Return To Otrindara – Chapter 8 “Return To When”
Feeling something under my shirt I pulled out a strange looking necklace around my neck. Removing it I saw it was made from a vine and had a multicolored stone attached to it. I stared at it with confusion as the colors of it seemed to be alive. Every color imaginable seemed to appear as they swirled about the strange stone to give it life somehow. I wondered where it had come from and how it had gotten around my neck without me knowing it. I knew it hadn’t been there a few minutes ago. Staring at it I had the strange feeling I had seen it before but I couldn’t remember when. Then I got the strange feeling there was something else I should be remembering but couldn’t. Shrugging my shoulders I slipped it back on and tucked it back under my shirt. I figured it must have appeared there for a good reason.
Looking about I saw mosswalks running in different directions. I decided to take one heading east. Walking along I had to keep swatting strange insects that looked at me as their next meal. In some places they were as thick as a patch of mosquitoes. The dragonflies were the ones I found to be the most unbelievable. I also saw flies as big as golf balls and bees that hummed so loudly it sounded like hundreds of them flying together. I even saw beetles that jumped twenty feet and butterflies as big as birds.
After a few more hours of walking along at a casual pace I was surprised to find a patch of mint cabbages. I picked a few of the bulbs and replanted the stalks exactly like gramps had shown me. After slipping the mint cabbages into my backpack, except the one I ate, I moved on again. I figured it was about four in the afternoon when I finally found another small clearing. This one had dead logs lying about and a fire pit in the middle of it. Slipping off my backpack and sitting down I pulled out a bag of beef jerky, a couple of mint cabbages, and began to eat. The dull ache of loneliness was finally settling in. I started wishing this was all just a bad dream.
Every since gramps took me into the swamp I had been in love with it. Over the years I wondered about this side of it and after reading the journal I couldn’t wait to visit. Right now though I wasn’t so sure my enthusiasm had been such a good thing after all. I started thinking it might have been more of a mistake. Still, I had no choice now because I was here and there was no going back. I knew no matter how much I wanted things to be the way they were it just wasn’t going to happen. At least it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
Walking along afterward I tried to keep my mind off of things by watching all the activity around me and studying every part of it. I saw a lot of normal swamp life but there was also a lot of abnormal as well. I saw plants of every size and color and the strangest insects I had ever seen. I noticed small animals that looked similar to ones on my side of the fog but these were differently colored and I couldn’t begin to imagine what they were called. I suppose though it was normal to those who lived on this side of things.
Gramps told me a story once about why magic had left our world. He told me our kind had driven it out by denying its existence. He said magic was one with nature and each needed the other if they were to survive. It seems people began to destroy that balance. As the forests were cut down and the land polluted the the existence of magic began to disappear.
Grams once said she believed there was still quite a bit of magic left in our world. She said it just stayed hidden from us as much as possible. I remembered laughing about it at first but then she said something that made me think about it being true.
“If there isn’t any magic,” she said, “how does a seed become a flower? How does something take its very first breath?” The magic she said was in all of us if we chose to believe. The sadness of it all is most people choose not to. I had heard stories of people seeing strange things like Bigfoot and werewolves. Others claimed to have seen fairies and goblins. Maybe some of these sightings were true. From then on I had chosen to believe, even though I had never seen anything close to what I considered real magic.
I believed it was out there for me to find at the right time. With everything that was happening right now I was truly beginning to believe this was that time.
I had just reached a very small open area when a sudden noise caught my attention and brought me back to the swamp again. Movement to the side of me made me look over to see an odd looking bird just standing there. It was about the size of a turkey and staring straight at me. Its feathers were almost perfectly colored to match the plants directly surrounding it. I would never have seen it if it hadn’t stretched its neck a few feet upwards to look at me. It really did appear to be some kind of a wild turkey as near as I could figure.
Its long pointed beak opened up and suddenly let out an ear piercing sound. A high pitched whistling echoed its way into the swamp. My ears throbbed as its shrill sound whistled over and over for a few minutes. Quickly putting my hands up over my ears to try and shut it out I heard it whistle out in all directions.
Just then the strange necklace began to feel warm under my shirt. Pulling it out I saw the soft brown glow it gave off and the turkey birds whistling sound quickly lowered to a more comfortable level.
Hearing more movement and looking all around I noticed more of these turkey birds had gathered now. All of them were standing along the clearings edge and glaring right at me. Their necks were all stretched upward a few feet so their heads were above the plants surrounding them. Quickly I began moving along a mosswalk leading away from them. I picked up my pace and as I did I noticed they had begun to follow me. I began moving even faster but still they kept pace with me and started whistling again.
