The Dark Forest
By Mana & Carys
“I'll get help! You stay there, Cherry!” I called, a high note of panic in my voice. I could see the tiny speck that was my 5-year-old sister beneath all the trees of The Dark Forest and her red hair flowing behind her.
No reply came back. She was gone.
Wet warm drops of tears start to leak out. What was I going to do now?
“WAKE… UP… MIA!” Somebody screeched in my ear.
“Waidd… What…? What?” I opened my eyes to see Cherry’s cheeky face peering down at me. “Did you brush your teeth last night?” I asked as Cherry’s awful breath flowed towards my nostrils. It was already clear she didn't.
“Why are you sitting on me?”
“You wouldn't wake up.” She wailed. I snorted.
“Can you at least get off me now I'm awake?!”
Cherry jumped off me with a thump as she ran and to our Gramma, where she was making breakfast. I kicked my sheets away and pulled open the door of my pine wardrobe. Only dresses, dresses and more dresses, most of them dirty from rolling down the hills with Cherry and Gramma or playing role play games. I picked my last clean dress, a skinny lace trimmed dress. I sighed as I stared at my sky blue dress. I would rather wear this than wear one of my dirty dresses.
The moment I step in the kitchen I heard Cherry’s irritating voice.
“Like you're perfect.” I spat. I sat down on my chair and took one glance of Cherry’s plate. Like always, she had only taken one bite of her toast. She always eats so slowly.
My toast was still warm. The butter had now melted all over it, just the way I like it. When I sipped my hot milk, a warm, tingling sensation was sent down my body.
“Can I tell my version of The Ugly Duckling?” Cherry volunteered, a smug look plastered on her face.
“Sure.” Gramma said. But I think she knew this wasn't a good thing.
“Once there was a little girl named Mia. One day she wore an ugly dress so her Gramma didn't recognise her and she was teased by her sister so she ran away and her sister was very happy the end.” I turned scarlet.
“That's enough, Cherry.” Gramma said warningly.
I walked away from my breakfast. My bed was now cold now.
The sun was nearly up in the baby blue sky, touching the clouds. I decided to enjoy the last moment of the golden sunrise. I walked outside to see Cherry gazing at the orange beams of sun.
I prodded my older sister Mia hardly over and over again, but I couldn't wake her from her dream. Her warm bed sheets concealed her from the fact I was now trying to jump on her.
“Wake… Up… MIA!” I screeched.
“Whaa…?” Mia looked up at me, bleary eyed and confused. “Did you brush last night?” She asked. I gave her a toothy grin.
“Why are you sitting on me?”
“You wouldn't wake up.” I wailed.
“Fine, I'm up.”
“Yass!” I said happily under my breath as I ran out of her bedroom.
“Good, Cherry, you're awake.” My Gramma tottered around our small kitchen, warming up a jug of milk on the stove and toasting the bread. She stopped. “Is Mia awake yet?” She turned around to look at me.
“Only after I jumped on her.” Gramma tutted at me and took the milk off the stove before separating it into 3 old-fashioned tea cups with patterns of robins decorated on them.
“And I suppose she wasn't too happy with that.” Gramma tutted again as she laid out the table for breakfast.
“Well-” Just as I said that, Mia walked in wearing one of those stupid lace-edged dresses. “Wonderful style.” I snorted.
“Like you've got perfect taste.” She shot back.
“Those dresses are ugly.” I pulled a face at her. She ignored me and bit into a piece of buttered toast that had been served by Gramma. After a while, I said something I never should have: “Gramma, can I tell you my version of ‘The Ugly Duckling’?” I asked.
“Once there was a little girl named Mia. One day she wore an ugly dress so her Gramma didn't recognise her and she was teased by her sister so she ran away and her sister was very happy the end.” Mia turned scarlet.
“That's enough, Cherry.” Gramma said sharply.
