by James Linen
By James Linen
|"Daneil, come here, right now!"
I rolled my eyes and walked unwillingly towards my mother.
Looking at her, our eyes made contact. She was not happy. She had a deep worn look in her normally beautiful green eyes.
The sun hit her just right, shading her round face and making her furrowed brow look menacing. I took notice of what she wore, as it was unusual, almost as if she was trying to change something about herself. She wore overalls and a flannel shirt underneath. Normally she dressed with a bit of class and not so laid back. I was curious as what I had done so wrong, that she would look this tired of me.
Reaching her, looking down and under my breath, I whispered
She stared at me for a moment and I could feel her eyes burning into me. I couldn't recall anything that I had done wrong, or even at all for that matter. The day had just started and I was setting out for an adventure. Maybe that was it. Maybe she didn't like that I was leaving so hastily.
With her deep stern voice,
"Where do you think you're off to?"
"I was just going to find something to do mother.", I replied, still looking down.
"No, son, you're not." "I've been struggling with the decision, but I've decided to send you to a boarding school."
My eyes shoot to hers in surprise, hoping to see a smile or any sign of a joke at all, but there was none. Just a cold, empty stare.
I was shocked. Speechless. Confused. I had absolutely no idea what to say. I had always been good, we'd always gotten along. How could this happen? I'm only thirteen, how long would I have to spend there? Until I'm an adult? A full five years? I was lost.
Staring at her, the tall wiry frame, with the sun against her back, didn't much resemble my mother, let alone her emotions.
"Go pack your stuff, I've sent for an escort. They'll be here relatively soon, so make it hurried." She gazed off to the left horizon for a moment, and turned and walked away.
I stood there, blank and expressionless, thoughts drowning my mind, wondering what happened. What was in store for me? What of my friends and family? Would I ever see them again?
The first step was the hardest. Shaking and quivering, I tried to move, and fell to my knees. I could feel the tears coming, but my mother had raised me strong. What did it matter, though? She wanted to abandon me. What did her opinion count for anymore?
I sat outside dull and beaten, emotionless. My trunk at least gave me what felt like a proper seat, as I waited for my removal.
The day had matched my emotions, it was bright and sunny when the day had started, it was brilliant. As the day had furthered, it got cloudy and gloomy. The lack of sun turned the cool crisp air, cold and overbearing. It was near as miserable out, as I was inside, Which made it all the worse.
After what felt like hours, a white bus pulled up. I glanced around for someone to say bye to, but mother, nor anyone else was to be seen. I loaded my things and climbed in. The driver, tall and lanky, was completely indifferent to me, or it seemed. I closed the door and we were off. We hit a highway and just kept driving. Being a relatively small town, there was nothing around for miles but trees and plains. In the middle of day dreaming, it soon became apparent that we were leaving town. I had no real idea where we were going. After hours, my eyes started getting heavy and I could not fight sleep off any longer. My heavy eyelids fell.
I woke to the sound of a horn blaring and people screaming. It was still night time. With the dull lighting, I could make out what looked like a train. A train?, I thought. Where in the world was I going. I had never left my province, let alone my city. It was all I ever knew.
The car slowed to a stop and I looked around with curiosity. Lost in taking in my new surroundings, I nearly had a heart attack when the train horn blew, it brought me back to the real world very fast. The driver got out and helped me with my bags. He introduced himself as Tom, and furthered that he was a simple man. I studied his uniform, just a slightly worn black suit , it was faded but well taken care of. Pressed and neat, I admired his appearance. He motioned for me to follow him and we walked over to the ticket counter. The ticket lady looked like the day had driven her into the ground, but when approached, she changed to a warm tone and asked, "What can I do for you today?"
"Two tickets, if you'd please."
"Okay... Just one moment.. Here you are sir!"
"Thank you kindly, Madam."
I smiled at the mannerisms that Tom held. Not only well put together, well mannered as well.
We walked to the train and boarded. I followed him down a train cart and we took seat in a booth.
