The rain tapped on the tops of the umbrellas softly as they huddled around in silence around the coffin. The most silent of them all was the small fair haired and pale boy in a green hooded sweatshirt, over his black suit that looked two sizes too big. After all the suit was a hand me down from his older brother, who stood behind him.
Of all the family the smallest boy took it the hardest, but never shed a tear. In fact he hadn’t spoken at all since that day. When they arrived to the nursing home to find the Chaplin at her bed side praying. It was the first human dead body he had ever seen, and he never wanted to see another after that. She hadn’t looked herself in the last few months. She was usually attached to tubes and wires, her appearance more gaunt and sunken in. Her smile had faded into a toothless gawking half grin. Her eyes lost that blue sparkle and were now dull and gray looking. She wasn’t the woman he knew all his life. She had gone from his grandmother to a stranger in that time. Her mind slowly slipping and with it her personality and memories. She had faded from his life and was soon snuffed out forever.
Indigo hadn’t felt the need to cry. Even after she was buried and the family gathered at the town hall for the wake. He sat in the corner alone, reading. His mother had come over to talk to him. His father gave him a hug. His brother had come over and set a piece of pie in front of him, coaxing the boy to eat, but Indigo was not hungry. His eyes scanned over the pages of his book. One he had gotten from her when he was six. Belle was never one to sugar coat the truth from Indigo, or avoid touchy subjects with the boy. She gave him the Grimm fairytales book as she told him “The cartoon versions are watered down crap. Read these. They are as the stories were meant to be.”
The book was in both English and German. It helped Indigo learn German at a young age. He found he picked up on other languages rather easily. He learned German in less than 2 weeks. Enough to read and write the basics and follow a conversation in German. Indigo was quick and sharp that way. Something his Grandmother encouraged in him.
2 Days later:
Summer vacation was only a few days away, but Indigo got a free pass on account of his Grandmother Belle’s death. He took his exams and went back home missing out on the last few days of school. Either way he didn’t care. He had to help his mother and aunt with cleaning out Belle’s house.
Grandma Belle lived in the woods, in a 2 story house. The last 4 years of her life, Belle had James, Indigo’s brother, move all her important things down stairs where she could reach them. The upstairs was closed off and unused the rest of the time. Indigo recalled spending every summer here with her. Building forts in the woods and coming back to the house where she was waiting for him on the porch. A few times Indigo would find an injured bird, or other wildlife, and brought it back to her. Belle had the healing touch. She would mend whatever was wrong with the creature. They would keep in in a cage in the living room until the animal was well enough to be released. She always told Indigo that he had a way with animals that no normal person would ever understand. The older he got the more he could feel that ability. He could talk squirrels from the trees and coax wild cats to come eat from his hands.
The car pulled up to the house and his mother and aunt climbed out. Indigo was in the back wearing his green hoodie still. It was the last Christmas gift she had given him. Belle’s favorite color was green, and she found a hoodie that was the same color as Indigo’s eyes. The deep forest green of the fabric matched his eyes perfectly. Matched with his pale skin and almost white hair, Indigo looked like a strange doll.
“Sweetie, can you get those boxes and set them on the porch?” His mother asked. She walked up to the door and began to mess with the lock. His Aunt Laurie carried up a load of boxes as well and set them down.
“I’m almost scared to see the upstairs.” Laurie said. “She had that thing closed off for years.”
“Well she wasn’t as spry as she used to be.” His mother said. She pushed the door hard and it finally gave. “Well, let’s get started.” The two women marched into the house ready to work.
Indigo found himself unable to go inside just yet. He knew that photos of him and his brother were all over the walls. There would be unfinished crochet projects that would never get finished. There would birthday gifts never wrapped and sent out. There would be her reading glasses next to an unfinished book. He would see the TV remote knowing that he would never sit through another old movie without thinking of her. There would be root beer drink mix in the pantry that would remind him of his summers with her. The bird cage that held so many animals as they healed would still be in the corner, empty. He realized the nursing home was like that cage, but Belle never got better. She was never set free.
