“There is magic in this forest.”
I laughed at the old man, sitting on an old wooden stool on the stone porch of his small cabin. “Yeah, right. Magic.”
The old man smiled. “You are young, with the brashness, and arrogance of youth.” He looked pas me, to the forest surrounding his home. “You will see.” His eyes gleamed a brilliant blue, “You will see.”
I thanked him for the water, and the meal, and took my leave of him, heading north, into the forest. I was following someone. A girl. I’d seen her in the village, south of the forest, two days ago. I’d called out to her, tried to get her attention, but she didn’t hear me. When she left the village, she headed north. Into the forest. I followed her.
I don’t know why. I’d asked why I was following her for the past two days. Was it because she was pretty? Was it because I was curious? Perhaps I wanted to make sure her journey through the forest went well, and she arrived wherever she was going safely.
The old man at the cabin had just smiled. “She went north,” he’d said.
“Tinta.” He watched my reaction, saw my hesitation to answer him, to ask him questions. “She knows you’re following her.” He’d smiled again, “Why don’t you stop for a bit, have lunch, and a drink. Then continue your journey.”
“I don’t want to be a bother.”
“Oh, son. You are no bother. I get few visitors here. Let me practice my hospitality.”
He’d fixed sandwiches, more than we’d eaten. He’d put the rest in a bag, and handed it to me. “For Tinta.”
Tinta kept going north. I kept following her trail. It wasn’t hard. Her footprints were easy to spot in the snow. It was easy to see the tree branches she’d brushed against.
“There is magic in the forest.” I kept hearing the words of the old man, as the sun set on the second day, and I found a small alcove in the trees to camp for the night. I was glad the old man had given me the sandwiches, as I ate one that night.
Some say I never woke up. And I do remember looking at myself, sleeping on the ground under the trees. But it wasn’t really me. It was must an image. A mirage. As I looked down on myself, she walked into the alcove and stood next to me. She took my hand. She kissed me.
“I know.” She led me into the forest, heading north. As we walked, the snow faded, and the forest filled with colors, the sounds of birds, the music of leaves being played by soft breezes, and the magic of the sun’s beams painting patterns of light as it shined through the forests canopy.
It was beautiful. So was Tinta.
“There is one thing,” she said to me. “Now that you’re here, you know, don’t you.”
“I can never leave.”
I have never missed the world I left behind.
There was indeed magic in the forest. The old man had been right. It was the magic of dreams. I’d always dreamed of finding her. I’d always known when I did, she’d bring color to my world. I’d always known I’d never return to the world I’d always known. That I’d stay with my true love. Walking hand-in-hand, through the trees. In a world where winter never came.
My entry, in all its unedited glory, for week 18 of Jeff Tsuruoka‘s Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries in the challenge.