A roundabout connecting a quarter of the town stood on the corner of Woodwick Street. Her favourite place, on Evergreen Drive stood funky and short, opposite the university. Colourful and bright, the modern building emitted constant sounds of music and thudding footsteps of people living in the way their hips move to a beat. In the windows, she saw a group of unconfident artists painting masterpieces. Jittery and nervous. Fingers numb, hands shaking, paint spilling off their palettes. She loved that place. Only having been inside once to watch a play where only ten people acted as the audience. But it was amazing. Walking down Evergreen Drive, she couldn’t help but stare at the university on her left.
“The Royal University of the Arts…” she identified aloud. No chance of her going there. The damp smell of the hundreds-of-years-old building lingered in her nose, but she didn’t mind. Like reading an awful book only because of the way the writer writes. The word order and intoxicating metaphors that you could never part from.
Staining the lingering damp smell with her Britney Spears perfume, she slowly strolled around the roundabout, and caught a glimpse of Blueberry Park. The park led to a dense forest, stretching to the outskirts of the town. There was a newspaper laying on the ground by the rubbish bin, near the entrance gate. It was covered in soil and had blotches of water all over the front page. The headline read:
BLUEBERRY PARK: MYSTERY SICENCE HAS YET TO UNRAVEL
The article continued below it:
"From when Briarton was first founded, the forest leading out of Blueberry Park has taken the lives of almost three hundred people. It’s a popular campsite, used for anything like summer camps, hiking, and exploring. At night, the forest becomes a shade of black that has only ever been recorded here. It’s a scientific mystery. It is said to be darker than an obsidian stone, darker than the darkest black known to mankind. People who have stayed in the forest at night have made claims of seeing a golden light coming from far away. What’s most interesting about this is that everyone who has witnessed it said that the moment they dismiss it, it disappears. They said that the more they thought about it, the more they wanted to investigate it, the stronger the light grew. One witness said, “It created an almost magnetic pull towards me. Like it was calling me.” Yet, despite these witnesses, no one has yet claimed to have found the so-"
With a single gust of wind, the newspaper flew into the distance.
“Oh, for god’s sake!” She threw her arms up only half-way in frustration. She tugged at her mustard-yellow bag, biting her lip, lost in thought. She turned her head this way and that, observing people, the ground, the direction the newspaper flew in, and finally the forest. She closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and then relaxed her shoulders. She dropped her head forwards and looked at the forest through her forehead. With a sharp breath, she took her first step towards the forest.
The time went by as she aimlessly wandered through the sea of green. Hours deep into the forest, she stumbled upon the most beautiful sight where the Earth seemed to be the water. Giant tsunamis that disguised themselves as land. Distant sounds of a river gently rolling down the centre of the valley. The hills that intertwined with one another so perfectly, just to bring to her ears the sound of the ocean in the sea of leaves. They blended so flawlessly that the world’s amount of water should have flown through the green gorge. The childish black iron gate stood short and proud, admiring the glorious view as it knows that that is all it will see. The bunches of flowers that stood tall above the gate, hit themselves against it. A silent metal clang that no one could hear, but perfectly complimented the sound of the ocean above. Soaking in the view, she sat down by an old oak tree and rested her back against it. She pulled out her sketchbook and began to freeze this sight onto paper. It began a weak, wobbly mess and turned into an almost photographic capture of the view. When the creator brought the creating to an end, she looked at it and compared it to the image around her. She gave a faint smile and put the sketchbook back in her bag. She hung her head backwards and hit it hard against the age-old bark.
“Ouch!” I whisper, as my hand rushes to the aid of my scalp. I rip out a couple hairs. None of them were the same length. The pain eases and I gently place my head back onto the bark. I had spent hours by this tree with nothing but my thoughts and the hills to keep me company. I see the sky changing colours with every few minutes and when it gets dark enough, I look up at the stars and breathe in. Crickets and wind on top of rustling bushes fills my ears. My jagged, black hair wraps around the wooden scales on the bark. My eyes began to ache after looking upwards for so long, so I finally looked straight out in front of me, after ages inspecting the skies and calculating the lengths of my hair.
