The World Of Stories and Fables Chapter 1

Katy Abbe, Columnist

Everything was black. I could not hear. I could not see. I could not taste the acidic tasting spittle lying on my tongue. I could barely register that I was alive, that the small pulse resounding throughout my body was the beat of my drumming heart. I felt nothing. I was not scared, nor was I confident. I knew nothing except that empty black void that I seemed to be trapped in. But then, I started to come to.

The first to return was my sense of smell. I could detect the earthy perfume of moist soil. The musk of humid air that comes before and after rain. Then there was gravity. I was no longer floating through the endless void, but was pulled down to the earth. I felt my finger twitch and brush across a tender blade of grass. I lifted my hand to my forehead. My cold hand felt strange against my warm forehead. I inhaled slowly and deeply, feeling my chest rise into the air, and let out my captured breath loudly, sighing as my chest sank into itself.

Cautiously, I opened my eyes. I blinked, my eyelashes fluttering as I gazed at the dark, cloud filled sky. I tilted my head to the left, scanning the forest that grew a few feet away. The foliage was thick and rich with browns and greens. I sniffed the air and smiled as the scent of rain and grass filled my nostrils. I pushed myself up, feeling slightly dizzy as I continued to look around my surroundings.

I did not know where I was. The vibrant green plains that stretched out before me were not familiar, nor was what appeared to be a large man-made structure in the distance. I clicked my tongue against the roof of my mouth. I tried to recall what had happened before I woke up, before the black void.

Nothing. I could remember nothing. It was as if my life started in the black void and waking up had been the first time I saw the light of day.

“No,” I mumbled aloud, testing my voice against the quiet setting I found myself in. I looked down, examining my plain t-shirt and worn jeans. “I know I had a life before this,” I toyed with a red stain on the knee of the jean leg. “I had to have gotten that stain from somewhere,” though I could not name where.

Suddenly, there was a rumbling above me. My glance shifted up and a droplet of water fell into my eye. I rubbed the excess water from my eye just as more raindrops fell to the earth. Soon, the clouds were throwing sheets of water to the ground and I slipped into the forest in hopes of remaining dry.

Once I was sheltered underneath the grand canopy of trees, I looked out at the green landscape. I knew I should head towards the substantial structure that stretched towards the clouds off in the distance, but I was wearing a white t-shirt and did not think it wise to show up to an unknown place with my drenched clothing plastered to my pale skin. I needed to wait for the storm to pass. Unwilling to stand around idly, I decided to wander through the forest.

The air was muggy, and only a few droplets of rain water were able to reach the moist forest floor. No insects could be heard, which I found odd, but a few chatters of chipmunks could be identified coming from the tops of the trees. I only managed to spot one through the thick leaves, but I was convinced there were a few scampering around.

Soon, I came to a narrow dirt path that weaved with the flow of the tree trunks. I stepped onto the path and began following it deeper and deeper into the forest. As I walked, a high pitched squeak came from my left. I whirled around and jumped with surprise as a small chestnut colored chipmunk ran across my feet and zig zagged up the path. I watched with wide eyes as the little creature leaped onto the truck of a tree that grew a few feet away. Making use of the pattern of rectangular boards that were nailed to the bark, the chipmunk scaled the tree and disappeared from view. I tilted my head, curiosity seeping through my thoughts. Without hesitation, I climbed up the boards. In a quick moment, I realized that my suspicions were correct. When I reached the end of the boards, I found myself inside a treehouse.

Chuckling, I swung myself onto the level floor and sat down with my legs hanging in the air. The treehouse was wide, but the ceiling was low, no doubt created for a child. Slowly, I pushed myself into a standing position and crouched as I explored.

The walls of the tree house were covered in worn and ripped pieces of thick parchments. Some depicted pictures while others appeared to be letters, written to someone by the name of Chase. In the corner of the treehouse resided a large wooden trunk. I was about to investigate further, but the rumbling of distant thunder stopped me. I raised my eyebrows and shuffled over to the window and peered out. A few drops of rain splattered against my nose, but other than that, the storm seemed to have calm down. It was strange that the rain clouds were just starting to rumble with hunger. More thunder came from behind me and I craned my neck, trying to see over the sturdy roof of the treehouse. The thunder echoed loudly, sounding as if it was getting closer.

