By Lucy, age 13 - Dublin
My eyes slowly open. It's too early in the morning to even hear myself think. I reluctantly pull myself out of bed.
The house was ghostly; you could have heard a pin drop. I put on the lightest slippers I could find, I tried so hard to tread lightly, I didn't want to make a single noise, for something so small could wake up the whole family and ruin their day.
It’s funny to think that something so small that you do could have a rippling affect and ruin others people’s day.
So there I was tiptoeing across the hallway when I heard a giggle. “What's so funny?” I whispered.
My little sister’s beady eyes peaked out from under her linen bedsheets.
“You just look so funny” she teased.
I assured her that she was right and begged her to go back asleep. My little sister returned to her palace of duvets and pillows.
I went down the stairs into the bathroom where I had prepared my clothes for the day. I emerged from my bathroom with as much confidence as a lion; I couldn't wait for the day. I heard three taps on the window... they were here.
I strolled down the street, I had made it out of the house nothing would stop me now. My two friends; Sasha and Emma by my side.
“Lilith! What are you doing out of the house this early?” Oh no, our lazy stroll turned into a pressured sprint, we were out of sight when my friend Emma; fell and split her knee open.
Blood spilled everywhere; she was shrieking in pain, what do I do? Someone is going to walk by and ask where our parents are. Emma heroically took off her scarf and wrapped it around her knee. She limped the whole way there, face filled with agony.
We soon encountered a huge gate blocking us from our destination. Guarded by the big gate was a forest. The forest was so dense I couldn't see what was in it but I felt a strange fascination for it.
The forest was like a huge magnet and I was the helpless piece of metal, I was so engrossed in the view that I hadn't even looked at the signs placed beside the gate. They stood out from the rest of the scenery, the signs were obviously new, but everything else was clearly ancient.
Written across the signs were “KEEP OUT” or “THIS IS PRIVATE PROPERTY, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER” There was a huge chain covering the gate, it was well kept and only slightly rusted it was very clear that whoever owned this land obviously wanted to keep it to themselves. But the real question is; will I obey their wishes?
At this point I had a compulsive urge to go in, if it wasn't for the shriek of pain coming from my friend I would have hopped over the gate by now but I couldn't leave them.
Emma's knee was getting worse she couldn't even place her leg on the ground. It was clear that the two of them didn't have the same dedication for the forest as I did. Emma had decided that she was unquestionably going home; her leg was depending on it. My only request before she left was for her to not tell my parents I was with her. She agreed solemnly, waved farewell and limped her way home.
Now it was just me Sasha and the intriguing forest. It was clear that Sasha was anxious; I guess the signs could be unsettling but that didn't stop my loving for the Aesthetic of the forest. Sasha gave me her consent to rebelliously help her over the gate, Sasha mumbled her complaints and she climbed helplessly over the gate. I had finally got in.
The leaves crunched underneath my feet every step I took was intentional, I started to feel anxious. This isn't legal. What if we got caught? My palms began to sweat; I couldn't think straight, the only thing that snapped me back into reality was Sasha calling me “Em, Lilith, are you OK?” I shook out of my daze “yeah I'm fine” she looked at me quizzing
“We could always turn back now if you want” she suggested, but I wouldn't, couldn't turn back now, as my eyes peered through every crevasse of the forest the feeling of regret began to creep up on me.
Every leaf that crunched beneath my feet, I imagined was someone at home being crushed with disrepair. I saw some baby birds curled under its mothers wings ,it was nostalgic those reminded me of the depressing days when my mother, sister and I would curl up in bed together and share each other’s warmth. But I couldn't turn back now, I couldn't run home and pretend like nothing happened, could I? I looked to my left to see Sasha gazing back at the gate she was suddenly milquetoast; I had always seen her as the more confident courageous one in the group but today was different. Her mouth was moving like she wanted to speak, but nothing came out. “Are you alright” I asked, but I could tell that she wasn't .At that moment she broke down, her knees fell to the ground she seemed distraught but she wouldn't talk to me. She was shaking and short of breath. My mind was swerving, my instinct was to pick her up and run, run home and apologize to everyone. I probably should have done that but of course I didn't. She stood up timidly and in a hoarse, unsure voice said “I’m going back,” I begged her to stay but she wouldn't listen, her mind was conclusive. She sprinted back to the gate without looking back. I immediately felt more insecure without Sasha. I easily become more conscious of every sound and echo.
