by Maxzell Lerm
The picturesque town of Santillana Del Mar, Spain is legendary for its mysterious caves, but few know deep in those caves lurks a hidden secret.
As seventeen-year-old-Keith stumbles onto a gateway deep within the heart of the mountain leading into a parallel universe known as Nevrhada—filled with Assassin-Vines, undead dragons, vampires, blood-thirsty Crocotta and other lethal creatures—he desperately clutches to his will to remain on earth. Despite his efforts to resist the lure of the enchanted world, Keith finds himself spiraling into a fantasy world beyond human imagination.
Propelled by the unknown—and the mesmerizing Princess Deso Cressida, with her captivating violet eyes and mind control that can enslave any mortal—Keith makes the ultimate mistake and trespasses into the Forest of Nightmares. A part of Nevrhada banned for all eternity.
BUY THE BOOK
~ The Move ~
I was asleep, oblivious to the turbulence in the plane. For a brief time, I could escape reality, escape everything and welcome my dreams. I was having a dream at this very moment, one I’d had on numerous occasions as a child, but could never recall the details upon waking. The sound of the voice in my dream calling to me never left an aftermath. Every time I opened my eyes, the details would become hazier by the second, as if the dream didn’t want to stick in the outside world.
The dream always started the same. I would be standing in my room, in Los Angeles, looking into a full-length mirror. Then, for some unexplained reason, an overpowering urge would cause me to walk through the mirror and open my eyes in a dense forest. Trees towered over me, ferns as far as my eyes could see, and a white fog clung to the ground, playfully wrapping itself around my legs.
I could smell the air the forest breathed, the crisp freshness combined with the moist soil. I could hear the soft humming of birds high in the forest canopy, and insects buzzed all around me, hidden in the folds of the forest. I was busy scrutinizing my surroundings, enthralled at the very notion that one second I was standing in my L.A. home, then in the next here. Where was here? I would hear a screech and look upwards, and see a large black crow ogling me with its vacant eyes, perched high up in the branches.
Then I was running from the bird. I didn’t understand why; it was, after all, just a harmless bird but something in its lifeless eyes stirred a warning within me. I would reach peculiar looking trees with reddish bark, always the same, placing my hand on its trunk I would gasp for breath, hearing the screeching of the bird, but not seeing the creature. My heart was hammering against my ribs, my pulse vibrating as the adrenaline coursed through my veins heightening my senses.
Then a voice would call out to me from amongst the vegetation, not my name, just the voice of a woman. I could never really hear the words as I ran after the sound. I would see the trailing of a silvery white and blue material disappear behind a tree. I would always stumble as I ran, no matter how prepared I was. When I hit the ground, I would wake up. As a child, the black crow would scare me and I would wake up, shaking and terrified. The older I got the less the dream disturbed me. I had experienced déjà vu many times. Mom had told me it was a gift; her mother also had the uncanny ability. The reason I did not ignore the dream altogether was that an aspect about it allowed me to feel significant. Every time I found myself walking though the mirror I would feel this sense of freedom, as if I belonged. Walking through a mirror was ridiculous but standing in the forest surrounded by the vegetation made sense as if I needed to be there, especially when the faceless voice called to me.
The fifteen-hour flight from Los Angeles to Spain was dreary and incessant. Mom and the twins were sleeping comfortably in their first class recliners, while I sat, restless.
I thought of everything I had left behind—friends, my now ex-girlfriend Amber, my martial arts classes, and most importantly, my dad. There were many nights I heard my parents arguing through the walls of our lavish house. My mom thought it was a good idea to place a substantial distance between her and my father. A break, she had called it. She didn’t take a small step, but a catastrophic one. We didn’t just move to another city, or another state. My mother went full out and decided an entire ocean was needed between her and my father. At least we stayed in the same hemisphere, I thought bitterly. I was going to finish my last year of high school in a foreign country, and I wasn’t thrilled.
