“Nix and I walk deeper into the forest, as if we weren’t in far enough. Ugh, I bet this is about the corn. Nix gets very defensive about his farmer’s crops. Why? I don’t really know.”
Chapter 1 – Get that Crow
An orangey tinge fills the land, and puffy, pink clouds slowly tread across the sky. The sweet, rolling hills become hazy with a golden tinge. Sheep graze peacefully in the valley below. A gorgeous sea of trees above, it is quiet here. Nothing to bother me. Flying high above hills and valleys, I slowly and gracefully glide down to the farmland below, no one to be seen.
The shepherd and his dog tend to the sheep; the farm’s cat roams around catching mice and other pesky rodents. As for me, I am a crow. Considered an unwanted pest because my kind eats corn. So what? We have to survive somehow. I’m not going to eat a rotting mouse, that’s just gross. I’ll eat corn, thank you very much. Maybe if times are desperate enough, but for now I’ll stick with what the farm provides.
“Ey, Corn Head! Ged down from there! Yous ain’t allowed to eat dat!”
Oh no, that stupid cat noticed me. Great.
“My name is not ‘Corn Head.’ It is Will for the last time. And I am not eating your corn, Walter.”
“Don’t call me dat. Just ged off da corn,” Walter calls.
“No. I will not leave this corn.”
“Oh, I’m gonna get ‘cha Corn Head,” he sneers.
Oh no. Whoop, there he goes. Well, time to take off.
“Oof.” He crashes into the fence.
Stupid cat. Whoa! Up we go. I don’t want to fly into that tree. Oh hey, it’s Nix! Maybe he’ll get this cat off my trail.
“Nix! Excuse me! Hello, Nix!” I yell.
Nix ceases his herding.
“Oh hi, William, I didn’t see you there,” he calls back. “This is about Walter, isn’t it? I’ll take care of him.”
He appears to have read my mind. Oh thank heavens, that’s very helpful. This wears me out quite a bit. I look over my shoulder. Heh heh. Yes, get ‘em, Nix, go, go, go!
“Ugh, ow. Didn’t see that coming,” I mutter.
Aww man, I flew into a bush. I can’t believe I did that again. I almost flew right into the Dark Forest — that could’ve ended badly. I see Nix and Walter walking closer, they seem to be talking. I thought Nix was going to chase Walter away from the farm for good. I guess I thought wrong. They are muttering something about me. Why would they be? Maybe they are talking about my dashing looks. Or maybe they are talking about my amazing tricks. They’re coming closer. Oh, this doesn’t sound good. Nix looks mad, and oh, that wretched cat looks so smug. Oh geez.
“Uhh, hey guys,” I say nervously.
“William, come with me,” Nix growls.
“Eheheh, good luck, bird scum,” Walt hisses into my ear as he stalks away.
Nix and I walk deeper into the forest, as if we weren’t in far enough. Ugh, I bet this is about the corn. Nix gets very defensive about his farmer’s crops. Why? I don’t really know. Whenever he gives me this lecture, he always starts rambling about this thing called money. Money, money, money. When will Nix stop caring about human things and start caring about how hard it is for me to survive in the wild?
“Will, I don’t want to give you this lecture again. I have no idea how many times I have to tell you. Just please STAY AWAY FROM THE CROPS. You never listen. Why don’t you go scavenge or something? I think it would help my farmer stay in business if you left the crops ALONE. He needs money to keep his — ”
I cut Nix off. “Why should I care about all this money nonsense? You always go on about money this, money that. I keep eating his corn so that I can LIVE.” I sneer.
“Excuse me? Look, I care about you, Will, but please care about the man who provides your food. Without the farmer, you would have to look elsewhere, and elsewhere is probably farther away,” Nix explains.
I suddenly have this great idea. When Nix gets frustrated, he doesn’t really pay attention to detail. I could fly off into the woods and he would probably follow me, then I can teach him a lesson, show him how hard life is in the wild. Ah ha, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
“Okay Nix, fine I’ll go elsewhere to find food,” I say with a smug grin. “I’ll go forage in the Dark Forest.”
