As I looked up into the night sky, an unimaginable number of stars looked back down at me. The cool air kissed my cheek as I held my wrap tightly against my shoulders. I could hear the howling of wolves in the distance and it made the hairs on the back of my neck raise up. The sand between my toes was soft and the waves swaying next to me were low and graceful. I sat down to take it all in and realized far too soon that I was doing it again. Mama called it daydreaming but she had no idea the extent of it. I felt myself being pulled out and opened my eyes.
“Are you finished?”
The woman stood beside me., watching my every stroke on the canvas. I looked up and was quickly transported back to reality. The sun shone fiercely on my face, blinding me. I pulled my unruly red hair back and placed my worn out hat on top to shield me. I nodded for the woman to know I had heard her. I looked at the painting and realized that once again I had finished it absentmindedly. On the canvas was the scene which I had been walking in, the exact place I had been to just moments before. It felt so real that I didn’t want to classify it as just a daydream. Any time it happened, I felt as though I had been transported into another universe, one where I controlled what happened. However I never could quite understand how I always got back to reality. It was a mystery to me and one I would always be searching to understand. Alternate realities were so much better than my reality and I wanted to stay tucked away in my paintings. The woman looked over at the painting and smiled.
“It is beautiful. You have more than a gift child.”
She was right, even before I could write, my painting was an escape for me. Papa and Mama had been amazed, neither really knowing how to use my talents as an opportunity for a better life. They had never known anything different than working the land, so I never held it against them. The woman took out some coins and dropped them next to the canvas.
“Don’t waste your talents on this town.”
I thanked her and went on to washing my brushes. Even that menial task was a welcome distraction to me, it was peaceful and I found it therapeutic. Papa had paid a good amount on the supplies I needed but he had seen it as an investment and I had just been happy at the time that he had taken me seriously. Working the land was also something that needed to be done, but during the hours that they could work without me, I was working in the town square and making more money to help the family.
As I walked down the all too familiar dirt road home, I saw Maria, our neighbour, waving frantically in my direction. When I didn’t respond, she picked up her skirts and ran towards me at full speed. She was an older woman, she should not be taxing her heart like that. I held onto my supplies and started running towards her, if only to give her a few feet less to run. As she caught up to me, she held my arm and pulled me towards my house.
“Come quick Arabella.”
She said each word through gasping and wheezing, she had to sit down so I could make sense of what else she wanted to say.
“The witches. They have your parents.”
She let out a final gasp and fainted next to me. Giuseppe, her son, came running towards us and helped me get her into her room and onto her bed. I needed to know what she meant. I needed her to wake up. I waited and waited but after what seemed like an eternity had passed, I went out and ran all the way home. I passed the cows grazing peacefully in the fields, the chickens clucking as though nothing had changed. As I made my way through the house, everything seemed normal. Maybe she had been mistaken. Maria was getting older, so maybe she was just wrong. I sat down and cried. Not knowing was the worst part. I would have to go back and ask her when she was awake. She was the only one who would have seen anything. The coven lived on the outskirts of town, even further than we did, beyond the dark forest. They were feared by everyone in town and as such, were almost never seen leaving their village walls. Over the past years, many people had vanished, never to be seen or heard from again. If Mama and Papa had been going that way, they must have had a reason. They would never leave the farm if it wasn’t important. I stood up and made my way back to see if Maria had awoken. I found her sitting up in her bed, a terrified look on her pale face.
“The violin enchanted them. I saw them walk away together towards the wrong side of the road. I called to them, but they were in a trance. They walked into the forest and as soon as they did, the trees closed in on them and they were gone. I am so sorry Arabella. I couldn’t stop them.”
I didn’t know what to make of it all, but the one thing I did know was that when people went into the enchanted forest, they were never seen or heard from again. I sat down next to her and cried, as she stroked my hair and tried to calm me down. Nothing would ever be the same again.