Okay, I have to say, Marathon is going well so far. I posted my first chapter of PROPHECY in the past tense and it went over really well. I had 7 votes and 6 of them were ‘yes’, so I get to move on to my next chapter. I am goign to post the chapter as it was written for marathon here, and later this week will put up my revised version. Tell me what you think!
The whispers were quiet as I slipped out the back door. For once, I didn’t have to worry about the siren call from the woods behind our house.
Momma was in the kitchen doing the dishes and humming her favorite song: Ode to Joy. She always claimed it made her feel like she was doing something exciting and dramatic instead of the mundane chore of cleaning up after Daddy and me.
I skipped over to Amos’ pen, thrilled to have a few minutes alone with the black and white hound. He jumped against the fence as I opened the lock with a clank. He bounded out of the kennel and knocked me to the ground, licking my face. His wet tongue tickled my face even as the fresh cut grass prickled my bare arms and legs. I giggled, but tried to be quiet. Momma didn’t like it when I went outside by myself. She always worried about something or other and made me feel nervous and awkward.
Her protective hovering made me feel like some impending doom was lurking nearby. It also made me feel like a freak. Other kids never had to suffer the over protectiveness of my Momma. After all, why should I have to hold her hand when I was just in the backyard?
But today, I was free, if only for a few minutes. Free to play with my dog and feel normal for a change.
Pushing Amos’ happy face to the side, I looked up at the beautiful white puffy clouds the floated through the sky. I smiled with pure joy at the day, the freedom, and the silence that came from the woods.
I struggled for a moment to get Amos off me, even though I knew my young body couldn’t hope to push the forty-pound dog to the side. Wagging his log, whip-like tail he backed off anyway. He was a good dog who always knew what I wanted even if I didn’t say a word.
“You’re a good boy, Amos.” I hugged him around his middle smelling the sun and his unique doggie scent. He never acted as if I was anything other than a seven-year old. He never treated me with kid gloves, nor as if I was about to do something a seven-year old shouldn’t.
He bounced away from me, acting like a puppy instead of an old dog, and I chased him around the yard.
Like a crash of thunder washing over me, the whispers began. The strange murmur from the trees just beyond the yard filled my senses.
Amos’ reacted instantly. He jumped in front of me and glared into the woods. His growling overwhelmed the whispers, but then they rose in volume and pitch. My dog’s ears pressed back tightly to his head and his body shook in anger or fear. He was the only one who ever heard the voices other than me. I tried to calm him by placing my hand on his back and murmuring nonsense words into his ear. Normally, that was enough to calm him down. This time he only tensed more and pressed his body back against me, causing me to stumble to my knees behind him.
I looked to the woods, trying to see why he refused to calm down, but they looked the same as they always did when the whispers began. Shadows under the trees grew longer despite the sunlight and moved in sensuous dances without benefit of the wind. The wooded area took on a dark menace.
Then the light dimmed and blackness crowded the puffy clouds from the blue sky. The yard darkened and a cold wind began to blow from the woods. My skin tingled with gooseflesh and I held tight to Amos, getting a small comfort from his warmth despite the racing of my heart.
My confused thoughts swept over me. I wanted to go to the trees, to follow the sounds to their source, but even more, I wanted to run back to the house and shut the noises out. The chaos in my mind froze my limbs and locked my mouth shut so I couldn’t even call for Momma, or to the woods, though I wanted to do both.
Words began to creep through the wind, words I heard not only with my ears but also with something deep inside of me. They touched my fear, yet they promised an approval I have never felt before. Absolute acceptance.
“Scottie, come to us.”
“It is your destiny.”
“We are as you are.”
“You will be treasured among us.”
“You are the child we have been waiting for.”
The words scared me but also intrigued me. They seemed to know how much I wanted to feel normal, to not be the freak my parents feared. The uniqueness, the intelligence, the almost adult in a child’s body, that worried my Momma and that my Daddy denied, felt cherished. And wanted. The feeling behind the words promised a future far greater than anyone would believe. It promised that I was different for a reason.
