The Forest

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The Forest

Taryn McGraw, Staff Reporter

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“Alright, Devin. It’s your turn. Truth or dare.” Jason demanded as all heads turned to the said target, his light brown hair covering his downward-cast face as he stared at his phone.

“Devin?” Another kid asked, but there was no response.

“Devin!” Jason yelled, annoyed. Devin jumped, whipping his head up to reveal his bright ice-colored eyes. He tore the headphones out of his ears.

“Yes?” He asked innocently, obviously confused by the situation. Jason rolled his eyes, his patience wearing thin, his annoyance adding an air of tension to the atmosphere. After a second, the teen muttered under his breath before turning to Devin to ask, “Truth or dare?”

Devin thought for a moment. “Umm, truth?” The others in the group sighed altogether.

“Come on. You always pick truth. Try to be more fun instead of having your head buried in your phone.” Jason demanded. The others nodded in agreement.

“Fine,” Devin sighed, tucking his phone away into the back pocket of his jeans, “I choose dare then.”

Jason smiled deviously, mischief clear in his eyes, making Devin grimace in anticipation of what was coming next. Jason put his hand to his chin, as if taking his time to choose what he wanted.

“I … dare… you,” Jason stretched out, “to go into the forest for five minutes.”

Everybody, including Devin, gasped in shock, turning their heads to the dark, dense, and eerie forest beside them. There were many rumors, dark tales of children and adults alike wandering into the abyss of trees and never returning, legends of darkness that lurked within. Devin gulped, turning his gaze back to the teen in front of him, as Jason’s eyes danced with doubt, his confidence assured. For some unknown reason, the mocking gaze filled him up with courage, his anger outweighing all other options

“Fine.” He said simply, standing up and walking towards the darkness. He didn’t turn back, for if he did, the other boys would see how scared he truly was. Devin didn’t believe in the rumors, but there was a little part of him that did.

“You have to go really deep. We’ll yell for you to come back out when the time’s up.” Jason added, a smirk in his voice. Devin continued, plunging into the bush with a ferocity unseen in the quiet boy. A shiver ran down his spine as he walked in. the dark, moonless night enshrouded him, so much so that could barely see himself as he continued pushing forwards. Visibly shaking and wanting to distract himself, Devin pulled out his headphones and gingerly placed one in his ear. Music always calmed him down, and calm was all he wanted at that moment.

Devin tuned out the rest of the world and focused on the music, not noticing his feet doing their own thing as he went deeper into the dark brush ahead. Each step of his foot and nod of his head matched the beat of the song.

SNAP. Devin yanked out his earbud and whipped his head around, the sound ringing like a gunshot in his ear. Left, then right, then back again, but no source. He couldn’t even pinpoint where the sound came from. As if hearing his thoughts, another loud snap came from his right. Devin became noticeably pale, his hands clamming up. He could feel every bead of sweat run down his face and neck.

He knew he had to get out of there before whatever shared the forest with him wanted him out of it.

Devin quickly glanced around, unsure where to go, but after another startling sound, he bolted in the opposite direction. He didn’t care about the branches whacking and scratching his face, nor the loud noises he was making. And he sure didn’t care about where he was going at that moment. All that he could think about was the fact that there was something chasing him, and they were gaining. His heartbeat drummed in his ears as ‘survival’ was the only thing he could think about. He felt his feet catch a branch, and sure enough, he went tumbling down the hill before him.

“AAAAGGGGHHHH!” Devin screamed out in agony, holding his now twisted right ankle,  the loud footsteps coming ever closer. Devin looked spotting a hole created by the roots of a tree, small enough for him to crawl under and hide. He didn’t waste another moment, as he slipped into the darkness and waited; it was the only thing he could do to try and survive. The sounds got closer and closer. He could hear panting by now from the beast. Then, all was silent; so silent, one could hear a pin drop. It was as if time itself slowed down and all the was moving was Devin. One movement or noise and all was over. The anticipation was killing him.

A large thump came right in front of the tree as the monster finally made its location known. Devin let out a muffled yelp as a  foot appeared in front of him. As his eyes traveled upward, what was a furry leg got rougher as scales began to mix in with the fur. As the hair lessened, the scales became more prominent, scaring Devin even more. He was almost sure that he was shaking the tree due to the amount he was trembling.

All fear stopped abruptly when Devin heard a soft voice, crooning into the darkness around him.

