When the darkness fell from the sky to bathe the earth in its dark, cool touch, Colin dreamt of the many things that roamed the woods behind his house. In his dreams, Colin would watch from his bedroom window overlooking the yard, his darting eyes scanning the small shrubs and bushes, and finally the trees and thick undergrowth that was home to wondrous and magical things. Creatures only glimpsed in fairy tales and folklore, dismissed by adults as creative imagination.
But Colin knew they were real. He would sit patiently at his window, and soon, the shadows would begin to pulse with life, feeding on the moonlight that was their catalyst. Slowly, they took on form. Humanoid, animal, and unidentifiable shapes evolved from the deepest patches of the inky expanse, sprouting horns and claws and hooves and shining eyes that peered through the night, seeing things clearly as if it were bright day.
Colin couldn’t hear them from his room, but he could imagine their growls and their laughs, their little shrieks and their sighs of contentment. He knew they reveled in their short time in the woods, short because soon the sun would come up to send them scurrying back to whatever hiding places they sought shelter in during the day.
He knew this because with the first inklings of pink light creeping over the horizon, they would melt back into the earth, take on the substance of trees and bushes, or scatter themselves into fragments formed of leaves and twigs blowing about in the wind, their voices fading and disguised as insects chirping and the rustling of branches. In actuality, this was his dream fading away to mere fragments, as the sun peeked through his windows and the noise of his parents in the kitchen roused him from his sleep.
Once, after awakening, he ran to his window and gasped when he thought he saw someone standing on the edge of the woods, peering up at him. He was unable to make out a distinct shape, but it was small, maybe a child like himself, and he imagined small, glowing eyes. He had run downstairs then, and into the yard, ignoring the shouts of his mother who told him to get properly dressed and put something on his feet. There had been nothing and no one else in the yard. He scanned the trees, but whatever he had seen was gone. He trudged back inside.
A few years passed. Colin never saw the form of the strange boy in the woods again, but he still dreamt of the forest creatures, the elves and fairies and satyrs. The dreams no longer came to him every night – sometimes only once a month. But when they did come, he always woke refreshed, with vigorous energy and a sense of longing.
It was a cool summer night when the dream came again, only this time, he was no longer content to sit at his window and watch from afar. This time, he found himself outside, standing at the edge of the woods. It was dark, with only the faintest of moonlight gracing the earth.
He took a step forward, then two more, and the woods engulfed him, brushing against his bare skin, tickling and caressing, sometimes scratching but never too deeply, and his feet soon adjusted to walking on the bare earth. The pebbles and twigs did not bother him, and he liked the tickle of the grass and leaves, the soft mud between his toes.
He walked a long time, and the woods grew murky and black. It was extremely difficult to navigate through the undergrowth, and Colin thought perhaps he might turn around and try to find his way home, when he spied something glowing softly, lain upon the ground. As he moved forward to investigate, he saw that it was a rock, and a short distance away was another one. A trail, in fact, of gently glowing rocks, leading deeper into the woods. He followed them to where they led – a small cluster of white trees that seemed to form an archway. And even odder yet more exciting than the rocks were the many strange symbols inscribed upon the trees, also glowing faintly, a comforting milky-white. He examined them closely, but they were like nothing he had seen before, though he imagined it was writing of some sort.
Colin traced his fingertips over the strange runes, and a twinge of excitement rippled through his body. Eager to continue the adventure, he stepped through the trees.
Upon emerging from the archway, he heard the noises. He was unable to make out distinctive voices, but there were many of them, and it sounded like hearty, joyous singing.
Creeping as silently as he could, he approached the chorus of voices, moving deeper into the undergrowth, pressing aside outreaching tree limbs that sought to block his path and protect the denizens of the forest.
Deeper into the woods he traveled, his way lit by a mass of fireflies signaling their mates. Trying desperately to be silent, twigs cracked and leaves crunched under his weight. Perhaps the creatures of the forest would teach him to move silently as they did.
His house far away now, little more than a memory, he began to feel as if he had been birthed here, living his young life among the trees and the earth, cradled within the leafy arms of the forest. How he longed to make this dream real, to banish his true life to some nether-region, replace it with one free of school and homework and all the complications grown-ups seemed to accumulate as they grew older. None of that would be found here, he knew.
The voices grew louder now, but were still unintelligible. Yet the woods were brighter now as well. Colin spied the telltale glow of a fire, glimpsed through a break in the trees, some distance away but growing closer as he traveled deeper into the heart of this magical nighttime world.
He moved slower, more carefully, picking his way through the bushes and around the trees, doing his best to avoid roots and thorns, until he advanced upon the clearing, but did not yet dare to enter.
The firelight lit the clearing in a soft orange glow, flickering shadows dancing across the trees to match those of the strange creatures who frolicked about the fire, waving their arms and swinging their heads with wild abandon. They looked to be caught in the throes of lunacy, yet their movement varied in accordance with a small drum, beaten by a small form that sat before the fire.
Colin watched in awe, unable to make out the true forms of those in the clearing, as they moved too quickly and were obscured by the wavering light. He found himself mesmerized by the dance and the drum, and did not realize that something stood directly beside him until it gently tapped him upon the shoulder with a child’s hand.
For more information regarding the fantasy series, The Tales of Tanglewood, please visit the website to learn more about Colin and the other characters in the 'wood, and to download a sample of the first few chapters of each book for free.