Birth of The Free Bird

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It was such an unusual sunny day in the whole land of Easton. The sun shone brightly, surrounded with nothing but a clear blue sky, promising the inhabitants of the land that the rain would not be falling from the sky, since there were no dark clouds hanging above their heads. People of the Easton saw that bright day as a moment to bring their hidden business outside, to look for better opportunities that they hardly got when they were trapped in their own house, due to the heavy rain that poured onto their land all year round. Children were joyfully playing outside, moving around freely playing various games they could think of: the games that they could never do properly when they were inside their dwellings.

Right in the middle of the market which was busier than any other days, where more people happily shopped for groceries and other necessities, seven boys were crowding, standing in a circle. Just like the other children, they were also excited to spend their day outside playing together with their friends without having to worry being drenched in the rain.

“Didn’t you promise that we are going to play hopscotch in the field?” Said a little boy to another boy standing next to him, who was seemingly a little bit older and taller than him. They shared similar face features: both of their eyes were dark brown chocolate which perfectly matched with their short reddish brown hair and their smooth palled complexion.

The taller boy looked down at the little boy, curling his upper lip in annoyance. The little boy had not stopped whining about playing hopscotch since they left their father’s stall in the market. He used to promise the younger boy to play the game, if they ever encountered with a bright sunny day. Who knew that the day would have really came and when it did, the taller boy had made another plan for his rare sunny day.

“I did. But today the other boys and I want to play hide and seek in the forest.”

The other boys, who stood around the two boys, chuckled at the exchange between them. They warned the tall boy in the morning that he was not to bring the little boy along with him to their group, yet here they were, being disturbed by the little boy who wanted to play a boring game.

“Maybe we can play hopscotch tomorrow, Edmond.” One of the boys, the black-haired one, suggested, smiling at the little boy. This made the tall boy raised his eyebrow, looking at the boy who just spoke and questioning his intention. “Today, we are going to play hide and seek in the forest. But I think you shouldn’t join us for today. Your brother and the rest of us cannot run and hide quickly if you tag along with us. And the forest is not a good place for you. You’re still little.”

Edmond pouted his lips. His feeling hurt from the boy’s rejection. He looked up at his brother beside him, hoping that he would not agree with what the other boy said to him.

“Thomas is right, Edmond.” His brother spoke, agreeing with the black-haired boy as he slightly nodded at him. Edmond pouted his lips so more, feeling disappointed. “We can play your game tomorrow. You can go back to Papa and stay there until Papa close his stall.”

“But Neil,-” The little boy wanted to protest but stopped, feeling hurt that his brother did not want to play with him on the sunny day. Edmond had been looking forward to playing hopscotch with his brother and his friends in the field, as the siblings had only been able to play the game inside the spare room in their house and it was only the two of them. Edmond thought that the more people playing, the more fun it would be.

“Don’t be sad, Ed. I promise I would remind all the boys and your brother tomorrow to play hopscotch in the field. We will have fun.” Thomas said to Edmond, trying to soothe the little boy’s sadness and to persuade him to not play with them at the same time. “Go, now. We will watch you walk to where your Papa is and then we will leave for the forest. We will make sure that you reach your father’s stall safely.”

“Go on.” Neil ushered him to leave them. His tone was more urgent. His left arm shooed Edmond away as if he was a stubborn dog who kept tailing his owner.

Feeling hurt and betrayed by his own brother, Edmond turned around abruptly and walked towards his father’s stall, which was not far from where the boys were crowding. His eyes started to be watery and his breath started to be shaky, holding himself up from bursting out in tears. His free hands clutched onto the end of his shirt on each side of him. Edmond lowered his gaze and avoided people’s stare at him.

However, before Edmond could reach his father’s stall, which sold vegetables and fruits from their big garden at the back of their house, Edmond halted his step, turning around and looking at the spot where his brother and his friends gathered before. He frowned when he found they were not there anymore. Did they go already to the forest? Edmond wondered. He thought that they would see him arrive to his father’s stall, then they would leave. But it seemed like they lied to him.

