The First Snows of Summer: the Awakening

2

By Enelis C

It was another hot Sunday at the peak of summer in Magica. The sun had begun to descend into the horizon, yet the heat it radiated was still unbearable for most people that they chose to stay indoors being lazy and doing nothing. No one ever thought that one act of innocence that afternoon would make the rest of the day one of the most horrible days in the history of Magica…

To the west of Valdemar, in the village of Erskine on the foothills of Aspasias, two young boys, one was short and plump while the other was lean and tall, were seen playing chase among the tall trees in the outer side of the Oakwood bordering the village. Despite his plumpness, the shorter boy proved to be a strong and agile boy, since he almost managed to catch up the lean boy, ducking under the low and lush branches, climbing and jumping the roots sticking out from the ground.

They reached one of the oldest trees as wide as houses with thick roots as tall as adults spreading around it and the lean boy tried to put some distance between them among the roots when suddenly he vanished with a sharp cry and crash.

“Romeo?” the short boy called, terrified. He stopped midway in his effort to climb a root. He called again in panic. The lean boy answered, but the sound was weak and far he almost couldn’t catch the word. He went to the spot where he last seen his friend. Some of the ground was disappearing into a round hole. He approached carefully and knelt, peering into the dark hole. He saw the lean boy at the bottom of the hole, looking up at him. “Are you okay?” he shouted into the hole.

Romeo nodded and got up, dusting the sand, leaves, and anything falling down with him. He looked around at his surrounding curiously. It seemed he had fallen into a small wooden room. Most of the walls had been covered with moss and roots. There were only a mattress, a small table and a shelf on that room. The shelf was full with books, scrolls, parchments, jars, and other things, but like the rest of the furniture, all of them were covered in moss. He tried to check on the books when his friend called him again.

“Darren,” he called back to the peering boy, “get down here.”

Darren’s plump face was gone from the opening of the hole, letting the sun shone on the small room. Something at the bottom of the shelf reflected the light and made him squint. He squatted down at the same time Darren climbed down the roots to join him and took a small rectangular box from the shelf. He stood back with the box in his hand when Darren jumped and landed with a big thud beside him, making the small room felt smaller. The boy looked around and gasped.

“I can’t believe there was someone living here,” he exclaimed.

“Look at this,” Romeo interrupted. He shoved the box in front of Darren’s face and the boy gasped again.

“A box! What’s inside?”

Romeo took a long look at the box. It had small hinges on one side but there was no keyhole or padlock. He tried to pry it open but it wouldn’t budge. He tried and tried to no avail.

“Maybe it’s broken? It looks so old,” Darren suggested.

“But it is so strange. The other things in the room are covered in moss. But this one is clean like a brand new.”

“You’re right, Romeo. Don’t you think there might be treasure within? Here, let me try,” his friend took the box from his hand and tried to open it but it still wouldn’t budge. “It must be broken!”

Romeo turned back at the books and scrolls scattered on the table beside the mattress. He went to do what he wanted to back then before his friend called him, but, seeing the thick moss covered them all, he pulled back his hand in disgust. Turning around, he saw Darren raising the black box above his head to let the sunray piercing into the hole shone on it and observing it closely. Romeo gave a loud gasp.

“What’s wrong?” Darren lowered his hand and the box was shielded in the shadow of the room. Romeo caught his friend’s hand and shoved it under the sunray. Darren looked terrified. “Wh-what, Romeo?”

“There are words written there!” he exclaimed. The sun ray revealed a thin line of words encircling the black box. Romeo was pretty sure that he had never seen such lettering, but somehow it was not unfamiliar.

“What words, Romeo? I can’t see any.”

He traced the words with his finger, starting from one end of the hinges to another end. Without realizing it, he read them so easily even though he didn’t know and had never heard the words he’d just spoken loudly. Darren looked at him with bulging eyes, as if he had just grown another head, his hands were still raised above his head. And suddenly the box burst open.