Lost in his thoughts of what was inside, Indigo caught sight of something white in the corner of his eyes. He turned his head sharply to see a long white tail disappear behind the house. His feet finally finding motivation, Indigo took off in search of the tail’s owner. He turned the corner to see the white tail bouncing off into the woods, over the low brush. From behind it looked like a long haired cat. He recalled his Grandmother had such a cat when he was little. The cat had been killed by a stray dog when he was over for the summer. He recalled hearing the cat’s terrible cries as the dog attacked her, and his Grandmother racing out with the 22, but it was too late. What was the cat’s name?
Indigo took off after the cat. He could still see her ahead of him. “Kitty.” He called out. He hoped the cat would stop and come to him. Normally they did. What was her name?
He knew there was a small stream ahead where there was an old stone bridge. He played there a lot as a kid, in hopes of finding a troll. Looking ahead he realized he lost sight of the cat. Indigo pressed on, pushing through the brush and small trees. One of the larger oak trees in the forest had been struck by lightning some time ago and lay in the path now. Indigo was no stranger to climbing trees. He was agile and skilled at climbing. His mother often joked that he was a spider monkey.
Climbing up over the large tree trunk, Indigo moved carefully through the branches. He reached his hand out to grab a branch to steady himself. His hand gripped the wood tightly as he moved his weight around. He heard the creaking before he jolted forward when the branch snapped. Indigo fell sideways fast, the branch still in his hand. He felt a few other branches slap at his face as he tumbled out of the fallen tree and onto the forest floor. After lying in a crumpled heap for a moment, he mentally checked himself over to make sure nothing was broken. His eyes slid open to do a visual check. Just some scratches and a nasty scrape on his hand. He looked up to see the stone bridge right in front of him and on the wall of the bridge was the white cat.
Indigo stood up shakily. He began to walk slowly toward the cat with his good hand stretched outright.
“Good kitty.” He said softly. “You had me chase you all over. I hurt my hand.” He held up the injured hand and smiled. He barley felt it at the moment. Walking toward the cat cautiously, Indigo noticed she was staring at him the way a person stares at a puzzle. Finally reaching the cat his fingers barely touched her snow white fur before she turned sharply and took off down the bridge.
“Wait!” Indigo stepped onto the stone bridge. He noticed the cat had paused at the end and turned to look over her shoulder at him. “Tinker. That’s the cat’s name.” He said out loud. The cat gave a small purring mew sound as if to say “Yes, that’s my name.” She then turned and continues to head deeper into the woods.
“Tinker, wait!” Indigo took off after the cat. Behind him he swore he heard the stones of the bridge shifting. At this point though he was more concern with the cat.
Indigo stumbled along behind Tinker, the former cat of his Grandmother. He was sure he was this was strange and shouldn’t be happening. Tinker was dead. He helped Bell bury her in the garden. He recalled his Grandmother was so broken up by the cat’s death that she hadn’t gotten another cat since that day. Belle was heartbroken over Tinker’s death and it made the woman bitter towards dogs.
Every so often he would lose sight of Tinker, but soon spotted her white form bounding ahead of him. He stumbled along the forest floor without paying attention to the darkening sky above. The fact that the forest was beginning to fill with sounds his mind was not registering yet. Everything around him was starting to change. Indigo kept on until he swore he heard voices. He paused a moment and listened. His eyes looked around at the changed forest. He was sure that through the woods behind his Grandmother’s there was a highway if you walked far enough. He didn’t see any signs of a highway at all.
Indigo heard Tinker mew, signaling to him to keep moving. His feet found the pace again as he plodded on ahead into the woods. His eyes could see the white fur ball sitting on a stump waiting for him. He could see a camp fire behind her and two other figures sitting around it. They were larger, and human shaped.
Indigo paused a moment. The voices he had heard a moment ago belonged to the two people sitting at the fire. He was sure of it.
Tinker mewed again and he heard one of the voices.
“What’s that animal on about now?” It was an elderly man’s voice with a slight German accent.
“I don’t know. I don’t speak cat.” The other voice spoke. It was higher pitched with a more Scottish sounding accent. It was hard to tell if it was male or female.
Indigo made his way closer until he could feel the warmth of the fire on his face. His eyes must have been playing tricks on him.