I was worried that someone would kidnap me, but onwards I walked.
I had always heard the stories about this cottage deep in the woods hidden from reality, I had always desired to go there but only now I am succeeding. I wish Sasha and Emma had stayed with me but nevertheless onwards I must go to make it to the cottage.
As I walked to the cottage a shiver went down my spine. I felt like the pine trees were whispering to each other. The leaves fell so perfectly synchronized, like they were preforming a show. And then I saw it the cottage. The garden seemed to be perfectly tended to though it was abandoned. The house was aesthetically pleasing. Why would anyone build it this far into the woods?
As I walked in I felt a sudden gush of warmth. There was no dust build up. It was perfectly furnished and smelled of baked goods. There were mysterious markings on the walls. I soon discovered that the beds were perfectly made. It seemed like the owner never left. As I walked into the main room I not only saw the house but the person who live inside of it. There were notes; diary’s scribbled down on old parchment paper.
There was a huge double bed, but only one side seemed used. The left side of the bed was yellowed and withered. Why wouldn't they use the other side of the bed? On the right side there was a jewellery box, perfectly messy. Almost preserved-like someone was keeping it that way. Beside it was a book; the cover was worn and the pages were curling. The spine had been bent so much it was practically falling apart, but inside it were quotes of inspiration underlined perfectly. I wondered to myself who had lived in the house? Perhaps an old couple? I couldn't help myself I had to read one of the letters to find out who these people are.
Me and Josie just moved in. You know how she must have everything clean and tidy. Our house is beautiful you would be so proud. It seems like you never left
Josie that's what the markings were a J and M. Perhaps M, for Marcus or Mandy?
Josie is getting more and more ill by the second I can’t believe....
The ink was smudged! I was devastated but read on...
Josie died on 5/6/1997. I am incredibly sorrowful; I wish you were here to comfort me. We have organised a funeral for her I hope you'll take care of her in heaven
I was so endorsed in the letters that I hadn't noticed a car pull up in the driveway. My heart was racing, someone was outside. I raced around the house friskily.
Though cosy the cottage was also very minimalistic. There were little to no good hiding spaces, not visible to the bare eye anyway. I was playing the whole scenario out in my head. This mysterious M figure would walk in and catch me in his house, arrest me and I'd spend the rest of my life in jail. It would be catastrophic; my invasion of their privacy could be the reckoning of my life. Suddenly a string dangled above my head, I was caught by surprise. As I looked up I could see the outline of a trapdoor in the ceiling. I wasn't quite sure if it was authentic let alone stable but it was my only chance. As I pulled the string a ladder unfolded along with an unwelcome pile of dust. I clambered up the ladder; I was just at the top when I heard a door open. I hastily heaved the ladder up. There was a big enough hole in the wood for me to peep through whilst remaining anonymous. As I walked in an old woman, perhaps Josie? Her hair was neatly fashioned into a bun though some locks of curls still dangled out here and there. Her eyes seemed fogged though full of wisdom. Her face was spotted with freckles and she held a walking stick in her right hand. Didn't Josie die? I watched her stumble up the stairs. She seemed to know the house well for she didn't think twice before walking into J + M's room. She immediately fell to her knees in agony. I couldn't bear to watch her so upset but I knew if I revealed myself to her I wouldn't be a happy sight so I remained immutable. The woman pulled herself together and sadly left the house. It was only when I heard the growl of the engine did I feel relieved. I came to sudden realization that I was sitting in the heart of the house. For painted on every wall was a mural, 3 of the walls were special and very alike but the fourth wall was the most captivating, it was of the house. Each stroke seemed intentional and standing in front of the house were two women!!! And signed at the bottom was besties for ever Josie and Margaret My mind swirled. So M was a woman I don't understand I have to go back to the letters and so I emerged from the attic covered in dust and curiosity, I returned to the root of my information; the letters. I found a new letter sitting on top the ink was fresh and wet. The old women must have left it when I wasn't looking it was titled “Josie” and it said
Josie was the bestest friend I could have asked for; she was there for me when even my family wasn't. She was my friend and sister at heart. I couldn't bare it when I lost her to cancer but I think she's happier now. I wish I could tell her how much I loved her -Margaret
How could I not see what was in front of me. They were not a couple but best friends I had stared into the eyes of M without even realizing so I stood there reading the letters unaware of what was approaching. I heard the door open, how did I not hear the car? It was too late to go back to the attic. I froze with cowardliness. I watched as Margaret returned to the house. She gave me a long hard stare then calmly walked into the kitchen. I was so confused. She returned with a rifle in her hand. She pointed it right in between my eyes. She started shrieking “imposter!” and through tears she screamed at me “get out of my house, get out!” I ran for my life.
