Crunch…crunch….snap! Crunch…crunch…crunch…

The sound of my footsteps was out of place in this beautiful and peaceful forest. The chirping of the birds singing in the trees are like music to my ears. They sound so much different from what I hear on the radio. The sounds of the forest is so much more relaxing. I adjust the backpack on my shoulders. Despite the lightest things I brought with me, it still is packing some weight. The coolness of the air around me feels refreshing; sweat is starting to coat my skin. My breaths become slightly rapid as I carry on. After a few more steps, the distant sound of flowing water catches my attention. Maybe it’s a river or just a steam. I’ll even settle for a brook. My tongue feels like it will loll out of my parched mouth anytime now. I decide to take a break.

The flowing ice blue water brings a smile to my face. It’s a nice, even flowing stream. I release the buckle of my pack on my chest and lay it on the ground. The sudden release of the tension on my back feels great after some stretching and bending. The gentle flow of the water as it journeys in the opposite direction is so tempting. I wonder if the water is cold. I kneel on the ground right at the edge of the bank and touch it.
Brrr! It feels like water straight out of the refrigerator. Scooping some in my hand, I wash my face.
Aaahhhh! That feels so good.
I wipe my face with the bandana wrapped around my neck. My hands stop midway down my face as I freeze. Is that soft giggling I hear? My ears perk. I’m tilting my head to listen. Silence. I wait a bit. Nothing. I shrug my shoulders and continue to wipe my face and neck.
There it is again. The hairs on my neck rise as I feel someone or something staring at me from behind. I stop wiping and slowly turn my head to check.
All I see are the surrounding trees, the low grass and wild flowers that grow on the forest floor. The forest animals are still out and about, the birds still singing. It seems to me there’s no danger lurking. As I turn my back, a slight movement catches my eye. I quickly turn and see a beautiful, green lady peeking at me from behind a tree. Her skin is moss green, and her flowing wizard’s beard moss hair is flying with the gentle breeze blowing thru it. A ring of flowers gently woven together on a vine sits around her head like a crown. She steps out from behind the tree. Her upturned eyes full of mischief as she shyly smiles at me. Her long, thin and straight body is covered with leaves and flowers to protect her modesty. Her feminine, long arms and legs appear to be swaying with the wind.
“Hi, there,” I cautiously say. She waves her hand and giggles softly.
“Hi,” I hear in my head. I look at her, stunned. I realize she is speaking to me in my mind. “Yes, I can communicate with you this way. I haven’t spoken for a very long time, thus, I cant seem to form words anymore with my mouth. But I do understand what you are saying and thinking.” She giggles again.
“And thank you for thinking that I’m beautiful,” she smiles. “My little friends and I have been following you for quite sometime. We are curious why you don’t have a horse and why you carry such a huge pack as you travel. It is no wonder you are tired.”
“Well, I had to bring some provisions with me as I try to find the Oracle,” I reply. She pouts her lips and frowns at me.
“Why would you be looking for her? Why not just stay here instead? We want to get to know you better. We are curious about you. Please stay with us.” I could feel a blush creeping up my neck into my face.
“Don’t be embarrassed. It is because we don’t have many visitors in our woods. And you wear such strange clothing.”
“Oh,” I mumble as I look down my body, “I crossed thru the fog from a forest in my world. I’ve already met Ot and the flatheads.”
“Flatheads? Who are they? I don’t think I’ve ever seen them.”
“How could you possibly not have seen them? They always forage for food in this forest.” She looks at me with a horrified expression.
“No one forages for food here except the small forest animals who are my friends. The trees and plants here are my sisters and brothers. I would know if some strange flathead would be in my forest.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize that. Do you know if Littea is nearby?” She looks at me frowning.
“I do not know where Littea is, and I know all about this entire forest and the surrounding land.” I slowly realize that maybe this isn’t Ot’s world.
“No one ever ventures into my forest at all.” She puts on a sad face. I gasp, realizing only now that maybe there was a reason why no one visits this place. I cautiously get up, my legs are asleep after being on my knees for a sometime. I stomp them to get the blood flowing once more as I pick up my backpack.
“Are you leaving? Please don’t go.” Her voice in my head sounds panicked now.
“I just remembered that I forgot my cellphone on the counter top in the kitchen.”
“Yes, cellphone. I use it to take pictures and I would really like to get one of you, if you let me.”
“What’s a picture?”
“Oh, it’s an image. I’d like to get an image of you so I can show it off. That way, if people know about you, you’ll have more visitors here.” I’m slowly stepping away from her and walking backwards in the direction I came from. I hope she doesn’t see through my fib and that the fog is still there.
“Oh,” she gives me a genuine smile, “in that case, I will help you go back so you could retrieve this cellphone.”
“Oh, no thanks. I’ll just be on my way. Don’t worry, I’ll come right back as soon as I get it. Then we can take your pictures and I can show them to the world.” She clasps her hands to her chest and is excited.
“All right. I’ll walk with you until the entryway. It’s too bad I can’t leave this forest and go with you to your world.” My ears perk at her words.
“Why is that?”
“The forest will die if I leave. I am connected to every plant and tree here. I am the source of their life. A long time ago, I was exiled and cursed into this life after the queen’s betrothed fell in love with me. It wasn’t my fault that he felt that way the moment he heard my song.”