I got up from my seat and stretched, walked to the lavatory, and kept my eyes on the cabin floor. Once the door was shut behind me, I removed my shirt and splashed water on my body and face. It wasn’t warm, yet I was sweating like it was going out of fashion. Must be the anxiety, I thought, staring at my reflection. I might have inherited my dark hair from my mom, but my physique was definitely from my dad, who was blessed with an athletic build. Back in my seat, I leafed through the pages of a Spanish travel guide and discovered a large section on Santillana Del Mar, deciding I might as well see what this new town looks like. Ancient, mysterious but above all ancient. I suppressed a groan of disgust. After collecting our luggage and exiting the airport, we saw a white board that read “Williams Family.”
The over-friendly driver greeted us with a heavy accent. He had a team of four drivers behind him, loading my dog and the suitcases. The twins were giggling—for them this was purely a lengthy holiday. A short while later we drove on a gravel road, which led onto a slope that continued to rise towards the mountains. We left the city and houses behind until only landscapes surrounded us. We passed the small popular town of Santillana Del Mar, thankful mom had decided to keep the sightseeing for another day.
The house that greeted us wasn’t what I expected. The imposing structure was a hefty size, naturally not half of our home in L. A., but big enough for the whole family, including Dad if I had to count him in. I saw five figures standing on the front porch of the house: Maria, the housekeeper, and her family, I assumed.
Jade and Jessie jumped and raced towards the house, ready to investigate. The green glow of the forest around the back of the house was in strange contrast with the twins’ laughter, too murky and ominous to be in harmony with the light banter. I eyed the forest hugging the side of the mountains, feeling annoyed. Where were the skyscrapers, the traffic, the hooting of car horns, the iron bridges? I acted unaffected, but who was I kidding? This would take some time getting used to. Perhaps I would come to accept the trees, as I had in my dream. I climbed out of the car with a smile, not wanting my mood to affect the other excited members of the family. The heavy rain clouds also hovered closer as if to inspect the new arrivals.
“Can I help you?” the driver asked, eyeing me curiously.
“No thanks,” I replied mechanically and snatched the two small bags in the back.
He frowned at my tenacity, but I ignored him and walked towards my new home eyeing it with uncertainty.
Mom had described it as a barn, but it sure didn’t look like one. There was, in fact, an old barn a few yards away from the house. I could picture old, dilapidated horse stables inside, cobwebs strung on the timbers and straw strewn on the dusty floor. Yet the house standing there, basking in the last rays of the setting sun, appeared like an old-fashioned stilted dwelling, modified in some places. A certain battered splendour enfolded the house with its combination of wooden timbers and stone.
“So, what do you think?” Mom asked.
“It’s…different,” I murmured after a while, my eyes still darting back and forth at the house. I walked to her side and asked, “Where’s Duke?” as I looked for my pet.
“On the porch,” she replied as she climbed the steps with the girls.
I hurried to join her so introductions could be made with the family that stood patiently waiting for us.
“You’re late,” the woman called Maria said, looking at the taxi driver, her face was plastered with a welcoming smile.
Greetings were exchanged with Maria, a short stubby woman with dark hair pinned high above her head. Her husband was Pascal, a spindly man with surprisingly large biceps, and her boys were Jorge and Mario. I noticed they looked similar, with their dad’s lighter hair and their mom’s darker complexion.
There was a girl hidden behind Maria’s dress. She appeared younger than the boys, and had her mother’s features. I didn’t catch her name as Maria mumbled it to Mom. The family had a thick Spanish accent interwoven with their delicate English words. I was curious about the people who would now attend to our house, but not contemptuous of them. I saw Duke’s crate as he howled in protest, begging to be let out.
Duke was an abnormally large, black Belgian shepherd cross with a Malamute. However, the only visibly Malamute trait in his body was his crystal-blue eyes. Dad had bestowed a puppy on me for my fourteenth birthday, saying it was my first year in high school, my first step from a child to an adolescent, soon to be an adult.
Duke has been with me ever since, which made him very obedient, and possessive of me. When I opened his crate, he all but jumped on me. I saw in my peripheral vision Maria and her family taking a step back, clearly wary of the large black dog. He bolted into the house, eager to sniff this new environment.
