Eric: Deeper inside the Forest
As soon as I step through another invisible wall, I stop.
The trees beyond the golden trees are HUGE. Their trunks alone are around twenty feet high, and in the trees above the ground, these people have built their houses. Here, along with the fireflies, huge butterflies light up the surrounding. These enormous trees are too thick due to which sunlight doesn’t reach the ground, and it seems like, behind us, it’s the day, and ahead of us, it’s night.
I feel another wave of nausea and headache building up, and I try to force it down. I hear a loud thunder crack above us, and Daemon screams, “The wards!!!”
I know he thinks I’m doing it, but I don’t know what is happening to me in the first place. My world sways once again as I try to fight the headache.
“Eric!!” I hear Adria shout out my name, but my vision starts going dark. I can’t see anything in front of me.
“MAKE HIM STOP DOING WHATEVER HE IS DOING!” I feel a strong wind blowing from somewhere deeper in the forest, and I hear people shout at each other.
“Eric!” I hear Adria again somewhere far away.
“Eric! Eric stay with me. Stay with us!” I feel myself fall into someone’s lap.
“ADRIA, THE GROUND IS SPLITTING UP!” Devon shouts from somewhere. His voice too loud and sharp for my already splitting headache.
I feel a sharp sting on my cheek, and suddenly, the headache recedes to nothing, and the voices quiet down. I wait for nausea to die down and my head to stop spinning before I open my eyes. I find my head in Adria’s lap with her hand raised, probably going for another slap.
“You slapped me,” I whisper, unbelievingly. Did her slap stop all of us? I’m baffled, shocked beyond words, but I know better than to ask questions when something with me or in me had sent everyone running around in panic.
“You almost killed everyone here.” She retorts.
As if I knew what I was doing, I retort internally.
Standing up, I look around us. It’s dark, darker than it had been, for the fireflies and butterflies have disappeared. I cringe at the angry face of Devon and furious Daemon.
“We told you to keep yourself under control. Wards didn’t stop you before, but they were stopping you now! WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU TRYING TO DO?” Daemon accusingly points his finger at me.
“It’s not his fault. He blacked out.” Adria comes to stand in front of me. I’m shocked. Why is she standing up for me? I don’t like it; I step around her to face Daemon head-on. It really wasn’t my fault, and I don’t want Adria begging them for me. Again.
“Someone was trying to access his mind. Eric, it seems tried to stop whoever it was!” Devon walks up to me and turns to face Daemon.
It feels like I have Adria and Devon as my bodyguards. Why are they helping me so much when they don’t even know me?
“It’s impossible! I told you guys it’s impossible. No one would do that from beyond the forest because there isn’t anyone like us out there!” Daemon growls.
“Adria look around you. It’s our home, and it has been our sanctuary for the last five hundred years. And suddenly, it’s threatened because the girl we need to go back home demands to let her friend tag along!” Jaivyn indicts Adria, which pisses me off.
“I’m going back, and since you don’t believe me, I will set fire to my grandmother’s house and leave this goddamn place!” I say and turn to leave but can’t.
“What the....?” I try to move my feet, but they refuse to obey. I watch in horror and fascination as the roots spring up from the ground and tie themselves around my ankles, making me unable to take a step. I look behind me and keep looking for there stands the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her body language is too much like my grandmother’s.
“Please, stay. You are very welcome here.” She says politely and looks at Daemon, “I’m disappointed in you, Daemon.”
With the move of Jaivyn’s hand, I see the roots going back into the ground, and I turn around to face her. She has down-turned violet eyes with a bluish hue like others. She has short raven black hair, and she is even taller than me at 6 ft 2. She looks around to be in her mid-thirties.
“Mom,” Devon waves, and she smiles at him.
“Mom?” Adria whispers.
“Hi, Adria! Welcome home!” She moves towards her and envelops her in a hug. I notice Adria going stiff and very still. She makes no effort to hug the woman back.
“You do know who I am, don’t you?” The woman asks affectionately and fixes a strand of Adria’s hair before kissing her forehead.
“Ye....yes!” Adria stutters, and Devon puts his arm around her shoulders.
“Well come with me, for we have a lot to discuss!!” She winks at me and guides us deeper into the forest. The fireflies and butterflies have returned, and everyone around goes back to doing their work as if nothing has happened as the cracks in the ground here and there go unnoticed by me.
How can I do that?
“Don’t worry. It wasn’t really your fault.” This time Devon throws his arm around my shoulders, and I shrug it off. He really likes touching people, I assume.
“Touché” Devon smirks as if reading my mind.
“The very thing” He pats my shoulder before running head to walk with her mother. So, he really can read minds. Suddenly, I don’t feel like going with these people. They can read my freakin’ mind. They’d know what I did, they’d know everything, and I realize that I don’t want Adria to find out about anything related to my past.
