Archives

Matchmaking

branch_twig_clip_heart_leaf_macro_68225_1280x1024

By Enelis C

Words are poison. If you have ever heard that saying but do not believe it, you might want to read this story further. Here, I will show you how poisonous words are to human mind.

It began when Rosalie approached me and talked to me out of the blue:

“I think Ethan is in love with you.”

It was a sunny day, too hot actually, that people tended to spend the day by slacking or being lazy. Well, at least, that was what I was doing at that time. I was sitting on my favourite stool at my favourite cafe drinking my favourite drink (non alcoholic, I assure you) and reading my favourite magazine when my favourite bartender dropped the bomb. Fortunately, I wasn’t drinking. Otherwise, I would get choked to my death (okay, that’s impossible). But still, unfortunately, I wasn’t ready and did not expect the statement that I was pretty sure I got very red even without looking at my reflection in the mirror.

“Wha-what are you saying? That’s absurd,” I said haltingly.

“He seems to care so much about you and he looks at you differently.”

“Well… That’s because we’re best friends.”

“Still, he’s a good guy for you. Why not dating him? I think it is time for you to have a boyfriend,” she winked.

“Well… I might think about that,” I laughed, rather hysterically, then moved away as fast as possible to avoid further conversation.

When I wanted to leave, I accidentally listened to (and eventually eavesdropped on) a very intriguing discussion among some boys from Red Dormitory.

“I think our Ethan is in love.”

My ears were standing upright upon hearing Ethan’s name.

“He keeps talking about this particular girl.”

“Do you know who she is?”

“No idea. I bet she is the one who always hangs around him a lot.”

I flushed. Were they talking about… me? Was the girl they mention… ME? Nah, that’s impossible. Ethan and I had been best buddies since our childhood. There was no way he falls in love with me. Or… was it possible? I thought about what Rosalie said over and over, not paying attention to my walking out of the cafe, until I bumped into…

“ETHAN!!!” I screamed.

“What?!” He flinched. “You’re screaming like you’ve seen a ghost!”

No. It’s just that you showed up at the wrong time. But I didn’t say it out loud.

Ethan looked at me closely. Too close that I could feel my cheeks heating.

“You’re so red. Are you okay?” He reached out to touch my forehead.

I pushed his hand away rather roughly.

“Nothing! I’m fine!”

For crying out loud, what happened to me? It must be the heat. From the sun, I meant.

“If you said so,” he said doubtfully. “Anyway, I’m glad to meet you here. I was looking for you.”

“Eh? F- for what?” I stuttered. The heat crept back to my face.

“Meet me under the usual cherry tree at the park tonight. There’s something important I want to tell you,” he blushed and walked away casually into the cafe.

I was paralyzed for a moment. He… blushed? He BLUSHED? Ethan never BLUSHED! Oh my God! I hope the earth opened up and swallowed me whole!

Breathe, Luna, breathe. There must be some explanations for that blush. Maybe it was because the sun playing trick on my eyes. Maybe the heat got me and made me seeing things. But, what Rosalie and the boys said in the cafe kept repeating themselves over and over. What if? No! NO! BIG NO! And again, Ethan asked me to meet him tonight to tell me something important? What would it be if it’s not a confession?

Three hours to go.

I kept pacing in circle in my room. What should I do if he was truly in love with me? What should I do if he confessed his feeling to me? I grabbed my head with both hands. It’s not that I did not like him. I liked him a lot. But not in that way. Just thinking about us being more than friend had given me a stupid headache.

Okay, this’s what I was going to do. I would meet him there and act casually like there’s nothing wrong. Everything was as normal as usual. I would tell him that I loved having him as a friend and it would be best for us to stay as friends. Nothing more. The end. That’s what I decided when I chose the clothes for the meeting.

Two hours to go.

Hmm, I guessed I would go with black since it suited me well. But red would make me look cuter. Ugh! What was I thinking right now?! I went to the mirror and looked at my reflection. Maybe I would put some make up for tonight. And could I do something with that blonde straight hair? It was too ordinary. Ahh! Take a grip, Luna.

One hour and a half later, I left the academy and started walking to the park. The sun had set completely, allowing soft breeze cooling the land. At the corner of the street, I saw Angelina walking her dog. She waved.