There I saw it: the golden light miles away. I didn’t care about what it was. I didn’t care if it would hurt me. My curiosity overthrew my fear. My hope overthrew my past. It was a new beginning; at least it could be. With merely milliseconds of thought, I sprung up, and headed straight. I didn’t even feel myself move. It was getting darker and darker, and the light was growing stronger and stronger. The forest was growing pitch black. My eyes didn’t know if they were open or closed. I lifted a finger to an eye, just to check that it was open. I poked myself right in the centre of it, leaving my finger wet and slimy. I’d been running for miles. The light didn’t seem to grow any larger. As I moved towards it, it moved further back.
I was not about to give up. I pushed harder and harder. My legs became almost bionic as all the blood left my brain and ran down to my legs. I felt dizzy; but hope overthrew my vertigo. I ran with everything I am, I was, what I will be.
I only ran for another two minutes. I couldn’t go any further. I wanted to, desperately. My body had other wishes. Against my will, I sat down once again, falling to the ground. My face felt wet. My mouth tasted of salt. Was I crying? I didn’t remember feeling a lump in my throat, or having a reason to cry…Was it because I poked my eye? Was I just cold?
I could lie to myself; say that my eyes were watering. But I’m not going to: I cried because I lost hope. Right then and there, as the thought came into my brain, my head hit the mud and I knocked out. Asleep for what felt like many moons, I finally woke up. I stood up and looked around me. I was still in the forest, but it was midnight now. Owls hooting and wolves howling suits my mood, but it’s a harrowing sound…I’ll admit that. I crane my neck trying to make some sense of where I am and how I could get out. All that lay before me was just miles of almost invisible outlines of trees and bushes. It must’ve rained. That explains a lot: my drenched hair, mud covered arms and legs, and worst of all, my clothes. I began to shiver after realising I slept on the ground in a forest, at night, while it rained, with absolutely no coat or any warm clothing. I felt my nose want to run, but I wouldn’t let it go anywhere. With all my might, I breathed in, and it seemingly ran to the back of my throat. Not for long – seconds after, it tries to leave again. I sniffle again, my nostrils beginning to ache after this intense battle.
I stood for a while, just gazing into the depths of green surrounding me. I didn’t know which was north, south, east or west. I’m assuming I walked west, but I felt I was moving south. I really didn’t know. I walked along a few meters before my deep thinking was interrupted by a sudden ringing. A mesmerising sound that seemed to resonate in my brain. It made the earth beneath me tremble. It’s powerful vibrations penetrated through my body. I felt pressure in the centre of my chest as my breathing slowed and my body relaxed. My eyelids closed and a smile grew onto my face. A pure, real smile. I felt so light.
I was in bliss.
The ringing began to sound like a song. A beautiful song composed in the heavens and brought down upon my ears by an angel’s voice. The song has a colour. It’s like a golden light reflecting colours that you’ve never seen before, but they’re beautiful. The song paints a picture in my eyes. I see a quaint home at the top of a hill with a luscious tree, colossal compared to the little house. Out of the door comes an old lady. Frail and fragile, holding a watering can, heading towards her garden. She has a head full of grey curls and wellington boots on her feet, covered in flowers. She looks lost in a world far away from here but she’s happy to be there. She’s at peace. I never want to open my eyes again. I want to stay here. I want to be at peace, too. Yet, as all good things must come to end, I open my eyes and there I am. I am by the hill, watching the lady water her herbs and vegetables. I see her grey curls bounce with every slight turn of her head. I see the tree, its bark thick and engulfed in moss, still standing grandiosely next to the little house. The obsidian forest has disappeared and all that stands before me is this serene picture. I’m still smiling, still feeling light, only now I feel I am standing upon a cloud. I have a million questions running through my mind, but it doesn’t matter. A place as serene as this must be thoroughly cherished. I turn my head from left to right, looking at the new surroundings: many more hills and mountains, hiding behind low-lying clouds. I decided to turn around completely. In the distance, on the peak of another hill, I see something approaching. It’s in all white, holding something made of gold. It has very short, dark hair, which gives away the human silhouette. However, from this distance, the face is unclear; there’s a glowing light emanating from them, pulsing. Upon further inspection, I notice their hands and feet are glowing, too, but only faintly. The light is extremely bright. Normally, I would’ve turned away, blocked my eyes, but something is different about it: it doesn’t hurt. It’s like looking at the sun but not turning away to shield your eyes because it doesn’t hurt you. It is hypnotising. The more you look at them, the pull towards them grows. The more I look at them, at the light, the more I want to keep watching them. I’m stuck in this limbo of knowing I must look away, but not being able to