The first instalment of a children's fantasy
|Not so very far from here, lives a tribe of exceedingly curious folk. These kindly souls live in the great outdoors and are rarely seen by human eyes. It is a shame they are so shy really because boys and girls of all races and cultures would rapidly warm to them. Of this I am sure, because it is certainly true that the Wafters have an enormous fondness for human children. In fact if you are a child, then there could be a Wafter watching over you right now.
You see, to a Wafter children are precious and to be admired and protected. It may be the innocence of childhood that attracts them, or it could simply be the child’s love of life and fun. Whatever the reason for the attraction it should certainly not be unwelcome. This race of warm-hearted creatures has saved children and indeed mankind on many occasions.
This is the story of one such adventure.
Lauren was happily playing outside one summer, not so long ago. She was a lucky girl, because although only small herself, she was fortunate enough to have an enormous garden, without which she could not possibly imagine life. Lauren loved to play in the garden and had great adventures amongst the shrubs and trees. Many hours of fun can be had if you take the time to set the scene. The playhouse is, of course, The Royal Palace, the apple trees at the bottom of the garden are the Enchanted Forest, the pond is the Great Lake of Pugland and the rockery is Mount Snow. The mountain can be quite a climb if the weather is bad and avalanches need to be avoided at all costs. One loud noise and tons of snow will crash down and bury the unsuspecting child on the expedition to the summit. Of course, Lauren had only ever been buried twice as a result of avalanches on Mount Snow and on neither occasion was it her fault. The first time was Mum calling out over zealously that dinner was ready, whilst Lauren was just at that critical point in the final ascent to the summit. The only other occasion was even worse because the expedition was barely underway when a nearby farmer decided to fire his shotgun. This caused a huge avalanche, the likes of which had never been seen in Lauren’s garden before or since and the mountain pass was no longer passable.
On this particular day however, the attraction of Mount Snow seemed far too energetic, so Lauren decided to explore the Enchanted Forest.
She wandered around for a while quietly humming the tune to no particular nursery rhyme and picked the occasional flower. Lauren crouched down to pick a lovely bright pansy from the base of an apple tree, her mass of brown curls cascaded into her face and she swept them away with a brush of her hand. She took the flower and held it under her nose. Closing her big brown eyes, she inhaled deeply to catch the scent. After taking her fill of the delicious aroma, Lauren thought the pretty flower would be rather attractive in the buttonhole of her denim jacket and so positioned it accordingly. After smoothing down her favourite red skirt, she skipped along without a care in the world.
Sometimes having no care in the world is good. On this occasion it was far from it. Lauren wandered further than she was allowed. In fact, right out of the safety of her own garden, across the field behind and into the real forest. It was a forest to her, to grown ups it was a fairly small wood but if they were her size, they too would consider it almost like the rainforest she saw on television the week before.
At first, the forest was exciting and new. A place to be explored and conquered, but it did not stay that way for long. Lauren soon found herself right in the depths of this vast jungle and could not find a familiar thing anywhere. She had bustled through with such excitement and awe, that she was now completely lost. It was the rabbit that was the main culprit. It showed it’s fluffy white tail almost teasingly and then bounced off into the thick of the trees. Delighted, Lauren bounded after the rabbit and just like Alice, she expected to have to follow it down a vast hole and into another land. All that happened was the rabbit got away and left Lauren lost.
Tired from the chase, she sat on a log to rest and decide upon a plan. It was then that Lauren began to feel uneasy. She had come a long way, further that ever before. Mum and Dad would not be impressed. She was not even supposed to leave the garden. Worse still was the thought that she was not even sure if she could make it back in time for tea.
A noise startled Lauren back to her senses and she jumped up and spun around. What was that? It sounded like a car coming over a cattle grid, fairly close too. Maybe if she could find the car, the kind family inside could take her home. It had to be worth a try.
Lauren stood perfectly still with her head cocked to one side and listened. Suddenly she darted off in the direction of the sound.
The little girl skipped over fallen branches and weaved between trees as fast as her legs could carry her. She ran fast because the noise was moving and she did not want to lose it. The car was her only chance of getting back home in time for tea and without Mum and Dad knowing she had strayed.
Lauren finally caught a glimpse of the car. It moved slowly along a track to her right and she was almost alongside it. From the glimpses she got through the trees between them, it was a big silver car. One of those like Dad wants that go off the road. It had big, shiny silver wheels and the windows were black.
The truck began to make ground a little better and started to get away from Lauren. Desperate she gave another burst of energy and sprinted faster than she had ever run before. Then came a stroke of luck. The car stopped a little ahead and just by a clearing in the trees too. Lauren would be able to catch it and ask the driver to take her home. She mustered all of her remaining energy and ran hard. Panting by now, she reached the clearing. The car was still stationary and she was about to burst into the clearing when a something grabbed at her foot and sent her tumbling into the undergrowth.
Shock and confusion was now the theme.
One minute Lauren was about to reach the truck, the next she was tumbling head first into the undergrowth. Being scratched heavily on the way! She did a complete forward roll through some very uncomfortable vegetation and ended up flat on her back not knowing which way was up and which way was down. Warm blood trickled down her cheek from a fresh scratch. Her hands tingled from stinging nettles. Soon the pain was too much to contain and she burst into floods of tears. Shock, annoyance, her now burning hands and at last, fear all came together and Lauren cried hard and long. She did not even remember getting out of the thick undergrowth but found herself sprawled on the bare woodland floor beside where she had tumbled. As her senses returned to normal she realised the car was gone, all hope was lost. Her hands were almost too much to bear and it was getting dark.
Lauren tried to pull herself together, figuring that she would never get out of this in such a state. She grabbed a fist full of doc leaves, (as prescribed by her dad on a previous nettle incident), and rubbed them frantically on her stings. They had a cooling effect, which soothed Lauren greatly.
Composure began to return. Think Lauren. What to do was the question.
What happened anyway? There was no sign of any trip hazard in the area where she had got snagged. She stooped and looked closely at the area to try to figure out on what she had tripped when there was a noise.
Not a car this time. It sounded like someone clearing his or her throat. Close too.
Lauren froze. She did not dare look up. The noise came again and it was obvious it was right next too her. It was a slow and deliberate sound. Like people make to draw attention to themselves.
Lauren decided she could not very well avoid it forever and slowly began to raise her head. She looked straight ahead and could see nobody.
“Ahem”, came the sound again. It was from her left now.
She slowly turned her head to the left and still saw nobody.
“Ahem”, a little louder and getting impatient. It was low. Lauren dropped her gaze and took a step back in astonishment at what she was faced with.
“Aren’t you going to thank me?” came the odd little voice.
Lauren stood aghast.
“No time now anyway Lauren, we have to go.”
It stood there, looking up at her. It was about two feet tall and could only be described as a teddy bear. A talking, very alive, although very shabby looking, teddy bear.
Lauren could not believe what she was seeing or hearing and stuttered...
“We have to go” came the reply.
With that, the bear reached up and took Lauren’s hand, tugging at it until she relented and followed.
The bear had little legs but he moved swiftly through the forest and was obviously very familiar with the area.
“Why do I need to thank you when you tripped me up?” Lauren finally asked without either of them slowing down.
“No time to explain now, I have to get you back to my home. You will be told everything there.” The bear blurted.
After many twists, turns, ducks and weaves, the unlikely pair came to a stop at a very dense thicket. A large bush was right in front of them. The bear whistled a few notes and the bush moved aside completely on it’s own. With that, he looked up and said to the bewildered Lauren,
“Welcome to my home.”
They stepped through the gap and Lauren gazed around in disbelief.