me here. Ever since I haven’t seen those other two.” It seemed that he won’t say anything more. “Wanna go there?” He asked driven by a sudden idea.
“Where?” She screamed. “To the forest?”
“Are you serious? Won’t it be a problem?” Sarah was scared.
“Why would it be a problem? We just go there, look around and come home. We will hurry, so nobody will notice,” he shrugged.
“But what would they say? And Grandma? Won’t she be angry with us?” Sarah seemed to be full of doubts and worries. “By the way where is she now? I haven’t seen her since breakfast.”
“Easy!” Phineas tried to calm her down. “You are not at Royal village anymore, it’s Own town! No one would ever tell you what to do here, okay?” Sarah just nodded silently. “And Grandma has probably withdrawn to her library and will be reading all day,” he added with a calmer tone.
“She has a library?” She seemingly couldn’t catch the point. Phineas didn’t respond to this, just nodded.
“So, wanna go there?” He asked again. The girl was thinking a bit, biting her lips, her deep brown eyes were full of excitement. But she soon nodded and with that, they set off.
On their way, the villagers they met smiled and greeted them. There was freedom in the air, as no one sent them suspicious grins or tried to stop them. To the girl it was very unusual but pleasant. She still couldn’t believe that life could be that easy. Soon they left the village and arrived at the crossing they both knew pretty well. None of them said a word when they left the deserted access road that led to her old village. They continued their way to the depth of the forest.
The closer they got to the forest, the colder the weather became. It was like they entered another world. At the edge of the forest they had to stop. So many trees stood in front of them that grew so close to each other that they seemed to create an unbreakable wall. At that point they did not know what to do. All of a sudden, a bird, maybe an owl, flew above their heads with screaming at a sharp voice that sounded like an eldritch screech, which made them shiver. At that moment the girl looked at the boy checking if she didn’t lose him, and she realised something. His whole appearance melted into the scene. It was outstanding, though she did not notice it earlier in the colourful village. His chestnut hair and green eyes gave a sharp contrast to the dark colours of the forest. They were green? Not only. Those eyes had a little tone of blue in them. She thought that there was a word for that colour she just couldn’t remember. Another strange thought came to her mind that the forest might have looked just like that once, and the boy, with his appearance, condemned what it became.
“I can see a pathway there!” His voice woke her up from deep thinking. There was something indeed. It looked like a path that was created by people but it became abandoned letting weed grow on it like it wanted to the hide something from curious eyes. Sarah wouldn’t have noticed it unless Phineas hasn’t brought it to her attention. He was squatting there pulling out some branches from the way and holding his hand out, waiting for the girl to grab it. She hesitated for a bit of a time, looking right in the strange green eyes. And then she remembered.
“Viridian!” She whispered to herself.
“Excuse me?” Phineas looked a bit puzzled still squatting, waiting for her.
“Nothing!” Said Sarah and hastily grabbed his hand. Deep inside, she trusted him even though they did not know each other for such a long time. Then she though that after all he was the one who took her to the village for treatment, this way changing her life into something better.
They set off to the path that led to the depth of the forest. It was a narrow and short path, they had to stoop and only could go one after the other. They were walking slowly and the deathly silence of the forest urged them not to say a word. Finally, they could see the end of the aisle that led to something bigger they couldn’t realise at first. When they arrived at it, they stopped in amusement by what they saw. A tiny glade was located in the middle of the forest. There, the sun was shining brightly unlike the other parts of the forest. Birds were singing happy songs and diligent bees flew from one flower to the other. And then, all of a sudden a light breeze came from nowhere lifting up a bunch of colourful leaves to the air. While fluttering, they clang together, creating a scene of ballet-like dancing silhouettes of people. They danced through the glade and during their movements the sunshine made the leaves look like they were changing their colours, which made the performance more pulsating. The youngsters stood there astonished, smiling happily at the revelation that evolved in front of their eyes.
As the dancers moved along near the edge of the glade, the guests noticed a dark spot behind them. It grabbed their imagination so they decided to walk along, to explore that area. But they soon regretted it as it was even darker than the spot at the entrance. If it can be, the silence was even scarier than it was earlier and it created an unworldly atmosphere both wildly beautiful and fiendishly frightening. There were wooden houses that must have been abandoned years ago. Heavy rains and time left their traces on the houses. They had no roofs, their doors were missing and the windows were broken probably by storms. The pair wandered through the area finding objects that demonstrated that there was life once. Soon, they noticed another lodge that was in the same condition but it was somehow different. It was bigger than the others and did not seem as old as the rest of the abandoned village. On its yard there was an old swing that had trees grown in the middle of it finding their ways throughout the decayed timbers.