“William, don’t you dare fly off! I’m not done talking to you,” I fly farther into the woods. “Come back you filthy, flying corn stealer!”
Chapter 2 – Deeper In The Dark Forest
“Hey, you get back here! Don’t you dare run away from me, you bird scum!!” Nix is beginning to fade into the distance. We’ve been running for hours. I wait for him to catch up.
In the distance I hear, “Nix? Where’d ya go bud? Did yous chase dat jerk off? Hellooo?”
While I wait for those two to catch up, I look at my surroundings. The sun has set and leaves of gold, crimson, and auburn litter the ground. A river as dark as obsidian flows throughout the forest; it, too, is covered in golden leaves. A slight chill dances through the air. Twinkling crystals fill the wine colored sky. The trees appear to be in solemn wait, mourning the sun’s short disappearance. I hear leaves crunching — it’s Nix and Walter. They both look scared. Well, who wouldn’t be? Besides the residents of this forest, in fact, I live here. It isn’t too bad here; it really is quite fruitful.
“Where are we?” Walt asks quietly.
“We are in the Dark Forest, my home,” I reply. “Welcome.”
Walter and Nix exchange shocked looks. Nix’s expression immediately hardens.
“Let’s go,” Nix growls. “I want to find a good place to sleep.”
“I can show you a good place to sleep! I can even find some food for you,” I shout.
“No, you’ve helped enough. Come on, Walter.” Nix snarls.
“Well if I can’t help you, then I am going to tag along at least. Who knows? You might need me at some point,” I grumble.
We start to walk, leaves crunching under my feet. Wind ruffles my feathers. I look at Nix: his long, black and white fur flits in the wind. His ears are pricked and alert, his fluffy, black tail stiff. I have a feeling he’s worrying about being stuck in this place. He’s a brave soul, very confident in his actions. He is totally out of it right now.
Nix and I go way back. We’ve known each other for three years so far. I was a tiny chick when I met him, I was still learning how to fly. Later, I was flying with my murder, and something happened. I don’t remember what occurred, but I do remember being knocked down by a dead crow. I was trapped under its wing, both in the air and on the ground. Since I couldn’t move or wriggle out, I squealed and chirped for help. Nix had come and pulled the dead bird off me. He nursed me back to health and brought me back to his farm, and from then on, Nix and I had hung out quite a bit. I love Nix. I really hope he’ll forgive me for snapping at him…
I look over at Walter; his tail is tucked between his legs. His ears are plastered to his head. His striped, orange fur is puffed out. His green eyes are wide, and his pupils are huge. He is definitely not in his zone, jumping at every sound. Occasionally, he gives a small squeak. Walt is not exactly the most confident guy. He tries so very hard to act confident, but I don’t think anyone really buys the act.
I met Walter after I met Nix, we met in the field where the sheep graze. He was cold, wet, and hungry. No signs of living with a human, no collar, no nothing. We took him to the barn, and Nix brought him some food. I don’t really understand why he hates me even though he’s known me for a year. He is truly a good cat at heart, I know that. It’s just hard not to hate him. I guess it must have to do with his predatory instincts or something like that.
We walk farther into the forest in silence. There is a lot of tension in the air, and fear. Fear is emitting from the two farm dwellers, tons of it.
“Guys, what are we doin’ here?” Walter mumbles.
“Looking for a place to sleep. And maybe something to eat,” Nix says.
“Are we stayin’ long? I really hope not, this place is givin’ me the creeps,” Walt enquires.
“I agree, Walt. This place is also creeping me out,” Nix responds. “I don’t think we’ll stay long.”
The trees begin to thin out; silver streams of light slide through the gaps. The light brightens as we walk farther. The shining stars appear to shine brighter as the trees come to a complete stop, as if they are happy to have us among them. I stare in awe at the moon who provides the most mystifying light.
