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One summer when I was about ten I decided to go for a walk in our woods. We owned 16 acres of land and about fourteen acres were woods. We had, and still haven’t, seen some of the property. It was August and I was hot and bored. I found my baseball cap, a challenge, considering how messy my bedroom was, and drenched it in the hose outside my house. I pulled it on, shivering as the icy water coursed down my neck. “Mom, I’m going to the swamp!” I yelled at the sky, hoping my mom was in hearing distance.
Her muffled reply reached my ears several moments later, “’Kay, kiddo, just don’t wreck your shoes, be back by dinner and don’t get lost.”
“Mom, I’ve been going back there for years and I never got lost, did I?”
“No, but don’t get cocky, or karma will gat you!”
“Fine!” I yelled and trudged across the parched grass of our oversized lawn. I pulled myself up onto the fence that separated the yard from the goat pen. I jumped down, jumped over our pigora (a pygmy angora goat who’s species name describes her,) and yelled over my shoulder, “Sorry, Jacky, gotta run!” I pulled myself up into the topmost branches of the towering pine and looked out over the canopy stretched out before me, trying to tell which clearing was the one I was destined for, then clambered down low enough to drop down without breaking my ankle. I flung myself to the ground and hit the ground running, trusting the adrenaline from the fall to keep me from falling or hitting a tree, and dashed into the forest.
As soon as I couldn’t hear the chickens anymore I slowed, then stopped and listened to the soothing woodsy noises. The forest has a beautiful smell, and smelling it I got the same feeling you get when you walk into the house after school or work and someone has baked chocolate cookies, though knowing I wasn’t really a part of it, that I was an outsider, made me feel like someone had baked chocolate chip cookies and not saved me even one. I wanted to be part of it, but I knew that as much time as I spent out here I wasn’t like the deer, who could walk still and silent and look like they were floating on mist, and even the birds did not stop their frantic twittering as they glide past. I was clumsy compared to the deer, even though I could run just as fleet footed here in the woods as they could.
As I slowly moved forward I heard a small noise, almost unnoticed in the noises of the forest, but there none the less. I hunched down in the bushes and watched as a doe deer led a spindly legged fawn, still with its spots, off to some unknown destination. It knew I was there but didn’t care. Maybe I sensed that all I wanted was to watch it, and not to hunt it or anything.
As soon as the deer had passed I glanced around and saw Nurse Log, a beautiful tree who had fallen and whose huge branches had grown into trees on top of their mother tree. The soft green moss made a cushion; the branches were the back to my throne. Once I had played that I was a queen, sitting high on my throne, a bowl of hazelnuts on my lap, and the shells below my gold in the treasury. I had played once that Nurse Log was a horse, and I was a princess, riding across my kingdom. The saddle was soft below me and I could feel the pulse of the horse’s heart below my legs. Regretting that I had to move on, I slid off Nurse Log and kept going.
As I darted through the trees I paused, then continued, as I have seen deer do when they smell a smell or want to check their place. I galloped on until “Ewww!” I had stumbled, stepping into a huge puddle. It had sucked of my shoe. I pulled it out and back on and walked a few steps to get my bearings, hearing a damp squelch, squelch as I walked, and realized the puddle meant something other than that it had rained recently. It meant I was closer to the swamp than I thought. I looked up at the sky and realized I was turned around. The sun should be in the other corner of the sky. Wait, it was in the corner of the sky! That meant it was closer to dinner than I thought too. I turned frantically in a circle and then followed my path back out. But I couldn’t find where I had watched the deer from, and then I suddenly found myself at the pine grove, in a totally different place than I though. I had lived here for years and had been out in the woods for years and yet in ten seconds I was turned around in a place that I had spent half my life in!
As I turned in circles I had the strange feeling that the forest was a puzzle, and each piece had been carefully flipped around and over and shuffled and turned so that layout of the forest was totally different. Have you ever had a day in which you are totally mixed up? I’ve heard them called “off days” and “klutz days” and some other stuff, but I’ve never had one like this. I mean, I’ve had days where every time I get in my locker I shut my finger in the door when I close it, or days where it’s a bad idea to let me go down stairs, but never a day where I can get lost in my own little world.
