Story Contest 2017 #1 - Outstanding Stories » The Forest of Glen
“The Forest of Glen” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2017 written by Iemaja S. Hassell, New Zealand.
The Forest of Glen
It all began when Dad suggested that Alison and I take a horse trek around the Loch for a week.
“But! My dears, aren't you far too young to be going out by yourselves?! And for a week too! Jimmy, I don't know what you were thinking!” Mum nearly had a nervous breakdown at such a suggestion.
“Mum, don't fuss, we aren't babies like Angus! We’re already eleven!” I shot a nasty look to my nine year old brother, who was making a very rude gesture. My Mum was always making a massive fuss about nothing. She was even frightened to go shopping alone, even under serious circumstances.
Me and my best friend Alison were crazy about horses. We each had our own, Ali had a beautiful thoroughbred white Arabian called Pebbles, I had an amazing chestnut mare, called Nessie.
“JOANI!” That was my mum’s voice. “JOANI! ITS TEA TIME DEAR!” Alison and I rushed out of the stables, where we had been preparing for the big trek the next day.
“Caitlin, dear, it’s ok! They’re going to be fine!” My dad, Jimmy, was making useless attempts to cheer her up. He eventually gave up.
Alison was to stay the night at my house, so we could get up early and get going at five am. We lied down and fell asleep almost immediately.
As we stumbled into the kitchen, all bleary eyed and grumbling the next morning, the cook had made us breakfast. Mum was worrying again; she was clutching Lila (My two year old sister) for comfort. Alison came to the rescue,
“Mrs. Blythe, we’re only going around the Loch, not to the top of the Highlands!”
“Aye, they’ll be fine, they are very strong minded young lassies!” said my dad in his deep voice.
“I suppose so.” she said, trying but failing to look pleased. And off we went!
We rode until lunchtime, finally flopping under a great old oak, opening our saddlebags to indulge on a large lunch. Suddenly, a little, cheeky face popped out of my bag, face stuffed with food laughing her head off. My jaw dropped in disbelief. Lila. Lila had been a stow- away, in my saddle bag, she had probably eaten all our food too. I checked. Of course, trust Lila.
At least Ali had some extra food.
“Ali! Looks like we’ve got another mouth to feed!” I showed her Lila.
“Lila! Ya wee beastie!” She chuckled, “Never mind, I've got some more food in my bag, but only a little bit, mind you.”
We sat down for our picnic spread, (A little smaller than we’d have liked) completely oblivious to the tiny pair of little blue eyes following us from the shrubbery. In addition to our meal, we decided to pick some wild strawberries that were growing nearby. A tiny man dressed in bright green with a long, silver beard, and a bald head bobbing up and down as he sang merrily to himself, popped out of the strawberry patch. Lila jumped in surprise.
“Lepacon! Lepacon!” she said. He hadn't noticed us yet, but was just sitting on a little toadstool, tapping away with a minuscule wooden hammer.
“Ummm, hello!” Alison said cautiously.
“Hi! I’m Alison, this is Lila, and, and,” She said, faltering under the piercing look of the Leprechaun, “and Joani.” She finished lamely.
“Who might you be?” I asked.
“I’m Niamh O’Sullivan!”
“Sir, do you know where we are?”
“Why, we are in the forest of naughty magic creatures who have done something bad. I stole another Leprechauns pot of gold, in Ireland, that is the lowest form of behaviour. Well, must be of now! Good day to you!” and without further ado, he jumped on a butterfly and flew away. We all sat on the ground rather surprised at this abrupt departure, until Ali said,
“Well, we’d better get going then, we need to find food, shelter, and water.” We jumped back on the horses, and rode for ten minutes or so. We came to a little yellow door, set neatly into a tree with a little brass knocker.
Lila slid of the horse, and knocked on the little brass knocker. A tiny woman answered it. She looked round and jolly, with a jovial smile. She was wearing a small gown, obviously made out of rose petals.
“Hello! How can I help you? I’m always glad to help the little ones!” She reached out and pinched Ali’s cheek. We exchanged looks. I was doing all it took not to laugh.
“Hi! We were wondering if you could tell us where we are, and give us some food?” Ali had always been the better talker out of the two of us.
