Before you, little dreamer, there was another. And before you knew it, she had already chosen you.
About this creation
12 years ago, Blackwoods, Olympia.
Thornley stood by his house, waiting. A rustling, like feathers in a leaf pile, came from the other side.
"I bet you didn't find anything," Thornley called. "You're making this up."
"I'm not!" came the shrill reply. "I just can't...get him to sit still!"
Thornley took a few steps forward.
"Can I help?" he asked.
"No, Thornley! I can do it all by myself."
A girl wandered around the corner, a large owl perched on her arm. Thornley's eyes grew even larger than the owl's. The girl smirked.
"I told you, Thornley! All by myself."
"Can I...can I hold him?"
The girl pulled back quickly.
"No! He's my owl, and I get to keep him."
Thornley's wide eyes shrank into a frown.
"He's not your owl. You can't keep owls."
"But he is!" the girl protested. "I found him! And he likes me, too."
As the two children argued, a woman exited the house. Lines scarred her face - someone who had seen too much in too little time. The lines, like tree-rings, each told a story. Unlike tree-rings, they hardly reflected her true, younger age. But like the trees she lived among, she had stood her ground for years. Like the trees, every season she dedicated to her home increased her strength and resilience.
The children stopped arguing as soon as they saw her coming.
"Thornley, Lana. What are you doing out here?" she asked softly.
"We were just playing, mother!" Thornley said. "We didn't go very far, just like you told us to!"
"And that's very good of you, Thornley," the woman said. "But you need to come inside now. You too, Lana."
Lana smirked again as they followed Thornley's mother back inside.
"You're totally in trouble."
"This is your fault, Lana!" Thornley hissed back. "I told you you can't have owls."
Thornley's mother stopped outside the door.
"Lana, where are your parents?"
"At home, Miss Bosch. Why?"
"You and Thornley go find them now, alright? Tell them I need Thornley to stay with you for a while."
"Yes, Miss Bosch."
Thornley turned around.
"What's going on, mother? Why can't I stay here?"
She didn't respond. She had already started to leave.
Lana tugged on Thornley's sleeve.
"Come on, Thornley, let's go!"
Raucous voices began shaking the air. They seemed to tell Thornley to leave, so he followed Lana away from his home. But why wouldn't those voices tell his mother to leave, too?
The voices quieted a little when they saw Thornley's mother. The leader lowered his weapon and stepped forward.
"Hello, ma'am. Have you seen anyone around here?"
Thornley's mother frowned.
"I don't see many people at all. It's very quiet out here. Is there someone you're looking for?"
The leader nodded.
"Yes, there is. Someone running from Olympia. Someone running from justice."
"No disrespect, sir, but I don't usually think "just" when I think "Olympia"," Thornley's mother replied.
The leader scowled and stepped forward, so their faces nearly touched.
"If this person was not so important, ma'am, I would not tolerate your blatant dissidence. Living in the woods does not grant you free speech, or exemption from Olympian laws."
Thornley's mother stepped aside. She gestured with her arm.
"Oh, by all means, you are welcome to look for your important person here. But there are no important people here, least of all in my home."
She turned her back on the soldiers and began walking away. The leader swallowed his retorts and turned to his men, issuing orders.
A gentle clattering flew across the roof of the house. A shadow appeared over the soldiers. One of them shouted in surprise. Thornley's mother smiled to herself.
Her smile disappeared when she found Thornley and Lana still in the yard. The owl was gone.
"What are you still doing here?" she hissed. "Go! It's not safe here anymore."
"But-" Thornley began.
His mother grabbed them both by the shoulders.
"Go! Stay with Lana's parents. I will come find you."
The shadow was a woman, half-obscured by tangled leaves and vines. Her eyes were piercing, yet dull, like the eyes of a ghost. The leader raised his revolver.
"Demon!" he cried out.
He pressed his finger to the trigger.
A twisted olive branch threw itself from the woman's body, knocking the revolver upward. With a thunderclap, it sent a bullet hurtling into the trees.
A vine spun from the woman's hand, wrapping around the leader's neck. It lifted him from the ground and tossed him aside.
While her back was still turned, one of the soldiers raised his rifle and fired. A wall of leaves shot from the woman's shoulder and solidified like rock behind her, stopping the bullet.
She turned to the last soldier. He had abandoned his rifle, running at her with an axe instead.
He raised the axe and brought it down toward her skull. A cluster of leaves trapped the axe before it could fall, but the soldier drew a dagger with his right hand and drove it into the woman's side. She cried out in pain and surprise.
She wrenched the dagger from her side and buried it in the soldier's heart. She winced, covering herself with her hands. Drops of blood slipped between her fingers and melted into the dirt.
Thornley's mother ran toward her.
"Cora! Are you hurt?"
Cora shrugged. Leaves like scales were growing over the wound.
"I should get help," Cora said.
Thornley's mother put her arm around her and escorted her away. Thornley and Lana came running toward her. Thornley's mother sighed.
"Why are you still here?" she asked.
Thornley's face trembled with fear.
"Who is that? Where are you going?"
"Not right now, Thornley. Just go, alright? I'll tell you when there's time. But you need to go, alright? Right now!"
Lana tugged at his sleeve again.
"Come on! Let's just go, Thornley!"
Thornley ignored her. He scurried back around the house, back where his mother had been, back where this strange woman had come from. The sight that met him nearly turned him to stone. Lana stopped beside him. One of the bodies rolled over. Cold sweat began to thaw the children's bodies. The body opened its eyes. They turned and bolted away, but not before the body saw them.
"Help me!" it screamed.