The atmosphere was pleasant, nothing was tense or forced, as Maria led us into the house and into each room. The rooms were fully furnished, and I was surprised that some of our boxes had been unpacked. My room was on the first floor at the end of the passage near the top of the stairs. I had large windows that swung outwards, with a picture-perfect view of the grassy slopes that merged into mountain terrain further on. This was not a view to which I was accustomed. Nature was all around us, all but peeking into each window ogling our movements. The first day was awkward, we all kept to ourselves lost in our own thoughts and unpacking. The next few days luckily Maria kept Mom company while I was left to my own devices. Struggling with my negative thoughts and halfheartedly trying to rearrange my new room.
On Saturday afternoon, Mom had asked me to accompany her into the barn. It was just as I had envisioned a few days ago: dusty, sheltered in straw, empty horse stalls. Wheelbarrows with tools lined the walls, as did neglected oil torches covered in cobwebs. The exception to this grimy appearance was a black and green Jeep wrapped in a bright red ribbon.
Mom was peering at me excitedly, and I couldn’t help grinning. I had wanted a car in L.A., and a Jeep in this rugged terrain was more than perfect.
“Thank you, Mom,” I said, out of breath as I rushed to the car.
She stood watching me as I admired my present. It wasn’t a brand-new vehicle as evidenced by a bit of rust here and there. Yet the Jeep had a new sound system and I was thrilled it was all mine. I spent most of the day driving around the landscape enjoying my small sense of happiness. Didn’t mind how fleeting it might be considering in what country I was driving it.
Later that afternoon, a man arrived at our house with a new car in tow for Mom. The next day after breakfast Mom had decided to take us for a drive to Santander. This was where the airport was located as well as the high school I would be attending.
We drove past the mysterious little village of Santillana del Mar with its stone walls. We spent the day visiting local shops, the grocery’s, we even stopped at a trendy beach. Without her spelling it out I understood what mom was trying to do. I desperately wanted to buy her sales pitch but I still preferred my real home, where dad was back in LA. By the time we drove home, Maria had prepared dinner and greeted us just before Pascal picked her up. Just before she left she diligently explained to mom where my new school was located. Conveniently enough it was near to the area we had driven today. Realization set in that tomorrow would be my first day in my new school and dread started to set in. Alone in my room that evening, I heard Mom on the phone, and I wondered if it was Dad. I couldn’t imagine what my overly ambitious father thought of my mother’s decision to change careers—from a much-respected university professor to a kindergarten teacher.
Throughout the weekend, Duke had disappeared for hours on end, and then returned without a clue of where he had been. Mom had said he was inspecting the vicinity. Yet I couldn’t help but think that something wild might harm him. I made a mental note that during the week I would stroll with him into the forest and see where he wandered. Sleeping was nearly impossible. I listened to Duke’s even breathing, envious.
I sat and stared out of my window across the shadowy landscape. The world appeared dark, menacing even. The radiant lights of Los Angeles were a very different sight, indeed. That was the first night I saw the mysterious lights filtering through the trees. At first, I thought it was the hazy lights of a far-off house. However, when my eyes calculated the grassy slopes leading from the barn to the hills and the trees beyond, I realized that was impossible. I then wondered if they might be fireflies, but the longer I stared at the hovering lights the more I doubted my speculation. The lights appeared too large to be insects. I walked to my wardrobe, and retrieved my camera. I doubted I would see anything but it was worth a shot. When I zoomed into the spot, I held my breath and gasped when I thought I saw a figure in the haze. I blinked a few times, pondering if my overactive mind was conjuring up images just to keep me preoccupied. Then the lights vanished into thin air, taking my possible imaginary figure with them.
I followed Maria’s instructions and was relieved to see Santander High School. It was a simple enough name. But then again, with an estimated total of just 250 hundred students in the entire school, I suspected everything else would be just as simple.
