Excerpt From: Willerton Woods

From:  Prologue - Three

Claire Ann was hungry. She found a few berries growing on a bush and tried to eat them. But, they were bitter and she spit them out onto the ground.

She satisfied her thirst after she came across a small hole, filled with rain water. She scooped the water into her little hands and ravenously gulped it until there was nothing left.

She decided the best way to find the child’s house was to walk straight into the woods, with the clearing at her back.

The weather was colder today, and although it had stopped raining, the storm clouds lingered menacing in the sky. She pulled her coat tight against her little body, and wrapped the blanket over her shoulders, trying to ward off the chill she was feeling.

She had been walking most of the morning. Her steps were getting shorter now and she was getting tired. She looked over at a fallen tree and decided it would be a nice place to rest for a while. She removed the blanket from her shoulders, spread it out on the ground, and sat down with her back resting against the fallen tree. Ever so slowly, her little body gave in to her weariness and she curled up into a little ball and fell asleep.

 

A chattering sound woke her. She opened her eyes and saw a squirrel standing on its hind legs, a few feet away, watching her. She wondered if it was the same squirrel she had seen the day before.

She looked up and saw that the sky was blue and the clouds had disappeared. She was glad that the weather had cleared, even though it still looked gloomy here in the woods. She hoped that she wouldn’t get rained on again. Perhaps, she thought, she would find the child’s house soon and she would be able to sleep in a nice warm bed tonight.

She picked up her blanket and headed out, hoping she didn’t have much farther to go. She was so very hungry.

She focused on moving from tree to tree, trying to walk as straight a line as possible. Hearing a strange noise, she stopped and waited. Hearing the sound again, she turned to her right and gasped. A huge buck was standing between two large trees, staring at her. Suddenly, he snorted and pawed the ground with his front foot. She froze in place, her little heart pounding with fear. He pawed the ground again and took two steps towards her.

Her legs gave out and she went down on her knees, uttering a whimpering sound. The deer stopped, pawed the ground once more, turned and walked away. She buried her face in her hands, and cried out, “I want my daddy.”

She stood, her body still shaking, and continued on her way. She was determined not to stop and rest again until she found the house. However, after hours of walking in the woods, her little body, weak from no food and little water, was again demanding sleep.

The sun was setting now,  she knew it would be dark soon, and that she needed to decide on a safe spot to spend the night. Suddenly, she stopped and stared, not believing her eyes. “Nooo!” she screamed, her cry echoing through the woods.

Twenty feet in front of her was the deer blind. She had walked in a big circle. The only redeeming factor was that she had shelter for the night.

 

The birds were singing. The noise woke her and she covered her ears, not wanting to be awake. Her body ached from sleeping on the hard ground and her mouth was dry. She wondered if that hole had more water in it now. If she could find it again, maybe she could get another drink. 

She crawled out of the deer blind and tried to stand. Her body was shaking and her legs ached. She finally managed to get upright. Standing now, she felt dizzy and tried to steady herself against the unstable structure.

She tried taking a step and hesitated when she thought she was going to fall down. After a few seconds, she took a few more steps and finally made her way to the clearing.

The tall grass was wet and, as she dropped down into it, she saw that her hands were wet from the moisture that had collected on the grass during the night. She started licking the grass around her, getting just enough moisture to wet her lips.

Claire Ann rolled over onto her back and stared at the sky. She was light headed and confused. Her eyes hurt and she wanted to get out of the bright light.

She stood and looked around and wondered why there were so many trees in her back yard. Then, she saw her father standing at the edge of the woods, motioning for her to join him. She smiled, held out her hand, and stumbled towards him.

She walked past the edge of the clearing and into the woods, always just a few steps away from reaching her father. She fell a few times, but he was always there, waiting for her when she got up. 

He led her farther and farther into the woods until she fell to the ground, exhausted. She reached out her hand.  “Please, Daddy,” she sobbed. “Help me.”