Into the Woods

31 Mar

For those of you just coming in, this is second in a series of reader driven fictional posts.  Check out the first installment before reading on.

Sometimes the writing muse can be fickle.  One day it’s here and clear, the next it’s hovering just out of reach.  Today my muses played a trick on me.  Go ahead and think I’m crazy, or paranoid, or superstitious, whatever, but this is what happened on my way to the pool this morning:

I decided to actually count the random metal strips on the road for fun, since I chose seven as the number for my story knowing there were way more.  Seven is a special number.  As with three, nine and thirteen, seven tends to be used quite a bit in fantasy stories I enjoy reading.  Also, seven has been my lucky number since I was a teenager.  I like it.  I also feel an affinity for the number 13.  Side note:  I cross my sevens.  Anyway, as I was walking, I started counting.  I counted seven metal pieces on our road, 12th Avenue.  As I turned onto Park Street, where I first noticed these little scraps, I was idly thinking about how neat it might be if I found 13.  But there were no more.  The rest were gone.  So I’ve spent the rest of the day in a sort of cosmic daze.  It’s too weird to chalk up to mere coincidence.  I guess the next hurdle will be to write Ike into existence somehow, but if I run into a guy with blue hair at the pool tomorrow I might just die prematurely.

Anyway, here is the fruit of my tricksy muses today.  Enjoy, as before, try to find my reference and please don’t forget to comment!

You know the old woods? Merry whispered in her head.  Folks used to say there was something in the water that made the trees grow tall.  Talk to each other.  Even move. He used to say this so he could watch Brooke, another of the Lucky Seven, squirm.  That’s how they would flirt.  It gave Brooke an excuse to snuggle close to him, or give him a playful swat on the shoulder.  But Sabrina was hearing Merry’s voice from hundreds, thousands of miles away.  She would have been rooted to the spot if Leo hadn’t been pulling her gently along.  They were at the very edge of Fanghorn Forest.  They had waded through the scraggly wildflowers where Ike often showed his softer side by singing and chanting poetry.  But now that her attention was fully on the forest, she wondered if Ike had done that for her at all.  It seemed like a good distraction from the shadowy feeling that was wafting off of the trees.

“Hold on to me, okay?”  Leo said over his shoulder.  These were the first words spoken between them since he had appeared and taken her and the mysterious key North.

She had opened her mouth to say something about how she needed to find her father and slap a cup of coffee into his mitts, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore.  Her silence this time had nothing to do with that swirly feeling she usually got in the pit of her stomach or the way her eyes would go fuzzy around the edges whenever she happened to see Leo around the shanty-town.

There was a faint memory from the first time she and her father had passed through the wood.  They were pursued most of the way across the vast desert by a posse with laser cannons, and had stumbled into the forest almost by mistake.  Once they entered, a quiet had wrapped around them.  It calmed their horses instantly and the scent of rotting leaves caused their eyelids to droop.  After a lot of coaxing, the horses were persuaded to shamble farther into the dense undergrowth.  Sabrina and Horst had collapsed on their saddle blankets as soon as the close growing trees blocked out all the sounds of the desert.  As Sabrina nodded off into an exhausted sleep, she saw a face above her.  It was gnarled and Spanish moss dribbled from where the chin should have been.  After an instant, the face was gone and Sabrina dismissed it as a latent reaction to Merry’s wild stories coupled with physical stress.

Grasping Leo’s rough hand with both of hers now, she felt the key warm almost alive digging into her palm.  They passed through the shadow of the trees and into something thicker.  Once inside the forest Leo paused as if her were unsure.  There was a faint rasping sound as he sent his tongue out over dry lips.  The shadow was unlike anything they had ever seen before.  It was heavy and there was a yellow-orange haze to it.  Glancing over at Leo, Sabrina gasped.  There was green light dancing around him.  The light engulfed his body and spilled down his arm to her hand.  Letting out another breathy gasp she watched as the light marched over her closed hands and up her arm.  Leo stepped close and gently moved one of her hands aside, his eyes piercing into her.  He cupped her palm and she opened her fingers.  There the key lay blazing a bright new grass green.  Folding their hands over the key once more, the pair moved slowly on.  The forest shone brightly as they moved through it, but once they left a spot, the yellow-orange twilight hurried in once more.

Something about moving through the eerie strangely colored darkness made it impossible to tell how long they had been walking.  They were like sleepwalkers; slowly stretching in an uncertain direction.  The scenery never changed.  It was only trees and moss and brambles.  It could have been minutes, hours, days later when they reached a clearing.  The twilight was weaker there, and in the middle there was a tangle of grey-green plants.  The plants sprawled everywhere, climbing over one another, and they were laden with ripe fruit.

“Are those…”

“It’s love apples.”

Sabrina looked at her companion.  She hadn’t been bothered by his sudden appearance and the subsequent side-tracking he was responsible for, nor was it an issue that he had taken her into a dangerous forest with no explanation of where they were going, but she was cross with him now for interrupting her.

“We called them tomatoes.  But they’re wrong…” She tried to step forward for a closer look at the lumpy scabby fruit, but found her arm firmly anchored behind her.

Leo’s eyes, now pale and wide with fear fixed on the opposite side of the clearing.  He clenched her hand like a drowning man, his shallow breathing making harsh puffing sounds in the quiet.  In an awkward half crouch, Sabrina turned slowly.

Hulking at the opposite side of the clearing just beyond the trees was a beast.

What was the beast?

A) A spooky spider

B) A huge grey wolf with earrings

C) A tree person

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9 Responses to “Into the Woods”

  1. ajgunter March 31, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Although I love the “spooky spider” reference to Cartman’s idea to scare the 6th graders from Korn’s Groovy halloween episode from season 3, I have to vote against a spooky spider… Instead I like the idea of B. a huge grey wolf with earrings. Also- love it that you spelled “grey” with an “e” and not an “a”. 🙂

    • fdcarlso March 31, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

      I’m so excited someone caught my spooky spider reference. I’m just full of ’em lately 🙂 Also, that’s how I always spell grey. I also prefer “blonde” to “blond”.

  2. Maia March 31, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Um, tree persons are friendly, duh. I’m partial to a wolf with earrings.

  3. aurora April 1, 2011 at 9:46 am #

    Tree person tree person! Remember how scary the trees were in the Wizard of Oz?

    • Cleo April 4, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      Tree Person!

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