In today’s blog post, I am going to share a short story I wrote quite awhile back on my old blog that is now closed. It was formerly know as Samantha The Reader. The story has been recently revised and re-edited. A big thank you to everyone who helped me with feedback on the story! I appreciated all the assistance. I hope you enjoy reading!
Sharing a fictional stories is going to be quite different for this blog but as I previously explained in my past post, I want to also share book reviews and fictional stories on the blog. The idea was to merge my old blog into the new one. This will be mostly historical fiction; however, I do have a few stories that I want to share for feedback that don’t quite fit into that category. The hope is they are enjoyed anyways. I haven’t shared any fictional writing in quite a while and am a bit nervous. Please do me the kindness of leaving your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and criticism in the comments below. The feedback will be so valuable to me as a writer and I also would like to get a general idea of what everyone thinks about adding the element of books and historical fiction on the blog. Thank you so much for taking the time as always to read something I wrote! To learn more details about the merge and many changes occurring on the blog then check out our post An Open Letter From The Historical Diaries – Big Updates & News For The Blog!
Synopsis of the story: A young orphaned girl flees her home one afternoon and finds herself lost in a big scary forest. The child becomes injured but is assisted by an unlikely companion that claims to know the way to the girl’s home at the abbey. Not all is as it seems …
Photo credits: All photos on today’s story were captured by my close friend, the very talented Terry Pickens. You can follow his travel and photography blog at TVP Journeys
(Photo by Terry Pickens @ TVP Journeys)
BEYOND THE TREES
WRITTEN BY SAMANTHA JAMES
A Ghost Story ……
One late afternoon after a huge outburst of temper over some inconsequential and forgotten offense, I ran out of the Abbey amid my tantrum. It was the true behavior of a spoiled and a troubled orphan girl. Racing through the forest that lay just behind the abbey’s dwelling, I did not stop until I was sure no others had followed me. I laid back on a tree stump crying my eyes out and letting go of all the grief my little heart had carried. After a long stretch of time passed, I became calmer and calmer. Children, once they have let their emotion out can move on with an enviable ease.
I was no different.
When it started getting later, I attempted to return to the abbey. Unfortunately, it would not be long before I was lost. Bewildered with no idea where to go,I shook as tears leaked down my face. I was young and did not know what to do. Going in one direction and then another to no avail. I could not find my way back to the nuns.
The time kept passing.
I found myself lonely and terrified. I could hear no hoofs of horses, there were no hollers of my name, or anything. The sun was going down. It was getting late and dark. I kept walking and then I stumbled and tripped. The disaster continued when I lost my footing. I fell off a hill of sorts and rolled down at a swift speed. I could not stop as I tumbled and tumbled. My body ceased rolling when it hit a tree with a loud thump.
At first, I was so startled about what had just occurred, and all I could do was lay on the forest ground; however, I did at one point stand up. I groaned and tried to hold back the onslaught of tears threatening to burst as I brushed myself off. There was a sharp pain in my ankle and my head hurt. I sat back down.
“My dear, why don’t you let me ease your pain?” inquired a soothing voice of a female.
I looked up from where I was on the ground and I saw an old woman with a kind face. I felt at ease and at peace with this presence; however, I could not speak. It was easy to miss at first, but something about this lady was different.
She was tall and well-aged with long black hair that seemed so dull it almost faded into the background of the forest. She had white [wax] paper-like skin so delicate a simple breeze might turn her to dust. There was a transparency about the woman that seemed like a blur. I could almost look through her to see beyond the trees.
“Are you a ghost?” my young compulsive nature asked.
“Yes I am,” She nodded.
“You can help me?”
“Dear child, it would be a delight!”
She bent down and took my hands into hers. The women’s hand felt cold and moist. A small light sparked. I tried not to cringe and make faces. She used one of her hands to trace her pale fingers across my injured ankle. Within moments, the pain eased up as the coldness of her hand touched the skin around my foot.
“It worked!” I said cheerfully.
This was great news! I smiled at the ghost woman and watched as she took two footsteps back so I could stand up on my own.
“Are you lost?” she asked
“Yes, I am rather lost!”
“Where do you come from?”
“I live at the Abbey that is near this forest.”
I was so relieved and thankful that this ghost would help me find my way home. My young mind couldn’t question how events led a child into the forest with a ghost. The nonsense of the situation far over my head. I accepted this as a fact. The day had turned into evening and I was starving. I should have been back at the Abbey. My stomach rumbled and quaked with the need for a meal. I very much wanted to return to the nuns. Thoughts of home and warmth weaved through my brain.
“We need to head east that way,” the ghost pointed.
We began our march towards the direction she had chosen. Up to this point, everything had been very difficult to make out details in the dark, but I realized something changed as we walked. The forest glowed and seemed to get brighter as we continued. It was gradual at first. I assumed my eyes just needed adjusting to the night. As we walked things became clearer to see. It feels like the two of us were walking in pure daylight under the sun-shaded paths.
“Is it morning already?”
“No, dear child, not that much time has passed,”
She gave me an amused look as if she knew something I did not know. I shivered at the stiffness of her face. I noticed that it was not so friendly and open as when she had first approached me. We continued our walk leaving behind trees after trees. It seemed like we had been walking for hours; however, I was no longer exhausted.
I speculated on this but did not have an answer. I guess I just wasn’t as tired as I had felt. No doubt the fall had taken a lot out of me but perhaps since the ghost healed me everything was going to be fine again. When we passed a row of trees and made a turn in the path onto a new trail, I could see a beautiful lake.
As we continued down the path, the moon shone into the water.