Getting annoyed and angry, the eight years old boy continue to walked but toward the opposite direction of where his father’s stall was. He thought that if they could break their promise to him, he could do the same to them. So he determined to follow them into the forest which was located few hundreds meter away from where the market was.

Edmond’s pace got quicker as he started to leave the market and came to the stream that bordered the village from the forest. He leaped from one stone to another to go to the other side of the stream. The view of the big trees and gloomy place in front of him, stopped him from going further.

He turned his head around, looking at the houses at the village that seemed far away from where he stood right now. He then looked towards the forest in front of him, tall and big tress stood close to one another. Compare to the village behind him, the forest looked darker despite the bright-warm weather. His eyes gazed around, trying to spot his brother and his friends. But he could not find any of them from where he stood. It seemed like there was no trace of the boys coming to this side of the forest. Had they run into the deepest part of the forest? Edmond was hesitant to move further.

Still standing at the side of the stream, he tried to sharpened his hearing sense, trying to listen if he could hear any of the boys’ voices. He knew how to play hide and seek: the seeker would have to count before he went seeking for the other players who hid. So, someone must have been counting loudly for others to hear.

For someone his age, Edmond was a little bit sharp. He took a few steps forwards quietly and slowly, ensuring that he did not step into anything that could make a sound. As he continued tiptoeing into the forest, passing few big trees, Edmond could finally hear someone’s voice, counting the numbers, echoing from the distant. He sighed in relief and stood straight before he started to step further. This time he walked a bit faster, ignoring the fact that he began to step into the fallen branches of trees on the ground, that made noises every time he stepped onto them.

As he got deeper into the forest, Edmond’s steps started to lose its balance due to to the wet mud on the ground that was slippery. He began to take his step cautiously, still listening to the echo of the voice that got clearer and closer. His hands would grip on to the branch he could reach, to stop him from sliding onto the ground. The branches were still damp from the rain that happened in the previous days.

Edmond noticed that the water from the leaves had been dripping onto his shoulder and head, soaking his tops around his shoulder and his hairs. He also felt colder as he walked deeper and deeper into the forest. The chill air made him shudder and stop him from going for a moment. He was not dressed for cold weather as it had been unbelievably sunny in the village and extremely warm. In spite of the cold he was feeling, his ears still actively listened to the voice he could hear. He realised that the voice was the only thing that kept him there, giving him courage to walk into the middle of the forest.

When he looked around at his surrounding, Edmond noticed that everything looked the same to him. He glanced at the direction where he came from, trying to remember the route he took from the stream to where he was standing now. Was he lost yet?

“Will, you’ve got to come out now!” Yelled someone.

Edmond snapped his head towards the voice. Even though he could not recognise whose voice it was, he knew who Will was. William was one of his brother’s friends and he was in the circle with them in the market.

“Will!” Called the owner of the voice louder, echoing in the forest.

Without wasting another time, Edmond ran excitedly towards the voice, holding on to the branches he passed by, to prevent him from falling. He was sure that his brother was here somewhere, hiding from the person who kept calling out for Will. That person must be the seeker. But what Edmond did not understand was why he kept only calling out for Will. Was he not looking for the others? Edmond wondered.

His mind was occupied with wonders and he was too excited to reach closer to the owner of the voice so he could… join them? Maybe, he thought. Hopefully they would let him play. After all, he just came to the conclusion that he could play hide and seek too and he could play his favourite game tomorrow, as Thomas promised. That was if Thomas did not lie to him.

Suddenly, Edmond’s left arm was pulled to the side by a pair of hands, causing him to trip and fall down between the bushes. He yelped from the pain he felt on the left hand side of his body.

“Will?” The person asked quietly, hearing the thud from the bushes in front of him. This time his voice sounded closer to Edmond.

Edmond was about to answer when a hand landed on his mouth, stopping him from uttering a word. Curious as he wanted to know who it was, he turned his head around, looking at the person who caused him falling and stopped him from answering the person who had been calling for Will.

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