Warning bells started ringing in my head like church bells pealing in the bell tower.(with me right beside them! That’s how loud the bells sounded in my head)
Sirens. Wait! Sirens are in the water! Dryads! Aren’t dryads sirens on land? I’m walking so much faster now and she is gliding along with me, oblivious to my fear and the speed to which I am walking. The weight of my backpack forgotten. Her excitement towards the possibility of having more visitors making her oblivious to my thoughts as she continues to speak in my mind.
“The queen got so mad that she summoned a curse and bestowed it upon me.”
“Why did she not just chop off your head?” I ask, then continued hurriedly, “no offence, but it would have been easier for her and for you.” She lets out a deep sigh.
“She is my twin sister and our lives are connected. If I die, she will die as well. By bestowing this curse on me, she knows she is safe, at the same time, I would be trapped here in my forest without escape. I couldn’t even die to end my loneliness lest all my tree and plant friends perish along with me.”
My steps falter and I find myself walking ever more slowly. I could see the fog now a few meters away. But I begin to wonder what her story is. She seems so lonely and my fear seems to have disappeared, leaving me with such curiosity. Her face lights up.
“Will you stay a bit to talk to me? It’s been so long since I’ve spoken to anyone.” The voice in my head is practically begging. She sounds so sad. I turn my head towards the fog. She follows my line of sight.
“We can talk beside the entryway, if you want. Just please stay a little bit. You can go get your cellphone later. I promise, no harm will come to you here. I’ll tell you all about my story.” I’m debating in my mind as she watches me expectantly.
“Okay, let’s go sit by that log near the entryway,” I finally concede. Sometimes it isn’t easy to be compassionate because I usually find myself in situations where I have a difficult time saying no. We walk towards the log and sit side by side.
I notice that her feet are long and slim. There’s a vine that runs from between her big and second toe and splits at a junction to each side of her foot, much like how a flip flop looks like. There’s a bunch of small white flowers right at the junction. It looks pretty and very dainty. The only thing is, her feet are moss green like the rest of her body. I glance towards her and wonder to myself, she must have been beautiful before the curse was laid on her. She blushes.
“Are you a dryad?” I ask bravely.
“Yes, I suppose that’s what I am now. A wood nymph. My sister thought that because it was my voice that enticed her betrothed, it was but appropriate to make me into a siren on dry land.”
“What happened to the guy?”
“Guy?” She is looking at me like I had two heads.
“The supposed future king? What happened to him?” Her laughter peals the air.
“My sister found it funny if he were to have the lower part of his body turn into a horse, while the rest of him remains handsome and good looking.”
“A centaur,” I exclaim. She smiles at me.
“Yes, that’s what he is now,” she replies, “my sister called him a horse’s a** and he turned into a centaur. He roams this forest and is forever looking for me. I think he is still smitten.” In the back of my mind I wonder if she cares about this man.
“So, is your sister some kind of a powerful witch or something?” Her face contorts in distaste.
“We are from a family blessed with magical abilities. Unfortunately, she was born first, so she was bestowed with stronger magic. I, being the second, got scrap. She has always been my father’s favourite, and because she would be the heir, she gets all the special treatment. I was always on the sidelines. The only thing I had that she doesn’t was a beautiful singing voice. I used to sing at the balls my father had at the castle, and everyone just loved it. It was on the night that her betrothal was to be announced that I sang. I knew that after the announcement, she would get all the attention once again. So, I insisted on singing before my father’s speech.”
The smile she had on her face wasn’t the sweet smile she showed earlier on. A tingle of fear ran down my spine.
“I sang my song, yearning for a lover of my own, looking at the prince who was to be her future king.” She turned to look at me with narrowed eyes and there was a glint in them I didn’t like. I slowly put my hand in my pocket, feeling some relief at the feel of my iPod. I push the button to turn it on. My fingers grasp at my earphones as I slowly pull them out. She turns her head and gazes into nothing. It was like she is once again at the ball she was talking about.
“I wanted the love song I was singing to go straight into his heart. I wanted him to want me instead of her. I wanted what was hers. Craved what she had.” Then she starts singing, and her melodious voice fills the forest. I am mesmerized. My earphones remain clasped within my hand as I listen to her. I feel the words she is singing fill my heart. I found myself smiling as I turn to look at her.
Ping! Something small smacks straight onto my forehead, waking me up from the trance. I realize the danger I was in and quickly put my earphones on. I start to listen to Rupert Holmes singing “Escape(The Pina Colada song). I turn my head to look at her and she is lost in her own world. I pick up by backpack and slowly rise from the log. She doesn’t notice me at all. It’s like she is transported in that time and is oblivious to everything happening around her. I walk hurriedly towards the fog and feel the coolness of the mist on my skin the moment I step into it. Just as Rupert sings “Yes, I like Pina coladas…” I step out of the mist and find myself in another forest. I look around cautiously, making sure she wasn’t around before I pull out the earphones from my ears. (Thank God for noise cancelling) Glorious forest sounds! No melodious singing anywhere. I sigh in relief as I pull out my iPod. I get my iPhone instead. There’s a cellular signal, a faint one bar. I don’t care! I’m home and it feels good.
As I start walking in the direction of the cabin, I pull out my iPod to shut if off. I am in no mood to go for another adventure at this moment. The feeling of being home feels too great! I’m amazed to realize that it was already afternoon. Hmmm…the time in that world is much slower than the time here. My stomach rumbles in protest. I’m dreaming of the steak I will be preparing once I arrive. My legs feel light as they carry me back to the cabin. A Pina colada sounds good just about now. 😏