By Susan Mehr
When I peer out of the lounge room window at my grandparent’s home, an enchanted forest stretches before me, inspiring my imagination to dream of so many stories.
“Now I don’t want you to venture into the forest on your own. It swallows up children, you know.” Thoughts remind me of Grandma yelling from her kitchen. She spends days preparing food and is always in and out of the kitchen stirring her pudding mixture of dried fruit. I can’t help and enjoy the amazing aromas of Christmas still floating throughout the house.
“Humbug! You’re scaring the poor child.” Pop’s opposing replies always follow. The entire time he sits on his couch in front of the television.
Nan and Pop have the same conversations every year. This year is different. I’m nine and a young lady.
My finger reaches out for the door handle, I open the door, slow. Everyone still sleeping. Next, the crisp morning air fills my lungs, and barefoot I take my first steps outside on the verandah. The icy concrete sends a shiver up my spine, so I dash on to the dew-covered lawn. My toes squish the wet grass. Now a mix of overgrown weeds and grass brush my shins. Quick steps turn into prance as if in a dream. I dance closer to the forest and can hear the breeze whistle through the leaves inviting me to enter.
Butterflies fly overhead and add colour to the smooth tree trunks. I make my way further into the forest and dry leaves crackle as I step, they form a thick layer of mulch everywhere. The twisted arms of the tree’s branches create a sunshade above and the entwine wooden fingers matt the canopy creating a caged atrium which now, I strangely find myself in. I look up; the sun twinkles through the small holes and dart on to the forest floor. I look back. I can’t see Nan’s house. Where am I?
Panic sets in, I turn, left, right, left? The forest is everywhere. I turn again. A book, bigger than me materialises. The book opens, I step back. The wind rifles at the pages and the book rattles. Word-filled sheets rustle and turn on their own. My eyes widen and my scream echoes throughout the forest. A ghostly mist fills the air. Halfway through, the sheets stop. There are two blank pages. Peacock feathers decorate the edges. No at second glance they’re not peacock feathers. I cannot believe, now that I peer closer. Oh my god, they’re eyes. They’re giggling. The book is looking at me; it’s alive.
‘Oh my god!’ I can’t help repeating.
Bold words appear on top of the page, ‘A New Chapter.’ They’re moving and speaking.
‘It wants me to read.’
‘No, I can’t, I need to find Nan’s house.’
Thoughts rampage. What do I do? I close my eyes and hear my heart pound, ready to explode from inside my chest. I open them again, hoping it’s a dream. I wince. Oh my god, it still wants me to read. Why? I must, to escape this cage then darkness descends. The atrium is closing in. I can barely make out the other smaller words in this mist. I step closer and start.
A screeching laugh squawks in the distance. Shrills linger as it howls in joy. Heart pounds faster and my eyes dart back and forth to where I think the echoes originate. “Who is out there?” I scream. My breathing quickens, it’s scaring me.
‘I must. No. I can’t. No, I must try,’ I whisper to myself. I inhale, take a step closer and start.
Once upon a time.
In a land far, far, away.
A wallflower waits.
In full bloom before her time.
Pink petals unfold.
Fingers slide down arm.
His hand finds, her empty palm.
The magic begins.
The dance floor awaits,
fingers’ grip tight and beckon,
flying without wings.
She curtseys, he bows,
under chandeliers they stand.
‘In his arms, I blush,’
Pink transforms a cherry red.
‘Enchanted we sway.’
My hand he raises,
heavens twirl, I pirouette.
Then the clock chimes twelve.
Embrace breaks, I run.
To safety, now I must seek.
Evil surrounds me.
Tears of sorrow drown,
a love never meant to live.
Apart we shall be.
I wince, head echoes.
Laughter, a menacing mock.
Devil’s eyes haunt me.
Paralysed, I stare.
Devils hoofs pound hard the earth.
Grey skies, thunder cracks.
Sword shines brightness blinds.
Knight emerges from the dawn.
Now, the clash begins.
Blade strikes devil’s horns,
he plummets on to his knees.
A coward’s mercy.
Helmet falls, sword trails.
On green grass, they lay to rest.
Serious eyes ask.
Chest draws breath, his arm welcomes,
Hand on beseeched heart,
‘You believe in love again?’
Stares rise, hushed they meet.
To see love so true.
He comes, takes her by the hand.
Takes thy breath away.
Devil at death’s door.
Defeated by true loves kiss.
Amour’s magic tune.
Flowers unfold, secrets free.
Summer never ends.
My body relaxes, I sigh and raise my hands to my mouth, ‘That wasn’t bad, it’s a nice poem,’ I whisper. The eyes are still giggling; they enjoy the poem too. They’re so cute; I reach out to touch one.
Suddenly, flaming blackened hands bursts from the middle of the pages and claw at my arms. Giggles convulse throughout the forest, and a deep bellowing laugh terrifies. Deathly squalls reverberate, fill the air and pulsates through my body. Blackened fingers fan out, long and bony, with red pointed nails, stretch out in front of my eyes then clasp tight my wrists. The arms tug. I lose my footing. I try to free myself and scream, but it pulls me inside.
Eerie silence. Birds tweet, leaves rustle and a hint of a breeze’s whistle fills the air; Sunlight shines through the forest. ‘Poof.’ the book disappears.
Susan Mehr is a freelance writer and an advocate for human equality. She writes inspirational stories and poetry.
Working on her debut suspense/thriller novel, she resides in Melbourne with her husband and two children.
You can find her at susanmehr.wordpress.com.
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