I found this story in my desktop a few weeks back, and I’m honestly quite surprised by it. I wrote it for school a little over a year ago, and it’s probably as good as anything I write now – I think it was supposed to be about metamorphosis, but it’s more like a very short retelling of Alice in Wonderland plus kitsune. I enjoy making my writing a bit more archaic – ‘rather’, ‘and such’, ‘it is’ etc. – and I think that it’s worked well in this narrator. As ever, let me know what you think; I’m just starting out on my writing journey, so it’s always wonderful for me to hear feedback!
Forests are not what you think they are.
Many youngsters these days will tell you forests are stupid and boring, and they’d far rather be at home playing on their iPods and Xboxes and all of that nonsense children have nowadays.
This story is about a forest, and I am certain that the forest that I am going to tell you about is not stupid or boring at all. In fact, it is rather exciting, and a little frightening if you are easily scared.
I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not my story is true, but, for the moment, sit down, and listen to my tale.
A sensible child named Alise, around six or seven years old, was standing at the gate of a the forest with her grandparents. After much protesting from a certain younger member of the group, Alise’s grandma had eventually persuaded Alise to experience ‘at least some culture on this wretched trip’.
“But, Grannyyy,” she whined, in a last-minute effort to out off this seemingly unavoidable visit. “Do we haaave to? Can’t we just go back to the toy shop instead?”
But her grandmother with a firm ‘no’, telling her that there were always toy shops back in England.
With a last resentful look at her grandparents, Alise went right ahead and stepped into the forest. It wasn’t at all like the forests you found in England, or indeed anywhere in Europe. This forest was dense and verdant, the trees stretching up higher than Alise could see, the little light that managed to creep through the canopy tinted green.
A well-educated adult might have been rather excited by all this, but since Alise was only a child, she was not. The only function forests served was to play in.
This was when the first flash came, a tantalising glimmer in the fringes of Alise’s vision.
Her voice was lit with excitement. “Did you see that, Grandpop? Over there?”
Before her grandfather could reply, she saw another flash from the bush on the left and could resist no longer.
Alise ran headfirst into the leaves, oblivious to the shouts of her worried guardians. The bush, she realised, was not a bush at all but the entrance to a tunnel of branches, the not-quite-semicircle of warped trunks twisting and stretching above Alise’s little brown head.
It was then she saw the fox, a beautiful rusty red, run off past the corner. Alise ran as fast as her legs could carry her, running to catch a glimpse of that lovely russet tail. And she just kept on running, and running, and running, following the flashes of light through the tunnel that she hoped would lead her to the fox.
The dirt track seemed to stretch on forever, unchanging except for the occasional leaf or twig lying broken on the ground. Still, the lights kept glimmering, disappearing when she came near like a star when a cloud has passed over the sky. But Alise didn’t see her little fox again, and she was starting to worry about what had become of Granny and Grandpop, but she didn’t want to turn back in case the ending was just over this next hill, or round that second corner. It would probably take longer to get back than go on, Alise told herself, sensible child that she was, and she did so want to see what was getting the fox in such a fuss.
Left and right the little girl turned, over hills and roots and more dirt track. Those short legs were becoming rather tired by now, and Alise was quite ready to give up when the tunnel broke apart and light came streaming in to her squinting blue eyes.
The trees, though still tall and imposing, were changing shape and growing as Alise watched. The grain changed and twisted as buds began to sprout and grow. From each those buds, a delicate white blossom grew, and when it was time for the blossom to fall they tumbled down over Alise in glorious white clouds of perfume and beauty. The leaves grew long and green before starting to bronze and then they, too, were falling to the ground in a fiery autumn dance.
Alise reached out to touch a nearby branch of a tree to her right, and frowned. It felt different, somehow, from what her eyes were telling her. The branch felt cold and lifeless, horribly ugly. Alise felt a curdling in her stomach as the world around her twisted and changed shape yet again, this time into a nightmare world.
Branches stretched over Alise, clawing at her hair. The undergrowth withered and died. Everything that had only moments before been full of life was now dead, as if the effects had been reversed to the opposite extreme. Alise twisted and turned this way and that, trying to free herself from the leering branches that stretched across her vision. Twigs scratched her face as she searched for a way out of the horrible nightmare forest. Then, something even more extraordinary happened: Alise saw a flash of red feathers, behind a tree. It was the exact same shade of red that her little fox had been. She darted towards it, desperate now. But fate seemed to be against Alise, and she tripped on a root, tumbling to the ground. Her fingers were outstretched, and by some miracle they just managed to brush the bird’s russet feathers before the world went black.
Alise awoke in the tunnel of trees to the sound of her grandma calling her name.
“Alise! Alise, are you there?”
By her guess, Alise’s grandma was only about two corners away from where Alise lay. She picked herself up, and took a last look back at the beautiful trees that Alise knew were rotten at the core. Just before she started walking, Alise thought she saw a flicker of red in the distance.
But Alise wasn’t entirely sure how much she could trust her eyes anymore.