I backed up into the tree, feeling the floorboards beneath me vibrate as the thunder steadily grew louder. I was about to head back down, knowing it’s not safe to be near a tree during a thunderstorm, when I heard a scream. I looked down the hole and a small child came scampering up the boards. I yelped as I jumped out of his way and fell backwards. The young boy ignored me and quickly ran to the trunk in the corner. He threw the lid open and reached in.

“Um, we should get down,” I began as he searched the trunk. He ignored me and let out an, “Ah-HA!” as he pulled a toy wooden sword from the trunk.

“We should get down,” I repeated as he swung the sword around haphazardly. The thunder boomed and I jumped a little. The boy glared at me and held his finger to his lip.

“Shhh,” he hissed. “The dragon’s coming!”

“Dragon?” I smirked, wondering if he was referring to the booming thunder as a dragon. He glared at me and I stifled back a snort. His emerald green eyes were deadly serious and I found it cute that such a small child was so adamant in his belief of a dragon’s imminent arrival.

“Alright,” I smiled gently as the thunder rumbled loudly, almost sounding like a growl. I knelt down and held the boy’s gaze. “Will you fight the dragon for me?”  I asked with an amused smile. At first, the young boy was confused. His light brown eyebrows furrowed and he looked at me as if he thought I was pulling his leg. After a moment though, his eyes widened with surprise and a smile played onto his lips.

“Yes!” He nodded his head vigorously, his emerald eyes shining like precious gems. “I’ll protect you, fair maiden! Just you watch!”, he declared as he saluted. I grinned and he turned towards the exit. He got into a fighting stance, his sword at the ready and his knees bent just so. I brought my hands to my lips, wondering just what the child was going to do to protect me from the thunder.

Suddenly, there was an ear-splitting roar of thunder and the whole tree shook. I covered my ears all too late and cried out as the unearthly noise rang through the air again. The boy called out to me, but his words were lost in the roar. The air rumbled and the tree vibrated. I wanted nothing more than to descend to the ground, but the boy wasn’t budging. I yelled, telling him to run, but he held his ground, staring up at the ceiling. I followed his gaze and tore my hands from my ears to cover my mouth. In the ceiling a fat scarlet hook had pierced through the wood. There was another roar and we watched as the strange hook slid across the length of the ceiling. The hook disappeared and what looked like a cat eye that was bigger than my head looked straight at me. As a howl pierced my ears, the eye backed away and there was a horrifying thump against the side of the tree house. I yelled as something hit the wooden compartment again, and the platform creaked.

“Watch out!” the boy yelled as the tree house received its final blow. The wooden planks snapped and I felt myself tip. Before I completely lost my balance, I dove towards the kid and wrapped my arms around him, hoping to lessen his impact as we both tumbled through the air.

Within a few moments, I slammed into the hard ground. I did my best to both cover the boy and shield my head from falling debris, but my best was not good enough. A heavy chunk of wood collided right with the spot above my ear. I groaned and leaned back against the rubble, shutting my eyes as the droplets of rain pelted my skin. I felt something squirm from my grasp and heard a roar of what I had thought was thunder. With a throbbing head, I forced my eyes open and froze.

Before me stood a familiar picture. Though I could not name where I had seen the picture, nor what the story surrounding it was, I knew that the scene playing out before me was one that many are perhaps familiar with. The boy crouching before me, his arms out in order to protect me, his sword drawn bravely, and his brow furrowed in a determined line as he stood before a dragon.

There was a real dragon towering over us. Its scales were a blazing crimson hue and its claws and wings were a deep maroon. Its head was the size of an elephant and the rest of its body was curled behind, standing in a pile of crushed trees and shrubs, ready to strike. A trail of smoke rose from its snout and it leaned back, readying to smolder its prey. I wanted to scream, but my voice was frozen in my throat.

“Chase!” A voice yelled from behind. I swerved my head, my eyes darting wildly to the source and watched as a young man riding a chestnut colored horse darted towards us. “Get out of the way!” he called. I covered my head as the horse leaped over me and the younger boy. The dragon swallowed its flame and a thunderous growl rose from its throat. The man unsheathed his sword and looked over his shoulder. His deep blue eyes met mine.

“Take Chase and get out of here! Now!” He ordered over the rumble of the dragon. Before I could respond, he pulled the horse’s reins and charged at the dragon.

“What?!” The younger boy, apparently called Chase, yelled after the man. “I want to help!” He interjected as the horse and rider led the lumbering beast away. I quickly scrambled to my feet and sprinted after the boy. Once I was close enough, I scooped him into the air. He fought and kicked, but I refused to let go as I ran away from the dragon.