"Yes... I haven't had the chance to catch your name yet, have I boy?"
"No sir. My name is Daniel."
"Right. What do you need then, Daniel?"
"Where are we going?"
"Henderson's Forest Academy."
"Oh... Do you know the reasons why I'm going there?" "My mother told me I was leaving and did not see me off."
"Not at all."
It was a weak attempt at conversation, but I had no intentions of possibly angering or annoying Tom, so I held all of my questions and layed my head against the window. The countryside was plenty, it was gorgeous. I had never seen anything of the like in all of my days, but to no surprise only being thirteen and confined to a single town.
"The countryside is beautiful, isn't it?" Said Tom, having obviously noticed me staring at the window.
"It is, sir. Glorious. If only I could see it" I said jokingly.
"Enjoy the ride, Daniel." Tom said, laying back and covering his eyes with his hat.
"One more question sir?"
"Yes?" He asked from under his hat.
"How long will the trip be?"
"A bit. Get comfortable."
I layed my head back against the window and stared back into the darkness, waiting for sleep to wrap me into its clutches once again, and pull me under.
I woke with the sun beating down on me, I opened them only to be blinded and have to close them again, as I happened to be staring straight at it, out of all the luck. I stretched and glanced around, forgetting where I was. I was in a tiny train compartment, with red leather seats and a glass door, with the shutters closed, with Tom across from me. Right.
I had no idea what time it was, though I assumed early morning, as the train wasn't very lively and Tom was still asleep. I quietly opened the door and snuck out on the search for a bathroom and food. I felt dirty and needed a bath, I hoped the train ride would soon end.
The train screeched to a stop and the horn bellowed once more. We departed the train and Tom flagged a car down. We arrived at a huge forest with a single path that I could see no end to. We rode along the tree ridden path, darkened by the trees. I kept getting a nagging feeling that something was off, but I wasn't so sure. I figured it was because it was a forest and are inherently scary when they're dark.
At the end of the path stood a huge complex of buildings, with the largest being in the middle. A bridge and river lie just before the gated entrance. The river cut through the forest and fit the scenery beautifully.
The car pulled into the gate and up the long dive to the doors of the main building. Getting my trunk, Tom said, "Follow me Daniel."
I tailed him closely into the building. It was huge inside, made of colorful stone. There lie a desk and rooms spread around a massive lounge. We made it to the desk where time signed some papers.
Smiling, Tom said
"Well boy, this is it. I'll be seeing you, enjoy your stay. This is a good place. You'll enjoy it."
With that and a turn of his coat, he was gone. I was stuck in a new place that I did not know, nor know anyone.
I stared at my trunk and was trying to figure out what to do now. Tim had no instructed me on anything. I turned to the lady and inquired, "What now?"
"Now me!" Said a light voice from behind me.
I spun around and there stood before me, a cheery girl, about four years older than I. She was thin, blonde, bright blue eyes, and a ways taller than me. I wasn't exactly short, so she was definitely tall.
"Well! What are you waiting for!"
I smiled and picked up my trunk, "lead the way."
"First things first! I'll show you your quarters, so you can leave your case for now and make yourself at home later!"
She led me out the building and across the field, there was a few long two story buildings, one on the left and one on the right of the path. We entered into the building on right and went to another desk. She handed the man papers and requested I be made an ID. I signed it and she led me to my room, which was on the far end of the hallway. Opening the door, she looked at me with a big smile, "You got lucky! You came late, so you got a room all to yourself! Usually there's three people to a room, not exactly envious."
I smiled and laughed, "Lucky me, I guess.”
I went and dropped my trunk and we left. She showed me around campus, to where my classes would be. I noticed I was starting to like her, and that after this orientation, she would be fond of me as well and we could be friends, even through the age gap. She laughed and joked a lot, it brightened the dreary week that I was having, having left home and my mother being cold for whatever reason it may have been.
Breaking my thoughts, she proclaimed,
"Okay! One last thing!" The river and forest are natural barriers. They are off limits. Do not swim in the river. Do not explore the woods. Understood?”, she said solemnly.