“Hai, Luna,” she greeted. Her eyes widened as she’s getting closer. “Wow, you look so beautiful. Going for a date or something?”

Somebody takes a gun and please shoots me in the heart.

***

Ethan had been waiting under the tree, gazing at the sky. He was completely lost in thought. It was so rare to see. Aw, he’s so cute. Oh my God! Stop it, Luna!

“Ethan, what’s up?” I called. Please get it over with or I might lose my sanity soon.

Ethan looked at me. He opened his mouth, but no words were out. Instead, he stared at me. “What are you wearing?”

“It’s nothing. Just say what you want to say!” I snapped, flustered by his attention.

“Well…” he began. “It’s kinda embarrassing…” He scratched his head and looked away.

I KNOW IT! HE’S GONNA TO CONFESS! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?

“Actually… I promise Anna I will bring her a Duskshade Firefly, but I don’t know how to find one. So, I want to ask your help since you are a Green Mage.” He smiled sheepishly.

One minute passed. Two. Three. Everything was silent as if time had stopped moving. Then the loud sound of my palm met his cheek echoed. I turned away stomping in embarrassment and relief, leaving him stunned behind. Stupid me. Stupid Ethan. To think I got so worked up over nothing. What a great job you had done, Luna!!!

Several days later, somehow, Rosalie approached me again at the same situation with the same intention.

“I think Nick is in love with you, Luna.”

I only looked up from my magazine and said, “Will you please leave me alone?”

The End

Advertisements

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

Cabin in the Wood: the Truth

cabin in the wood

By Enelis C

Harry was awakened by a loud thud outside the house. He sat down immediately and cursed inwardly.  So much for the idea to stay awake. He got out the bed and went out the room. The sun’s rays went in through the window and illuminated the corridor. Yawning widely, he knocked on Anna’s door. No answer. He waited for several minutes before knocking again. Being impatient, because it was so not-Anna-at-all, he turned the knob and opened the door. Panic pierced his heart when he realized that the bed was empty. No Anna in sight.

He hurriedly went down the stairs and looked around. The fire still danced happily in the hearth. The dinner table was empty, showing no sign of the feast last night, as if it was only an illusion. As his mind tried hard to find the logic of the situation, he noticed strange sounds outside, like something continuously scraping against something. He realized that the front door was ajar.

Gripped by fear, Harry slowly went to the door. He opened it soundlessly. Kathy was standing at the clearing with her back was to him, bending over something, wasn’t aware of his presence. He realized that she was the source of the sound he heard. She was sharpening a saw on a big round stone, almost enthusiastically while humming softly. What was she going to do with that thing? Harry inhaled sharply.

To his horror, he saw dark red blotches were smeared on her clothes, particularly the lower part. He darted a shocked look at the ground. There was a pool of red almost like fresh blood. A wave of sickness hit him hard he almost collapsed. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Was that Anna lying motionless beside the red pool? There was no mistake. It was her! He knew that redhead too well.

You might think that being unnoticed as he was, he has an ultimate chance to finish her off and she might not realize she was attacked until it was too late. Or he might yell a war cry, announcing his presence then attacked her like a hero on many fairy tales. He would come as the winner and would be famous for avenging the monster that killed his friend. No. He just stood there numbly for several seconds before shrieking un-hero-like.

The saw on Kathy’s hand fell with a sickening thud to the ground. She turned and looked at Harry with a crazy gleam in her eyes.

“My bacon sandwich! You’re awake! Care to join your girlfriend?”

Harry shrieked again. He stumbled backward. The front door was slamming in front of him.

“Why were you running away? Come here. I want to show you something!”

Harry held the urge to throw up. She was crazy. Then, he realized his mistake. Instead of running away from the cabin, he was running inside. He cursed. Now what? He was totally trapped. He forced himself to calm down and think it over. The idea of running away with that wicked woman free to chase him was not a good idea. Who knew what that woman would do? For goodness sake he might have a saw embedded on his body the moment he fled from her. Maybe that woman could catch up with him despite her fat body. Moreover, he couldn’t leave Anna behind. He shuddered. The thought of her lit his anger.