A short distance ahead of me I saw another opening in the swamp with lots of vines hanging down around it. I figured if I could make it to them I could at least climb to safety. Then I saw some of the turkey birds alongside were beginning to get ahead of me and they weren’t looking so friendly now. Their eyes had become small slits and their pointed beaks were open and exposing small rows of sharp teeth.
I was sure they were looking at me as their next meal. I started to run and as I did they began to run as well. My heart pounded and my pulse raced with the surge of adrenaline as I got closer to the vines. The turkey birds were only a few yards away now and coming quickly. Fear grew inside as a light sweat formed along my forehead and I felt the sting of it in my eyes. A few more feet to go when the tone of the whistling changed and suddenly they lunged at me with beaks readied to strike. How I wished I could fly right now I thought. Suddenly I rose upward as if I had just come off a spring board.
A soft yellow glow shot out from under my shirt and to my surprise I suddenly had wings. Growing right out of my back and through my shirt somehow were two beautiful wings and they were quickly fluttering like that of a butterflies. Rising uncontrollably at first I thought about trying to reach the treewalk and without knowing how I began moving towards it. Rising above the clearing and looking down I saw the turkey birds watching their meal escape towards the branches overhead.
Suddenly they began to attack one of their own. I wasn’t sure but I think it was the one who saw me first. Reaching the treewalk above I stepped onto it still watching the turkey birds below.
The others were now viciously pecking at the wounded one over and over. It whistled in agony as blood began to flow and soak into its now tattered feathers. A few moments later and it fell to the ground motionless. The turkey birds now tore at it like lions feasting on a fresh kill. They devoured it in a matter of minutes leaving nothing but a pile of blood soaked feathers lying on the ground. Lowering their necks they began walking back into the swamp as if nothing had happened.
Then I noticed my necklace had stopped glowing and my wings were gone. I knew the strange necklace had saved me by providing wings just when I needed them. I wasn’t sure why it had happened or just how it had happened but I was sure glad it did. It was almost as if the swamp itself were helping me for some strange reason.
Being so late the treewalk was well shadowed but still I figured it would be much safer to travel up here. The odd looking toadstools dimly lit it up but I still wanted a bit more light. Slipping off my backpack I took out my floodlight and one of the washer necklaces I had made before leaving home. I remembered gramps writing about the daka living up here and I wanted to have one ready if I ran into them. Sliding it into my front pocket I closed my backpack and slipped it back on. With my floodlight leading the way I walked until I came to another opening.
There was a narrow branch ledge leading all the way around to the other side. It was at best only a foot wide all along it. I thought about fluttering across but this time nothing happened. The necklace remained its normal color and no wings appeared. Maybe it was just for emergencies I thought.
Slipping my backpack off and holding it close I put my back tightly against the branch wall behind me. With my feet facing out I slowly side stepped along the narrow ledge. A few minutes later I was safely in the treewalk on the other side. I sat down on the hard branch floor trying to calm my nerves a little before moving on. I felt the light tremors that gently shook me from the rush of the moment. After I had caught my breath enough to relax I stood back up and slipped on my backpack.
I walked along for a few hours just studying the strange treewalk I traveled in. It was amazing to think something like this could actually exist up here in the treetops. Lining the branches of the treewalk in different spots were those odd looking toadstools. They were a sickly pale green in color and grew in small bunches on both sides of the treewalk. Growing in a wide range of sizes I noticed the floor of the treewalk was completely absent of them.
Then I noticed a variety of insects moving in and out of the branches as well. I saw very large beetles looking similar to lady bugs and furry caterpillars that stretched out to at least two feet long. So far though nothing up here had seemed to be to dangerous and I was glad of it. At one point I did run into a strange group of tiny birds nesting in the walls of the treewalk.
They looked something like cardinals but on a much smaller scale. They were all about the size of a hummingbird I’d say. As I approached them they started making some kind of odd warbling sound. Within minutes more had started sticking their heads out between the branches and soon there were hundreds of them.
Walking in between them the warbling sound changed and I got the feeling they weren’t very happy to see me. They began jumping out onto the treewalk floor behind me and starting pecking at me. Before I knew it the floor was covered with them and they were all moving towards me even faster now. Quickly I picked up my pace again until I was moving at a slow run.
I wasted no time in moving down the treewalk and getting as far from them as I could in the shortest amount of time. I was really glad when I noticed they had stopped following me a short ways back. Breathing a sigh of relief I just kept walking along totally dumbfounded as to what part of the swamp I was headed to.
Finally another another empty ovalon appeared. After looking in to make sure it was safe I went in and sat down in the center of the room. Being empty of a table and chairs, or doorways alongside, I knew I'd be roughing it this time. Sliding my backpack off I set it in front of me and put my head down into my hands. I began to tear up at the frustration and disappointment that had built up inside me. Maybe I hadn't been as ready to do this alone as I first thought. I knew I needed to find some help if I was to find gramps or grams anytime soon.