Nature Calls, Autumn

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The Small Voice

The mudroom door couldn’t open fast enough for Jake as he escaped the heated debate inside. Leif was right behind him with a trash bag in hand, pulling the door closed behind them. They pinned themselves against the side of the home, staring into the forest.

“This is crazy!” The hot-head cried as he ran his fingers through his dark locks. The purple was only at the tips of his shoulder-length hair now, but they flared out as the teen gripped his scalp in fright. “Those things are gonna come for us now?! Why?!”

“I mean, we have been growing closer to them,” Leif sighed with a tremulous breath, “so I supposed we could be touched or something by fey.”

“I didn’t sign up to be in some freak fairytale, Lei!”

“What does that even mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean,” Jake kicked off the wall to face the taller youth. “Congratulations on getting everything you asked for, Leif! You’re a hero, but unlike you, Jaime, Chelsea, and I are just us! We didn’t get wind powers back on the island! We’re not dating one of the Elements that comes whenever we sing like a princess!”

“Jake, I’m sure you and the girls got gifts just like me,” Leif replied as softly as he could without snapping on his friend. “Flora said she gave Jay something, and I remember Chelsea was showing off the hair stick Flare’s mom gave her...”

“You don’t get it!” Jake cried with watery eyes, silencing Leif out of guilt. “People get hurt in actual fairytales! Some even die! Back at the lake, you just grabbed Gust’s hand and took charge! I was holding Flora and Jaime as tight as I could, but I knew I could be blown away any second! We’re completely freaked out, and you’re running into the mess like you wanted this to happen or something! What am I supposed to do when those things come back?! Huh?! Scream in defiance and hope I scare them away?! Fauna and Flash are down! Why aren’t you as terrified as we are?!”

Leif slumped his shoulders as he listened to the pain in Jake’s voice. The tears finally started to fall. He hadn’t seen him cry this hard since he ran away from home. The words stung to hear, but his friend was right. Why wasn’t he panicking over this? The answer came to him almost instantly, but as the thought struck him, fear shook him down to his core.

The youths stood in silence as the crunch of grass escaped their ears. One, black, steel-toed boot appeared around the corner of the house, and a tall, broad man discovered Leif and Jake. His long legs were covered in loose, frayed, dark gray jeans. The wide, black belt around his waist appeared cracked from age with extra holes added. A pale gray, hooded sweatshirt was covered by a black jean jacket, just as weathered as the pants. Although the hoodie was pulled over his head, some silver curls fell around his face to his collarbone. His pallid visage appeared exhausted and depressed as he paused at a distance from the boys.

“Come with me,” a deep, soft voice left the man’s lips.

Jake and Leif felt a presence wash over them, compelling them to turn toward the man. Gawking, they noticed the familiar complexion. Skye had mentioned a third Avatar, right? Instead of running away, each of them took a step toward the tired figure as sweat formed on their necks.

They couldn’t resist the statement. It was as if their bodies didn’t obey them anymore. Neither seemed capable of crying out for help either as they took another sluggish step toward the Avatar. The Elements were just inside the house, and yet they felt too far away to assist. Tears welled up in Leif’s eyes as he wished he could do something...

In response, he felt his vocal cords vibrate on their own. The tune he had been humming so often filled his ears. Shuddering, the teen felt his body return control to him. He staggered away, looking toward Jake.

"Where the sky and sea," he sang hurriedly, ”and the land that breathes, and the spark of our flame all do meet!"

“You idiot...” Jake spoke hoarsely as his voice fought against the Avatar’s influence.

“Jake...?” Leif paused at the strange tone in his friend’s voice. It sounded so primal it sent a shiver up his spine.

“Run...!” Jake grunted as he rooted his foot in defiance, “Get out of here...!”

Leif flinched, looking between Jake and the Avatar. The figure glanced his way wearily with a curious look in his eyes. It was just the scare the youth needed to run off into the trees. He always felt safer in the forest. He could only hope to outrun an Avatar.

“Gust! Help!”

The voice echoed in the fey Element’s ears within the home, making him look up. He knew Leif and Jake had needed to step away from the heavy atmosphere, so he had left them to decompress. For a brief moment, he thought he saw rustling trees out the large kitchen window facing the garden. Without another moment’s hesitation, Gust vanished in a whirlwind, escaping through the fireplace chimney.

“Thunder...!” Flash grunted quickly, drawing his twin’s attention. “Go... after him...!”

Before he could reply, he felt Fauna stir in his arms. Her lupine gaze met his, conveying she wanted him to take her. There were no further words needed as the titan Element bolted for the mudroom door.

“What’s going on?” Frey cried at the sudden, unexplained action. “Rain?!”

“I don’t know,” the water man admitted, perplexed at the urgency.

“Leif and Jake...” Jaime whispered, making Flora gasp in horror. “They went outside, didn’t they?”

Kristen stood to run after Thunderquack, but she noticed movement in the front yard that made her pause. The black and gray grunge style was familiar to her. The tall man was walking down the driveway as if the weight of the world were on his back. He must have sensed her staring at him, pausing to look back at the home. Their eyes met for a moment, and the woman nearly fell to the recessed, wood floor.

Though his black eyes and grayed complexion were unique, Kristen knew that face. How was this possible? Could that be another Avatar? Had he done something to the boys? When the man finally turned back around to continue walking, Kristen found her strength to stumble toward the front door. Freja watched her friend with confusion as she tore the door open to flee the home.

Mike?!” Kristen called after the Avatar, but he kept walking. “Mike, is that you?!”

“Leif!” Gust howled as his dispersed form rushed through the trees. How far could the human have gotten already? His leaf was in danger, and he was ready to crush the one responsible. “Leif, where are you?!”

“Gust?” Leif called back, pausing to look around him. “Gust, the third one messes with our heads! He got Jake, but the wind snapped me out of it! I don’t know what to do!”

“I hear you, my leaf! I am coming!”

Just as Gust’s hand began to take form, outstretched toward Leif’s, a fissure ripped just behind the young man. It was too quick for him to react. A moment before their hands met, Bedlam’s vines rushed to ensnare the human, ripping him through the tear in space. Gust’s face materialized with a horrified expression as the hole close as soon as he reached it.

Falling to the forest floor, Gust felt all air cease within him as his heart skipped a beat. As disbelief faded into fear, something inside the eldest Element broke. His lips gaped wide as a deafening howl screeched. The cry sounded as if his vocal cord were shredding as he reached for his scalp. A channel of wind was beginning to spiral through the trees, forming an unnatural funnel around the Element. The olive orbs gawked as the whites in his eyes began to bleed black. Such agony felt worse than seeing his father’s fate and no sign of his mother. The realized fear of leading to Leif Dahl’s demise pushed him over the edge, and he began to disintegrate as the sorrow consumed him.

“Brother!” Fauna’s voice cried as she rushed to his side just before the wall solidified. Thunderquake wasn't far behind her, piercing through the wall with ease. Draping her arms around him, the feral Element cried desperately, "Brother, don't give in! You're so much stronger than I! Please, Gust!"

Although the sound was physically painful, Thunderquake and Fauna knelt to embrace the broken Element. Their touch seemed to be the only thing keeping him from dissolving. They knew the moment he vanished that no one would be able to reach him in this state. Torrents of tears poured from Gust's swollen eyes as the black and white showed them his inner fight for control. They continued to hold him tightly even after the winds died away. It was all they could offer to comfort him after so much loss.

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