The Educible Occurrence

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
An orphaned girl, taken in by her last remaining relative, lives a jaded & lonely life in the middle of the woods. She shares a connection with those woods, however, and within them she discovers herself.

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Submitted: May 29, 2013

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Submitted: May 29, 2013

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Her footsteps were whispered as she wandered down the worn dirt path. Independent, little gusts of wind brushed the crisp leaves away and gave her silent steps. Pine trees, their branches worn to the trunk from living in close quarters, hid her from all but a few streams of sunlight. Although it was a good shelter from the blinding force of daytime, she still wished for nighttime. It did not matter to her if the day was sunny or raining—she wanted the dreaminess of stars and those heavenly lights found way far north. The hours of sun were her time to stay deep in the woods until the fiery entity succumbed to the horizon.

“Girl—!”

That one word, which sent defeat deep into her bones, was half-lived and killed off by a cough. For a moment she stood perfectly still and peered down into the gulch before her. Should she pretend that she never heard it and continue down to the stream? It was moving fast and loud this season, after all. Or…obey the beckoning and return?

“Girl! Girl!”

This time she cringed with animosity. The harridan finally got enough air and was not letting the opportunity slip her by. With heavy feet the young girl turned around and climbed back up the hillside. As she past by trees they seemed to sag a little in mutual understanding.

“About time you get back ’ere. Were you been, girl?”

“Just down to the stream.”

“Dangerous!” the harridan spat, “Dangerous! Go a step past tha’ stream and yer in a bog. Wisps and beasts!”

The girl patiently waited for the old woman to lose the air in her chest again. Her eyes dared not wander towards the woods less she become too distracted. A sturdy cane lay across the harridan’s lap and it would not hesitate to take a swing over her head.

“Wisps and beasts! Them bogs are dan—…danger—…” Again her breathing became labored and her ragged hair fell down over her wrinkled face. Walking into her duty like a jaded soldier, the girl helped the old woman up and away from her noisy rocking chair. As they walked and hobbled into the cottage, the loud squeak of the chair seemed to echo into the silent woods. The birds had been silent since the girl had left them.

***

The harridan had no real worry over the girl’s safety. It was a worry of possibly losing her housekeeper. She strictly believed—no, knew—that there were beasts in the bogs. After all, she had seen one with her own bad eye some years ago before she was forced to adopt the young girl that was her housekeeper.

“An eerie glow it had. Sharp fangs juttin’ to the sky as it reared its ugly head! Hooves big as yer head!”

The harridan snatched at the girl’s face, but the girl barely flinched. This story had been repeated numerous times in this same dramatized voice that sought to scare the girl. Strict repetition wears boredom into one’s mind, however, and can rub out childhood fears. To keep her mind occupied at these times, she would either consider what to cook for their next meal or, sometimes, try to envision this beast.

In her mind, it had the same fangs and hooves as the harridan described. The hooves had the same color and look as onyx, glistening in light thrown down from the moon. Its head was long and ended in curved teeth sharper than a mountain cat’s. The skin was undistinguishable from the lichen that clung to its body. The height of the beast was staggering, but its eyes were not crazed.

“I scare you silent, girl?”

Abruptly a clouded eye was thrust into her attention. It looked her up and down with a scrutinizing glare before the harridan reclined.

“Get to makin’ supper. We got a hare left. Make some stew. And careful with them knives! Can’t make broth with yer fingers. Be too bitter.”

“Yes, I know,” the girl resentfully replied as she sat up from the chair. She moved from one side of the cottage to the other where the kitchen resided. With a careful hand she began to skin the hare, leftover blood hanging onto her fingers and embedding into her cuticles. Even after the five or so years of doing such a preparation, it still put a bubble of nausea in her stomach. The only soothing thought was that this hare could not feel the blade.

As she continued the skinning, she let part of her mind wander back to the fanged, hoofed beast. If it was evil, why had it not attacked the old woman? It sounded like it just stood there, staring at her from the enveloping fog. Perhaps it was watching her. Perhaps the harridan had exaggerated. Perhaps the harridan was the crazed one.

***

By the time the stew had been served, the small animal had been cooked into unrecognizable pieces. With a suppressed imagination the girl had eaten dinner, focused on how thankful she was to have a solid meal. A mediocre sleep carried her a couple hours before dawn. At that time she readied to venture into the woods again. The hare had been their last source of meat in the house. She disliked hunting out in her beloved woods. There were set traps, but more often than not the girl had to hunt by bow and arrow. Never receiving formal training, the traps were usually unsuccessful and she always feared that they would hurt an animal instead of quickly ending its life. There were months that she set and later triggered a trap rather than risk leaving it.

Outside there was a slight, cool breeze. The world was bathed in a light glow that radiated from the setting moon. As she walked through the field that separated the cottage from the woods, the tall grass seemed to bow out of her way.