He needed to outwit the crazy woman. His best weapon was his brain. He couldn’t use destructive power like his other friends. Though he might do some fighting, he couldn’t battle an armed maniac almost twice his size barehanded. Not to mention that she had a sharp saw! He needed to make her incapacitated so that he could escape to the town and asked for help. He looked around, trying to find a way to subdue her. He could trap her somewhere in the cabin. But where?

“Roast chicken, don’t be shy. Why are you running away?” Kathy called. She was on the other side of the door already.

Harry could lure her inside one of the bedroom and trap her there. No. That was not a good idea, either. He could hide behind the door, but her big body would block the exit. He would be the one trapped. There was no time.

Speaking about a trap… He set his eyes on the trapdoor. He got an idea. A foolish and desperate one, but he didn’t have a choice.

Kathy opened the door forcefully.

“Where are you, smoked sausage?” She called in a sing-song voice. “Are we playing hide and seek now?”

From his hiding place, Harry could tell that Kathy moved around, searching for him in any possible hideouts in the small cabin.

“Huh? The trapdoor was open! Bad kebab! I told him not to open the door!” she grumbled. “I will teach him a lesson! Maybe he can be the main dish for breakfast today?” she laughed evilly.

Harry held his breath and willed his heart to stop beating fast, afraid she could hear them clearly. He heard her walking down the stair to the basement. He moved fast, opened the door of the larder where he hid, ran towards the surprised Kathy, kicked her in the chest and sent her tumbling down the stairs, closed the trapdoor and bolted it.

“What are you doing, chicken nugget?!” her muffled cry sounded beneath the trapdoor.

Harry ran outside and went to Anna’s still body. Blood covered the back of her head and her neck. Her lifeless blue eyes stared at the sky. It was too late. Harry cursed. Tears stung his eyes. He turned and ran as fast as possible to the city. Now that the sun was up and the fog was gone, he could find his way back to the city. Rage boiled inside him as he noticed that the cabin was located so damn near to the city. If they hadn’t stopped at the cabin and kept walking, they might reach the city in less than twenty minutes. And then, Anna would not…

Harry closed his eyes, trying to dismiss the thought. He hoped that it was just a nightmarish nightmare, that he was still asleep, so was Anna on the next door. That Kathy was only a harmless fat lady. He kept running and running, letting his legs led him. And what a wonderful guide they were, since he suddenly crashed into a solid muscular body and landed hard on his bottom on the cobblestone road.

He opened his eyes and looked up at the handsome face of the head of the Red Dormitory.

“Larc!”

“You looked like hell,” he said. Okay. Just forget about the handsome and muscular part.

“Wh-what are you doing here?” Harry stuttered.

“I have a business to make with Annaliese. So, where is she?”

In a flash, Harry stood up. Words poured from his mouth incoherently.

“Never mind about that! She was… It was too late… The witch… Trapdoor… My fault…”

Larc raised his hand, signaling him to stop talking. “You don’t make any sense. Try to explain slowly.”

“We don’t have time for that!” Harry shouted at his face. In normal situation, he would never dare to even think about shouting at Larc. In fact, he never saw anybody doing so, except those who had death wishes to die in a painful way. Since it was not a normal situation, he thought he could make it an exception. “Just follow me, please. I will tell you the whole story while we are running.”

Harry wondered if he truly looked like hell like Larc had said before, since the man didn’t argue with Harry ordering him around. He expected a thunderbolt to strike him from behind, but there was nothing. Larc followed him, though Harry couldn’t read his expression at all. Running back to Kathy’s cabin, he explained everything in detail, starting from his decision to walk back to the city when their car was out of fuel to his trapping Cathy inside her own cabin. When he finished his story, they had arrived at the cabin. Harry knelt beside Anna’s lifeless body and sobbed.

“If only I didn’t fall asleep, she might be still alive. Poor Anna. I will make sure that the witch will get a severe punishment for this.”

Larc knelt beside him and looked at the body. Though he claimed that he was looking for her, his face was still unreadable as ever. Then he stood and looked around the cabin.

“Well, if it is her, is that you over there?” he pointed.

Harry raised his head, following the direction Larc’s index finger pointed at. True, there was a figure that looked like him, well, looked exactly like him, standing under the sunlight at the end of the clearing. He was instantly dumbfounded. He looked at Anna’s body closely, his mind kept racing. Larc knelt once again and touched the body.

“Despite of what you’ve said, I think we are truly looking at a very fine statue. An absolutely marvellous art it looks like the real deal.”

