Hello once again, and in following the recent backlog traditions, another very long over due piece, that at this point is probably a year old. I actually remember writing this one, using actual paper. This was one of the very few very rare pieces that I wrote out purely on paper and transferred it to a word document. This piece is very much inspired by stories like Narnia and The Bridge to Terabithia. But, since this is a short story, can’t have the same grandeur scale of those adventures, but I rather take it for what it is and make it into a kind of coming of age story, where our main character goes through this weird trance and comes out of it with a revelation. Again, a really time tested piece for me, which also really shows just like the last one. Anyway, here you go, “Whistled Away”.
I never really believed in fairy tales. They all seemed so perfect, and I guess I never really believed in perfection. Whenever my mom or dad would pop open that dusty old book of tales, I would always roll my eyes. They said that I was very precocious, but now that I’m twelve years older, I realize that it wasn’t precociousness. It was me simply being curious.
I was ten at the time. An age where discoveries happen. I gawked my eyes at anything I could. But, I never asked why. I would see a light bulb turn “on”, I would see a lighter produce fire, but I never asked why. I simply took it for what it was. They were real. Fire burned, and light faded. I understood that as reality.
My parents never really brought me far from town. They were a worrisome bunch, but I appreciated that. People, especially parents would be all over on child-parent-travelling-time. Camping, hiking, you name it. And I never actually had interest in any of it either. I was fine “playing” in my own world. That all changed once something new sprung into my life. Like most kids, the unknown served as a gateway for me. During my tenth year of life, my parents introduced me to Geography.
At first I was astounded. I saw mountains, caves, oceans, and volcanoes. My mind could not understand the spectacles I was shown. I was unsure of whether it was reality or fiction. Each scene and each slope seemed like it had come from my parent’s fairytales. The scenery devoured me, and for days on end the only thing on my mind was Geography.
At last, I asked my parents for a favor. It was the first favor I had ever remembered asking. It was a milestone for my parents. However, what they expected was far from the target. I asked for an adventure.
“Weren’t you through with fairytales?” My parents were half right. It wasn’t that I wanted a fairytale-esque adventure, I just wanted to know whether those beautiful scenes could manifest before me.
“Take me to the mountains! Or even the ocean! Like the one in the book!” My parents thought long and hard before they could give me a proper answer. I had to sleep through my excitement and grit my teeth. It was absolutely harrowing. They spoke as I was sleeping, words that never really made sense to me. It wasn’t up to me to decide whether I could go on a magical journey or not. I mean I wanted to, but really, don’t we all want things? I understood that as reality, from the time they didn’t let me eat extra cookies, to the time where the kid next door didn’t let me play with his toys. But I had faith, and that was my driving force.
“Jen,” they said one day, “We can’t bring you to the mountains.” My heart sank and my excitement faded. My parents could see the life draining as they made these really anguished faces. But I was in for a treat.
“But, we can bring you to someplace green.”
“Green?” I was honestly confused. I thought of light blue mountains, dark blue oceans, and deep red volcanoes. Where did green fit? My mind was so fixated that I never realized it. It came to me that prince’s live in castles, kings ruled states, and peasants worked. But stone bricks and blazing flames never appealed to me. They were reality, sure, but it wasn’t jarring. The reason why I love Geography is because the sights are mesmerizing. That’s why those old trees and leaves never made an impression on me.
“It isn’t grand, but it can be magical. We can take you to the forest.”
“Not like the ones in our town, but faraway. We can go camping.”
“We can stay there, for a while.”
“We’re not moving. Just for a little, okay?”
“Is that camping?”
“Yeah, we’ll have tents and everything. Just wait and see, the forest will be fun!”
“Yes, really.” In one sense of the word, I was confused. My mind didn’t register a weekend of oak and deciduous to be fun. But it was better than nothing, so I took it. It was like the pumpkin pie mom made. If I wanted the apple pie, I had to endure the pumpkin. I hated pumpkin. I thought that maybe if I was a good girl now, they would drive me to Mt. Fantasy next. And so, I waited patiently. They would drive me to the Dominican-Forest-Of-Wherever, and I had to try and enjoy myself. Little did I know, that weekend, I would receive a grand revelation. It involved: oceans, mountains, a kid I never asked the name of, and fantasy. That weekend was special. I understood that as reality.
The drive there was horrible. I never really enjoyed vehicles, something about them just didn’t sit well with me. I don’t know if it was the motion sickness, or maybe I just didn’t like how off putting it was. I mean, I’m so used to walking a singular brisk pace, running a singular track record, but driving an accelerated derby? Not so much.