I ran out of the house and right back into the forest. It seemed that now instead of inviting me in; the forest was pushing me out. The trees and the rest of my surroundings were a blur as I raced home. I heard gunshots behind me and someone screaming “and stay out!” I, finally after what seemed like years, reached the big gate again. I hopped over it quicker than ever. I took one last gaze into my forest. It was obviously a foolish mistake to even go in in the first place, but the truth is I regretted none of it. Something was peculiar though. The signs instead of saying “KEEP OUT” now read “DON'T COME BACK” it must have been a silly joke from Sasha, she must have known I wouldn't go through with our original plan to live in the woods away from home.
You see what makes me Emma and Sasha alike is our fathers. All of our fathers died in a terrible fire, the fire killed many others too and definitely left a mark on our town. With my dad gone life at home has been rough; my mother has been especially snappy because of all the pressure put on her. But I realized that we are just a bunch of kids with a big idea but nothing to back it up. I would never leave my mother, sister or friends. I think the idea of leaving home was just a huge optical illusion that had been created inside my head.
I walked the vacant streets on my own. I was the last woman standing! Now I need to get home. I quietly opened the door of my family house, greeted by the smell of home. My sister walked in with a grin on her face, she raised her finger to her lips and crept back into her bedroom. I decided that I should do the same. I woke with a beam of light on my face, I definitely slept in late. My sister giggled at the breakfast table while I was bombarded with questions about where I was. I held my breath hoping my sister wouldn't say anything when I answered “I left for school early” I was sent to do my usual job of fetching the milk. Everything felt normal again.
On my way to the shop I passed by the forest. I stopped in disbelief the forest was gone and in its place was a bench and a single tree. There was an old man sitting on the bench. I polity asked where the forest had gone. He replied “what forest” and gave me a wink I was walking away when he called after me “better get your milk soon Margaret gets hers in half an hour and you wouldn't want to bump into her “ he chuckled and walked away.
See this story is more than what meets the eye. You think you know what happened but this explanation might change your perspective. At the beginning of the story the main character Lilith states that the house is quite and ghostly referring to how vacant the house is without her father. When Lilith and her friends run away it’s a metaphor for running away from your problems, her problem in this story is that she can’t cope with her dad dying. The big gate is a sign that her brain does not want her thinking about her problems, her problems in this case symbolised by the forest. Though her brain doesn't want her to, Lilith is still drawn by the forest.
In the story Lilith gets very distracted in the forest this represents her thoughts getting steered away from reality of her father dying, though we see some signs of it creeping in when she refers to the “depressing days” when she gets to the cottage Lilith describes it smelling of baked goods this is nostalgic to her, though it doesn't state in the story it reminds her of life before her dad died. When she walks into the bedroom she touches on how preserved it feels this is supposed to represent how Lilith feels life isn't moving on. When Lilith enters the attic she describes a beautiful mural this symbolizes that she thinks all the good memory are in the past or stuck in photos. The letters that she reads are filled with things that she learned while solving her problems such as the fact that friends and family are more important than anything else. That finally made Lilith realize that running away is not the answer and that she has friends and family at home that need her, that's when the rifle comes in. The rifle is pointed at Lilith's head to show her snapping back into reality. The next morning the light shines through her window to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel. When she goes back to the forest subconsciously, it is no longer a forest but one little tree this shows that what was once a huge forest is now a small one. That's why I called it tranquillity to show that Lilith has finally gotten peace of mind.