The elder male voice with the German accent belonged to some strange looking creature with pointed ears, wrinkled old face dotted in what looked like warts, with long hair and a gray beard. His eyes grew wide when they fell on Indigo.
The other was a slender creature with skin that looked like tree bark. Its face was young looking and still hard to tell if it was male or female. It had no defining features or clothing on at all. It too looked surprised to see Indigo.
This was the point where he should be pinching himself and trying to wake up. A normal person would freak out and run away. Some reason, Indigo didn’t feel threatened by these beings.
“Hi.” He gave an awkward wave. The sleeve of his hoodie was pulled over his hands. “I think I’m lost.” He said softly.
The creature with the male features blinked his eyes at the boy. He then looked at his companion, then back at the boy. “You are, very lost.” He said. He stood up and gestured to Indigo to take a seat on the stump he had occupied.
“Have a seat lad.” The tree like creature spoke. It’s hand swept over out in a gesture like motion. Indigo noticed its fingers looked like tree branches.
Indigo took a seat, Tinker quickly jumped onto his lap purring loudly as she rubbed against his chest happily. Indigo looked at the two creatures that were now staring at him intensely.
“Where are you from?” The strange man asked. His hands fished around his pockets until he pulled out a pipe.
“My Grandma’s house.” Indigo answered honestly. “That way, past the stone bridge.” He noticed both creatures exchanging a strange glance. “I’ve never walked out here this far before. I thought the highway was out here. Grandma told me to never go past the bridge. She was afraid I would get hit by a car or something.”
“A car?” The tree creature looked confused.
“He means a carriage.” The other rolled his eyes. Indigo noticed the white parts of the eyes were actually yellow on him.
“Oh I see.” The tree creature smiled and folded its branch like hands in its lap again.
“Yes so, I started following Tinker, my Grandma’s cat.” He looked down at Tinker who was staring up at him, still happily purring. “I helped Grandma bury Tinker when I was little. Tinker was killed by a dog.” He said. “I have to be dreaming.” Indigo laughed. “Going back to Grandma’s brought back some memories, mixed with old fairytales and I must have hit my head when I fell out of that tree.” He began to laugh hard now. “I’ll just close my eyes and when I open them, my mom and aunt will be standing over me.“ Indigo waited a moment before opening his eyes. He glanced around at the two creatures still looking at him.
“Did it work?” the man asked.
Indigo groaned and slumped down a bit. Why wasn’t he waking up? “No, it was an epic fail.” Indigo groaned.
The one creature had lit his pipe and the tree creature had taken to fussing with the position of its hands in its lap.
“Well, I am LimasDay, and this is Tom.” The tree creature said cheerfully. “I am a Dryad, and he is a Dwarf.” It shook it’s head pleased with its introduction. “What Kingdome do you hail from?” LimasDay asked.
“Kingdome?” Indigo raised a brow. “I’m not from a Kingdome.” He corrected LimasDay.
“Every Elf is from a Kingdome.” Tom snorted.
“I’m not an Elf. I’m a Human.” Indigo sat up a bit more.
Tom and LimasDay both began to laugh. “That’s funny. I didn’t know Elves told jokes.” LimasDay said.
“I’m not an Elf.” Indigo protested. “I’m a human. I’m 15 years old, I live in Grayling Michigan with my parents and my brother. He narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know what this is but it’s not funny anymore. I want to go home.” He growled.
LimasDay, Tom and even Tinker all stopped to stare at Indigo.
“You really don’t know, do you?” Tom said baffled. “You really think yourself human.” He glanced at LimasDay then back at Indigo. “You must have stumbled here by accident. I don’t think you were meant to be here. Not yet any way.” Tom said.
“What are you talking about?” Indigo asked. Before Tom could open his lips to say another word, the sound of a horse caught his attention.
“Rangers!” Tom shot up and began to kick dirt onto the fire.
LimasDay jumped up and took Indigo by the shoulders. “Run and hide boy!” It urged him.
“What’s going on!?” Indigo held Tinker in his arms as LimasDay pushed him toward a fallen tree.
“Hide. Whatever you see or hear, stay hidden!” It urged him.
Indigo ducked down behind the fallen tree just as the horse with its rider came into view.