If my name-branded clothes didn’t say I was an out-of-towner, then my city boy attitude definitely would. I noticed a tall boy lean over the desk in the reception area and whisper to one of the reception women. Seconds later, she handed him a card and burst out laughing coyly.
We both walked out of the offices into the passages when the boy asked, “You are the American?” And looked me up and down. I now knew what an insect in a jar felt like.
“I guess I am,” I answered, indifferent, aware that I had already been labelled.
“I’m Juan,” he said, his voice filled with confidence as he extended his hand.
“Keith Williams,” I said, gripping his hand in mine
“We have bio chem. together, first class, follow me.” He spun around without waiting for me to answer. I shrugged; it wasn’t like I was going to stop and ask for directions. The bell hadn’t rung to announce the start of school so I was slightly curious to know to where this boy was marching. The stares heading my way didn’t go unnoticed; I chose to ignore them. I would never stare at an insect in a glass charge again.
Juan stopped in front of a group of boys; one was clutching a basketball. The second he saw Juan he tossed the ball at him, and Juan caught the ball midair with surprising ease. We stopped in front of the rest of the boys, who all turned and stared.
“You play basketball?” Juan enquired as one of his eye brows lifted questioningly.
“Some, now and then,” I answered and shrugged not planning to elaborate on my hidden skill. Juan looked skeptical but the speculation he harboured he either chose to ignore or swallow as he made the introductions.
“Everyone, this is Keith from America,” Juan declared as if he had just caught a prize winning fish. “Keith, this is my brother, Alvaro. And these are my friends, Pablo, Miguel, and Carlos.”
I greeted each one individually, then stopped and turned as all the boys’ eyes abruptly diverted from me to someone behind me. I turned around and my gaze met large, brown eyes belonging to a pretty girl.
I froze, caught completely off guard. Her eyes had a tinge of hazel as she met mine enquiringly. She wore flat brown boots cropped to just below her knees, overlapping black stockings covered by a large blue sweater snugly showing off her curves. Her shoulder length black hair, with brown highlights perfectly contoured her face and her dark skin complexion. There was no denying she was a little more than pretty, beautiful, in fact.
The two girls walking on the sides of her, one a redhead, almost auburn, and the other a dark soot-coloured blonde nearly ogled me out of my clothes. I could tell by the way the other boys looked the brunette, she was in the same league as Amber, my ex-girlfriend, a popular girl. I had just stepped out of a relationship in another country and wasn’t planning to step into one here. There was no point as I didn’t plan on staying here long. Dad and Mom would come to their senses soon and we would move back home. This would all one day become a family joke around the dinner table.
The bell rang and with it came the sanctuary of the classrooms. The subjects were the same as Los Angeles just a few months behind, so it was going to be a bore to pretend I didn’t know the work. In History, to my surprise, I was seated next to the pretty girl with the blue sweater. I walked towards the desk, and she smiled warmly at me when I moved in next to her. I nodded and without delay turned my attention back to the board.
I was taken aback when I noticed the assignments the teacher handed out were concentrated on Spain, and its cities. I smiled, rather thrilled that I was going to learn something new after all. History would need my undivided attention. At least I had something to keep me busy. Even to myself that sounded sad.
After the assignments were handed out the teacher left the classroom, and most of the kids started with the papers, some opted to talk. My desk mate was one of them. Out of the blue she turned to me with a dazzling smile. With not a hint of nervousness she probed and questioned me. It was unexplainably annoying but most of all her loud tone infuriated me. When she asked me if I was the kid with the infamous -lawyer-dad, I wanted to strangle her because that got me a few curious looks. I didn’t know how she knew about my history and I cringed every time she opened her beautiful mouth. It turned out she wasn’t from around here either; her family lived in the mountains and she was part of some rural tribe. “What brings you to Spain?” she asked, politely this time, softer as if to keep our conversation private.
Too late, Princess. “My mother wants to raise my sisters in a different environment for a year.” I said, the first thing that came to mind, pleased at my answer. I dropped my pen giving up on the notion that I might actually be able to complete my assignment. She seemed unperturbed and nibbled own pen between her perfectly straight teeth.
