By Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik
sparkling spring water
A strange brown surface emerged straight ahead of me and Uriel’s Machine. An odd smell circulated in the air around me; a conspiracy of wood, spring dew and ink. I looked around and realized I was inside the large trunk of a willow tree. Could I be inside the tree in the book? If I was, then I’d be able to find the door out of the tree. It sounded bizarre even saying it inside my head. But I looked around and sure enough there was a door. Picking up the book and checking the pen and compass were still safely ensconced in my pocket, I pushed the door open and fell out of the tree and onto the leafy bark covered woodland floor of The Enchanted Forest. Above me, there was a leafy canopy fluttering with the subtle breeze like butterflies on a summers’ evening, with brightly coloured flora peeking out from the gaps. Shaking my head, I brushed the hair from my eyes and stood up. The EnchantedForest was beautiful. Bright rays of sunlight twinkling down to the earth through the trees; gentle blossoms which grew from a brightly coloured epicenter and spread out to become purest white; and dragonflies. Remembering my task, I removed the copper compass from my pocket and it opened unaided with a sharp click. It had three hands; one silver one showing usual compass directions; one bronze which didn’t seem to stay still for long that I could grasp the use of; and a gold one which gleamed in the light and seemed to show where I should go, like a map.
I walked slowly in the direction the gold needle was indicating and soon found my ears met with the soft babbling of a stream. As I continued along my course, the noise grew louder and I soon found the source; a large river tripping over grey and brown pebbles, rubbed smooth by the current. The soft tweeting of birds accompanied the water and beautiful dragonflies in more colours than I will bore my reader with danced and flittered above in the dewy air, their reflections lingering only for a moment upon the surface. As I stopped at the mossy bank of the river, I noticed the golden needle had begun pointing down the river, but there was no way through as the towering trees which stooped over the water and tickled at facet had trunks like columns which created a wall, blocking me from walking any deeper in to the forest. The compass must be mistaken. It was at this point that I decided to sit down. This quest wasn’t going anywhere and the rays of sun poking through the canopy above were dying away and soon the woodland floor would be in complete darkness. Sitting down on the river bank, I opened The Enchanted Forest book to see if anything had changed. To my surprise, I saw myself in inky black pen sitting down upon the papery riverbank. How could this be? I was not in the book. I had never even heard of this book until a few hours ago, or days, I forget. And there I was; in the book, the only readable part of the text: And she sat there staring blankly into the book, awaiting an answer that would never come, for she had forgotten the rule of The Imagination. This annoyed me. No one had told me this rule. What was The Rule? And how on Earth had I ended up written and draw inside a book? Then it dawned on me, perhaps it works both ways; if I could come up with a solution to get myself down the river, past the wall and wrote it in the book, would it appear before me? Taking out the pen Uriel had stuffed into my pocket alongside the compass I started to write in a shaky, scrawled hand: She began to write in the book of how she would proceed on her journey; would she fly over the leaves into the beyond or would she grow gills and plunge herself into the freezing depths of the river and swim along her course? No, she would retrieve a raft with leaves for a sail and wooden planked tied together for the body and a lantern because that would be require, as night would fall upon The Enchanted Forest and herself soon enough.
Sure enough, a raft precisely like the one I had just described appeared on the surface of the cool river. This was impossible. Or certainly improbable. But it was somehow true. Standing up, I stepped carefully onto the raft and it did not move. Itilted a little to the side and it still did not move. Testing the theory again, I opened the book once more and wrote leaning against the mast: She stepped on the raft but it would not move so she wrote in her book of the subtle wind that would bare the scent of spring and the joys of movement to the raft and would carry her and the raft onward in her journey. And once again, a breeze did come, fragranced with honey and flowers and the soft dew in the air which blew the raft onward with me clinging tentatively to the mast. The scenery began to change, the forest became much darker and the trees thickened and had hardly any gap between, but there was now a tiny thin winding path of mud lined with cobblestones leading away from the opposite riverbank. Upon the darkened bank, a majestic stag stood and stared at the raft eagerly. The compass in my pocket rattled in its shell once more. Could the stag be a harbinger of The Shadow Master?