When they entered the house, they got shocked. It was full of dust and dirt, used wooden and ceramic dishes were piled on the table, and mauled chops were rotting thrown away on the floor wherever they looked. Some of them were fresh, the others were now only bones eaten by ants marching on the floor. The curtains and the carpets were torn into pieces and the whole place was filled with heavy and sickening air. Led by curiosity Sarah and Phineas separated in the lodge to look round. The girl went to the old and disused fireplace on which old pictures were lined up. With a closer look they were rather oil-paintings similar that Sarah had seen earlier in Grandma’s house. Those pictures were painted of people but faded at a rate that nobody could have been recognised. Although, there was a picture of a little child whose face was very familiar to her. Of course it was familiar since she had been studying that face only about an hour ago. She grabbed that old picture and removed some dust with her hands. At that time the boy went to the back of the lodge not caring about the pictures. He was even more curious, wanted to know what kind of a creature could live in circumstances like these. Because it was obvious that this place was inhabited or abandoned just lately. He soon came back. He was rather running.
“Can you hear it?” Asked with terror. The girl distracted by the sudden question couldn’t understand it.
“Wha-?” but then she heard it too. The sound of heavy steps that stomped in a ragged pace on the wet soil, approaching the lodge. Both of them were petrified with fear.
The door opened with a terribly loud crash and a huge shadow stood in the way of light that intended to come in. That something was enormous, its body was deformed and in fact, it couldn’t be told what it was. A beast obviously. Of its face nothing could be seen but a pair of shining eyes. With those eyes, the beast looked at the girl and despite of its size moved very fast. It reached for her but instead of fingers, its hand ended in enormous and sharp claws. Sarah, stiffed by the realisation what the beast wanted to do, did nothing just stood there and dropped the picture to the floor. Then she felt a grab on her arm. It was Phineas who started to pull her to the back of the lodge. It came out that there was a back door, he found but did not have time to tell about, and through which they managed to get out of the hut. Though they didn’t know which one was the right direction they ran as fast as they could because the monster followed them.
While they were running they crossed the glade again. It was nothing but a glance but they could see the leaf-people there. They did not dance anymore, instead they were standing, watching them escaping. They resignedly shook their heads as they saw the children off and in the next moment they went to pieces returning to be a pile of lifeless leaves again. At the same time, the monster stopped following the children and fell on its knees right at the edge of the glade, still in the safe darkness of the forest. It roared furiously like an animal, so loudly that the children who were now far from there could hear it to their terror. As the sun came into sight it started to shine on the shape of the kneeling monster. The warm sunlight slowly reached its enormous hand revealing that its sharp monstrous nails were only long, skinny fingers of an even skinnier hand. Also, its big and dark head turned out to be covered by a hood made of brown textile that was decorated with huge holes. Under the hood, its long, shiny hair covered her sad face. As she put her hands to her heart the monstrous roar became a poignant cry of a fragile human.
But the children were too far to see that change and they had bigger problems. As they were desperately seeking for escape, the forest raged around them. Trees fell down forcing them to dodge to a direction they did not know and time to time enormous logs fell in their way. Furious stalks clung to their clothes, hindered them leaving. It was all like if the forest came to life and it couldn’t decide whether to expel them or lock them up in itself. When they were in safe distance to the forest they stopped for a little while to rest.
“I never ever want to go back there!” claimed the girl heavily breathing.
“Never” Phineas agreed, though it sounded more like a question. He was not sure if he really didn’t want to go back there. He felt a sudden sorrow for the monster as he remembered leaving behind a sad woman years ago. He played with the thought that the monster might be lonely and with that he felt guilty by their rude behaviour even though he couldn’t be sure if the monster wanted to harm them or not. He sent these thoughts away and suggested the girl to go home. They were probably thinking alike because on their way to home, when they passed by the access road again, the girl thought that maybe she should visit her old village someday.
When they entered Own town, people did the same when they left. They were buzzing busily like bees but did not forget to greet the children with a smile. It was just like the boy said; nobody scolded them for what they did or where they went, so just continued their way to home.
“I’ll take a look at grandma” said the boy.
“Okay. I think I’m having a shower. And have a rest before dinner, I’m tired,” she disappeared at the landing.
“I guess you are. Then meet at dinner!” And with that he went to Grandma’s huge library. She was sitting on the couch with a book on her lap, breathing calmly. She fell asleep again during reading. But as he looked closer, Grandma’s fingers were stained with ink. She was writing something. He tried to take away the book from Grandma not waking her but when he closed the book something caught his attention. That book was half empty, with more blank pages than the ones filled with words but he noticed something interesting on the bottom of the last written page;
And maybe that creature, whatever it was, just wanted someone who would rescue it. And perhaps it is still waiting for that person who will finally lead it back to that shiny glade.