“I’m Clarazetta, but everybody calls me Clara” she declared.
“Keith,” I replied. I noticed she was even more beautiful up close, and desperately tried to ignore the fact. She was overly friendly and seemed to appreciate the fact that I wasn’t planning to follow her around like the rest of the brainless boys in school. Before she could reply the teacher returned and we both finally concentrated on our assignments. I noticed her peeking at me more than once but kept my eyes training on the black letters in front of me.
* * * *
The second I sat down in the cafeteria, I got bombarded with questions by the guys asking about Clara.
“I can’t believe you sitting next to Clara” Alvaro said.
“I heard the two of you were chatting the time away” Carlos added.
“Bet history has never been this interesting” Juan chided and snorted into his mug. I chose to ignore their comments, smiling and nodding at I think the appropriate times while keeping my mouth full of food.
After school on my way to my Jeep, I saw Clara climb into a silver mini cooper and speed off. She appeared to have the most extravagant car in the lot besides a few shiny trucks. I was looking forward to tomorrow afternoon despite myself. I had heard the boys mention basketball practice after school. Naturally, Mom wanted to know all there was to know, and I answered her as best I could.
“You make new friends?” She asked between her bites at the dinner table.
“Yeah,” I answered and continued to eat.
“Do you have any new classes?”
“Could you give me more than one syllable answers?” she rolled her eyes as the twins giggled.
Mom dropped her fork loudly onto the plate. Jessie jumped from the sudden harsh sound.
I looked up and gave a resigned sigh.
“Mom, it’s the first day, there isn’t much to tell. Except two new classes everything else it the same. I met some friends, that also play basketball. Other than that, everything is the same.”
Mom smiled looking more pleased then she should. Then I realized my mistake. I compared LA to Santander and basically said they were in the same league.
I found myself peeking into the dark forest again that night, looking for the mysterious lights—they never showed. The days passed, school became a routine and so did my brief encounter with Clara.
The rest of the week passed in a blur. In this town, everyone lived on top of everyone else, so diplomacy was essential if not vital. I found myself making excuses why I had to accept the boys’ invitation if they invited me out, and why I would be friendlier to Clara.
Duke had returned from his explorations in the forest, sometimes even late at night. Early twilight one day, Duke had returned with bright gold flecks deeply embedded in his fur. It looked like gold dust. I had carefully picked them off his coat and placed them into a jar. Highly intrigued, I had bit on one of the flecks and to my astonishment almost nearly chipped a tooth.
That weekend I followed Duke into the mountains. At first, he just lingered around the perimeter of the house. Waiting for him to make up his mind, I found myself staring at the oversize trees towering over me. My thoughts jumped to the bizarre dream that had accompanied me for most for my life. The dream where I walked through my mirror in L. A. and landed in a forest very similar to this one. The resemblance was uncanny. A shudder ran down my spine and I pretended not to notice it. Coincidence. I brought my camera along, taking photos of nature. The ferns were all around me, veiling the ground, obscuring my view. When I found I could no longer see Duke I started to panic. I had followed him, but hadn’t really kept my eyes in his direction. Large, dark boulders stood rooted into the soil, silently watching my anxiety building. When I heard his familiar bark, I rushed after him without hesitation. I ran for some time when I spotted him on a cliff higher up.
He was standing on the foot of a mountainside, large and smaller boulders scattered on the rocky surface. I had decided that was enough excitement for one day and turned around whistling to Duke so he would follow. He obediently led us home. I found myself lured to the trees more often than not, and on the days there was no basketball practice I ventured into the forest. I would sometimes take my books with me, and sit completing my assignments under the shade of the branches shielding me from the sun. The weather was bizarre; some days, fog cloaked the landscapes, other times the sun was scorching hot.
Mom barely tolerated my excursions into the forestry-terrain, always complaining about wild animals, which could be dangerous. The classrooms soon began to feel like vaulted cellars, and I yearned to be somewhere in the forest exploring with Duke. We always walked further away from home, slowly inspecting the forest, learning new routes and detours.