bring myself to so. It’s too beautiful. Though my eyes are open, I lose touch with my sight. My brain takes over my eyes. I’m seeing what I’m thinking, but I’m broken out of this daze by a soft voice. A calming voice that feels like magic. I gently turn around and look at the glowing figure. They are dressed in white linen and are wearing sandals made of grass. The skin is no longer glowing as strongly, it has dimmed to become a fainter outline of the figure. I look at their hands. They are holding a copper singing bowl, gold-plated. Around the circumference of the bowl ran a silver strip, engraved with elegant lines, encrusted with gemstones. There is a mallet sitting in the bowl: it’s made of acacia wood and the end is wrapped in a fabric that I don’t recognise, but I do know it isn’t an animal skin. Something about this place told me nothing like that would ever happen here, wherever ‘here’ is. The bowl is hit with a ray of sun from a direction that shows me where the light in the forest came from. I look this figure in the eyes and see a beautiful shade of brown. They are looking into mine and the light shines into their eyes, making the irises look like small pools of manuka honey. They are beautiful. They pick up the mallet and speak,
“Listen to the sound and feel it move through the air.” They hit the mallet against the side of the bowl, using the fabric-covered end of it. There rung the same sound as I heard before, the sound the lady whistled, the sound I heard in the forest, and I listened to it. I feel it move through the air, through me. I am reminded to feel at peace once again. The sound fades out and the figure speaks again.
“I assume you’ve seen Dorothy by her house?”
“Yeah. The old lady with the garden?”
“Indeed. She is quite important to us here, so everything we do must be approved by her.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Romos. I answer to the one who made me.”
“Well, who made you?”
“That is something I cannot say. It is something even I can’t comprehend,” they take a slight pause as if to brace themselves for they are going to say next.
“Mira, would you like to know where you are?” I nod hesitantly in response.
“You are in something you may call heaven.” My eyes grow so wide my eyeballs could pop out, right then and there. I open my mouth, trying to find the words to ask a million questions but all I can do is make a breathy sound with my mouth rapidly opening and closing as I jerk my head from side to side.
“No need to reply. You must simply listen,” I lean towards the entity, intent on understanding each word.
“You have not passed on, so you are not staying here. You will leave, but you must listen to me now. Listen and remember each word for you will need it.” My heart seems to slow with every breath I take. My mind focuses on their lips as I try to remember each word.
“From my neck, I remove this necklace and I place it in your hand,” They take the necklace off over their head and place it into my palm. They hold it for a moment before letting me go.
“You will wear it day and night. It will be your saving grace in times of need. It will help you and many others, but that will not be the magic that keeps you alive. You will be. You will go into the world and you will fight for what is right. I will be right by your side, but you will not see me. The Mighty One has given you a quest which you must finish. This quest is for you to discover and for you to complete. Do not worry, for if you simply believe in your power and that of the Mighty One, everything will unfold in front of you. This quest is not that out of an adventure story, it is one for you and your kind. He has given you power so embrace it and do good with it. The quest will end on the day of your passing and you shall meet Him then. Now, go! Go unto the world and do what you need to do. Find your quest, find the solution, and then we shall meet again.” And with a powerful slam, he hit the side of the bowl again as I begin to fall.
The world around me disappears into a world of white as I keep falling. I do not see the ground or any clouds or anything other than white. I squeeze my eyes shut and instead of screaming, I begin to pray. I pray to stop falling, I pray for guidance, I pray for everything I should’ve done in my old life. The moment I close my prayer, I am no longer falling. I am standing on the ground and as I open my eyes, I see the forest again. I see the same outlines of trees and feel the same muddy ground, only now, I no longer see the light. In my hand, I feel the necklace I was given. A titanium chain with a cobalt blue pendant hanging from it. I squeeze it in my palm.
I don’t know where to go. I feel the weight of the entire world is hanging upon my shoulders. Am I meant to be the answer to every issue on the planet? Am I meant to save you?
I don’t know the answer to anything. Not even my own questions. I feel completely alone. I don’t feel Romos or the Mighty One anywhere near me. If anything, it feels like they are watching from above. Idly waiting for me to make the next move, as if they can’t do it themselves. Even if they can, I must keep moving.
And so, I take my next step. I don’t know where I’m going or why, but I will keep moving. I will keep going until the day I meet the divine again. It will be long and tiring, but I will follow where my heart will take me. Hopefully, I will find out what the quest is and in doing so, hopefully I’ll find who I’m supposed to be now.