My muscles unlocked and I moved toward the calls.
Amos slid from my arms and threw himself on top of me, hurling me to the ground. Pain flared in my cheek where I landed but my eyes never left the woods. Amos’ growls and barks vibrated through me as I tried to shove him off me. His weight shifted slightly, brining his full weight down on my legs. With a surge of power, I pushed him hard and he fell off me with a whine. He struggled to his feet, but moved with a deliberate slowness that showed I had injured him in my escape. I wanted to comfort him, but I stumbled forward towards the woods instead. My stiff body fought against me, but step by step, I moved to the call.
With a painful sound Amos jumped at me again, teeth sinking into my shirt. He pulled me back, but I shrugged hard and felt my shirt rip, leaving only shreds in his teeth.
I broke into a shambling run, screaming inside to stop. I didn’t want to go into the dark woods, but my body refused to obey me. Amos limped in front of me again, but I threw him to the side, hearing a crack as he broke a rib when he landed. I looked at him; stride breaking as I rebelled at myself for causing him pain. I longed to go to him, to apologize to him, to help my faithful friend, but I couldn’t stop my legs from running faster to the trees and the voices that called me. I choked out a scream, partly for Amos, and partly for me.
Warm, familiar arms swept me up from behind. Entranced by the woods, I never heard Momma running for me. Amos’ attempts to slow me down gave her enough time to catch me. My own shout had alerted her that something was very wrong in the yard. The spell of the woods eased slightly as I smelled her perfume and felt her embrace, yet still I tried to pull away from her.
“Scottie, where do you think you are going? If I hadn’t heard you scream and Amos bark, I wouldn’t have known where you were!” Her voice strained to almost a shrillness that shocked me into looking at her. She clutched me close to her chest, and turned her body toward the house as I peered back at the woods. She jolted as she stepped into a small hole or something. The movement forced me to break eye contact with the calling words. Their power over me weakened further and I could breathe again.
“Momma, let me down. I want to go to the woods,” Words not my own escaped my lips as I looked into her beautiful chocolate brown eyes. Fighting her embrace, and myself, I turned myself so I could see the trees. Their powerful call washed over me again, filling me with unbelievable yearning.
Momma’s face clouded over, darker than the skies above as she looked deep into my eyes. “Why Scottie? Why would you leave me and go into the woods?” She tightened her grip around me so I felt like I was being crushed by a bear. Stumbling in her haste, she took several steps away from the trees and toward the backdoor.
“The trees, Momma they call to me. I want to go into them; I need to go into them.” The words forced themselves through my clenched teeth, lying and telling the truth in the same moment. The woods petrified me, but I wanted to be in them more than anything else in the world.
“Cherie, Scottie? Are you two out back?”
Momma’s breath whooshed out of her at the sound of my father’s voice. Her body started relaxing immediately and I could breathe again. I pushed against her, but only with half my strength. I didn’t want her to let me go, even though I wanted to be free.
“Jackson, we are back here!” Her stressed voice cracked, yet there was a measure of relief in it.
Daddy hurried around the corner of the house, his face set as though preparing for a fight. His golden hair shone in the sunlight and he looked like some avenging angel intent on protecting the poor mortals: Momma and me. Seeing no apparent danger, he slowed his pace but scanned the yard with eyes that missed nothing.
I wriggled and finally escaped from Momma, but instead of the woods, I ran to my Daddy. He could protect me. He could keep me from doing the thing I longed and hated to do.
Amos stopped growling when Daddy picked me up, but he didn’t stop looking at the trees.
“What are my two favorite people in the world doing this afternoon?” Daddy’s voice, warm as honey, did not show any anxiety, but he gently touched the rip in my shirt made by Amos’ teeth. His mouth tightened and he asked silent questions to Momma with a lifting of an eyebrow.
The whispers grabbed me with their power and I pushed hard away from Daddy who gave a surprised grunt, but didn’t let me go. From the corner of my eye, I saw him look down at me, though I focused my attention on the woods. The call from the trees all but overwhelmed me.