Nix walks to the middle of the clearing and stares at the beautiful painting that is the sky. Walter slowly pads over, staring at the sky as well. This is one of the reasons the forest is fruitful: it is full of life, berries, food, and gorgeous scenery. Here in this clearing, the obsidian river thins into a creek and flows like silver silk. Stunning.
I stay at the edge of the forest, watching. I fly over to my friends and perch on a nearby rock. We sit together, staring, amazed by this scene.
I’m the first to break the silence. “It’s quite a beautiful night, isn’t it?”
“Yea, it is, ain’t it?” Walter whispers. “Why are we here? Dat’s one thing dat sticks out to me, though. It kind of feels like ‘oh here we go, let’s go run inta da forest and never go back to da farm.’ Is that why we’re here? Are we runnin’ away?”
No one answers. Nix and I exchange a look. I turn away — I’m not in the mood for this. I don’t really feel that bad, but I feel stupid now. I wanted to make Nix pay, but what am I really doing? I’m just leading my friends into danger. Soon, it will be winter, which is in a few days. I need to get them back. I shouldn’t have done this without thinking. This is my fault, and I have to fix it now. Let’s just hope I can get them out before it snows. I don’t really want to say anything yet, I think I’ll just go and suggest that we get some rest. I think we could use it. We have a long way to go.
Chapter 3 – The First Frost
I wake up and stretch my wings. I peer around, and my eyes become wide with shock. The leaves, the grass, everything is edged with sparkling crystals. Cold crystals. The chill is stronger. I fly over to the creek; it’s ice cold. I hop over to my friends. Their whiskers are covered in tiny crystals.
“Guys, wake up.” I nudge Nix’s shoulder. “Come on, you big, sleepy doofus!”
“Huh, waz happenin’?” Unsurprisingly, Walter is the second to wake up. He likes to wake up early.
“Nix won’t wake up,” I complain.
“‘Course dat big ol’ bozo won’t wake up,” grunted Walt.
“Wha?” Nix babbles. His head is in the air, but his eyes are still closed.
“Mornin’ sunshine. William here says yous wouldn’t wake up,” Walter snickers. “Ya look like a giant fluffball.”
It’s true though, his fur is all untidy. Grass bits and leaf litter are stuck in his long coat. His eyes are still closed. He’s not a morning dog.
“I’m hungry, where can we find things to eat?” rasps Nix.
I think about Nix’s question. We’re still in a part of the forest I know, so if I’m correct, there should be some edibles around. I can find nuts, berries, and practically anything for myself, and a good hunting ground for Nix and Walter. Let’s just hope we can at least get a little food. I think the frost has killed most plants, and most prey have hidden.
“Walter, you’re obviously fine with eating mice and rabbits, correct?” I question Walt.
“Ya know it!” Walter agrees.
“Nix, what about you? Would you hunt down, kill, then eat what you just killed?” I ask, addressing Nix this time.
“I suppose, I mean, I kind of have to. I can’t eat fruit or anything like that, I’m a carnivore,” Nix explains.
“Okay, so now that you two have confirmed that, I’ll lead you to a hunting ground. If I can find it,” I respond.
I fly low to the ground. We exit the clearing we had slept in. As we enter the forest, the chill becomes even frostier. I fly around trees and bushes; it gets warmer after a little. We near the hunting ground. Trees begin to thin yet again, but they are not cut short. The growth of bushes has stopped. Crimson, auburn, and gold flutter all around the area, the green grass is completely covered.
Walter takes a deep breath in.
“Smells like most of da prey scattered,” he comments. “I don’t know if we gonna have much luck, but we betta get to it. Whateva’s left is probably not dat big.”
“Walt’s right. I’m not sure if I’ll actually catch anything, due to my lousy hunting skills, but it’s worth a try,” Nix states.
“Okay, so the both of you are set. I’m not going to be staying to hunt, even though I can basically eat everything. I’m going to be foraging. I won’t be too far off. I’ll be at the edge of the hunting grounds, call me if you need anything,” I explain.