Mia and I both loved our Gramma. When we were little (I still am) and the storms were howling outside, she would sing us lullabies, tell us stories and make hot chocolates. On sunny days, all three of us would roll down the hill towards the town and do the weekly shopping. Sometimes when Mia and I sat on the cliff facing the Dark Forest, Gramma would bring us snacks as we watched either the sun set or the sun rise. This was what we were doing now. Except, the sun was pretty much fully in the sky. The Dark Forest was the same every day, black scary trees, the occasional birds flying out. And one more thing. There were always trees walking around and talking to each other. That's a few reasons why nobody ever entered the Dark Forest.
We were sitting on the cliff facing the forest. It was silent, apart from the odd bird singing in the trees before a sound of a bird being strangled filled the air.
“Hey Cherry.” Mia's voice shattered the silence.
“What.” I replied.
“This.” And with that, Mia gave me a small push. I stumbled slightly. My hand tried to grip into the edge, and Mia tried grabbing me. My hand was sweaty, and it slipped through hers and before I knew it, I was falling. I screamed loudly. I couldn't help it. The dot that was Mia grew smaller and smaller and smaller… Until I hit the hard ground and tumbled down the bank some more. Mia's smug face turned into a look of horror.
“Cherry! Stay where you are.” Mia called. I didn't reply. I was shocked beyond anything else. Now that I was here, I didn't know what to do. Everywhere looked the same. Black, deathly trees everywhere. There was no escape now.
And when I looked up, there was no Mia to talk to either.
“Hey Cherry.” My voice shattered the silence.
“What.” Cherry replied.
“This.” I nudged her with my elbow.
But one thing I didn't realise was that she was only 5. Next thing, she was slipping down the steep bank towards The Dark Forest. I tried to grab her arms, reaching as far as I could, but all I could see was the horror in her face. Her little hand grabbed onto anything she could, but couldn't manage to hold herself. Her fingers digged into the dirt still slipping, leaving a trail behind. Her little face covered in mud looking right at me. Time stopped, she needed me more than every in her entire life. But I couldn't do anything. Her fragile body slipped faster and faster. She flung of the cliff and tumbled down into the dark forest.
Carefully I climbed down the hill near the edge of the cliff. I hesitate to go down even more. Big strong hands in the air tell everyone to not come in. My heart thumped loads, alerting all my senses to awareness. Everything started to seem all blurry as I shut my eyes and counted to ten.
“1… 2… 3…” I hope that everything is a dream. “4… 5… 6.” Cherry will soon come into my room and wake me up. “7… 8… 9… 10.” I open my eyes at wide as I can. Nothing.
“Mia, Cherry!” Gramma calls us. “I've got snacks!” What was I going to tell her? I wasn't going to tell her: ‘Oh I pushed Cherry off the cliff it will now be only us two now’. There's no way I'm telling her that. Not yet.
“Cherry and I are going to the lakes. Can you put them in a basket?” I didn't want Gramma to get all worried.
I had lost my Mum and Dad and now I had lost my sister. Suddenly my memories took me back in time… Flashes of hot red flame smothered our house as ashes flickered down. I was only 6 and Cherry was a baby. I didn't know what to do. Mum and Dad shouted something but there yells were deaf to me, only the sounds of flickering fire enter my head. The next moment I was awake is when Gramma was hugging me, her wet tears melted into mine. I could just make out that she was saying.
“You're alive, that's what matters.”
“She's fine. Thanks to you.” Gramma smiled at me. “Now just rest.”
I looked up from my bed. Gramma walked in and smiled at me.
“Where's Cherry?” She asked. I founds you asleep on the hill.”
I must have fainted or this might all be a dream and Cherry’s OK.
“Ummm… Playing by the edge, as usual.” I faltered, lies just kept tumbling out. “I'll go check on her.” I rushed outside, determined to run away from the lies I had told.
Tears leaked out of my eyes, one by one. I felt more helpless than ever, looking up at the towering cliff I had fallen down. I turned around slowly. No happy sunlight could pierce through the black leaves. A blanket of mist covered the ground like snow. The trees were blackened and shrivelled, like a fire had broken free among The Dark Forest. I shuffle backwards and tremble. The bitter wind snapped at my red hair. I was paralyzed, my eyes riveted to one of the trees. Was it just me, or did that tree just move?
