Under The Willow – Beginnings, Part II

[This is a portion of my serialised e-story. Read it from the start here]

Now, I have been walking through this forest for as many years as I can remember and taking this particular path to Rays for at least 5 years. I think I know every patch, every leaf and every creature that lives and moves through here. I have certainly stuck my nose in as many fine and foul corners as there are and have been since I was born. But to find an unfamiliar sound, even worse, muttering, was something frightening and wonderful at the same time.

I know everyone in the three towns around this forest. None of them sound like that. Not even Mrs Bayn with her walking stick and coughing fits. After a spell of gagging and sputtering, she would hawk and spit into her handkerchief, examine it and mutter with surprise, ‘Oh, what! No death yet?’

That fateful day into forest, I could not, at first, tell tell what the sound was. It was so hissy and strange that it could have been the wind in the trees, something dragging dried fallen twigs along the ground, or the lake slapping the edges of the shoreline. Or all three. This forest could play tricks on your mind. And your ears. But this sound gave me the chills, even with the sun coming through the trees, which were sparse in this section.

And it seemed to play games with me too. I kept walking and hearing these sounds. The second I stopped, the sound stopped. Sometimes I thought I was following it. Sometimes it followed me. It continued like this for five minutes. Walk, hiss. Stop, silence. Whatever or whoever it was, they were watching me. I went from madly jumping and looking around to sneaking peeks here and there hoping to catch something. After a while I gave up.

“Very funny, Boom!” I yelled. We call Boomer, Boom or Booms, for short. “You can come out now or stay in the thick and get bitten and cut. It’s fine by me.”

I tried to find my bearings and continue walking towards the clearing that led to Pinerush, Ray’s town. I knew it wasn’t Boomer out there. Boomer didn’t like the forest and hated the clusters of thicks, where the sound was coming from. He always walked or biked around the three towns to get wherever he wanted to go. And for other reasons I couldn’t explain and didn’t want to think about, I knew it wasn’t Boomer.

But I wanted to fool them that I wasn’t afraid or suspicious and maybe they would just slink away. I wanted to fool myself as well, that there was nothing strange or bad going on. After I shouted, I heard nothing more. That was even worse. I started to feel very cold when a voice, almost in my, ear said “who is boo?”

It was the hissy alright, but it sounded a bit more like a voice now that it was close. Almost a soft, female voice but very cracked at the same time. It made me want to yawn and close my eyes to sleep, but run to at the same time.

I turned around to my left where the sound came from. The tiny image of a woman startled me. Not because she looked strange, even though she did with her raggedy brown clothes and and face mostly blocked by an old hat. It was because I expected to see her right by me. But this lady was at least twenty steps away from me. I looked around to see if there was someone else. No one.

She didn’t look like she had been walking through the woods either. She was sitting on the grass, with her back against a large tree trunk. She looked like she had never moved from that spot. Ever. But I know she had followed me for the last 10 mintues. I heard her. Heard something.

“Who is boo?” she asked again.

She had been looking at the floor when I first saw her but now, as she asked again, she raised her head. She had the most ordinary face in the world, I almost laughed at the fear I was feeling. She half smiled. It felt warm.

I realised, much later, that I was whispering when I answered, yet I knew she could hear me.

“It’s Boomer.” I corrected her. No outside person gets to use our ‘us’ names. “He’s my friend. He is one quarter of the pie. And I am too.”

Why was I saying that? I had never said that aloud. But that was just what I thought of us; Ray, Boomer, Flinny and I. We weren’t just friends or pieces of the puzzle. We weren’t even the different parts of the pie, like crust, filling, sugar and cream. We were all the pie in sections, even though we were different. But I never, ever said it aloud. Not even to them. They would make fun of me until forever. I couldn’t look them in the eye with them knowing that!

She smiled even more. I started to walk toward her even though I wanted to say goodbye and walk away, very fast, out of the wood. I was embarrassed and confused. But I couldn’t do what my heart and mind told me to do.

——–

[If you would like to read more, please let me know]
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