“Bye, Will!” Nix and Walt holler as I fly off.
“We will call you if we need anything!” shouts Nix.
I don’t have to fly very far, as I said. Berry bushes and walnut trees begin to appear as the trees become denser. I land close to a wild blueberry bush. I poke around it, scanning for any ripe berries. Most of them are shriveled up, another act of the wicked frost. I find about three good blueberries. I leave the berries in a small nook in a rock. I fly a little farther away from the hunting ground. Soon, I spot a clump of raspberry bushes. A majority of these leaves are as black as death. No plant is safe at the hands of the vile frost. I find only a few berries from the huge clump of bushes, maybe five or six. I bring them back to the rock. I continue my search, looking for nuts this time. I recall seeing a walnut tree before. I fly above the trees and look for the long leaves, long spindly stems, the huge branches, and of course, the clumps of walnuts.
I soon spot the walnut tree—this bears the most food so far. I search the floor for the small, brown nutshells. There are plenty of green fruits, they fill the air with a citrusy smell. Only very few fully matured nuts are on the ground. I pick up two of the large nuts in my beak and fly back to the rock to drop them off. I spread my wings and prepare to take off again when I hear the crunching of leaves under foot.
I turn around to see Nix and Walter. Their pickings are way slimmer than mine. They have only managed to catch a small vole and a boney-looking rabbit.
“Wow, that is way less than I expected!” I exclaim.
“I know, right,” Nix says putting down his vole. “I thought we’d get at least more than two scrawny critters.”
“Well, I told ya, whateva would be left wouldn’t be much.” Walt shrugs.
“Enough talking about our small catch. What’d you get, William?” inquires Nix.
“Yea, what did ya collect?” Walt asks, curious.
I look down at what I have. It’s not much, but it will keep me going for a little while.
“I have three blueberries, six raspberries, and two walnuts. It’s not much, and no offense to you two, but I have way more than you do,” I report.
“Oh, I’m not offended, it is easier to find plants and whatever it is you eat,” Nix agrees.
“I can safely say dat it would be easier to forage,” Walter comments.
“Let’s eat. We don’t have very much time left. The sun is already beginning to set. We’re going to have to find somewhere to sleep soon,” I announce.
Chapter 4 -The Badger
We are now starting to look for shelter. We have finished our puny meals. We walk and walk and walk. My feet begin to hurt. After three hours of walking, I start flying. The sun and moon battle for control of the sky. The moon slowly takes over the sun. The sky slowly begins to darken, from a beautiful, honey orange to a harsh, plum purple. We trot under the painted sky and sturdy, waiting trees. Leaf litter under foot gives off a strange, musty smell. The shining orb in the sky provides us with an enchanting light; it makes the spooky forest seem more magical.
“Hey Nix, come check this out,” I yell over my shoulder.
Nix pads over to me, Walt following. I have found a large hole. I don’t know if we can all fit inside, though.
“Um, I think that’s way too small,” Nix squeezes into the hole. “Walt, try wriggling in next to me.”
Walt doesn’t speak a word, he just attempts to shove himself into the hole. Walt slides in — it’s surprising that he fits. I slide in easily, but it’s a tight fit. I really don’t think this would be a sufficient sleeping place. I bet we look super squished right now. I’m not even on the floor, I’m on top of Walter.
“Dis is weird, man,” Walter hisses.
“Yeah, no kidding, my butt is so squished,” Nix grumbles.
“An’ poor Will isn’t even on da floor,” Walt adds.
“I do not think this is a good spot at all,” I admit.
“Okay, everyone out. This is really uncomfortable,” Nix sniffs.
We all try to scramble out at once, but we get stuck, and even more uncomfortable.
“This is not good at all,” I squeak.
“I can’t move,” Walter sputters.
“Okay, I’m going to get out first, I take up the most room. It’ll be easier when I get out,” Nix claims.
Walter and I wait as Nix scrapes himself out of the hole. It takes him a while, but soon enough, he scrambles out. Walter and I have tons of space to move around. Nix is one big dog. I flit off of Walt and let him crawl out. Then, I strut into the open.