It was odd, it was the only time I had seen her without a smile or pep in her tone. "Yes, I understand.", I replied.
"Good! If you have any questions, find me and feel free to ask!", She said, regaining her cheer , "Other than that, we're done here!"
She smiled and turned to walk away, but it hit me that I didn't know her name. I took her hand, and said, "Wait, I didn't catch your name!"
She turned and said, "Adaline! Nice to meet you Daniel!"
"Indeed, my lady." I said with a smile, bowing. My best possible attempt at being humorous, I almost laughed at myself.
She smiled and walked away.
I stared at the forest, wonder filling my head. Why was it off limits? What lie inside? How deep was it? Would I get lost? What kind of trees and animals reside there? The grass is soft and green here, but across the river, it's covered in leaves. Maybe snakes? Bears? The possibilities are endless..
I had been here for about three months now. Over all not so bad, just very confined. I often thought about slipping through the fence and exploring the woods, just for any excitement, but everyone was adamant that it was a terrible idea. I had been hearing rumors, about people going in and never coming out, about people who go in and drowning in the river on the way out, I had heard of ghosts and ghouls residing there, even about one where a group of teachers going in to search for a student and only one coming out, and she had to be institutionalized. I wanted to see for myself.
In the dead of night, I slipped out of my window, and made my way a few windows down, and tapped on the window. Joshua answered the window by waving me off and he slipped out as well. Were both dressed in all black and boots, trying our best to not be seen on our way out.
"Okay... Check list... flashlights?"
"Matches, the knives, cloth, compass, whistles, batteries, towels, gloves..."
"Check check check check...."
"Gauze... and bandages."
"Check and check."
We were lucky, we had taken basic medical and survival classes earlier in the year and knew how to take care of ourselves out there, so if we got injured or lost, there would be at least some chance that we got back alive. We knew we were being stupid going into the woods at night, but we had a plan and faith in ourselves. After all, ignorance is the cause of curiosity, I thought.
We slipped into the night, there was only one light lighting the field in between us and the fence, so it was easily bypassed. The hard part would be getting across the river. We had brought a few towels
So we could dry off with, but we didn't know how strong the current was, or how deep the river was. We had tried scouting before, but we could only guess and see how deep the river was from the gate.
We had picked the spot that looked like the shallowest, but the current varied by what felt like the hour.
We stripped naked, not shy, as it was pitch black and stuffed our clothes in our pack, we'd need the to stay dry, or risk having to walk around wet and getting sick. I knelt down and touched the water and said,
"currents not too strong... just have to be careful not to slip..", glancing in Joshua's general direction, but it being so dark out, nothing was visible. Wed have to wait until we were fairly deep in the woods to turn on our lights, to avoid the risk of arousing suspicious eyes from the grounds.
"Yeah." I replied trying to hold in the sounds of nervousness and excitement.
I stepped into the water, it was cold. I shivered and took another step until I was half way in. I'm up to my chest in water with my pack over my head. The rocks were fairly slippery, just as I had thought. Then, a whelp and a splash, just to the side of me.
I looked in the direction, but I could still see nothing, the clouds overhead blocked out all light and a light fog filled the air.
"Joshua! Can you hear me?!",
I had to keep walking. I'd do better from the edge. I climbed onto the bank and pulled my flashlight out, not caring about alerting anyone anymore. This had already turned bad and we hadn't even crossed the river yet. I scanned the shore line and the spot where it sounded like he had fallen. My light fell upon a figure sitting on the bank shivering, I lowered my flashlight and ran to it.
"Joshua! Are you okay?!?
The scream tearing through my whisper.
I picked my flashlight and the figure was gone, I had only lowered my flashlight for a second. He would have answered me. Did he fall back in? I scanned the water where the figure sat, but nothing. I went further down the bank and into the woods, searching. Nothing. I turned and ran to where we had crossed. Nothing. I was starting to panic. Joshua was a strong swimmer, he couldn't drown. I walked down the bank and noticed a figure sprawled, distorted. I didn't want him to disappear again, so I never lowered my flashlight as I ran to him. He was unconscious, how had he moved and fallen unconscious? I shook him on the shoulder and whispered his name.