But it wasn’t that bad, I got there before I knew it, perhaps before I was even awake.
“Do you see that, Jen?” My father pointed to the out cropping woods. I was still in the car, still half awake, still half in the mountains. I traced my eyes towards where my father pointed, and in the distance, I could see huge trees racing for the sky. They were giants, and I a dwarf. My father pulled over and once he was assured that we had a way back home, we left.
We must have walked for hours, which in conversion to a ten year old’s perception of time, was but a few minutes. The bushes brushed against my legs and arms, sending a soft prickly sensation down my body. The looming trees provided shade, but even that wasn’t enough to keep my attention away from the occasional rustle. Stones, acorns, and sticks littered the dirt, and with every other step, I would bump, crunch, and snap. The air was stifling, I could almost feel the tree’s outtake of oxygen. Each warm breeze that reached my face felt like a warm midday’s pie, and sounded like a million stitches of brooms. Every breath I took tasted like stale water and smelt like one of my mom’s pumpkin pies.
Eventually we do make it to a decent clearing. The ground was level for the most part, the leaves were few to none and the trees guarded us. The only thing that was missing was snow, pointy tops, and slopes. My dad dropped the huge bag he was carrying which made a satisfying thump, and stretched his back.
“First, we set up the tent.”
“Then, we set up a campfire.”
“Then we hike up the mountains!” My mom and dad gave me this exasperated look, while I continued to give them the biggest smile I could.
“Fine.” I eventually gave up and started fidgeting with a stick nearby. A tiny bug crawled up to my finger and squirmed a little, I remembered giving a light giggle as I sat the stick down. I then grabbed some nearby leaves and began writing a message by arranging them.
“H E L L O” My “O” was a little too big, but I found it amusing anyway. I then grabbed some sticks and wrote myself a reply.
“H O W” Before I could finish “are you”, my dad called, “Hey Jen!” I called back.
“Can I ask you to get some rocks for me?”
“I need to set them for the tent.”
“Okay!” I grabbed a stick and began heading into the forest. I made sure that my hand hung low so that the line I was drawing was visible. Sometimes I would skip, and other times I would play hopscotch with the rocks, but I always drew my line. I figured I should grab the largest rocks I could find and haul them over to dad. It certainly was difficult.
Time flew by without a moment’s notice. I had two really large rocks in my pocket, and one in my other hand. As I was following my line back, I heard a sudden snap. I turned in the direction of the sound, and waited. I felt a small pair of eyes gaze on me, but I didn’t sense hostility. I treaded carefully towards them, and for a ten year old girl, that was pretty bold.
Every step was light, but not short. I figured if it was a small animal, I shouldn’t make any sudden movements. But I also knew that if it was a bear, I should show that I meant no harm. It was like dealing with kids, and I used to love babysitting the smaller kids.
Crunch, step, crunch. Every step on the ground was laden with dead leaves. My breathing reached an ebb and flow, and even the wind around me seemed stifling. Before I could push away the bushes that hid my observer, it jumped up and scurried away. I gave off a small scream, and stumbled back. It was just a bunny. Once my mind eased from the excitement, I turned back and checked for my line.
“Hey!” I jumped back and fell on my bottom. I looked up to see a boy, around my age. He had hazelnut hair, and small gentle eyes. His pupils were a deep red, which intrigued me as I never saw anyone with red eyes before. He stuck out his hand, which was small and seemed to exude a deep warmth.
“I’m sorry I scared you.” I grabbed his hand and shuffled up. Before I could even grasp the situation, he suddenly jerked me forward.
“Hurry! They’re coming!” I tried to turn my head, but he was pulling me forward, without a moment’s notice he dragged me behind a tree and placed a finger on his lips. His eyes tensed and his hand was still gripping mine. My hand began hurting as his grip hardened. I was about to sequel in pain when his hand loosened. He let go and his eyes calmed.
“They’re gone. But we have to move.” He tried to grab my hand again, but I drew back. He stared blankly at me.
“What’s going on?” I asked him.
“Look. I know this is scary, but we have to move.”
“Why? Who’s chasing you?”
“They have huge scales, big horns, and sharp teeth.”
“Are they trying to catch you?”
“Yes, and if we don’t run now, they’ll get both of us!”
“I’ll talk to them.”
“No! Why? Do you want to get eaten?”
“Maybe if I talk to them, they won’t get mad at you anymore.”
