“Angela, come here. You have got to check this out,” Grace called out from the backyard of their home. Angela leaned over from her bedroom window and looked at her sister. “What is it?” She asked. “I am studying for my test!”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake, can you stop studying for a second? You’re such a nerd!” Grace shouted back.
Angela stared at her sister as though asking her to say something new that she did not already know.
“Seriously, come here! You really want to see this!” Grace persisted.
Grumbling at her sister for disturbing her, Angela made her way towards the backyard, which was covered by a fresh batch of leaves that had fallen the night before. Like a whispering audience, the leaves rustled under her feet as though warning her of the impending peril. The strong cold breeze pierced into her skin. Angela pulled her jacket closer together and zipped it up.
What was her sister doing out in this weather? What was so interesting that she forced her to come out?
“What is it?” Angela asked. “Check this out!” Grace said excitedly.
Angela looked in the direction Grace was pointing. She could not believe her eyes. There it was, a coruscating aureate glow in the distance emanating from the woods that stretched ahead. She had heard stories of people who had witnessed this flash of light but were never seen again. When Angela had heard the stories, she thought it was simply a myth the locals had fabricated to keep the children out of the dangerous woods. Then, her sister had once claimed to have seen some bright light in the woods when she had looked out from her window late one night. Angela had not taken her sister’s story seriously at the time, she knew Grace had a wild imagination. However, at this moment, the aureate glow filled her senses and she forgot all about the stories she had heard about it.
“Told you, you wanted to see this,” Grace said from beside her. “Let’s go check it out!”
All the nerve endings in her body transmitted a warning signal to her brain about the dangers of following the light, but her mind refused to listen. Angela started to quietly follow the light with her sister in tow. Compelled by this external force, the girls continued walking deeper and deeper into the woods. A whiff of woody incense wafted in the air; hanging branches from large oak trees creaked as the winds continued to assault them. The size and majesty of the trees blocked the entry of sunlight deep in the woods. It had an eerie glow that was accentuated by the illuminating mildewed floor. The enchanting light beckoned them into its pulsing heart. The further they went, the more mystical and spellbinding it became.
A burning sensation overcame them as they drew closer to the scorching light, the heat from the painful brightness caused them to discard their jackets. Angela walked ahead of Grace, as though in a trance she marched on towards the blazing light. Grace who was close behind her sister closed her eyes to protect them from the piercing brightness. The moment she closed her eyes, Grace heard her mother calling out to her from a distance, from beyond the woods. She tried to put pressure on her mind and tune out her mother’s voice but she could not, she had to respond to her mother let her know they were in the woods and that they were safe. She opened her mouth to respond but only a hiss of air resulted, no voice! She gasped and gulped in the cold wind trying to call out to her mother but her efforts were in vain as her voice failed her.
A cool spray of water droplets grazed her face, she thought she heard the sound of water pounding onto rocks as it tumbled and plummeted into the whooshing vortex at the bottom. Grace opened her eyes just in time to see Angela following the light and jump right into the vortex.
“Angelaaaa….Nooo!” Grace shouted in panic at the sight of her sister disappearing into the depths of the waterfall below. Her words remained frozen refusing to thaw even at the harrowing sight she had just witnessed. She held out her hand in an attempt to stop her sister who was no longer visible. Grace felt as if someone had pulled the ground off her feet and she plopped onto the floor losing consciousness.
When she woke up, she was at home in her room. Her mother sat beside her stroking her forehead. “Mom?”
“Grace! Oh, Grace!” What were you doing so deep in the woods? You gave us all such a fright!” Her mother said as she embraced her daughter. Grace hugged her mother back and started weeping uncontrollably. She wondered if her mother knew about Angela.
If she didn’t, how was she to tell her mother what had happened? How would her mother take the news? Would she blame her for not protecting her sister?
“Mom, Angela?” Grace asked, sobbing as fat tears rolled down her face.
“Shh…don’t you worry, child! She is at home, safe. We were worried about you,” her mother replied.
“Yes sweetie, she’s in her room, she never went out, she was always there studying. Why did you go out so far into the woods alone? You know it is a dangerous place.” Her mother prodded.
“Alone?” Grace asked, confusion writ large on her face.
Angela walked into the room and quietly stared at her sister. Their mother stood up to leave the room. “I’ll go get dinner started, take care of your sister,” she told Angela as she walked out.
“Angela! You’re fine…Thank God! But….how?” Grace asked.
Angela remained quiet and continued to stare at her sister. She looked at her for a while and then turned to walk out of the room. Just before closing the door, Angela looked at Grace and smiled.
Grace noted a shift in Angela’s demeanor. She knew that neither the smile nor Angela herself looked like the sister she had always known. This was someone else, someone she did not know or recognize.
“Grace, you’re next!” Angela said as she closed the door on a stunned Grace.
This is a work of fiction written in response to Dan Alatorre’s Flash Fiction prompt:
Write a true story that is so uncanny that no one would believe it’s true.
I chose to write this story based on the legend of the lanterns in the woods, a story that my grandmother claims is true! 😀