I notice Adria fall back as she looks around in a daze. Following her gaze, I look up. There are houses on almost every tree, and people have cut stairs into the trunks. The houses look small from below, but I assume it’s not the case. Some of the houses have double or triple floors, and they are built around tree trunks. How these houses can stand in midair with no support from under them, I can’t imagine. I notice kids play around on the roofs and branches that are a lot thicker. It looks like fun jumping down here and there.
The houses are decorated with small neon-like lights, which I bet are like fireflies or butterflies. I let my mind relax a little as I look around on the ground, and I feel like I hear the water on my left.
“It’s the stream. It’s far away from here, and, strangely, you can hear it.” I didn’t notice Devon falling back on my right and Adria on my left.
“I can’t hear it,” She says quietly.
“Like we said, you are nothing ordinary.” Devon smiles up at me.
“Why? Why me?” I ask as I try to imagine my thoughts in a box to prevent Devon from reading them. It’s the way I read in the stories while growing up. Since I was born, I always had been the useless one. I did whatever my father and sister asked of me. I could never have whatever I wanted; why? Because I cared too much and trusted easily.
I’m pulled out of my thoughts on Devon’s whistle, “You just blocked me out.” He says incredulously and gives me a tight hug. Adria looks at us blankly before shaking her head and walking ahead with the woman.
So it works that way. Cool!
“How far?” I ask Devon casually, but deep inside, I salute myself for blocking out the nosy guy.
“We are here!” Devon’s mother answers instead as we stop in front of yet another enormous tree whose trunk is a lot shorter than others’ but thicker. The house built on it is larger than most of the houses. Devon climbs up the stairs and waves us to follow him.
The house’s interior is more expansive than it looked from outside, with spacious rooms and tall windows. Everything around the house is made up of wood, and everything is cut and decorated sharply. Probably magic. I look around as Devon’s mother guides us into the living room. The living room consists of many different lights and decorations but only one long table, barely one foot above the ground. Daemon and Jaivyn sit down, cross-legged, as Devon’s mother moves to part the curtains and open up the windows to the night outside.
I notice that the lights around this place are neither butterflies nor fireflies; instead, they are stones of different shapes on a thin rope and emit so much light.
“My name is Aura; call me that.” Devon’s mother says as she, too, joins others around the table. I end up sitting between Daemon and Adria, who is by Devon’s side. Probably still angry at Daemon and Jaivyn.
“We started off the wrong foot with you, Adria!” Aura looks at her.
“Wrong? Means you shouldn’t have mentioned the sacrifice?” Adria retorts in a biting tone which makes Aura smile. Sacrifice? What do they want from Adria?
“No, Adria, that’s not it. We need to tell you everything, and the final decision will be yours.”
“How long?” Adria looks up, “How long are you going to wait if I don’t do it? If I don’t, you will go after my kids in the future, and if they won’t, you will search for their kids. Tell me, Aura, is there a way out? Because I don’t see it.” Adria stops, and I notice her folding her hands into fists in her lap. “My mother ran away from here, and even when she never mentioned this place, I came here. This place pulled me to itself. It’ll keep on happening over and over again until someone will come along to make a decision to sacrifice herself.”
My left-hand start to tremble, and I quickly cover it with the other before anyone can notice. I feel as if I’ve been running for days without eating or drinking. It feels like someone is pulling me out of my body, and it hurts like hell. I’m finding it really hard to pay attention to what Aura says to Adria.
“Before I say anything further, I want to know who are you?” Aura asks.
Adria nudges me, and I find Aura looking at me directly.
“Me?” I ask uncertainly, fighting against nausea that’s building inside my head again. I suck in my lips, appearing to be thinking.
“Yes, you! Who are you?”
“I’m Mrs. Headley’s grandson?” I force out the words. “I came here because I ran into some trouble back at home.” By now, I see everything double, even Aura’s face.
“No. Let me ask the question again. What are you?”
“Huh?” I stare at her or try to anyway.
“You possess magic like Pneumas because the wards let you in, and yet you are not one of us, which is why they were affected. You are neither a sorcerer because you wouldn’t have been able to enter this forest and definitely not one of us. So who are you?” Aura asks again, and I tightly close my eyes as every small ray of light is hurting them.
“I.....I don’t know.” I whisper back.
“Who is the most important person for you in this world? Someone for whom you will do anything?”
Her question throws me off a little, but I’m in no state to ask why she’s asking it. Instead, I force myself to think. To feel any emotion when my family’s face passes behind my eyes. I feel nothing.
“No one.” I whisper again. I’m finding it hard to concentrate. I honestly have no one. I thought my sister loved me, but she didn’t. I had no friends either. They all left when we graduated from High School. Everyone went their separate ways, and my father got me into college under the business program.
I had a little hope for my grandmother, but that shattered too as soon as she laid down the rules in front of me.
“No one? How is it even possible?” Aura says unbelievingly.
“Aura, stop. Please!” Adria speaks up before I can.
“Adri...” I collapse before I can finish. I feel myself falling and falling into nothingness. I give in and blackout.