Late one evening, the reappearance of the mysterious lights had me very excited. I had zoomed in with my camera lens and once again, I saw the hazy human figure. The slight fog was making it hard to distinguish, and my over active senses argued that it was without a doubt a person, out there in the dark
I was watchful but curious who would be venturing into the forest so late at night. Without thinking, I had pulled on a sweater and snuck out of the house. I recoiled as floor boards creaked, and decided to skip the steps, climbed onto the banister and slid down. I ignored the shadows reaching out to me as I jogged to the grassy plains. I didn’t know what drew me to the darkened landscapes, but the lights to my relief still hovered slightly visible through the fog’s vapour. The lights although unclear looked like oversized fireflies. Just a few more steps closer, I told myself.
Duke had sensed someone then, and a ferocious bark escaped his mouth. I felt eyes on me, and goose bumps spread over my skin. The lights abruptly vanished. I stood there in the semi-darkness, only the breeze flirting though the grassy slopes sounded in my ears.
I had trailed back to the house, to my bed, and lay wondering if it was in fact a person.
It was almost the end of the month, before I heard Mom and Dad talking on the phone. Mom had attempted to hand the phone over to me a few times, but I had successfully dodged the conversations with my Father. I was still infuriated with him. The twins seemed to blossom in the new environment and even Mom seemed more rested with a sparkle in her eyes. Maria was a blessing, keeping the house spotless, slowly unpacking the last boxes. Pascal and her sons were taking care of the garden, while her daughter was playing with the twins most of the time. I had heard from Amber almost every day, but the last two weeks I had slowly let her go. In all fairness, I did not know when we would be back in LA.
My attention was on the forest and a strange new development, which involved a mysterious girl. I had slowly tried to sneak up on her as she had sung some unknown melody to herself, while basking in the sun. I could only make out bright blonde hair, almost golden in the sun’s rays. To my dismay, when I approached her, she wasn’t there. I debated whether I was going insane. Every time I ventured into the forest, I would seek out the unknown girl. Here in the trees every figment of my imagination came to life, perhaps creating the girl with the golden hair. Alarming enough, it sadly became my soul purpose venturing into the trees to search for her. Soon I had had enough and avoided the forest for a few days, instead inviting the boys over to my house.
Mom was delighted for the company and made snacks, spoiling us with treats. The day passed, but the blonde girl was never far from my mind. I debated with myself that it was only because I couldn’t fully see her, in order to justify that I was so enthralled by her.
The next time I saw her, Duke and I were far into the forest, further than we had ever been. Ripples of sunlight produced an illusion of movement all around her, as she sat on a small boulder with her knees pulled up. When Duke barked, I dropped down into a shadowy crevice, trying to hide from view. My heart was pumping nervously. When I braved a peek, my mouth unhinged when I saw the girl tenderly patting Duke.
With her distracted and a little closer, I allowed myself to gaze at her without reservations. She didn’t look Spanish, quite the contrary. I wondered if she lived somewhere in the mountains. Her abundant waves of hair hung in a loose plait draped over one shoulder. I noticed her unusual attire, not something you would see on your average teenager. She was wearing a light green silvery dress; it was strapless, leaving her shoulders seductively exposed. The dress had dazzling stones encrusted to the hem and on the edges where it ducked enticingly low over her breasts. It looked like a semi-formal outfit that belonged on the runway in Paris. Perhaps she was a foreigner, here on vacation I reasoned with myself. There was something appealing about her perpetual air of dignity and calm, the way her movements indicated an unhurried ease.
To my dismay, Duke ran towards me and started barking. Too late, I saw her face turn towards me and she met my eyes. For a second she looked shocked that she hadn’t detected my presence. Her features soon smoothed out and then a confused expression crossed her brow, as if she expected something to happen. She looked at me puzzled clearly confused.
