This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Deep within the winter forest among the snowdrift wide,
You can find a magic place where all the fairies hide...
I suddenly find myself slowly walking through a snowy path. The snow falling is as white and as fluffy as cotton. One hit the tip of my nose, I puckered my lips into a silent O and quietly blow it off. It floats in front of my face and swings to and fro in the still night. I look at my feet silently moving over the snow. Bare-footed, one slowly following the other. I feel as if I’m hovering off the ground, but I can feel the snow, I stare at my feet and wiggled my toes into the glistening whiteness. How did I get here? Why are my feet still warm? They should be freezing. How did I leave the cabin with no boots on?
I am in my pink cotton nightgown. No sweater, no jacket, but still I do not shiver. Odd. There are thin layers of ice hugging the rocks scattered throughout the path all around me. I pass a large boulder, about 6 feet tall, with icicles dripping off it’s slick curved sides. How am I not cold? The wind suddenly whistles in the somber air, and my nightgown, like water, streams behind me. But I do not shiver. I do not cringe. I can feel the wind on my arms, cutting through my nightgown, but I do not flinch. My muscles do not tense against, what I only can assume is cold wind. There is snow everywhere. Surely it would be cold.
I shake my head in bewilderment. I can not remember leaving the cabin. Especially not alone on a night like this.
I look around as I continue meandering through this mysterious snowy path. The large evergreen tree limbs are a mesh of dark green needles smothering the forest. I duck down and try to peer through them, but cannot see beyond several feet. The obscured milky moon in the sky above me is the only light that illuminates the trail ahead. I do not hear the crunch or squeak of snowflakes under my feet. The familiar sound of wintertime. The faint whistle of the wind is almost inaudible.
I wander further hoping to find a way out of the thick woodlands I suddenly found myself in. I pass by another large dark boulder shielded with moss and ice. I stop and rub the big boulder with my tiny hand. Mesmerized by it’s beauty, I continue along the path hoping to catch a glimpse of our cabin. But I have no such luck.
I glide over the snow and continue on. I reach a large field on my right. There are small leafy trees in the middle of the field. I bet this is a beautiful place to picnic. I feel an unseen force pulling me from to them. Goosebumps appear on my arms. I stare at the trees one at a time. Nine altogether. The moon beams shine down and pierce the leaves and they shimmer like sunshine on blue water in the summer. Hypnotic. I turn my head to look at the path I had just walked. I am startled to see none of my footprints there. How long have I stood here staring at trees? Long enough that the snow covered my tracks? I shook my head in confusion.
Does momma and daddy know I am here? Surely they do not, because I would not have my nightgown on! Surely I would be bundled up with gloves, boots and a hat. But the realization that I am not cold set in again. How can I not be cold? It is winter. Below zero degrees!
I look at the trees again. I sigh in frustration, I am growing tired of this. I want to go home. It starts snowing a little more. Huge, fluffy flakes, cascading peacefully all around me. I reach my hand out and they melt slowly on my warm palm. So beautiful. I was entombed in a thick white wonderland.
I embark on the path again, hoping I am going the right way. This path must lead somewhere. It must lead me home. The wind suddenly died down and the snow continued to fall. The snow flakes fell on my eyelids, blinding me. I wiped them off. I could barely see in front of me. It seems as if I was swimming in a sea of winter. Suddenly the snowflakes slowed their decent and I could see again. I noticed something in the pathway. I squinted to see what the object was. My heart began beating in my ears when I realized what it was.
It was the big mossy boulder I had passed earlier! This is the same boulder! Had I walked in a circle? I put my hand to my chin. Pondering. This was the same boulder, I was certain. I ran my palm over it again, then I stepped back. I stood akimbo and twisted around to peak over my shoulder. My footprints were gone again. The moon beams did not light the path behind me anymore. It must have clouded over. It was completely dark. I could not turn back, I would not be able to see where I was going. I twisted around again and stared at the boulder in front of me. The only thing I could see. I huffed in irritation. How could I have came to the same spot in such a short time? I waited a moment for the cloud cover to pass. Then I rounded the rock and began walking once again. I wanted to go home now. I am quite tired.
If I reached the field with the nine trees, I surely made a circle around somehow. But as I continued down the path I realized I had been walking quite a while and had not come to the field. I guess I zigged when I should have zagged. I had a feeling something was terribly wrong. Something else was going on. Something was entrapping me to the forest. I felt the pull again. Something. Forcing me to find it. But what? I looked left and right at the snowy limbs of the evergreens, they did not move. There was no movement. No wind. No snowflakes falling from the heavens. Just my breathing. Deep and soft and steady.
