Billy Goat already missed his new friend, California Squirrels. He found himself feeling lonely, which was new to him since he is usually content with grazing in the meadow, living a life of
solitude. Billy's heart grew weary, as he lay down on his bed of spongy, green moss. He looked up at the clear, starry sky, and began to wonder if his parents were looking at that same
night sky. Billy realized just how much he missed his parents. He had not seen them since he almost drowned in that farm pond three years ago. Billy was so ashamed of himself for
not listening to his parents when they told him, “Do not go swimming by yourself.”
“I should have listened to them.” Billy thought, as he began sobbing uncontrollably. “Now I'm all alone.” Billy said, as he cried his goat eyes to sleep.
Upon waking, Billy had a change of heart. He was tired of being alone, with no one to talk to. After all, what's the point of being a talking goat if there is no one around to talk to? Billy used to chat with Ricky the Raccoon, but he hasn't been around for a few months. He was pretty sure Ricky was savagely eaten by a pack of wily coyotes. Billy longed to see his parents again, and decided to set out on a journey to find them.
Billy couldn't remember how to get back to Dew Drop Hollow, or even how far away it was. The only thing he remembered from running away was the beautiful field of green sunflowers, and how good they tasted. The green sunflower field, which his father had also warned him about staying away from, wasn't far from home. If Billy could find the green sunflower field, he could find Dew Drop Hollow, and his parents.
Billy knew that he would need courage throughout his journey, if he was to make it home in one piece. He wanted to get over his fear of water, but knew how much of a feat that would be to accomplish.
“I guess I have to start somewhere.” Billy declared.
He nervously bumbled his way over to a tiny stream of spring water that, even during the rainy months, wasn't much more than a trickle. Billy looked down fearfully to the depthless brook while his heart raced like a cheetah. Sweat was pouring off Billy's brow, and began dripping into the stream. He could make out the sound of the drops of sweat hitting the water, “Plop, Plop, Plop.” Billy was so scared that he was shaking like a leaf on a gusty day. He quickly worked up the bravery to begin to overcome his fear, bent down, and started sipping from the creek. Billy took a few gulps of water and said, “this is so much better than licking dew off of the ferns.”
“And it tastes amazing. Cool, delicious, real spring water.” He added.
Billy drank until his thirst was quenched, and then started walking to his favorite meadow. He figured he would need to fuel up on fresh clovers to keep him going throughout his journey. Billy ate his fill and after a short rest, began his journey back to Dew Drop Hollow.
Not sure which direction to go, Billy relied on his sixth goat sense. He began incessantly spinning in circles until his tail started twitching. When that tail twitched, Billy knew that was the direction he needed to go. Once the dizziness went away, he started walking south toward the, “Oh no!” Billy cried. “The Phantom Forest.” He bleated.
Ricky the raccoon told Billy all about The Phantom Forest. He told Billy about the strangle howls and screams that echoed there at night. Ricky said that the Phantom Forest was haunted, and anyone who's ever gone in never came out alive. He even told Billy a story about a young boy disappearing when he went into the forest to build a fort with friends. His friends heard him scream, and they went running out of the woods. They never found a body. They only found one of his shoes he was wearing that day.
Billy never went within 300 feet of the Phantom Forest. There was no way around it though, unless he wanted to walk 20 miles out of the way. Billy would have to brave the terrors in those spooky woods.
“Great.” Billy sighed.
Billy pressed on, dragging his hooves along as he feared the unknown that lies in that freaky forest. He was scared indeed, but looked to his father for courage. Billy remembered the time when he was just a young kid, and his dad fought off a hungry bobcat. The bobcat was looking to eat Billy, his father, and his mother. Billy's father knew the wildcat was coming before he even attempted attacking them, it was the sixth goat sense. His father's tail started twitching, and he was ready for action as he told Billy and his mother to hide in a patch of briars. The cat came running full speed at Billy's father, snarling with bared teeth, and sharp claws digging into the soil as it ran faster and faster. Billy's dad turned away from the charging bobcat and kicked him square in the face when he leaped through the air to attack. The wildcat quickly got up and circled Billy's father growling. Billy's dad stared intensely as he matched the cat's rhythm. The bobcat realized that he this goat was no easy meal, and ran off. Billy was so proud of his father that day. He spent the next few days reenacting the brutal kick in slow motion that his father landed on the cat's face. Billy's mom got a real kick out of that!
Billy could see the Phantom Forest now. It looked just as eerie as Ricky described it, with Spanish Moss hanging from the tall trees that looked like giant spider webs. It was almost dark now, and a rolling fog started to make its way out of the forest. There were vines draping from one piece of deadwood to the next. Billy looked down to find a narrow path through the ferns that covered the forest floor. He held his breath as he crossed the wood line into the forest.