“Stop it!” He screamed, kicking me in the stomach. I nearly dropped him as the pain ripped through my core, but I tightened my grip before he could escape. “I have to help my brother!”

“It looks like he has everything under control.” I said between huffs. My legs ached and I really wanted nothing more than to stop running with a heavy child in my arms, but that was an option I didn’t have when there was a dragon running about.

“But he gets all the fun,” Chase whined, calming down with a pout. “I wanna be a knight like him and fight dragons.” A knight. This all sounded like a fairy tale. I wondered if it was all really a dream.

“I’m sure you will one day,” I assured, slowing down as the rumbling of the dragon grew distant. I set Chase down and he looked up at me with determination. “But right now you need to take care of your other knightly duties.”

“My other duties?” He cocked his head curiously.

“Yep,” I nodded. “You need to go home and warn your parents about the beast and tell them what’s going on.”

“I can do that! Is that really what knights do?” His emerald eyes glittered brightly.

“Uh-huh!” I smiled gently. “Knights are supposed to protect people, so warning them about dangers and helping them avoid them is a very knightly thing to do. Now,” I continued before he could dash off to his home, “I’m going back to make sure your brother is alright, stay safe, ok?”

“Yes, Ma’am!” He saluted with perfect posture. “You can count on me!” Without another word, he ran off through the forest.

With the little one taken care of, I sprinted back towards the knight and the dragon. They were still dueling when I finally reached them. Both seemed battered and out of breath. The knight had an enormous gash in his arm with blood dripping everywhere and the dragon had a scrape etched into its snout. Even the horse had a singed patch of fur on its behind.

For the first few moments of my arrival, I remained unnoticed. I was more than worried about the knight and his horse, but had not one clue of how to help. Helplessly, I scanned the forest; there had to be something I could use. My eyes fell onto the ruins of the treehouse and, without giving my plan much thought, I grabbed a loose piece of wood.

With my weapon in hand, I ran back towards the battle scene. The knight’s eyes flickered towards me and then back to the beast, raising his sword as the dragon readied it’s claw.

“I thought I told you to get out of here!” He barked as he swung the sword against the dragon’s paws. The monster roared in pain once the silver blade sliced into its tender pads.

“You told me to get your brother to safety!” I called back, raising my piece of wood protectively, trying to mimic the way he held his sword. “I did that, and came back to help!”

“I don’t need help!” He yelled, his frantic eyes watching as the dragon tensed and smoke dribbled from its nostrils. I cried out just as he pulled the reins, commanding his horse to dodge the oncoming flames right as the embers sparked from the beast’s mouth. The horse followed its master’s orders, but all too late. The dragon unleashed its lightning blue and yellow flames and the horse let out an unearthly cry and the knight yelled in pain as the heat licked their flesh.

A scream caught in my throat as I ran to the knight and his steed. The rider lay collapsed next to the bushes. The tips of his light brown bangs were black as cinder, and the gash in his arm was blistered and covered in charred blood. His horse was whimpering a few feet away, heaving as he watched his master. I felt a pang in my heart as I watched the poor animal try to push itself to its feet to protect his knight.

The dragon roared and I whirled around. Its enormous cat eyes bore into mine, staring at me as if I was a mere fly getting in the way of its dinner. I bit my lip and straightened my back. Making yourself bigger was something you did  to ward off bears, right? Whether it applied to dragons, I knew not.

The knight moaned behind me, and I caught a few incoherent mumblings that must have been a sentence or two of warning. I ignored him and watched as the dragon’s nostrils began to emit the black tell tale sign of a growing fire. With fire on the way, I knew I needed to draw the beast away from the injured knight.

“Hey!” I yelled up at the dragon as it craned its neck, readying to roast me alive. “Come follow me!” I darted to the right and sprinted behind the dragon. The beast roared as it rumbled after me. I glanced over my shoulder and squeaked as smoke billowed from its snout. I took a sharp turn just as the roar of flickering flames heated the spot where I had just been standing. The blast of heat sent me flying to the ground. I rolled into a tree, clinging to the wooden plank in my arms as if it would protect me from the monster.

A shadow passed over me and my gaze drifted up to the dragon’s. My hands quivered as I pinned myself against the tree. The dragon seemed to smirk, knowing its prey was finally caught. It leaned back, tendrils of smoke streaming into the air. I took a deep breath, and waited for my end.