“What if they attack you?” Suddenly, he grabbed my hand and tried to run. I stood my ground as his face tensed again, “They came! Let’s go!” I turned my head, but didn’t see a thing, nor did I hear a thing. At that moment, I wondered if this boy was real or not. He saw things I couldn’t, he believed in a reality I didn’t. He was in a fantasy, I wasn’t.
“Let me see them too!” But I wanted a fantasy, “I want to see them!” The boy stared at me with curiosity and swallowed his pride, “Fine, but you better be ready.” I nodded my head.
“Close your eyes. Now take a deep breath. You’re in a swamp. The air is dry and hard to breath, sounds of toads fill your ears.” I tried my best to imagine his setting. I didn’t like fairytales. I thought they were too perfect. I saw Geography, and learned of real life fantasies; of mountains and oceans. There was a sense of fantasy within my everyday life, but my parents couldn’t bring me to them. They couldn’t give me mountains or oceans. But, I realized that was because they were set in reality. This boy saw both reality and fantasy. I subconsciously placed my hopes in him. I wanted to experience a fantasy. I remembered my newfound want for adventure.
“A dragonfly brushes past your cheek. Everything is going gray.” Once I opened my eyes, I saw myself standing in the middle of a deep swamp. I understood that as reality.
The trees became withered, the air was musty, and the ground beneath me was wet and sunk with every step. Before I could grasp where I was, the boy suddenly grabbed my hands.
“Let’s go.” The boy’s eyes shifted behind me, and somewhere in the distance I could hear heavy steps digging into mud. I followed him promptly.
“As long as they don’t find us, we’ll be fine. Once it’s nighttime, they won’t chase us.”
“Nighttime?” I had been so enthralled by the experience, and by the boy that I had forgotten what time of day it was. I tried to look up, but the sky was clouded. The boy continued to lead me. However, no matter how much we walked, I didn’t seem to get tired. The pain in my hand wasn’t present, and the grumbling in my stomach didn’t bother me one bit. It was strange, just like living in a fantasy. I may not be in the mountains, or the ocean, but where I was felt mystical. Did I like it? Maybe not. But I knew that if I wanted to see what was in those atlas’s, I had to grit my teeth.
I didn’t know how far we walked, but it didn’t seem to matter. It all looked the same wherever we went, but eventually, the boy spoke.
“By the way, what’s your name?”
“At this rate, we’ll be fine,” The boy stopped walking. He turned his head towards me and with his red-shot eyes, smiled.
“This is my home.” I saw nothing resembling a proper place of residence. Sticks and leaves were formed together to create a bed, while a pile of charred wood stood near it. He didn’t even have a tent.
“It’s safe.” At the time, my fears of being eaten had long passed.
“You should go back now.”
“Go back to where you belong.”
“Where I belong?”
“Jen, you don’t like fairytales, right?” I nodded, “You belong in reality, I’ve brought you into my fantasy. It was wrong of me. But now, you have to leave.”
“What about you?”
“Like I said, this is my fantasy. I’ve got everything I need here. Someday, so will you. You can climb mountains, dive in oceans, and explore amazons.”
“You can’t come with me?”
“What about the people chasing you?”
“It was wrong of me to drag you into this. I was just so lonely. I haven’t seen anyone for ages. I haven’t held anyone in ages. I’ve been so alone, stuck in my own fantasy.” Without warning, I grabbed him with both my hands and drew him close; as if ascertaining his reality.
“But, you’ve seen me now, right?” The boy didn’t reply, “And I don’t think you have to be alone anymore.”
“I want to go to all the places in the book! I want to see mountains and oceans, you can show me, right?”
“You don’t want to be alone anymore, right?”
“You can’t stay here with me! I told you, someday you’ll be able to go on adventures all on your own. Someday, you’ll have your own fantasy. And it starts with your reality.” The boy squirmed out of my hug and stuck his hands out towards me. Wind began brushing past me at great speeds, and at one point, I heard his voice. “Thank you.” Before I could answer back, I was suddenly brought back to the forest. The sun was slowly setting, and I looked around for the boy; who I never managed to find. I lost track of my bearings, but it wasn’t long until I stumbled back to our camp. The tent had already been grounded, and fish was cooking. The boy was gone, and the fantasy ended. I think it was at that point, that I really had my answer. Whether I had a question to answer, or a person to answer to, I didn’t know. But the point was, I finally realized something. I wasn’t looking for adventure, or fantasy. I didn’t want perfection, or reality. What I wanted, were chances; opportunities, and options. I wanted to be myself, and embrace the things I held dear. Mountains, oceans, friends, and family, they were all dear to me. And they are my fairytales. I understood that as reality.