“B-bu-but…” Harry stammered.

“We can ask the old lady to find the truth. Where do you lock her in, you said?”

“But Anna is missing!” he protested.

“Well, do you think a crazy old lady can do her in that easily?”

“Well, she’s not that old, but yeah, I see your point,” Harry said in a small voice. He totally forgot that. Anna might look like a fragile and weak girl, but she was strong, super strong, in fact. Now, how could he forget that? He felt so stupid suddenly.

“Where, Harry? We better release her before she becomes the victim.”

Harry groaned inwardly. He went inside the cabin, Larc on his tail. He stopped midway. There were no pounding and no muffled cries. His fear increased. Larc walked pass him and opened the trapdoor. Kathy blinked her eyes as she climbed up the stairs, looking at yet another stranger in her house confusingly.

“I’m verry sorry, Madam. It seems that one of my students had mistaken you for a bloody murderer who killed his friend,” explained Larc.

“Murderer? Kill?” asked Kathy with a questioning look.

“You have a saw with you and blood smeared on your clothes and Anna’s gone and you were so interested with her last night!” accused Harry.

“Ohhh, my chicken nugget, I think you’ve misunderstood.”

Larc looked puzzled by the endearment.

“See!? She keep calling us by any kind of meat dishes even though we’ve told her our names!”

“Well, you like it better if I call you by vegetable dishes?” asked Kathy, looked more confused than before.

Harry slapped his forehead. Larc looked bored.

“Maybe you can explain what actually happened,” Larc prompted.

“I accidentally slipped on the ground while painting the statue of your girlfriend. I knocked the can over and the red paint splashed on me as well. I fell into the pedestal and it broke under my weight. That’s why I sharpen my saw, to make a new pedestal from the logs.”

“So, that’s why Anna’s statue is lying on the ground rather than standing like my statue,” Harry concluded. Everything began to make sense inside his head.

“So, you’ve looked at the statue, then. I put it under the sunlight to let the paint dry faster.”

“But, you are so mysterious about your basement!”

“I’ve placed all my statues there. I want to show them to you guys after I finished your statues.”

“But, it doesn’t explain why Anna is missing!”

“She’s not. She went to take a bath on the river nearby. You can reach the river through the path behind my cabin.”

Larc closed his eyes and shook his head. Harry had never felt so humiliated before. His cheeks were red and he hoped the ground opened to swallow him. He could feel his face reddening more when light footsteps were heard getting closer outside. Less than a minute, Anna appeared at the door, looked so fresh and alive. The three of them stared at her.

“Huh? Did I miss something?” she asked with pure confusion. “Harry, you look like a red tomato. Kathy, is there something wrong with the statue? And Larc? What are you doing here?”

Larc sighed and walked towards her. “I’ve just arrived. I want to ask for your help.” He took Anna’s arm and led her outside.

“Um,” Harry began difficultly. “I’m so terribly sorry. You’ve been so kind to us and I repay you so badly.”

“Don’t worry, pickled cucumber. It’s not every day that I have such an interesting day,” she laughed heartily and slapped him on the shoulder.

Harry couldn’t help but flinched hearing the new endearment. Oh well, it turned out that she was only an eccentric fat woman with an awesome talent. Later that day, she finished Anna’s statue and placed it beside his statue. Harry felt as if he was looking at his own reflection. Kathy showed them the basement, where she stored her statues, all of which were so astounding that no words could truly describe them. If Harry looked at the content of the basement and saw the statues before he hid inside the larder, he might think that they were victims of black magic and got more freaked out than he was at that time. All in all, he was grateful that he had awakened from his ‘nightmare’.

Speaking about black magic, Anna looked a bit guarded after Larc told her the reason he came searching for her. She didn’t tell Harry anything about that but he could see that she was becoming restless. Something bad must be happened in the city. But it was definitely another story…

The End

Cabin in the Wood: the Suspicion

cabin in the wood

By Enelis C

You might have ever heard about a story where two children named Hansel and Gretel were lost in the forest and found a house made of gingerbread, cakes, and candies. Though the idea of such house sounds harmless, it turned out that the owner of the house was a cannibalistic witch who loved eating children by luring them to her house. Like other classic stories, there must be one moral or two from this story. Maybe it wants to teach you not to eat too many sweets. Maybe it wants to show you that good-looking something does not always mean good. Or to put it simply, it gives you a warning: beware a strange house in the middle of the forest.