“Well, that didn’t go very well. We should keep looking,” I comment.
No one objects. We continue to search.
“Huff puff huff… Can… we… please… stop walkin’…?” Walter breathes.
“Fine, we can stop for a second,” Nix sighs.
We have been following the creek for two hours now. Walter drags himself to the creek and takes huge gulps of ice cold water. Nix sits down and licks his sore paws. I decide to explore the area — I’ve never seen this place before. I hope we don’t get lost; I know most of the forest. I probably know this place in the daytime, but right now I have no idea. I think a nice badger lives somewhere around here; I’m really not sure though. I look around some more. I find an area that seems to elevate like a little hill. Near the base of the hill, there is a cave or hole of some sort.
I flap over to Nix, who is still licking his paws.
“Nix! Nix. I found a big hole or cave, it’s something like that, anyway. Back to my point, I think we could all fit in it,” I squawk.
“Show me.” Nix ceases licking his paws and stands up.
I lead him over to the big, open hole-cave thing. I look up at Nix. He looks shocked. This is the biggest shelter we’ve seen so far.
“Hey Walter, come look at this,” Nix says, eyes still on the opening.
“Why!?” Walter snaps.
“Because you should,” Nix retorts.
“Fine!” Walter shouts.
“Why are you so cranky?” I inquire.
“‘Cause I am, deal wif it,” Walt hisses.
“Just come over here,” Nix snarls, beginning to get frustrated.
Walter drags his paws as he sulks over.
“Look at what William found,” Nix says.
“Why should- oh, whoa,” Walt murmurs.
“I think it’s big enough for all of us!” I exclaim.
Nix pops in first. “There’s room for all of us!” he cries.
I flutter into the hole, then look up at Walter. He gives a small grunt and forces
himself in the hole. We all have plenty of space.
“It smells weird in here,” Walter mumbles.
Nix glares at him.
“But, we can sleep here,” Walt says, frightened.
Nix puts his head down on his paws and falls asleep. Walter turns away from Nix towards me.
“I’m sorry,” he murmurs. “This trip has just been so exhaustin’, I really hope we can ged home. I bet Nix does too, don’t ‘cha think?”
“I do, I mean he’s a been a great leader helping us through this trip. I agree, I hope we can get back to the farm,” I reply.
“Winter’s comin’. I can smell it. I don’t think wes gonna make it before it snows. So, I don’t know bud,” Walt whispers.
“Yeah…” I mumble.
“‘Night lil’ bird,” breathes Walter.
“Good night,” I murmur.
I wake up startled. I hear a strange, rustling sound. No one else seems to notice it. The sun isn’t even fully up in the sky yet. Not very much light filters into the hole.
“Walter. Walter! WALTER! WAKE UP!” I shout.
I end up waking up Nix and Walt. Nix falls back asleep right away.
“What?” Walter murmurs.
“Do you not hear that?” I whisper frantically.
“Hear what?” Walter asks.
“Oh dat, it’s probably Nix. Guy fidgets a lot in his sleep.” Walter looks over at Nix.
I also stare at Nix.
Nix isn’t moving, he’s as still as a stone.
“Yeah okay, if dat’s not Nix,” Walter turns to face me, eyes wide. “Then who or what is dat?”
The rustling sounds begin to grow louder.
I feel air blow on my back; Walt seems to have felt it too. A low growl comes from behind us. Walter and I turn around slowly.
A monstrous creature, much bigger than Nix, stands in front of us. It is way taller on its powerful hind legs. Tiny ears, rounded, pointed and alert. Yellowish, deadly fangs, drool dripping from its huge mouth. Its face is scrunched up in a snarl, a white stripe down the middle of its face and small beady eyes.
“GRRROWL!” the creature roars.
Nix is suddenly wide awake. The huge animal lunges towards him. Nix scrambles away from it and hides behind Walter and I. This can’t be the end.