“Well, there's no hope now.” I mumbled gloomily.
“Look what we have here, boys.” The closest tree to me said. The voice tortured me like a thousand knives.
“Oooo… We have din- ow!” Said another tree. The first tree had elbowed it hard. “I mean, are you joining us for dinner?” He said politely in his goofy voice.
“Uhhh… I think I'll just… Go?” I said nervously.
“I think not.” The first tree said coldly. With that, he picked me up in his branches and carried me off, no matter how much I kicked and screamed.
He carried me into a dark clearing, where a fire danced and trees swayed in the wind. They sung some strange, negative, deep songs, which sounded like the definite opposite of Oprah. They sounded pretty drunk.
“OI! Get the fire going! We have a guest!” He smiled mischievously. “And dinner.” I screamed loudly. Suddenly a blossom petal brushed against my face. I turned around, and watched it fly away.
“Don't go!” I choked. There was a lump of fear inside my throat. That blossom petal was the only thing I had seen for ages that wasn't black, grey or green.
“Shut up!” Snapped the tree. I fell quiet. Suddenly the trees started blowing fiercely. What could have been a hundred blossom petals flew into sight, and they formed a person who charged down one of the trees.
“LEAVE HER.” She whispered threateningly. Soon more of her friends arrived, and one by one the trees disappeared. “Come now. Let's get you home.
I searched over the hills down to the town, I searched down to the river side, only one more place left the forest. I didn't dare myself to go but one part of me new cherry needed me. A little voice in me called, a voice of Cherry’s.
The breeze swept my face blowing on my hazel hair.
I crouched down, looking down at the ground.
“Now what was going to do?” I whisper to myself. I was helpless more than ever, just like what happened at the fire. Drops of my tear grow my fear into a big fierce monster. I was now out of control of myself, all I wanted to do was run, run away from all the lies, run away from the dark forest and run away from my fears.
“What's the matter?” My heart jumped, who was that?
“Who are you.” I shivered with fear, not daring myself to look up.
“Don't be scared, just look up.” The butterflies in my stomach panicked as I scrunch my tummy in. My brain told me not to look up but I went with my heart and looked up.
There a tree smiled at me, he was hard on the outside but really soft in the inside.
“Who are you?” I had a lost sister that I may not see ever again and NOW I AM IMAGINING THINGS. “I thought all the trees were evil. Like the one that took my si-s-sis-ter.” I choked on my words, tears started wash down my face. “They took my sister.” I said sadly.
“Oh” The tree looked worried, “Was the girl with the red hair your sister?”
“This place used to be a happy place. Now…” He sighed. His head drooped down.
“Why isn't this place a happy place?” I asked, confused.
“We used to play with the Tree Nymphs. Each day was better than the day before. Of course this was before your mum and dad died. Then a dark force turned the woods into a dark place. Most trees joined the dark force, attempting to rid humans from the woods. Soon the Tree Nymphs died. Not a single one left. The dark force took over.”
“My sister really has no chance then.” I whispered hysterically. “How do you know about my parents?”
“We know everything about you especially your gramma, she used to play with everyday.”
“We still need to find my sister.”
Suddenly a pink thing that looked like a person flew out of The Dark Forest, CARRYING CHERRY. She was around a metre and a half, but yet there was nothing threatening about her.
“Tree Nymphs!” His face brightened then his brows twisted.
“I hope you feel good about pushing her off.” She said sternly.
“Pushing her off? You said she fell off!” He shrieked.
“I did not push her off!”
“Actually, she shoved me a little and I fell off.” Cherry said.
“And you have to be nice to your sister.” She turned to Cherry.
“WHERE HAVE YOU TWO BEEN?” Gramma shrieked.
“It's a long story.” I said.
“Yup.” Cherry replied. Everything was back to normal.
Now The Dark Forest isn't dark any more.