He led them to the wood growing behind the neighborhood’s playground. Diana’s eyes sparkled with excitement.
“I’m so excited to be going on this adventure! I’m glad the stranger asked you two to come along too…I was worried, and a little frightened of having to go on the adventure by myself.”
Alyssa and Alice exchanged a look. Apparently the stranger hadn’t explained why they had to go along. They walked quietly but swiftly toward the wood, and Alice, who had lagged behind slightly, glanced down at her watch. It was almost two o’clock in the morning!
Ahead of her, the stranger, her sister, and Diana were walking briskly through the trees as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Alice sighed and shifted her backpack to her other shoulder, already it was feeling heavier than when they had begun. Suddenly the stranger was standing next to her.
“Are you weary?” He asked, looking down on her kindly. Alice nodded; of course she was tired! She should be sound asleep in bed! Still, mindful of the stranger’s kindness, she kept the negative thoughts to herself.
The stranger continued cheerfully, “I could carry your pack for you.” Alice almost told him that she could manage on her own, but she swallowed the pride. Even though she and her sister knew how to pack light, the backpack was still getting heavier every step she took.
“It is getting rather heavy.” She said, easing the pack off her shoulder. The stranger swung it over his own broad shoulder and took off again at a great pace.
They continued on and on through the forest. Alyssa wondered if it ever ended. She was sure that it had been smaller last time they had come through it on a hike. Their guide at last stopped in front of an enormous tree. Alice did a quick calculation in her head, and estimated it to be about a thousand years old.
The girls sat down, thinking that they were allowed a rest, but instead, the guide walked up to the tree and placed his hands on the bark. He was completely undaunted by its size, and the girls watched him with respect. He mumbled something to the tree and before the astonished gaze of the girls; the tree seemed to rip itself in half and unwind itself into a doorway about five feet tall and three feet wide.
The stranger lifted his hands from the bark and held them above his head. “Walk through.” He commanded. Wordlessly, the girls obeyed. At first, nothing changed. The forest was still a forest, the tree still in the shape of a door. Then, carefully, the stranger walked through, stooping past the low doorway, still keeping his hands high above his head.
Once on the other side, he dropped his hand suddenly, releasing the tree back into its original shape. As it did so, the whole forest melted into a sunny valley. The girls’ mouths dropped open, and the stranger gave a sigh of happiness.
“Well,” He said, breaking the silence. “I’m home again. It does seem like I’ve been gone for years.” He looked over at the girls. “What do you think?”
“I-it’s b-beautiful!” Diana managed to gasp out first. Alice and Alyssa merely nodded in agreement.
Alice frowned thoughtfully. “Hold on…” she paused. “There’s something missing…from our book…wasn’t there…”
Alyssa nodded. “Yeah, there was a village in the valley! Where’s the village? You know, where all your people live?”
The stranger laughed. “You don’t think that wouldn’t exist, do you? My home? Follow me, I’ll bring you to my home and you can meet my older sister, my younger brother and my parents.”
Alyssa clapped her hands. “Oh hurrah! We get to meet your family: Bettina and Corinne…and your parents?” The stranger nodded. Alyssa and Alice exchanged an excited grin.
Diana gave them a puzzled look. “You know them already?”
Alice laughed. “Of course we do!”
The stranger smiled. “They were the ones that created us…in their book. Have you read it?”
Diana shook her head. “No, but now I know why they would know you.” She stopped suddenly, her eyes getting bigger. “Wait…you mean you were characters in their BOOK?”
The stranger nodded. “Yes, but then we came alive, I was the one elected to find the authors and help them complete their story by bringing them here.”
Diana frowned. “Am I a character too?”
Again, the stranger nodded. “Yes. The girls created us; we came alive according to the ancient rule to all young authors under the age of eighteen, on the first day of July at twelve o’ clock in the afternoon.”
Diana still looked puzzled. “So…will I stop existing after they finish the book?”
The stranger smiled, but shook his head. “Thankfully, no. That’s why we’re here. Alice and Alyssa are going to finish their book so we can keep being alive. As long as they complete it in time, we’ll be around forever!”
Alice glanced at Alyssa. “That really puts the pressure on us, doesn’t it?” She whispered softly. Alyssa nodded.
Diana seemed finally satisfied. “Well, then, I suppose we ought to start the story!” she exclaimed. “What comes next?”
“We meet the stranger’s family, and he tells us his name.” Alyssa answered, using her notebook as a reference.
“Just so!” agreed the stranger. “Onward to adventure! We’re homeward bound!” He started off on a fast walk up the path that reached around the hill to what Alice and Alyssa could only assume was the promised village.
Alice shook her head. “I don’t see how he can be so cheerful with his life depending on this book being finished.” She said.
Alyssa smiled. “Yes…but shouldn’t we at least enjoy ourselves on this adventure? It’s just what our summer needed!”
Alice grunted doubtfully, but the girls continued following the stranger and Diana along the path.
So...how do you like it?
What do you think the stranger's family is like?
I love feedback! :)