Once Upon A Book

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Chapter 05 | The Awesome Cricket

“I can’t believe I agreed to come with you,” said Catherine in exasperation. “This place is just as creepy as the rumour says!”

She stood in the beginning of the woods at the edge of Fairy Heights. The winter sun was preparing to set; it was around four o’clock the same evening, when Catherine had sneaked out of her house. Now, about thirty minutes later, she stood in the middle of a forest with Jeremy the talking magic cricket on her shoulder. He said nothing; just stared straight ahead at the wide uneven rubble path surrounded by trees.

“I – I can feel the pull of s-something stronger just – just by standing here,” she went on, shivering suddenly in fear. “Something stronger… something evil…”

“Calm down,” said Jeremy.

Catherine stopped sputtering and blinked, her gaze going as far as she could to see him on her shoulder. “S-sorry?”

“Just try to gather yourself and calm down,” the cricket went on. “Relax. Breathe in, breathe out. Just like that… one more time. Yes… good. Now, do you still feel afraid?”

“Uh – y-yes – uh – sorta.”

“All right. The pull you feel – can you describe it to me?”

The young teenager frowned, trying to find the right words. “Maybe,” she muttered. “Something… well, evil. I don’t think I have any more words than that.”

He nodded slowly and thoughtfully. “All right then. Do you feel attracted to it or repulsed?”

“Huh?”

“Do you feel like you want to go towards it or you feel like you want to go away?”

“Huh… good question.” She pondered over it. “I feel… I feel like I want to see what it feels like – to have that much power.”

Jeremy frowned—he hadn’t expected such an answer. “Are you… are you sure?” he stammered, fear creeping slowly up his tiny body.

Catherine nodded slowly, a determined expression on her face.

She’s definitely a witch with a great potential,’ he thought. ’But, potential for what, is the question. Oh, Jiminy, please help her choose the right path.’ Aloud, he said, his voice showing no sign of his inner turmoil, “So, do you want to?”

“Yes.” Catherine’s voice had turned trance-like.

Oh no, just like I feared. I shouldn’t have brought her here.’ Aloud: “I… Should we go?”

“Ye…” Suddenly, the girl stopped speaking. She shook her head and her face returned to normal. She looked around her and her fear of the woods came back. “Hey, what are we still doing here!? I thought we agreed to go back!”

The cricket was confused now, but he didn’t voice it out loud. Instead, he nodded. “Yes, of course. I just wanted to check out something. One last question: Do you think you should go and check out this great power?”

She shuddered. “Whatever for?! I won’t gain anything by doing that, will I? I might even get hurt, which isn’t my piece of chocolate, thank you very much!” She paused and frowned. “What… what will happen if I do?”

“You’ll know how that story ended.”

Catherine abruptly picked up the cricket by his neck and held him in front of her. “You’re not serious, are you?”

The cricket folded its tiny forelegs and closed his eyes, a very earnest expression on his face. “Very serious, indeed!”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am!”

“No!”

“Yes!”

“Argh! You don’t get confused, do you!” yelled the girl at last in frustration. “What’s up with that awesomeness!?”

The cricket proudly held his head. “I’m cool that way, thank you very much!”

She sighed. “All right. Look, can we leave now? I’m getting scared the more I stand here.”

“Sure. Let’s go back. There are always other ways to find our answers.”

“What do you mean?”

“You still haven’t realised it, have you?”

Catherine put him back on her shoulder. “I don’t get you.”

Jeremy snorted. “Typical humans! So clueless about everything! How you hung around for all these millennia I’ll never understand!” He shook his head as if at a lost cause.

She frowned as she turned to go. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you know, Charles Darwin said that when there’s change, only the fittest survive. ‘Survival of the fittest’ – he said. When human don’t have the knowledge that’ll help them survive… I’m surprised your species is still around!”

She hissed under her breath. “And I never knew crickets lived more than a year, annoying or not,” she retorted.

“Oh well, that’s fair, I suppose. Now – we seem to have come to the edge of the forest. Is that the main road there?”

“Ye… yes, I think so. Although…” Her voice trailed off.

“There’s something wrong,” he finished for her. “There’s something out there just waiting for us to arrive.”

“Oh yea? What do you think that is?”

“How should I know?”

“You’re older than me!”

“That doesn’t mean I should know!”

“It sure does!” she yelled back. “Besides, what were you saying about knowledge for survival?”

“That’s different!”

“It’s not! You should know if you’ve survived for so long!”

“No!”

“Yes!”

“No!”

“Yes!”

“No! I mean, really, Catherine, don’t take another steeeepp!” The last syllable came out drawn as Jeremy and his companion fell through the air.


Catherine decided that landing on her butt was the worst kind of landing ever.

She’d fallen down trees before, fallen while trying to ride her bicycle as a young child, and fallen while playing with classmates at school.

But, she’d never landed on her butt. Always on her knees or back. Never on her buttocks.

