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Carol knew that all of the children despised her, come to think of it so did her colleagues. So no one really noticed when she went on her usual afternoon stroll through the forest behind the boarding school.
Her slow, steady steps crunched leaves under her boots with every step. Carol liked these sounds. The whispering of trees filled her ears and the slight music from exotic birds beckoned to her from further into the forest. When Carol looked up she could see layers and layers of trees taking form above her, blocking out blue sky and only letting streaks of golden light filter through. Carol liked this place. It was one of the many places, including the waterfall, where she felt at peace.
Carol saw a dragon fly whizz past her face and an extravagant monarch butterfly fluttering between trees. Many people didn’t notice the beauty of places like these the way Carol did. “It is a gift,” her father once told her, “the most precious thing that you will ever own, never let it go.” Carol had recalled those words only months ago at his funeral. At the thought of her father Carol could not stop tears welling up in her eyes but she quickly pushed them back down.
Carol may have walked for hours already, it might have been mere minutes, but she knew, once she had swallowed up her surroundings that she was in a new part of the forest. The birds cawed with an ugly twang and grey bare trees somehow managed to block out nearly all of the light. The bushes beneath trees were encrusted with thorns and in one bush Carol could see a deep golden set of feral eyes, glowing like bright yellow neon’s. Carol turned and took not quite one step before the creature stopped in her face, teeth bared with saliva dripping from its fangs. It was a giant wolf.
Carol was woken by a low growl, painfully reminding her of the previous night’s unfortunate events. She shot up and saw a very small pack of wolves, three were obviously adults along with one child. Carol’s hand whipped out behind her like a snake searching frantically for a weapon. She gripped a stick and charged at the wolves, arm outstretched. The stick made contact with two of the bigger wolves and the others cowered away, giving Carol the time to run away. She ran, the river urging her on but soon enough she started to slow. Once she could hear the slow panting of the wolf she turned and let it lead her back to a clumsily built hut of sticks, leaves, and mud.
Carol noticed the younger wolf in the hut. When she sat down the wolf cautiously nudged the bowl of food towards her. After eating it, carol felt drowsy and she let herself fall into a deep deep sleep.
She slept for days and days and when she woke, she ate, and when she ate she slept. But Carol woke one day and there was no food set out for her. She guessed that the wolves had gone hunting and she darted out of the hut, up the hill along the river. She could see fish darting in the opposite direction, with the current, and that was when Carol knew that she had guessed right. Carol noticed the way the water hit the rocks and cascaded around them like glass shattering. Carol pulled away from this sight, tossed her hair back, and ran.
From the light that had started to creep through the more frequent holes in the canopy, Carol knew she was near the edge of the forest. But when she was only about 400 metres away from the faint voices under the waterfall, she heard the panting of wolves.
Faster and faster she ran, but when she turned she could see the wolf clearly. Carol was screaming and screaming and hoping desperately that someone would hear her.
Turning her head again, she yelped and could not tear her eyes away from the amazing yet terrifyingly amazingly majestic, beautiful creature that was chasing her. But then, on her next step, still staring at the wolf in awe, her foot didn’t make contact with the ground and her body tumbled forward. She was falling over the waterfall. The now menacing rocks below her were sharp and Carol knew then, this was it. Big capital letters “THE END”.
Carol opened her eyes to a familiar face. “DADDY!” she screeched and leapt up into her father’s arms. He stroked her hair affectionately, just like he used to. “Aah, my little girl”, he said with a smile. “You will never leave my sight from now on” Carol said, returning the smile, but her father only chuckled. “Oh no, my little girl, this is not the end for you”. And with that, he materialised right before Carol’s eyes, along with all of her surroundings.
Again, Carol’s eyes opened in a new place. But this time she knew where she was – the hospital. Tears welled up in Carol’s eyes when she realised that she was still separated from her father, and this time she let them dribble slowly down her face.
Only days later, all of the media were interviewing Carol about her “miraculous waterfall survival”. The story was a hit, but when Carol read it over she found something that surprised her. “Sadly, Carol’s survival did come with a price”, it read, “She says that she remembers running out of a forest and not looking where she was going before falling over the waterfall. But, we were informed that there is no forest for about 50 kilometres, so we can only guess at what might be going on in that poor woman’s head”. Carol was astounded. She was certain she had not dreamed up that whole mess, or had she? But her father’s words echoed in her head, “You can see many things that others do not, little Carol. It is a gift.”