In this forest, standing on the edge may already be too close.
© Al Forbes
“Bojay! Come back!” Aksi peered into the shadows, poking the fallen leaves at the forest border, scared to go further.
Turning, he scanned the sparse bushes and trees. No sign of Bojay. He must have gone in here.
Aksi spun, startled by the old woman. “Where did you come from?”
“I live over there.” She waved vaguely. “What happened?”
“My little brother ran off.” Aksi gestured to his push-cart, apples and potatoes mixed together. “It spilled. I looked away for a moment and he was gone.” His worried eyes twitched toward the forest.
The woman stepped just to the leaves, leaned in, listened. “Yes.”
“He’s in there? I have to—“
She grabbed his arm, surprisingly firmly. “You’re too old. You’ll get lost. We wait.”
He glanced back. “Wasn’t the forest farther from the road before?”
She shrugged. “The forest is always wherever it is.”
Closer, she seemed much younger.
Finished waiting, she sang into the forest, a wordless, cooing, keening song. It echoed unnaturally long.
Wet leafy footsteps, then a little boy emerged from behind the nearest tree.
The woman chuckled. “Good. Wasn’t sure that would work.”
When Aksi turned to thank her, she was gone.
Word count: 200