The fog was getting heavier with every passing second and so was the feeling of regret in Harry’s heart at his stupid decision to leave the carriage and walk instead. Their horse accidentally injured its leg, preventing them from continuing their journey back to the city.  The carriage would not be a warm place to spend the night, but it would be if his fear of their getting lost had been true. With the thick fog, he wasn’t so sure that the path they’ve taken was the right path to the city. He even wasn’t sure that they would find the carriage if they turned back. Worse, he even wasn’t sure about their location anymore.

Before leaving the carriage, the fog was not as thick as it was now. He was sure that they were so close to the city already, that it would take less than an hour to reach the city by foot. At least, they might find some inns along the way where they were supposed to get warmer than staying in the carriage. Unfortunately, the fog chose to get thicker when they have gone through the halfway of the journey. Now, after walking for an hour with no sign of life except the fog and the forest and the dim light of their lanterns, Harry was pretty sure that they were lost. He stopped, forcing the girl beside him to do the same.

“I’m sorry,” he managed. “We’re lost. I don’t know where we are right now.”

Anna didn’t answer, but she nodded. She kept shining her lantern to their right side, but nothing to be seen except trees. She lowered her lantern and gasped.

“Harry, do you see what I see?”

“What?” he answered rather too fast. He knew that they were alone inside the forest right now, and any idea of superstition didn’t make him feeling better.

“Is that a mailbox?” she pointed her finger to something that looked like a very rusty can impaled by an iron bar. They moved closer to inspect it. It was so rusty that Harry was sure if there was something written on it, nobody could read it without scraped the rust first.

“If that thing is here, there must be…” Harry shone his lantern frantically until the light shone into a large shadow lurking not so far from them. There are some rectangular shapes glowing on it.

“A cabin,” she finished his sentence. She shone her lantern to the ground and they looked at a small bushy path leading to the cabin. She looked at him expectantly. “Those lights mean there’s someone there. I hope that someone doesn’t mind welcoming two visitors in the middle of the night.”

They followed the smaller path towards the wooden cabin. Harry realized that there was a small clearing beside the cabin, hidden behind tall and thick trees they saw at the previous path. His lantern shone on strange-looking heaps within walking distance. He wanted to know what those were, but feared the possibility of swamp or bog there. He moved closer to Anna who was walking in front of him instead.

“Are you sure it is a great idea? This place sure is creepy.”

“It’s better than spending the night outdoor,” she answered.

“It reminds me of a witch’s house a lot.” Harry looked around, expecting some short monsters popped out and surrounded them. Oh hell, maybe those heaps were monsters that’d been waiting for ambush strangers.

“You listen to too many spooky stories, Harry.”

“I can’t help it. You’re the one telling me such stories,” he complained.

“My bad.” She knocked at the door.

No one answered. Anna knocked again.

“Excuse me?” she called.

Heavy footsteps echoed inside the cabin. Shortly, the sound of the door being unlocked was heard. They glanced at each other nervously. Harry prepared himself to see an old crooked frail witch to open the door. Instead, a very tall and fat woman holding a lantern looked down at them. “Yes?” she asked in a quite deep voice.

“I’m sorry. We have a trouble with our carriage. May we ask your favor to let us spend the night here?” asked Anna sweetly.

“Oh, my poor hamburgers!” the fat woman hugged them all of a sudden. “You must be so cold and hungry. Come in, come in.” She practically pulled them in and locked the door behind them.

“Did she just call us hamburgers?” Harry whispered in Anna’ ears. She gave him a quizzical look.

“You can call me Kathy. Welcome to my humble abode,” said the woman while hanging the lantern on the nail beside the door.

“Oh, thank you, Madam. I am Anna and this is Harry.”

“You meatballs come in a right time. It is so rare to have visitors here. I have some dinner prepared. I’m glad I don’t have to finish it alone.”

Kathy placed her hands on their shoulders, ushering them into the cabin. Harry mouthed something to Anna, maybe wondering why the woman called them ‘meatball’ this time. But she didn’t pay much attention to him. She was distracted by the interior of the cabin.