“Phew.” Billy sighed. “That was the hard part.” He added.
Billy walked through the Phantom Forest with his knees knocking so loud, that it could wake the dead. Darkness was falling now, and Billy's courage was falling faster. The natural glow of Earth's satellite was quickly fading as Billy pushed deeper into the woods. Billy was terrified. He knew he wanted to see his parents again, and now despised the idea of living a life of solitude.
“Is going through all of this really worth it?” Billy asked himself. “Maybe I can turn back, and try again tomorrow when daylight comes.” Billy thought.
Just then Billy noticed that somehow it wasn't as dark as it was just two minutes ago. He could actually see the trail in front of him now. Billy looked up and saw a swarm of fireflies, each of them taking their turns glowing and lighting up the night. He couldn't believe it. Billy's demeanor changed at the sight of this guiding light. Billy smiled and gave his best bleat, then started walking at a faster pace. The fireflies hovered just ahead of Billy to help light the way, as he walked over logs and under branches. The forest was getting thicker now. Billy had to maneuver his way through twisting, moss-covered branches, and through small openings between elm trees. He was beginning to get exhausted. Billy 's strength was fading fast as he realized he hadn't eaten anything since the clovers he had that morning.
“Remember dad.” Billy thought.
An owl called in the distance, “Hoo Hoo Hoo.”
Things started to take a creepy turn again as the forest opened up into a clearing. The space between the pine trees was enormous. There was nothing on the ground except for pine needles that fell from their owners. Even worse, the fireflies began to disperse, taking their warm glow with them. It was dark again. Billy couldn't even see his own hoof in front of his goat face. Fear and panic set in. Billy was mortified, and frozen with terror.
“The owl called again, louder this time as if it had gotten closer, “HOO HOO HOO.”
“Oh no!” Billy cried.
Billy heard something rustling in the woods nearby. It sounded like it was making its way closer to to him, breaking sticks on its way. The cracking and shuffling on the forest floor drew nearer and nearer. Billy bleated uncontrollably as the fear swelled up in him, “Bahh, Bah, Bahh!”
Billy bleated loudly while he ducked his head and closed his eyes, preparing for the worst. The creature was coming up behind him now, and was sure to make its move on Billy.
Just then a familiar voice rang, “Billy. Is that you?” He asked.
Billy opened his eyes and turned around to find Ricky the Raccoon standing there holding a jar of fireflies that he had caught.
“Billy, it is you!” Ricky said with joy. “What are you doing out here?” He asked.
“Ricky! I'm so glad to see you!” Billy said with excitement. “Where have you been? I haven't seen you for months.” He asked.
“This is my home now, Billy.” Ricky answered. I've lived here for going on four months now.” Ricky explained.
“Why did you move to the Phantom Forest?” Billy asked. “You always told me about how scary it was.” Billy said.
“Well, the Phantom Forest is scary, but not as scary as a coyote whose mate I was dating.” Ricky went on to say.
“Ricky, you were dating a coyote? And one that had a mate, no less?” Billy laughed.
“Yeah, we met at the watering hole and sort of hit it off. When her mate found out, he wanted to eat me alive. So I've been living here ever since.” Ricky explained.
“Wow. You are one crazy Raccoon, Ricky.” Billy stated.
Ricky inspected his jar of fireflies to make sure they weren't dead and were still doing their job of shinning some light on the darkness of the forest.
“You never answered my question, Billy. What are YOU doing out in the Phantom Forest in the middle of the night?” Ricky asked.
“I'm trying to find my parents.” Billy explained. “I'm going back to Dew Drop Hollow to find them. Although, I'm not exactly sure how to get there.” He added.
“Dew Drop Hollow.” Ricky announced. “I know exactly how to get there. It's just a few miles from here. I can show you the way.” Ricky said with joy, happy to see his old friend again.
“That would be great!” Billy shouted with glee.
“Hey, are you hungry?” Ricky asked. “I've got some nuts and berries stashed that I picked yesterday.” You look exhausted. Let's grab a quick bite to eat, and then I'll show you the way to Dew Drop.” Ricky suggested.
“Sounds like a plan.” Billy said in agreement.
Billy was so exhausted from the journey, that he could barely walk to the log Ricky had stashed his nuts and berries in. His stomach was growling with hunger pangs. Billy plopped down on the soft, decaying pine needles that made up the forest floor, and nearly fell asleep waiting for Ricky to grab his nuts and berries.
“Boy I sure was glad to see you tonight, Ricky.” Billy said as his eyes grew heavy.
Ricky dumped a handful each of nuts and berries on the ground in front of Billy, but it was too late. Billy was fast asleep.
“Good seeing you too, my old friend. Now rest well.” Ricky said to a snoozing Billy Goat.
© Copyright 2016 Matthew Zabala. All rights reserved.