“Hi,” I croaked, my voice too soft even for my own ears. I cleared my throat and took a step towards her. She swiftly picked up her dress and on surprisingly light feet, gracefully dashed away.
Out of the trees, a large magnificent white stallion emerged. I watched the girl rapidly jump with lithe ease onto the animal without faltering. The horse was an enormous creature, twice the size of any I had ever seen. His stark eyes seemed to bore into me as he gently reared. His mane parted slightly and I saw a distant shape on his neck, like a crescent moon. What an arbitrary mark, I mused as the horse elegantly trotted off. I contemplated following her, but noticed the sky growing dark and threw Duke a disapproving look, then headed home. After that, she was in my dreams nearly every night, but always on the periphery, never within reach.
The entire week dragged by, and I couldn’t get a minute to escape into the forest. Mom needed me to help around the house and assignments had me glued to my desk. My nights were tormented by dreams of the nameless girl. Finally, the weekend arrived and I could venture into the forest once again. I had to think of a logical solution, which excluded the assumption that I was insane, and had me travelling back to the forest every time to find the girl.
I was so desperate that I skipped going into town to watch a movie with Juan and the gang. It was a cloudy day, and the forest was darker than normal. I hadn’t strayed far from the house when I saw a cloaked figure. Queasiness settled in my stomach. Beneath the hood was only a shadow. The dim shape of the trees pressed in on either side. I wondered where Duke had run. Then I saw the dark brown hood of the cloak fall backward, and I almost swallowed my tongue in disbelief. It was the girl, the very one that had haunted my every thought and consumed my dreams. Once again, she seemed confused, as if she expected me to act a certain way. This perplexed me; it’s not like I was going to run away from her, or even ignore her. No one in his or her right mind could ignore her.
She was dressed in a light blue dress, which was free flowing swinging around her legs.
“Hi. I’m Keith. Do you go to school here? I mean do you live in this area?” I hurriedly asked tripping over my tongue. Great! My brain shouted what an idiotic thing to ask. It was impossible to tell her age. Her face from this distance appeared to be a mask of pure innocence, yet her aura was one of a woman, and her body was womanly in every form. Does she even go to school? A thousand disorderly thoughts clustered my mind in confusion. She might not speak English, I thought to myself.
She was mesmerizing that’s for sure, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The rays reflected off her hair and it appeared to be sparkling like gold. I was too far away to see her eyes, but I was almost dead sure she was also busy scrutinizing me. She looked like she was about to turn and disappear into the forest like before. She could still very well be a figment of my imagination, something I had invented to make my life seem a little more interesting. That thought brought a smile to my lips. I was shocked when I saw her smile in return. I swallowed nervously. I tried again this time in Spanish, and was pleasantly surprised by the strong assured sound of my voice.
“Hola mi nombre es Keith, ¿Cuál es tu nombre? ¿Vives en el área? ¿O vas a la escuela aquí?”
She tilted her head but said nothing. I could feel tension between us. It appeared she was torn as to stay or flea. Was she afraid? As I took a step closer, she unexpectedly stood her ground. I braved another step and this time she turned and squared her shoulders facing me head on. At least she wasn’t running, I thought.
The forest around us fell into silence, even the wind ceased to exist. My eyes searched her face, looking for a sign of encouragement, I saw none. Each passing step my heart increased a beat. Why was I so nervous? I had a way with the girls. Some say it was a gift. My Mother, however, said it was a bad trait I had inherited from my father. Yet this specific girl seemed so far out of reach. I had to get close. I needed to hear her voice, to assure myself I wasn’t going mad, or my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me.
I was oblivious of my surroundings, and I only saw her. My breathing seemed loud in the now quiet space. The closer I walked, the more her beauty engulfed me. She belonged on every magazine cover in existence. Now that I was a little closer, I could appreciate every detail of her. Her skin was a mixture of honey and milk, and appeared so soft. I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like. Her golden locks were dancing around her waist—it was all the perfect combination.
