what will you do when there’s nowhere to run?
Something in the Woods
CHAPTER
1
In Which Anna Keens for her Old Home and Chases After Something in its Likeness, and in Doing so Finds the Very Thing Which Starts Our Story
Anna leaned up against the gnarled branch of the gnarled tree in the backyard of her new house. Of course, she had possessed no intention in the slightest to live in that house. In fact, she despised the thought of ever laying eyes on it through and through. This was no maggot-in-the-apple situation, where somewhere in the core of her heart-apple there was a little inchworm wriggling with happiness at the move. No. Anna had gone and smashed that little pest of a worm long before, when her parents sprang the move on her about two weeks ago.
Anna had gotten no say in the move. She supposed her parents were too busy anyway to consider the feelings of their only child. Caught up in their own needs, they were, too blind to see the sadness of their daughter at being forced to leave the house of her childhood. The walls she grew up in cocooned her like a warm quilt, oh, hadn’t they seen? The house was her security blanket, one she clung to in times of despair. Sure, it was patched up and stitched and frayed and torn in some places, but that only made it better. To Anna, under every patch, every stitch of thread, every stain, was a childhood memory, bouncing round and warming up and ready for her to take it out and play with it, use it to rest her head or warm her hands or cure her loneliness.
Every time she touched a wall, she remembered the time when she scribbled on it with brown crayon and her parents said it looked like an elephant riding a big-wheeled bicycle. Even though the crayon had been spritzed with cleaner and rubbed away, she still saw the faint divots the wax had made in the paint. If she pressed her nose to it Anna could catch that wonderful lemony smell of the cleaner which sealed the memory into the house like a patch. The house was hers to play and pretend and cry and dream in, to beat and tear and wear down, then to build it up again. It was a game she and her house played. Anna would break it down and raise it up, and the house lived through it all, ever loyal to the little girl who loved it so much.
But now Anna had been torn from her security blanket with hardly enough time to go through the patches and stiches and rips and stains. She was ever so cold now with nothing to wrap around her shoulders, and no blanket could ever substitute the one she shaped herself.
A leaf fell in front of Anna’s face, old and wilted and frayed at the edges. This was the last leaf of its kind, the only leaf ever quite like it.
Anna stuck out her hand. It was ever so like her house, in the sense that it was old and worn and apart from everything else. Nothing could take its place. She shed one stripy mitten so that she could really feel it, not press through knit yarn to know its likeness. The cold November air soaked into the naked hand, chilling it through and through, all the way to the bones.
The leaf caught the air under it and seemed to curl around it like a parachute, slowly drifting down. Anna reached out and pinched the stem carefully, unable to wait for it to fall into her hand.
Up close, Anna could see every crease in the leaf. She traced her finger over the ridges flowing out from the stem on the underside. They looked like mountains, and, if Anna held it flat and at eye level, the bottom of the leaf looked rather like its own land. Mountain ridges cut proud and true through rough ground, the holes all deep lakes, the specks little villages. The small, faint wrinkles in it looked like roads zig-zagging through the country.
A gust of November wind puffed by her, snatching the leaf from her grasp. It fell down to the yard, and of course Anna went after it. She unhooked her leg from around the branch and dropped clumsily from the tree, somehow landing on her feet. She spotted the leaf and rushed for it, but the wind teased her.
It picked up the leaf she wanted so dearly and thrust it up to land five feet to the left. When Anna dove for it, it was picked up again and thrown behind the tree. Curling around the tree, Anna found something she had never seen.

Keep Reading

Chapter 2

In Which Anna Puzzles the Appearance of a Door in a Tree and Makes a Big Mistake

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