In the Odd Forest

There’s a patch of forest near where my husband grew up that had a supernatural reputation.  It was a small wooded area, but all the kids were convinced that if you went in, you’d get lost, like it was bigger on the inside. This is the first part of a story dedicated to that forest.

Amy peered through the trees. She could feel her friends behind her, waiting.

“It’s not so scary,” Angeline whispered. Angeline usually told the truth, but Amy thought she was lying this time. The forest was old and dense and dark. Kids disappeared there, wandering for days, lost. Panthers lived inside, or bobcats, or even bears. At least, that’s what the other kids whispered about. Amy didn’t know if she believed them.

“Come on, we all did it.” That was Roxy. She was brave, and loud, and had already started wearing tight pants and shirts, even though she didn’t have anything to show off yet.

Amy swallowed. She was the only girl here who hadn’t gone through the rite. But she was going to be in sixth grade this year, and it was tradition to do it before middle school. It sounded easy. Walk to the middle of the woods and leave a toy on the pile of other toys left behind by the other girls during their visits. Amy clutched a doll in her left hand. It was hand-made, with button eyes, a pink dress, and yellow hair made of yarn. Her older sister had made it for her, before she went off to college. Amy intended to come back and get it, later. After braving the forest once, a second trip would be easy.

But now that it was time, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go in even once. The trees were dense and shadowed, and Amy couldn’t see very far. The sun was warm on her back, but the air coming from the forest was almost cold. If her parents knew where she was and what she was doing, they’d lecture her about getting lost and about kidnappers and wild animals. Her parents didn’t know, though. That was part of the tradition. The girls didn’t want the forest to become forbidden.

Angeline put a hand on Amy’s shoulder. Amy nodded. If she didn’t go in now, she never would. She stood up straight, and took a step forward.

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