Chapter 3: Guardians Of The Forest
Jack felt something wet and cold strike against his side, then his face. He turned and tumbled headfirst before grazing his leg against something hard. He twisted again, crashing through something that splintered and cracked. Finally he stopped, landing with a thump.
He looked around, eyes squinting in the bright light. He looked up as his eyes adjusted. Tall shadows loomed, rising upwards. He realised they were tall trees – and saw that he’d tumbled through the branches to crash into a shrub. He blinked in the sunshine, wondering what happened to all the rain.
Did I get knocked out?
Standing up, Jack rubbed burrs and leaves from his clothes as he looked around. He must have fallen out of the window of his aunt’s attic, but he couldn’t see the house. In fact, he didn’t remember there being this many trees close to it.
Jack reached into his pocket, then looked around to see where his phone was. It was a few feet away, glinting in the sunlight. Grabbing it, he sighed when he saw the screen had cracked but it was still working. He unlocked it but saw no reception—not even the one bar he had been getting in the house.
“Where am I?” he said aloud.
A bird cried out and he looked up, seeing two crows fly in tandem against the bright sky. He moved slowly through the bushes, stepping over mossy stones and damp earth. The smell was fresh and clear, like pine air freshener. He came upon a small pond that fed water down a steep rock into a creek below.
Birds warbled in the trees and frogs croaked in response as Jack examined the rock face. He could definitely climb down without falling.
He made his way down to the creek, slimy step by step. By the time he got to the bottom, his shoes were covered in slick moss and his hands were filthy. He washed them in the clear water and, suddenly thirsty, scooped up a handful for a sip. It was cold and refreshing - nothing like tap water.
Sitting back on a reasonably flat rock, Jack looked around. He was clearly in a very old forest. He must have wandered away from the house. But how?
A cool wind drifted through the trees and Jack shivered. He looked at the creek, about to grab another mouthful, and froze. In the reflective waters, he saw something. Something staring at him from the other side of the creek.
Slowly, he looked up. There, across the water, was a wolf. But it was no ordinary wolf like he’d seen at the zoo. This was at least twice the size of any he’d seen before, and its fur was grey with purple stripes. Red glowing eyes stared into his.
Jack’s heart dropped. He wanted to run, to jump up and away, but he knew the wolf would outrun him easily. He looked around and saw nothing at all. No sharp rocks, no pointed sticks or anything he could use as a weapon.
Jack slowly reached to his pocket, trying to grab the only thing he had—his phone. Maybe he could throw it at the wolf or something. The wolf saw the movement and growled deep, revealing long fangs that dripped with drool. It put one paw forward, right on the edge of the water.
Jack slid his finger across the screen of the phone, without taking his eyes off the wolf. He pulled up the music player, and loaded the last track he’d listened to, raising the volume as loud as possible. He pressed play and threw the phone as hard as he could, across the creek and far to the left of the wolf.
The creature tensed as the phone flew through the air, watching as it passed over and tumbled into the bushes. Turning back to Jack it growled and opened its mouth, sharp yellow teeth glistening with hunger.
Suddenly a voice cried out, followed by the sound of a blaring guitar. The wolf tensed and turned to the sound, looking for another foe. It leaped into the bushes towards the phone.
Jack scrambled up the embankment faster than he had ever moved before, looking up to the tree he’d remembered. It had a few stubby branches low down—if he could jump up to those he could maybe climb the tree and get out of the wolf’s way. He ran up to the trunk, then heard a crunching noise and the music stopped. A blood-curdling roar rang through the trees followed by a splash. His trick had fooled the wolf, but only for a few seconds. Now it was dashing across the water towards him. He jumped up the tree, blood rushing in his ears as his heart pounded. He reached out and grabbed at the branch, but his fingers barely scraped it. He jumped again and managed to grab hold, but the bark tore off in his hand and he fell.
This is it!He thought,my time is up!
Suddenly he heard a howl, pained and angry. He looked around, tears burning in his eyes and his whole body shaking with fear. The wolf had fallen back to the edge of the water, thrashing and snapping its jaws sideways. Jack didn’t understand until he saw an arrow in the flank of the great beast. Another arrow struck the creature, close to the first. The wolf howled in rage and glared to Jack, eyes full of hatred. Then, without warning, it dashed away.
Jack turned to the water tumbling down from the pond above, where the arrows must have come from. Between the thick trees he saw movement, and watched as a figure stepped out, tall and lean. It stepped forward and Jack fell to his knees, the shock from the wolf attack setting in.
He watched as the figure came closer, stepping gracefully across rocks and a fallen log to cross the waters. Jack’s mouth fell open in shock. The figure looked like a man – mostly – but had deep green skin. It stood a few feet from Jack, staring at him like he was an animal in a zoo. Jack looked back in wonder at the glowing amber eyes and long pointed ears. The creature had a strangeness about it, with movements savage and untamed.
It held out a long-fingered hand and nodded. Jack hesitated, but the figure remained. It pointed an arrow in the direction the wolf had come from. Jack heard a howl, then another. The figure was warning him to leave.
“Who…who are you?” Jack stuttered.
The figure pointed at its mouth then shook an arm, pointing to where the wolf had fled. Then it turned and pointed while nodding at Jack. Without a word, the tall creature began to jog through the trees like it was born to them. Having no other plan, Jack followed.