I must have been walking for what seemed like hours. I was becoming tired. My feet grew weary. I was walking fast now, panic setting in as I became aware that I may have wondered out of the house in my sleep and now was lost in the woods. Sleepwalking perhaps. Momma and Daddy will be so mad if they know I am out here in the cold. No boots, no mitts, no jacket! What if they awoke in the night and saw that I was gone?
Suddenly I saw a clearing up ahead. As I approach the clearing I could not believe my eyes! Oh no! I was back at the field of nine trees! I have made another circle! I ran into the clearing. Nine trees in a perfect circle of green. The moonbeams shone down and the snow shimmered like stars in the dark black sky. I inspect every inch with my eyes. It was enclosing and insidious. Yet peaceful and magnificent. I walk to the center and slowly twirled my body around, as if in a dance, scanning every tree. Hypnotic. I could not control my body. A sudden burst of bliss ran through my body that I had never felt before. Every nerve was electrified!
Suddenly, I heard a sound which ended my waltz. Was that music I was hearing? How odd. I tilted my head like a curious dog as I strained to listen. Then my heart was the only sound I could hear. Thump thump. Thump thump. I must be hearing things. I shook my head and tried to step back toward the opening of the clearing, towards the path, but alas! my footprints were gone, and so was the path! Nothing but evergreens all around me-and nine leafy trees, branches still in the calm of the night. My back instantly straightened up as I tried to evaluate where the path had gone, where the music had come from. Maybe I was closer to the cabin. There was music again. I turned my body around full circle. I peered into the trees. Scanning them, my heart began beating in my ears; my breath was like a horse in full gallop. It was deafening. What was happening? Fear instantaneously filled my heavy chest. I held my breathe. I looked around. No sound. No wind. No snow. Only the moon and me, and these lonely trees. I shut my eyes tight, hoping this was a dream. Maybe a nightmare. Wake up! Wake up!
I opened my eyes hoping I would be in my bed, under my blankets of fur. I open my eyes slowly, and instead of my bed, there was in front of me a small tree. Only one. Not nine. Just me and a solitary tree staring at one another in the circle of snow and night. A shadow slowly crept up from behind me. The moon was sinking into the sky behind me. As it did, a shadow of darkness crept faster over me to the little tree and finally to the other side of the clearing. Now it was completely dark again. I cannot see anything. I cannot hear anything, only my breath panting fast-in and out. I cannot move. I was frozen in fear.
I will never see my family again.
Then the sound came again. The faint, echo of music becoming louder. And louder. And louder. It was lovely. Enchanting. I danced to the lullaby that the forest was playing for me. I sway from left to right and twirl around with my arms wide, looking up into darkness. Bewitched by the sweet melody.
Jacquie Walker: This is one of the best books I have had the pleasure to read. Claudio has created a very "real" world brought alive as his words paint a rich tapestry of the lives of his characters and the world they live in as they journey toward their destiny.I recommend this to all who love this genre.... it...
Caitlin E. Jones: This is actually my second time reading through "Black Dog", and it never ceases to impress! The wealth of research and beautiful description alone are worth a read, never mind the really gripping drama that plays out between the characters. The world-building feels organic, the plot has just rig...
wildweeder: I found the story "The Last Starry Night" to be exciting and entertaining (and a little bit scary in parts). I loved the way the young people explained things to each other.The growth and development of the young Warriors that Johnny adopted was fun. Listening to Grandma talk to them in "wisdom s...
missmary: This story sucked me in from the start and kept me reading when I should have been in bed. My only disappointment is how it ended. While I have nothing against Sherlock/John pairings- and this was well done- I kind've hoped it would come out a little different just for a change. Still, this was w...
M.L. Bull: Hello, Aalia!Your story compelled the emotional pain and struggle of a teenage girl very well.. The imagery was also convincing and well-written, showing the different personalities of your characters and their actions. However, I do think that many of your sentences are too lengthy and could use...
Someone: This was a fun, entertaining read. Although the novel wasn’t stylistically polished, and although the first couple of chapters struggled to hold my attention, the rest of the novel was engaging and beautifully done. You had me fooled until the end. The rest of this review will contain spoilers fo...
Darren Powell: Very nice read. Lots of surprising treats from: Schrodinger’s cat and dervish dance forms; to sensei masters and brownian motion. I wasn't expecting this, so it was a pleasant discovery.Also liked the 'cross-over' events connecting one character's/or group's journey to another. I like how that wa...
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."