No response, I listened for a heartbeat. It was weak but it was there. I remember seeing cpr in movies and gave my best go.
Spft, the sound of the water coming up was a heart wrenching relief. The weight of a building had been lifted off my shoulders.
He opened his eyes and looked at me.
"Holy shit man, what the fuck happened?" I asked
He just stared at me expressionless, water pouring down his cheek. I reached down and grabbed him by the arm and pulled. "Get up man, let's go, you have to dry off."
He rolled over and groaned. "I slipped on the rocks, and the water..."
"Shh, let's move into the trees and then we'll talk.. I don't like being on the bank."
I ran to a nearby tree and fumbled for my chord. I laced it to the tree and put the roll in my bag, so it would unroll as we walked.
We made it into the trees and we sat for a moment. The weight of the accident did not weigh on me as much as what I had seen. I swore I seen him up the river, but found him in the completely opposite direction, unconscious.
"Hey, did you move down river? I swore I seen you up river."
"No.. I woke when you saved me."
He said shivering.
I started off back in the direction of what I had seen. "Odd."
We moved through the trees in silence, the fallen leaves dampened from the mist. Our lights tore through the darkness, they were surprisingly bright, I was almost thankful. It felt great being out here, I felt alive and like an explorer, mapping new territory. The line ran across my finger and I felt the end slip through my fingers. No more line.
"Joshua, get your line out, mines finished."
I back pedaled and secured it to a tree, tying the other line just under it.
"That should do it."
We were progressing further through the thicket when I heard a noise.
"Josh! Did you hear that?" I whispered loudly, Trying to hide my paranoia, but it breaking through my voice.
"Yeah... I think it was a branch breaking?"
"I heard that too, but I swear I heard a whisper... it sounded like
My eyes scanned the wall of trees all around me trying to find the source, but as far as the flashlight could silence the darkness, I could see only the blackness of the trees littering the distance.
"Let's go... I'm starting to feel weird.", I said.
Joshua nodded and we started our trek forward again, when off in the distance, I could hear something whispering again. I looked at joshua and sprinted in the direction. I needed to know what it was, we had come out here to explore the mysteries of the forest after all. How could I let this one go, the one that I had witnessed myself, the one happening in front of my very eyes. I ran as fast as I could and could hear Joshua's heavy footsteps trailing behind me.
We stopped in a slight clearing, where under the heavy covering of the leaves, we could see the starting of what looked like a beaten path. I glanced at josh and made eye contact and we flipped our flashlights on low, and headed down the path.
We were a ways down the path when I realized that our string should have already ran out, we stopped and I pulled the roll out of my sack. It was only halfway gone. Wrong. Very wrong. We should have definitely run out by now. I checked the tension of the rope and looked at josh with an easy feeling about me.
"What's wrong?", he asked.
"I think the rope snapped. I have no idea how long or how far we've gone with a snapped rope... If we're lucky, it snapped near the path. We can only hope."
"Well, we have a general idea where we came from in relation to the path... So maybe we can find our rope and it won't be so hard.", he added.
I nodded in approval. I could see a frame of something large off in the distance. Josh must have seen it too, as he flipped his flashlight to bright and we could see the silhouette of a house.
"There?", he asked eagerly.
"Oh yeah.", I said smilingly.
It was a large, worn, wooden cabin that looked like it had been abandoned for centuries. It was falling in on itself, but the frame still held.
We walked up the creaky stairs and noticed the door was ajar slightly, as it had no door latch.
I reached for the door and it blew closed, almost as if it were a foreboding. I looked at joshua, and he nodded me towards it.
I slipped my finger into the crack and pulled it open. A burst of cold, damp air hit me in the face.
The musty house was covered in moss and dust, worn wood showing the sky.
"Lets be careful. Who knows what's in here..."Joshua said.