I knew where I was, if the pine grove was still in one place, but I didn’t know how I could get this turned around, and so I sat down instead of moving. I carefully went over the map of the woods in my head, examining my possible path. I knew where nurse log was from here, and walked that way. But instead of getting to nurse log, I was suddenly in the middle of a huge clearing. Spread out before me was the most wonderful sight I have ever seen.
An array or colorful cloth was spread on the ground. I saw jean fabric, cotton, linen, felt, and red, white, blue green, white, purple, yellow, pink, indigo, violet, and every other color you have ever seen laying there on he ground. There were checks and stripes, flowers and polka dots, and all was covered with a spread of food fit for a king, queen and royal family in itself, with enough extras for a village! And indeed, a village lay before me as well, or at least the villagers. Fair hair and dark, eyes blue green and brown, as well as several colors I had never seen and probably never will again, like sea green and pink, skin shades of brown and tan, and the clothes! Dresses and pants, skirts, fancy and plain, every color and pattern of fabric imaginable! Better even than the blankets they sat on! And I think probably the most fantastic part was that none of the people even reached my ankles!
I think elves, or maybe pixies, was what these fantastic creatures were. But it tore my heart apart to see the expressions on their faces. Some had looks of disgust, some curiosity, but all had a horrible look of fear on their face. I wanted to cry, seeing it there, because more than anything I wanted these little creatures to trust me.
All at once, as though reacting to some signal I couldn’t hear, they all screamed. The sound was so shrill and loud I fell to my knees in pain, clutching my ears. Then they ran. The pounding of all their feet on the ground made it shake, and in a few seconds they were gone. The picnic blankets had vanished, and so had all of the food. The only thing left was a tiny scrap of red fabric. I caught it, pushing it into my pocket. I was about to leave, to follow them, when one other small amount of color caught my eyes, and I walked hesitantly towards it. I stooped down to find a tiny Elvin girl lying in the grass and moss. Her hair, coppery brown like mine, rippled out from her head. A pale pink dress was lifted at the edge to reveal pale white legs and a tiny white sandal.
I knelt down, gently lifting her up to my eye level. I could see she was awake, but dizzy and unhappy from a sound knock on the head. She had probably been trampled in the hurry to get out. As softly as I could I whispered “Are you okay?”
Her tiny voice floated across the small distance between us, sounding like bells and angels singing, “Oh, please, great giant god, don’t eat me. I never did anything to deserve this.”
“Eat you! Why would I eat you? You’re so pretty and small and delicate, I just hope I don’t accidentally hurt you.”
She sat up, her hair flowing halfway down her back and said, “So you aren’t one of the evil god the old ones talk about? One of the ones who cut away the forest with huge roaring beasts?”
“I love the forest. I would never harm it. It is as much my home as the house is.”
“The house? Is that the big red building over that way?”
“I’m not sure which way it is. I’m kinda lost.”
“Oh, I’ll help you get back to your parents. I can see you’re just a kid like me.”
“Yeah, I am. How old are you?”
“I’m ten and a half, turning eleven on May 19th.”
“Cool! Will you come with me back to the village?” she asked in her tiny voice.
“I don’t know. I told my mom I would be home by dark.”
“Well, its 5:30 now, so you have about an hour until dark.”
“Okay, I’ll come. My steps will be a bit bigger than yours, so I’ll carry you. Where to?”
She pointed west, or at least she told me that it was west, and I stepped over a narrow wall of blackberries and poison oak. She pointed the way, until we came to the creek. “How do you get over this?” I asked her.
She gestured to a bridge, a tiny thread of twigs and grass tied together and said, “I think it’s a bit small for you, but if you go that was a bit there’s a huge tree that has fallen across the creek.” I walked down that way and soon we came to a tree, about two feet across that I could walk on. I carefully stepped up onto in and walked across. She then pointed the way to the village. If I thought the picnic was beautiful, this was better. Much, much, much better. Imagine what I described times about fifty. That’s how beautiful it was. If I tried to describe it, it would fill three books. The little elf girl saw my expression of wonder and laughed. “I never told you my name. I’m Melody Brier.”