Ripples and tiny waves shimmered across the lake as swans moved around. As we walked I became transfixed on a swan that seemed to be all alone and away from the other birds. It turned its head sharply in my direction as I stared at her. The swan’s sad eyes seemed to plead and beg me for something. It shook its head too. The bird looked as if it would burst into sudden tears. As we passed the lake, I could hear a tiny distant voice in my head saying, “Turn back!”
“Are we going in the right direction?” I asked the ghost.
“Yes, dear child … it won’t be long now.”
The woman turned to give me a reassuring smile. It was not comforting at all. Actually, it frightened me. I stopped walking. Something was wrong. The smile on her translucent face seemed scary and malicious. I looked the ghost woman over and I noticed changes. She seemed much younger now and full of hostile energy.
She was no longer old or delicate as when we met.
The dull black hair seemed to become a rich brown now. There was something odd about her, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Something was amiss.
“What is wrong dear child?”she asked, glancing back to where I stood.
“You seem different,” I mumbled.
“I am a ghost. I change often.”
It seemed to make sense and I could not argue any points. I was young and knew little about the ghost. They had taught me to never question my elders. As we carried on, more time seemed to slip by. This could have lasted forever and my brain knew I should not have been traveling that far to have been this lost.
As we passed more trees, I saw several owls fly by. I noticed one perched on a branch. This one was white as snow shining in the dark, big exquisite eyes fluttered around in interest. The dashing creature seemed to watch me. It gave out little hoots as we walked. He seemed to follow us flying from tree to tree. I heard a voice again. It was a different voice. It was more deep and sultry.
I thought about the swan. Were they trying to warn me? I looked towards the front of me where the woman was walking. That is when it hit me.
I was becoming taller than the ghost woman!
“You are getting shorter! Is it another change?”
She laughed and nodded.
“Do not be so frightened, dear child. I am in a constant state of change.”
“Why is this taking so long?”
“You went very far away from the Abbey. I believe you ran away much farther than you know. Why did you run away? What had made you so angry? The nuns treat you well.”
“They would not let me…”
I stopped dead in my tracks. How did the ghost woman know I had run away? How did she know I had been angry? A ghost could not read minds. I was positive of that. I had known all along, but now there was confirmation. Something was very off. I needed to get away from this ghost. She was not leading me to where I needed to be.
“I am very thirsty,” I said, lying. When the words came out of my mouth, I remembered how hungry and parched I had been. Why did I no longer feel like that? It seemed all my hunger and thirst had dissipated to nonexistence. How could this be true? Those things did not just go away in my experience.
“There was a tiny creek from the lake not very far behind us,” I continued turning back.
“Wait for a moment, dear child. Up ahead there will be a place to drink.”
I did not listen. I kept walking in the other direction.
“Child, do you hear me?” the ghost shouted.
I covered my ears with the hands and walked away as swiftly as I could from the ghost’s voice. With each step, my pace quickened, but the woman did not seem to follow me. Her voice became increasingly distant. My legs kept moving.
At one point I looked back as I turned a bend in the path.
I did not see her, so I cut off the trail and went deeper into the forest where there was no road. After some time, I was sure I had lost her. My steps shortened and slowed by instinct while I unnecessarily tried catching my breath. I was not tired nor lacking any air from such a sprint, and this seemed so strange. While looking around a bit at the trees, I decided the best thing to do would be to find the lake.
I could retrace my steps and try to make my way back to the Abbey. I felt very frightened and shivered with anticipation of running into the ghost again.
Making my way past some branches and walking in a direction opposite of where I had fled, the lake appeared just beyond the trees. I could see swans floating around. Walking towards the water, I kept myself hidden from view. After several minutes of walking past, I heard what seemed like a childlike laughter. My first reaction was that there was another girl around somewhere.
They might meet the ghost! I had to stop them!
“Hello!” I shouted.
I looked around everywhere but still saw no one. The snowy white owl flew right above my head startling me. I watched as he landed on a branch hanging closest to where I was standing. Disbelief and shock rendered my tongue silent when it spoke.
“I would be quiet if I were you!” he exclaimed.
“Why? There is another girl out there who needs to be warned about the ghost lady.”
“You are the ghost lady.”
The owl words were so matter of fact that the truth stung me to my very core.
I ran away from the disagreeable creature. He just hooted and followed me. I ran to the water and stared at my reflection.
To my horror, the owl was not mistaken. I no longer could see the little girl I had been. I was a tall lady with white wax paper skin that seemed so delicate and translucent. My hair had turned long, black, and dull. I was very much the woman I had met earlier when I had injured my ankle. As I stared at the person looking back at me, the tears flowed freely. What had become of me? As I sat in my misery by the lake, I noticed another image upon the water.
A small female child came into view standing right behind me.
The girl had my light brown toned curls all tied up in a disheveled bow. She was wearing the dark blue dress the nuns had me a short time ago. Dark leather gloves sat pulled over small hands looking rather torn. The light blue cloak she wore hung torn and quite dirtied with brown mud. It was me! An evil grin spread across the girl’s face when she noticed me staring at her. A cackle came roaring out of the child’s mouth.
The sound loud enough to be heard from quite a distance. I quickly got up and spun around onto the figure. She looked up at me without losing the taunting grin.
“Why did you do this?” I shouted at her. “Change me back!”
She mouthed the words no and gave a tiny faux pitying shake of her head and one hand up in the air in a tiny wave goodbye. She gave off one final gloating laugh, smiling from ear to ear. I watched as she turned and skipped merrily into the forest while whistling. I ran after her immediately but could never catch up to her, chasing the tiny girl for hours. She would tease and taunt as I tried to catch her, never succeeding.
The girl was always just beyond the trees.
© Samantha James and The Chronicles of History: Reading Into Our Past, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Samantha James and The Chronicles of History with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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(Photo by Terry Pickens @ TVP Journeys)