The full quiver strapped to her back was an unwelcomed weight but the white-glittered sky above her kept her mind light. Once she was into the first line of trees, the moonlight was turned into occasional shafts that danced amongst the foliage. This darkness soothed her and she stopped a moment, breathing in the smell of pinesap and fallen leaves. When she began walking again it seemed more like a dance as her feet flitted across the ground. Leaves were pushed away by the little gusts of wind so that every step landed on soft dirt.

With gentle spins and quick feet she made her way down the ravine. The gentle wind grew taller, encasing her in spirals of sepia and golden leaves as she grew nearer to the creek. Suddenly her foot grazed the water line and the leaves fell as the wind abruptly ceased. Her mind was thrust into reality again and her eyes opened to look across the water barrier.

The creek was about as wide as she was tall, bubbling as it waved over smoothed stones. On the opposing side, immediately next to the water, there was a noticeable lack of leaves. The ground was instead carpeted in tawny pine needles. Few plants grew amongst the pines as compared to the numerous flowers, shrubs, and creepers on her side of the creek. It was wide open yet closed off, corners hidden by a light fog that was produced by the bogs.

The girl peered to the right and left of herself, looking up and down the creek. This stretch of wood carried on for miles and was where she always hunted. She had never passed over the creek and into the pines. Not for fear of the wisps and beasts the harridan warned her about, but because she would not be able to hear said woman when she was summoned. Now her curiosity was sitting up tall and persuading her to keep walking forward.

“Is it evil in there?”

Those few words were whispered into the breeze that then carried them away before they could even reach her ears. Her first few steps put the toes of her boots into cold water and sediment. In the middle of the creek it reached her ankles and the few cracks in the leather began to betray her dry feet. On the other side she stopped, her eyes still fixated on the foggy darkness before her. If there were birds chirping they would be behind her and she could not hear them.

“I don’t see any evil.”

This time she could hear her own voice—quiet but steady. With determination replacing curiosity, she walked forward and could feel her muscles loosen up. For what seemed a few minutes the scenery never distinctly changed. There was continuous fog and continuous pines and continuous needle carpeting. The ground was soft beneath her feet, as if she was walking on a thick covering of snow.

Her eyes readjusted to the darkness again and some blurry shape came into view. She halted. It was tall and stood on four legs from what she could make out. A jagged appendage shot straight up from where its head would be. The breath stopped in her throat. Slowly she turned her gaze behind her and could no longer see the creek or the other trees, just pines and fog. Her gaze continued in an upward motion into the canopy where the stars were blotted out by branches. Just barely she could see points of fading moonlight. Looking in front of her again, whatever had been standing there was gone.

Unsure of what guided her feet now, for curiosity had fled and determination had turned away, she walked forward until she came to where she thought the shape had been standing. It had been next to the large rock and slightly bent pine she now stood next to. The darkness of the woods lessened in this spot. There was no direct moonlight coming from the sky, just less shadow.

“What was it…”

The supposed question trailed off into a whisper as she scanned the rock and bent pine tree. Then her eyes dropped to the ground and her lids widened. Planted into the soft dirt were two faint tracks. They had to belong to the front legs and the other two hooves would have been placed on that hard spot of ground, making it impossible to implant a track. What widened her eyes was the size of the two tracks. She had seen many deer tracks before and these were not the same size. Bending down, she placed her small hand on one print and watched as her fingers barely reached the edges.

“Hooves big as yer head!”

The harridan’s words crept through the girl’s mind. Suddenly the story that had been constantly repeated seemed real. It seemed real and frightening.

“Sharp fangs juttin’ to the sky…”

That claim rang true as well. She could still clearly visualize the jagged appendage that must have been its head and fangs. Coldness crept through her body like creepers as she forced herself to stand. The woods past the creek really were full of beasts and she had just encountered the terrifying one the harridan had seen.

With a stiff hand gripping her bow and quiver strap, she turned to run back. One step was taken before she faltered. Her shadow was blurrily cast upon the ground by a source of a light that was neither the moon nor the sun.

A short snort resounded behind her. Air colder than her veins was pushed against her back. She knew she had to act or the beast would grab her. With quick but shaky hands she grabbed her bow and knocked an arrow, spinning around with awkward feet. The tip of the arrow pushed right into the nose of the beast’s chin, its gnarled fangs already pointed towards the treetops. Her fingers were trying to scramble away and release the arrow but her eyes stopped them.

The beast in front of her was no beast. It was cervine, similar to the deers she saw many times in the woods before the creek. This one was far larger. Its shoulders were taller than she and its head was lowered to her height to reveal pale blue eyes. Those once terrifying fangs were thick antlers that arched upwards. It gently breathed warmth into the girl’s frozen countenance.