“I’m Geyser Grey. It’s nice to meet you, Melody.”
“I like your name.”
“I think it’s weird. My parents named me and my sister so that all of our names start with ‘G’. I like your name, though. Melody Brier. It suits you.”
“Geyser suits you.”
“It does!” We both laughed, and I slowly picked my way down the hill. She pointed out her house, and then had me put her down and ran to the door. “Momma, Daddy! Come meet my new friend!”
“Invite her in, Melody!”
Melody giggled, looking up at me, and called in, “I don’t think she can some in!”
“Fine, here I come!” Melody’s mother walked out and screamed, “Melody, get away from the giant!”
“No, Mamma, its okay, she’s my friend!”
I put in, “I’m sorry to scare you, Mrs. Brier, but I can’t help being who I am.”
She gave a wry smile and said, “I can see why you couldn’t come in.”
“Daddy, come meet Geyser!”
“So that’s you’re name. Melody never introduces people correctly. Nice to meet you, Geyser.”
“Same to you, Mrs. Brier.”
“Call me Pine.”
“Okay, Pine,” I said, testing the name on my tongue. It slid right into place.
Melody’s father walked out. He was obviously calmer than the other two member of the family, because he didn’t scream. “This must be your new friend, Melody. Hello, up there, I’m Kye.”
“Hi, I’m Geyser.”
“A friend of Melody’s is a friend of mine. I’d tell you to make yourself at home, but I don’t think you’d fit.”
“I agree.” The rest of the day was spent going around meeting Melody’s friends, Dune Wooded, Stardust Rootwood, and Blue-Jay Creek. I also met her semi-friends Glen Moon, Firebird Mistletoe, and Maple Woods. I loved the names of all the people here. They were all based on nature. I told her, and the growing groups of onlookers watching the giant girl tell stories, about my friends Melanie Jackson, Mikayla Lister, and Sierra Collor. They told me of the history of the village, and of the people individually, and the tales and legends of the forest cutters many years ago.
But finally I realized how dark it was. I poked Melody gently, and she looked up at me, and then the sky, and said, “Oh, gosh, you gotta go home, don’t you?”
The onlookers said, “Oh, well in that case, we’ll take you home,” “Come back any time, and bring some of the human food!” and “Okay, and maybe next time you come you can bring us a few things from the human world.”
“Sure guy, I’ll bring you some food and stuff,” and Melody and her parents, accompanied by about half the village, walked me home.
And as I picked Melody and her family up and I hugged them gently Catherine slipped a small piece of the prettiest fabric I had ever seen into my hand and said, “For you to remember us by until next time.”
“How will I find you?”
“Go into the woods and sit down and say, ‘Elvin friends from far and near, it is I who you came to not fear, so come and take me to your village fair, and the night we’ll spend for I have stories to share.”
She had me repeat it until I knew it by heart, then I stepped out into the goat pen. As I did I stumbled and fell, and hit my head. The world faded into darkness. When I woke I was sitting on the log where I had sat down before seeing the village. In the twilight I saw the roof of our barn and realized I had been dreaming. But then I felt something soft in my hand. I looked down and saw the fabric Catherine had given me. And smiling I walked back home, the two pieces of fabric I had gotten in my pocket, and Catherine’s rhyme pulsing in my head.
The next morning I got up early and ate and got dressed and packed some food, water, and small toys and belongings I didn’t mind giving up. I walked out into the forest, and as soon as I couldn’t see the house I sat down on a log and whispered, “Elvin friends from far and near, it is I who you came to not fear, so come and take me to your village fair, and the night we’ll send for I have stories to share.”
I heard a rustle in the bushes and Melody’s voice saying, “Is that you, Geyser?”
I knew it hadn’t been a dream.