Zena looked about in wonder. She was still at her grandmother’s house, but it was night, and the trees swayed in a breeze that Zena couldn’t feel. The house didn’t have the ravaged look it had acquired after the fire; it was unscathed.
Even as she looked, a middle-aged man left the house, and started walking into the woods, checking behind his shoulder every now and then to see whether anybody was following. A navy blue cloak swathed his shoulders, and he walked with a tense, silent stride. He continued on into the woods.
Zena immediately followed. Although she was dressed in her thin nightgown, the girl didn’t feel the cold; it was as if she was floating along the wet leaves. Zena followed the man through the woods, unsure what to expect. She had been told never to enter them, as this was the forest that had taken her grandfather.
Although the branches whipped and tore at her face, she never felt a thing. It confused her, but she didn’t have time to dwell on it. The man kept ploughing through the woods, not pausing until he came to an enormous tree. Zena wondered when it had been planted. Or maybe it had been here since the beginning of time, destined to grow on for thousands of years.
“I’ve come! Now leave my family alone!”
The man's hoarse cry echoed in the darkness, and Zena looked on confusedly.
“You said they would be safe if I gave myself up, so here I am: Take me!”
He held his arms up to the treetops, and something finally answered him. The voice slithered through the night like a snake, and Zena shivered.
“Yess, I ssshall keep my promise.”
A clawed hand reached out and shoved into the man’s chest. There was no blood, but where the man was struck, stone started spreading over his body. The man was left there, stuck in a rocky case.
With a start, Zena’s eyes snapped open. She was back in her bed. She held the marble in her hand, cool against her skin. Somehow it had taken her back to the time when her Grandfather had gone missing.
Closing her eyes, Zena thought again of her grandfather. She now knew the truth behind his disappearance. What was she going to do with that knowledge?
by Arrochar V, Otago Girls’ High School
This spooky story was Highly Commended in the Year 9&10 section of our "What Year is It?" competition for Write On Issue 55: Time Travel.
NB: Arrochar gave permission for some small edits.
Copyright: Arrochar V and Write On 2020