“You…are no beast…” the girl whispered in awe. The curiosity that had fled earlier now returned with a burst. She lowered her bow and began to raise her hand when the mystical animal’s nose shot straight to it. With a slight start her heart pounded even harder. Excitement bubbled within her as it sniffed her fingertips. It then closed its eyes and seemed to wince in a humanlike manner.

“Are you hurt?”

The cervine creature turned slightly so she could see its broad side. There was a deep gash nestled between two ribs. It was bleeding but most was covered in gnarled scabs. There were signs of infection and the girl knew it would only worsen.

With worry she set her fingertips near the gash. The nearest muscles flinched in response and it seemed to create more pain. She knew there was nothing she could do to help the creature. Why had it come to her?

Suddenly something phenomenal began to happen.

Before bed last night she had been too tired to wash up, thus she had gone to bed with dirty feet and the rabbit’s blood still clinging to her nails. That old and dried blood now began to liquefy and run down to her cuticles. The girl slowly lifted her fingers and the blood shot to the ivory fur and clung there as droplets.

The mystical animal was looking straight ahead the entire time, deeply breathing. Its head hung slightly but its eyes were wide open and alive. It seemed to understand and anticipate what was happening.

Those small droplets clung to the fur until the girl had a vague idea. With gently stretched fingers she slowly pointed to the gash. The droplets followed. They slid upwards until reaching the edges of the gash where they climbed the edges and melted into the center. First the scabs began to heal over, and then the gash itself began to close up. It took only seconds as the girl stared in wonder.

When the gash was completed healed and the fur restored, she looked over to the pale blue eyes.

“Did I do that? It must have been the rabbit…something about it. Not me!” But as she spoke, she looked down at her other hand. It still had dried blood on it. She looked the creature up and down before finding a thorn stuck into its haunches.

“May I?” she asked, resting her fingertips on either side of it. The pale blue eyes seemed to barely move as the head nodded once. With a deep breath she turned back to the thorn and pulled it out in a swift movement. Her hands were surprisingly still as she set one finger by the pinpoint hole. She had to strain her eyes to see the tiny wound heal.

“How am I doing this? This is impossible…”

The height of the animal suddenly lessened as it bowed down. For a moment she could only stare. Then she understood. With slight hesitation she climbed upon the cervine creature and seated herself right before its shoulders. It turned around and took them deeper into the woods where the advancing sun needed more time to reach. The trees gradually grew taller and thicker; older. Soon they were wider than the deerlike creature she rode upon.

“Where are we going?”

As she presumed, the creature stayed silent. At this point the fog that had been so thick now existed only above them, creating a ceiling. Throughout the entire area there was a faint lunar glow. The girl was unaware that it was close enough to dawn for the moon to have departed. As far as she believed now, it was in the middle of the night. She had lost her acute sense of time along with all other worries.

They moved out from behind one of the colossal trees. Ahead of them was a clearing wide enough to easily hold three of the cervine creatures. The pine needles that carpeted the ground were gone in the clearing and replaced with soft dirt. In the center was a broad obelisk made of nearly virgin stone. The only cuts made were for its rough arrowhead shape and the runes engraved onto its surface. These runes covered only the middle band; the top and bottom were bare. All of the runes except two in the middle glowed the same pale blue as the cervine creature’s eyes.

Said animal bowed again, a sign to the girl that it was time to dismount. She did so carefully with her eyes adhered to the obelisk. Before her feet were firmly on the ground she was walking towards it. She could feel the dried blood on her last four nails liquefying and forming droplets at her fingertips. They stay suspended, barely grasping her skin, as she reached out to the rightward rune. For a moment she hesitated and looked back at the mystical animal.

“Who am I?” she whispered. The pale blue eyes looked back at her in gentle nature. Slowly she turned back to the obelisk and gently pushed her fingers onto the rune. It reminded her of a heart with a piercing arrow pointed downward. The droplets absorbed into one corner of the rune and spread throughout the engraved lines. The deep red color began to turn lighter, pinker, before it went through the spectrum and reached the same pale blue as the other runes.

The girl looked to the other uncolored rune. It was rectangular with a maze of lines inside it. Her eyes began to feel heavy as she looked back to her rune. The pale blue illuminated her mind as she slowly fell into sleep.

***

“Girl! Girl! Where’s breakfast?”

With a start the girl awoke. A wooly blanket was the first thing she felt beneath her fingertips. Slowly she looked around her tiny room. Sunlight streamed in through the single window and filled the room with a dusty golden glow.

“Get out of yer bed! Lazy, lazy, la—!”

A round of coughing interrupted the harridan’s yells. The girl used the chance to jump out of bed and make her way into the kitchen. Before she came into view, she took one moment to look down at her nails. They were cleaner than any soap could ever achieve. She closed her eyes and the pale blue blaze still floated in her mind like a fiery wisp.

My name…I have a name…I am not Girl…


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