“Oh! Of course! Anything to help you wee girlies!” She hurried back into her house, and returned almost immediately with some food. How did she expect us to eat that? It was tiny! Then, she let out a strange string of words, and the food began to grow larger, and larger. By the time she had finished, the roast chicken was three times bigger. There were great, big glasses of creamy milk, which we all gulped down. Once we had ate and drank our fill, we all felt comfortably full and sleepy, we asked her if we could sleep at her house, as we had nowhere else to sleep. She muttered another weird string of words, a curious sensation swept through our bodies. It was rather like being doused in icy water, but we were completely dry. Alison was lying on the ground, it looked like she had fainted. I looked around in surprise. We were as small as hummingbirds!
“Ohhhhhhhhh, what happened?” said Alison, rubbing her head. “Nothing to worry about m’dears, all I did was shrink you down, that’s all!” Now the little wooden door was just the right size! And, for some strange reason, our horses fit inside as well. “I’m sorry,” I said politely, “We never asked your name!”
“I’m Mrs. Mcguffy! Oh, I also forgot to tell ya, but you’re in the Forest of Glen!” She laughed a little tinkling laugh that sounded like a sleigh bell. “This is where all the naughty magical creatures go!”
“Ummm, what did you do to get here?” I asked, “Oh, no, dearie, I’m just the Matron, I look after them if they get sick, and so on!” She laughed again, sat us down on a scrubbed wooden table, gave us a last mug of steaming cocoa, and hurried us off to small, sweet smelling beds. Alison collapsed and fell asleep in a heartbeat, with Lila snoring beside her. I dressed into a nightgown, (conveniently my size) and flopped into bed.
I awoke to the smell and sound of sizzling bacon, Ali and Lila were already sitting at the scrubbed table, drinking tall glasses of milk again. Another one stood beside it, I grabbed it thankfully, and in no time at all, I was slurping away with the others. We had a huge breakfast of sausages, bacon, garnished tomatoes, eggs, and baked beans.
We decided to leave Mrs. Mcguffy and try and find our way home. While leaving, there had been repeated thanks as Mrs. Mcguffy stuffed our saddle bags to the brim with food and supplies. “Ohhh, and one more thing dearies, just look out for Bessie!”
“What Bessie? What Bessie?” asked Lila.
“Well, Bessie is the Loch Ness Monsters granddaughter.”
“We’ll take care!” I waved back as we set off, (Mrs. Mcguffy had enlarged us again) we traveled to the edge of the Loch, we could just see the tip of the Manor chimney poking out from some tall trees. We were so close, but we had to get through the rest of the Forest of Glen before we could get home.
We rode for what seemed like years, finally, we put up the tent Mrs. Mcguffy had lent us, had dinner, then hit the hay. As the sun rose that morning, us three sat on the dew sprinkled grass, eating our breakfast. I packed up camp, while Ali entertained Lila. Around lunch time, we set off, in hope of finding our home. I suggested that we have a swim in the Loch, as we were all boiling. I undressed into my bathers, while the horses had a long, cooling drink. Before long, we were all splashing about, having a fabulous time. Lila was very intent on playing a game of, ‘I’m going to catch you!’, When out of the blue, she was dragged under the water with immense force. “Ahhhhhhhhhhh! Lila! Come back!” I screamed and screamed, but deep down, I knew that no amount of screaming was going to bring her back.
Alison and I decided to carry on the journey, but there was an ache, a terrible, powerful ache, engulfing the whole of my body. “It’s alright, I’m sure she’ll come back!” But I knew that Alison was only saying that to make me feel better. ”I-I think that was the monster that Mrs. Mcguffy had told us about.”
At last, we could see the tip of the manor, getting closer, and closer. Suddenly, just as the forest thinned, a whole group of little electric blue furry things jumped out of the trees, blocking our path. “Tree Pixies!” cried Alison, I’ve heard about these! It was pandemonium. The pixies shot in every direction, terrifying the horses, pulling our hair. Nessie and Pebbles were off at a canter towards the Manor. A little cheeky face popped out of a bush and whacked the pixies on the head with a long, thick stick. “Lila! You’re back!” She chucked the stick at the remaining pixies, and threw herself into my arms. “How did you get out!?” she smiled at me again, and replied, “Secret! Secret!” and said nothing more.
We rounded the last corner, and saw our manor house twenty feet away, “Mum! Dad! We’re home!” “Oh, thank goodness you’re back!” Mum screamed. “Darling! You’re home!” my Dad’s deep booming voice rang out from the house. “Mum, I think Alison should stay the night at our house, as her manor is so far away.” “That’s fine! Go read some books in your room, I’ll get Cookie to bring you up a tray!” We headed upstairs and lay on my bed, determined to imprint that week in our mind forever. “I think that's enough adventures for a lifetime!” said Ali, and we started to laugh.