“Where did that young boy go? He fell down here somewhere. Oh, I hope he’s all right. I didn’t mean to scare him.”

The monster could talk?! He didn’t know what to do. It sounded genuine, but there is no way to be sure.

“I can smell him, but it seems like he doesn’t want to be found.” The monster cleared its voice. “If you can hear me, I just want to let you know that I won’t hurt you. I know that sounds like a lot to believe, but trust me, hurting you is the last thing I want to do.”

Without a lot of options, Devin sighed.

“Okay,” He whispered.

The monster suddenly jumped and spun around to look at Devin’s hiding spot. It was patient as Devin slowly crawled out, keeping his head down to not look at the creature. Without putting pressure on his injured ankle, Devin closed his eyes, stood up straight, then took a deep breath. When his eyes opened, he didn’t expect what he saw. The creature before him was a mix between a panther and a dragon. Its legs and tail were those of a large black cat while the upper body and head were of a dragon; except for the eyes and nose, which appeared almost feline in the darkness. Its shimmering black wings stretched so tall, it casted a shadow onto Devin, who kept his distance from the monster. The teen finally looked up, making eye contact with the creature. Its green eyes glowed as he stared into the black slit pupils. Somehow, he felt like he could see the creature’s emotions, which calmed him down. As if reading Devin’s mind, the creature smiled a sharp-toothed kind smile.

“Thank you for believing in me. You’re the first one.” Sadness shot through its eyes before vanishing, being replaced by happiness. “I’m Declan.”

“Devin.” He said simply, slowly relaxing his shoulders. “Nice to meet you.”

Declan smiled brighter. “Nice to meet you too.” He glanced down at Devin’s ankle. “Oh goodness, what happened? Was that because of me? I’m so sorry.”

Declan slowly inched towards Devin, afraid he was going to try and run, but to his surprise, the boy didn’t move.

“It happened when I fell.” Devin shrugged. His pulse quickened slightly as Declan neared him. Part of him wanted to touch him while the other wanted to run for the hills, which would be slightly difficult at that time. It was silent, as if the boys shared a silent conversation through their eyes. Finally, Declan moved around Devin to come beside him on his right side. Carefully, Devin held out his hand to the creature’s back and lightly grazed it. The scales were smooth and Declan did nothing to cause alarm, so Devin rested the side of his body against the beast, draping his arm around Declan to lessen the burden of his left ankle, which brought him immediate relief.

“Thank you.” Devin sighed. Declan hummed in acknowledgement.

They both sat down and began getting to know each other. As Declan explained how he’d been alone in the woods, how he had picked up on the human language through listening to those who wandered in there. He also explained his encounters with humans. Declan only wanted to help them, but every single one of them ran, calling him a monster. Declan was on the verge of tears after explaining his story. Pain struck Devin’s heart as he wrapped his arms around Declan’s neck in comfort.

Just then, a thought came to Devin’s mind that caused him to sit up straight, startling Declan. “I need to get back. My friends might be worried about me.”

Declan’s eyes widened in realization as he helped Devin stand up and together, they slowly made their way to the edge of the forest, with Declan leading the way since he knew where he was going. At the edge, Devin could see all the boys standing in panic, yelling his name, but too afraid to go in and find him.

“You can go,” Declan said, sadness creeping into his voice, “They’re worried about you.”

“You should come with me. We can convince them that you’re not a monster and resolve all these rumors about you. It would make you happier.” Devin proposed, not wanting to leave his new friend.

Declan thought for a moment, his expression brightening as he shook his head. “I’ll decline. I’d rather be left alone due to the rumors than be bombarded with people wanting to see me.”

Understanding Declan’s view, Devin nodded his head. “I’ll come visit you, though. I’ll visit you every day.” He said enthusiastically. “You will never be alone again. I promise.”

Devin smiled a big, white, toothy smile and Declan mirrored it, chuckling and nodding in approval. With the agreement, Declan let go of Devin and slid into the shadows. Devin waved one more time before turning towards the opening.

“Guys! I’m over here!” He yelled as he hobbled out of the forest. His friends surrounded him. Questions flew left and right, giving Devin a headache.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine. I just tripped and twisted my ankle.” He looked straight into Jason’s eyes, fear no longer present as he stood with confidence. Jason cowered slightly and turned away with an angry huff.

“As for the rumors about the monster,” Devin began with a smile, glancing back to the forest and making eye contact with his newfound friend, “I have confirmed that the beast doesn’t exist.”

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