"Right." I replied, shining my flashlight across the room.
I moved towards a room that seemed to be a kitchen. A worn iron pot sit in the middle of the room, and a furnace lined the side of the wall.
The shelves were old and caked in dirt, with no signs of a former presence and a broom lie on the floor next to the beaten cauldron.
I moved to a cabinet next to the door and opened the door. I jumped back in surprise as a shower of dirt poured down from the top of the door. I exclaimed in surprise.
I wondered how long the dust must have been accumulating there for, there was just so much of it.
Recovering and seeing that the cabinet was empty other than the mass of dirt that resided on top of it.
I heard a loud noise in the other room but no shout or any follow up.
I made my way back into the living room, retaking in my surroundings.
I got a weird sudden chill running down the back of my neck, making my hair stand up, like something was out of place. An instinct maybe, I thought.
I moved towards the back of the house for the only remaining room. I could see my flashlight glimmering off of something down the hall, almost lighting the whole room in front of me, though I had no idea what it was. I moved quietly to the room and looked around, but Josh was nowhere to be seen.
Where did he go? Maybe outside? How? I would have seen him leave, I thought.
"Josh" I yelped
Nothing. Dead silence Versus the wind and trees. I was starting to worry again.
"Josh... If you're messing around, you'd better give it up. It's not funny." I announced loudly, quivering, but with hope that he'd respond or just jump out and scare me.
Nothing. The room was empty other than a window pane in a mirror frame, lying on the floor. I picked it up, thinking maybe it was a clue he left to finding Joshua. There was a nail that looked like it was meant specifically to hang the contraption. I placed it on the wall and took a step back.
I stared at the mirror and I screamed. A lady behind me. An ugly old hag, colorless and dull, menacing and evil looking. I spun around to look, but nothing was there. What the hell was that?
How could my mind play a trick on me like that? Not possible. I needed to find Josh and get the hell out of here.
"Josh!", I yelled at the top of my lungs, no longer caring about disturbing the trees, nor anyone finding us. Faintly hoping that someone would hear us and pull us out of here.
I ran to the main room, watching for holes in the worn wooden floor, and outside into the cold windy night. "Josh!" , I yelled, running around the house. Still nothing.
A million thoughts ran through my head. What the hell happened to him? Maybe what I seen got him? But what the hell did I see?
I ran back into the house, my stomach in knots and nearly im my throat. It seemed like the house had gotten foggy while I was outside and my flashlight was barely cutting through it. I couldn't see as far in as before.
I didn't say anything now, I couldn't. I was too scared to speak. I ran back into the room and tried to avoid the mirror on the wall.
It didn't make any sense. It was a pane of glass. How did it reflect anything? I could see myself perfectly and I definitely seen what I know I seen.
I felt my hair stand on end as a chill ran over me. I spun in a circle and stopped at the mirror. Transfixed, I couldn't move. I stared at the woman as she ran her hand over my shoulder in the mirror. I could feel it. Not physically, but deep inside. What the hell was this?
I couldn't speak. I couldn't move to run... and then I felt it grab hold of me. She smiled. We had eye contact and she smiled a wide grin bearing missing teeth, the remaining ones sharp as needles. Her eyes wide with desperation, staring into my soul. I could feel her pulling myself out of myself.
The room started to spin and faded to black. I felt myself collapse and my eyes close with heavy weight.
I opened my eyes, but no light or color greeted me; only drab gray world with no variation. Beside me sat Joshua. I sat up and looked at him. I felt odd. In the way that I felt nothing at all.
"Where are we?"
"No idea", Joshua answered.
I traced his gaze and there lie the mirror on the wall. I could see myself, lying on the floor. I didn't feel any particular way about it. Weird. I watched myself stand up and walk over to the mirror and smile. I could see the lady taking refuge inside of me... but I couldn't make it matter. I watched her walk away with my body and just stared blankly at the mirror.
I looked around, and laid back.
Staring at the ceiling, I asked,
"What happened to you?"
"Don't know, I was gone when I woke up.", He replied.