***

Darren never felt so frightened before. He was curious about the black box Romeo had found inside the hole. When his friend couldn’t open the box, he took it and tried to open it himself. No matter how strong he tried to pry the lid, it wouldn’t budge. Then he raised his hands and brought the box under the sun’s light to see it more clearly when Romeo gasped. Instinctively, he lowered his hands when Romeo gripped his wrist so roughly and raised it back.

Romeo admitted that he saw some kind of words on the box, yet he couldn’t see any words. The surface was smooth all over, except the random lines on the lid. And the boy suddenly traced the lines with his finger and said something he couldn’t understand aloud. He looked at Romeo’s gaze fixed on the lines and swore that there was something different in his eyes. At that short moment, his friend suddenly became a stranger.

Then the world exploded.

The lid of the box burst open not long after Romeo finished uttering the strange words. A chill wind gushed out from the box with such force that he fell backwards and knocked Romeo down. The wind roared and disappeared from the surface of the hole.

“Wh-wh-what was that?” he squeaked.

Romeo didn’t answer. In fact, the boy had been in a complete daze, laying on his back, his eyes staring into the space. Darren sat up and shook Romeo’s shoulders until the boy jerked and his eyes gradually focused on him.

“What was that?” Romeo asked weakly.

“I don’t know. You opened the box, Romeo,” he managed to say, helping the thin boy sat up. The boy looked so terribly weak.

Sitting there side to side on the damp floor, they peered down at the black box thrown to the corner of the room. It was totally empty. Romeo laughed weakly.

“Why someone keeps an empty box for?”

“I don’t know, Romeo. I had no idea that it was empty. I also had no idea that you could read.”

“But I can’t read.”

“But…” Darren started, more confused than ever, but he couldn’t say anything. They kept silent for a moment, his mind racing, his heart beating fast. Then, he heard a voice outside, and his heart almost skipped a beat. Relief washed over him when he noticed the voice as Heidy’s, big sister of Romeo, calling them out.

“Let’s go up, Romeo,” he managed with a hoarse voice.

***

Romeo never felt so exhausted before. He didn’t understand what just happened back then inside the hole. He remembered that he just spoke aloud unfamiliar words he’d never known before, but he couldn’t remember the exact words. He even didn’t understand how he could read the words. It just as if he knew the words very well. And he suddenly felt so terribly weak as if he had just run for a mile instead of read some words. As if the wind pouring out the box took some of his energy. But that was impossible, wasn’t it?

Anyway, why there was a pretty box with nothing inside except wind? And what kind of person trapping wind inside a box? How could wind got trapped inside the box at the first place?

He felt as if his whole bones had turned into pulp. He barely could climb up the roots back to the surface. Darren went up first and practically dragged him up. He couldn’t help but notice that his friend was scared. He suddenly became so distant and wouldn’t look at him in the eyes. After they got back to the ground, Darren got up and walked in front of him, occasionally glancing over his shoulder to see whether he followed behind or not. He looked concerned but afraid. Afraid of him?

Was there something else he couldn’t remember back then? He winced and groaned inwardly. He just wanted to go to bed soon and rested his exhausted body. He would ask his friend about what happened later.

“Romeo! Darren!” His sister’s calling ringing through the wood. Her footsteps were getting closer. Darren called her back to give her their direction and she found us almost immediately.

“There you are. Let’s go home, kids. The wind is getting stronger.”

Her words just made Romeo realize his surrounding for the first time since he was climbed out of the hole. He could hear the roar of the wind and the rustling of the leaves, feel the wind cold in his skin. Was it this windy before he fell into the hole?

“What’s wrong, Romeo? You look so pale,” his sister touched his face.

“Umm… there’s something we need to tell you, Heidy,” said Darren softly.

Romeo gazed up and just about to say something when suddenly black spots danced in front of his eyes. Then, he couldn’t remember anything else besides his sister worryingly called out his name.

To be continued

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