It was not a large cabin, but it was sure a simple and cozy one. Fire roared in the stone hearth on their left, a comfy sofa bed facing it. To their right were a neat and orderly kitchen and a larder. At the backside, there was a staircase leading to the second floor and a trapdoor, maybe leading to a basement. But the most attracting part of the cabin stood in the center, which was a dinner table served with many kind of mouth-watering meals that could feed 20 people at most. Harry couldn’t stop goggling at the spectacular feast.

“Don’t be shy, pork chops. Eat as much as you want.” Kathy helped Anna to her seat then gestured to Harry to sit down beside her. Harry raised his eyebrow at the endearment. Anna was either very hungry or astonished that she didn’t care. Her eyes fixed on the dishes. Kathy sat down in front of them and started filling their plates.

“You cooked a lot for someone who lives alone,” Harry muttered. Anna shot him a dirty look. He mouthed ‘what’ angrily. He got the right to feel suspicious, didn’t he?

“I am a woman with a large appetite,” her laugh echoed throughout the cabin. Harry wondered whether he mistook the vibration of the walls all around them. Great. A large lady with a large appetite. Hopefully, two teenagers had nothing to do with it.

Harry didn’t feel reassured at all. Nevertheless, he couldn’t deny that he was hungry. What they had been through in the forest earlier had taken its toll on them. He’s not only hungry, he was exhausted as well. He began to chew and swallow everything Kathy had placed on his plate like somebody who had not eaten for weeks. He couldn’t help it. The food tasted as fantastic as it looked.

“Those are very beautiful eyes you have there, my pot roast,” said Kathy. Harry almost forgot that the woman was there watching them. He stopped halfway to pick some sausages, then realized that the woman was addressing Anna. She mumbled ‘thank you’ with her mouth full with cheese.

Anna was very beautiful with her redhead and clear sky-blue eyes. It was not the first time someone commented on those physical features of her. Yet, Harry couldn’t help the unsettling feeling in his gut. Kathy said those words like a hunter appraised her prey. He couldn’t stop noticing that Kathy kept watching on her all this time.

“Those eyes would be a masterpiece, indeed,” Kathy sighed. Harry shivered. However, the girl in question was not affected at all. She gulped down her milk like nothing happened. Well, there was nothing happened, literally, but, couldn’t she tell that their host were getting more suspicious over time?

Suddenly, after dropping the empty glass back on the table, Anna’s body went limp. She leaned forward and dropped her head to the table and didn’t move anymore. Harry panicked and stood immediately.

“Ah! My poor hot dog! She must be very tired!” uttered Kathy. In a very swift motion for a fat woman, she approached Anna and scooped her up easily. “She fell into a deep sleep. We better put her to bed. Follow me, my beefsteak.” She walked towards the stairs with Anna in her arms. The girl didn’t stir. Harry followed her halfheartedly, convinced that there was something wrong. He stopped at the bottom of the stair, looking down at the trapdoor, suddenly feeling curious about it. Kathy stopped and looked round.

“Chicken pie! You shouldn’t open that door!” Kathy sounded alarmed.

“Why? What’s in there?” asked Harry.

“Just some things I don’t want people to look at. Come on. We better hurry and put your girlfriend upstairs. She will be more comfortable, then.”

Kathy led him to the corridor upstairs. Two wooden doors stood ajar on one side. There was a small window at the end of the corridor which he was sure facing the small clearing outside. Kathy entered the nearest room and laid Anna down on a small bed. Beside the bed, a wooden cupboard was the only furniture available in the room. Kathy turned to him.

“You can sleep in the room next door. I think I will let you get some rest, as well. I will be downstairs if you need me.”

“Well… okay. Thank you,” said Harry. He watched the woman walking down the stairs in confusion. He re-entered Anna’s room to make sure that the girl was indeed sleeping before he got to the second room. Laying on the similar small bed and gazing at the dim lamp above his head, Harry couldn’t help thinking that maybe Kathy was truly a kind loner as she seemed to be. He felt bad to think otherwise. The woman had let them into her home, eaten her food, and even used her bed. However, he couldn’t put aside the need to stay alert. He decided not to sleep until sunrise when they would be ready to leave. Something told him to keep awake and he felt it will be safer that way.

Of course, he managed to do that for only ten minutes before he snored.

To be continued