“So, little man, what have you been doing?” His false tone betrayed his anxiety, as did the tightening of his arms around me. “You and Amos been playing?”
Amos struggled to rise from the ground, whining softly. His eyes stared at the trees and he barked a sharp staccato sound then ended with a howl of pain. My heart felt like it broke. I did that to him. I hurt my dog.
I buried my face against Daddy’s chest, tears overflowing. Daddy lifted my chin with a finger.
“What’s been happening, son?” His serious tone forced words from my throat, words that sounded false even in my own ears.
“Daddy, Amos and I were playing, but I think I hurt him. I didn’t mean to, I was listening to the woods.” I cocked my head to the side, realizing that the calls had faded away. “They are quiet now, but Amos didn’t like them. He tried to keep me away from them.”
“And you hurt him?”
“Daddy, it was an accident. I didn’t mean to. He just wouldn’t let me go into the woods. Can you fix him up?”
Daddy frowned. “Well, I’m a doctor right? I’ll do what I can tonight and take him to the vet tomorrow. But why were you going in there?”
“The woods called to me. I wanted to walk under the green trees, smell the soil, and talk to the wind.”
A soft murmur arose from the trees again. I looked toward them and leaned away from Daddy’s body, transfixed by the music that tugged at my heart.
“Scottie, Scottie. SCOTTIE!” The sharpness in Daddy’s voice awakens me from my trance. I slowly looked up into his eyes, still half enthralled. He stared down at me, his forehead a severe line. I reached up a single hand and tried to smooth it away. He opened his mouth to speak, but I interrupted him before he could begin.
“Daddy, don’t look so upset. I would be okay. The woods want me there.” I glanced back at the woods, and the siren call of the trees settled over me once again. “I would be fine.” I tried to climb down out of Daddy’s arms, wriggling and pushing with all my might. “I will be fine.” His arms tightened around me more as I reached toward the music. “I will be fine.”
He will never let me go. He and Momma don’t understand. I don’t understand. What is wrong with me? I want to stay with my parents. How can I want to run to the woods as well? The woods, they call me…call me…
Daddy looked over my head at Momma, where they exchanged a look they didn’t think I could see. I wished I could see inside their minds to know what they were thinking. Daddy’s arms shook with effort as he tried to keep me contained. Or maybe there was another reason, perhaps some hidden emotion. I stopped wriggling to get down, accepting I couldn’t get away, but still my voice whispered, “I will be okay.”
“That’s not the point, Scottie,” Momma said. “It’s not safe in the woods. Not safe at all. Especially not for a little boy.” Her voice trembled and sounded distant as though lost in a memory; one that scared her more than anything in her life.
Questions swirled through my mind.
What did she know about the woods? How could she think that I would be hurt there? Could she possibly hear the voices that called me? Did she know that I really belonged there and simply wanted to keep me to herself? Why would she keep me from my destiny? Is it really my destiny?
My parents were keeping something from me. They appeared too nervous, too scared about me going into the woods. Something must have been in there that they didn’t want me to see. Something they thought would hurt me, even though I knew better.
The question spilled out of my mouth.
“What do you mean? I know the woods will not hurt me. They told me so.”
“Okay, let’s go inside,” Daddy’s voice was hard and strained. The frown on his face would have made the fiercest animal run. It had the same effect on me.
“Let me down, Daddy, I can walk.” Although willing to go with my parents in order to learn what they knew, I couldn’t help but look back to the woods as the calls from them slowly faded into non-existence.
“Scottie, stop squirming!”
I stopped moving, but cowered as Daddy carried me into the house. What would he do with me once we were in there? He never raised his voice at me before, but this time…
“You will never go into those woods, Scottie. Never.” Momma’s voice cracked with fear as she choked back tears. I looked at her, afraid of her as well. Something was terribly, terribly wrong, and soon I would know how wrong things could actually be.
She was right, though. I would never go into the woods, not of my own will,
But would my determination be enough to keep me away?