“Ugh, this sucks!” she groaned. Her body felt like it was fire and her bottom felt paralysed—she could no longer feel it. A sharp pain seared through her spinal cord and she gasped.

“There, there,” she could hear Jeremy speaking, but couldn’t see him anywhere.

“Where?!”

There was silence for a few seconds.

“Jeremy!?”

“No need to panic, Catherine. I’m right on top of you. And when I said ‘There, there’, I was trying to reassure you, comfort you, so you’d not go into an ultra-alarm mode like this.”

Some of what he said sank into her mind and she forced her heart to stop racing so fast. She frowned, trying to get bearings. Where on Earth was she? She managed to lift herself up to shoulder-level by pushing her hands, palms down, onto the ground beneath her and look around. The place was completely dark, except a ray of light shining down through an opening somewhere – probably the one she fell through. She grunted in annoyance.

“Which idiot had the bright idea to dig a hole at the edge of a forest road?” she commented.

“That’d be a world-class idiot, yes,” came the voice of the cricket. “Who shouldn’t be very hard to find, I imagine.”

“Say, could you possibly help me up?”

“What do I look like to you – a sumo wrestler?!” Jeremy’s voice sounded incensed.

“Well, you’re magical, live for longer time than you should – much longer – and so, it’s to be expected that you can turn yourself into a giant and help me up.” She paused to clear her throat. “Also, I cannot see you.”

She could hear him grunting in exasperation. “Whatever. Now that you know I can’t help you up, come on, try to get up yourself.”

Catherine was fallen flat on her stomach. She felt her whole body aching as she tried to lift it up with her hands. She could feel the loose gravel and stones under the skin of her palms and tried not to cry as they grazed and bruised over them. It took some time, but she finally sat hunched over against the wall of the hole, her legs stretched completely. Jeremy was sitting a few feet ahead of her.

She titled her head to look up. The opening of the hole she fell through seemed to be several miles away. How was she going to get through to there—climb?

Not that I’m such a good climber,’ she thought. ’But, maybe I could take Jeremy with me and try.’ She turned to the little guy hopping around, what for she couldn’t tell. ’Gosh, it’s rather hot in here – almost makes me regret wearing this woollen coat.

“So, what about the story?” she asked him. “How are we going to find it? You said you had an idea?”

“Huh?” The cricket seemed to be only half-listening to her.

She cleared her throat and spoke a little louder, “Something about we humans being so dumb?”

That did it. Jeremy stopped dead in his tracks and turned around to look at her. She had a victorious expression on her face.

“All right, all right.” He hopped towards her and sat on her right knee. “Look, the way we were going that time, just before we turned back towards the road, was the path that leads to old Tremaine. She’s a witch in her own right and very persuasive – she can charm any creature to come within her territory and do her bidding.”

“Oh.” Catherine remembered faintly the nice cool feeling she had felt in her chest when she was going that way, and then, the aching when she turned and walked away. “I get it now.”

“Right. So then, I was going to take to Cinderella herself to see how her story ended. So, you can try and figure it out for yourself, while we wait for the story in the book to continue.”

“Ella,” she muttered.

“Pardon?”

“Her name is Ella. She’s not Cinderella in this story.”

The cricket regarded her with a piercing look. “We’ll see about that.” He cleared his throat. “Anyhow, we should cross this hurdle.” He hopped off her knee and onto the ground.

“Get out of this hole. Right.” It was easier for her to get up on her feet now, holding on to the slippery wall for support. “Hey – it feels like this hole has been dug very recently.” She brushed her fingertips over it. “Yes, it certainly has been!”

“We’ll think about why later. For now, we have to hurry, before your family finds out you’re gone and begins a search!”

“You’re right.” With both her hands on the wall, she tried to get a good grip, but it was no use. Her fingers kept sliding over the loose gravel, which terrified her about climbing it and falling down worse than the first time. No use going like that. “All right. Looks like I have to use my magic.”

She spread her arms before her and commanded Jeremy to hold onto her. He leaped towards her and climbed up, until he was sitting on her shoulder.

“Not there. I’ll be using my hands a lot. Climb onto my head.”

The cricket obeyed and the young girl concentrated on her magic, eyes closed.

Slowly, she felt her feet lifting up. It was a gradual process; she wasn’t yet experienced enough to teleport herself to the surface. She had to have patience.

And though she felt losing it and therefore her control over her magic, she managed to gather herself together again and keep up her power.

Finally, they had levitated above the pit. She thrust her palms towards the road in front of her and managed a near-perfect landing on it. For, at the last minute, she lost her hold over her magic and fell hard on the gravel road on her legs.

“That’s excellent – you managed it!” cried Jeremy in excitement.

“No need to be so surprised!” she grumbled under her breath.

“Now, go, go, go – before the person who opened this pit comes back!”

Catherine didn’t wait for him to elaborate. She took off in the direction back towards the town of Fairy Heights.

Only a pair of gleaming bright blue eyes watched them race away from behind the bushes near the hole.

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