I was at the bottom of the slope upon which she stood on when the worst possible thing happened. In my effort to avoid breaking eye contact with her, I didn’t see a cavern in the ground, and it bridged less than a foot wide. It was small enough to avoid, but I wasn’t paying attention. I felt myself stumbling, trying desperately to regain footing, which wasn’t easy considering the moss-covered rocks made it hard to stand much less balance. My one knee buckled and I hit the ground. I was too shocked to think about the embarrassment. Right now, I wanted to avoid breaking any bones. This transpired in a few seconds, and in less time, she was at my side. How she managed to scale those rocks, and cover the distance so quickly, I couldn’t comprehend.
I didn’t linger on that thought as she effortlessly helped me up while trying to avoid a smile. Her one hand was wrapped around my waist and her other hand was pulling me towards her. My body collided with hers and I remained unsure and stunned at the turn of events. She silently unlocked her hold on me and took a step back. I couldn’t believe I’d just been saved by a girl. I looked nervously for something to do and I brushed some soil off my pants.
“Thanks,” I muttered, embarrassed. I avoided eye contact up to this stage, yet I couldn’t resist any longer. As I turned my gaze to her, my thoughts all but vanished. I couldn’t have uttered a sound if my life depended on it. Her dazzling eyes held me transfixed. They were a light shade of violet, with darker specs around the pupils. Long lashes contoured them, holding me captive. I found myself falling deeper into her eyes losing myself. My first guess when my mind finally came around was that she was wearing contacts. But I didn’t care. Her eyes suited her.
They enhanced her face and made her look magical. Her cheekbones were high on her face, and she had the perfect nose. Her glance held some kind of unmet probability, as if she expected something of me. I wasn’t only at a loss for words, but I couldn’t get my head around the fact that she was mere inches from me. She smelled of lilies and ferns. I breathed deeply, inhaling her scent. There was something outside rational explanation, which was taking place in my dazed mind, right in front of my eyes. It felt right. I had to be here with her at this precise moment in time.
“You are very clumsy,” she replied, her words laced with laughter. Her tone was rich, her words laced with an unfamiliar accentuate. I let them roll over me, not sure how to reply. She was staring at me as if she couldn’t understand something. As if I’d confused her.
“Not always. I’m always the one doing the rescuing,” I replied, faking mock offence.
“There’s a first time for everything,” she replied lightly.
I was devastated when she turned around, and without thinking, my hand lunged out and grabbed hold of hers. Goosebumps spread over me as I felt her silky skin. She turned, her brow furrowed as if in deep concentration and she seemed to tense.
“Sorry,” I muttered unintelligently. “I just wanted to thank you properly, for basically saving me…” I trailed off, the words sounding odd. Her gaze softened.
“No gratitude needed,” she replied, trailing off as if waiting for my name to magically appear in her head.
I don’t know what it was but I wanted to keep her talking, not only so she could stay but I was enjoying this far too much. I was now positive she wasn’t a figment of my imagination.
“I’m, Keith,” I said softly.
She tilted her head to the side and whispered, “Keith.”
It sounded like she was testing the name on her tongue. I was paralyzed when her hand appeared out of nowhere and traced ever so lightly the outline of my arm. Her fingers left a row of tingles on my skin as she skipped up to my face, tracing the line of my jaw. I inched myself a little closer to her body. She was as curious of me as I was of her. I would never forget this moment. It was perfect, like a scene in a movie.
“What’s your name?” I whispered softly, afraid to break the spell.
I held my breath when her hand dropped to her side, but released it when she replied, “Deso.” She laughed lightly at the frown above my brow.
What an unusual name, I thought. I didn’t answer I just listened to the sound of her laugh, committing it to my memory, so later I could replay it over and over. The sound was intoxicating. I heard the distant rumble of an engine and swiftly twisted my head to catch a glimpse through the trees of the intruder. I couldn’t see anything. When I turned around Deso was standing on the same small cliff face I had seen her on minutes before. My heart dropped, as she stood out of reach, smiling at me. “You better go”. She turned around and gracefully manoeuvred over the rocks and disappeared.
I stood there trying to digest what had just happened.