Night songs of the forest …
The night songs of the forest usually lulled Josie to sleep. Sounds of crickets, owls, wind caressing the tree tops and the occasional twitter of a bird were peaceful and familiar to her, but this night was different. She was restless due to another sound out there, one she had not heard before. It was very faint and far away, but she could detect it because it was strange and unfamiliar. She tried to separate it from the normal night songs, but it was too faint.
She had lived in the forest all her life at the resort her parents owned. The forest was her home and nature such a strong influence on her whole belief system. After breakfast and her chores at the resort were finished, Josie spent most of the day wandering through the forest. She always had her camera and journal in her backpack to record many things about the flora and fauna. She hoped to write a book one day on her forest and the life within it to help bring more awareness to the importance of protecting natural environments. Her college counselor encouraged her to use the journals to write a thesis for her Environmental Studies and Sciences course. She had started preparing in high school to become an environmentalist by taking courses in biology, chemistry and ecology.
Josie gave up on trying to sleep, got up and opened her window wider. She sat there for several minutes listening to the new night songs that were a little more clear now. It sounded like a song, but not of a bird. It almost seemed like several small children singing. Voices? Children? Good grief! I must be more tired than I thought. Maybe I’m dreaming.
She was suddenly wide awake and looked deep into the forest to see if there was any movement or anything unusual to spot. . She loved the night songs and when moonbeams streamed through the pine trees, but tonight the clouds had shut out the moon and it was very dark out there. She was about to give up when she detected a faint glow deep in the forest and studied it for signs of anything. The glow was not flickering so she knew it was not a fire, and she could not smell any smoke. Josie knew the forest by heart and realized that the glow came from the area where she had found what she thought might be a bowerbird’s nest about a week ago. She had come upon a small clearing and noticed a circle of small rocks with a few brightly colored beads or some kind of jewelry stones. On the far side of the circle was a bower like an arch and a narrow path behind it, which disappeared into heavy brush. She did not go too close to the circle, for concern of disturbing anything, but she did take several photos from different positions.
Remembering the photos, she picked up her latest journal and flipped through to find the photos and notes on her discovery. She studied the photos and something was confusing about them. Each of the six photos were slightly different in arrangement of the rocks and stones. She had not noticed that before and put them in the order she had taken the pictures. She carefully studied each one and saw the the gem stones were rotated around in a clockwise position. In the last photo all the gem stones were gone. This is impossible, I stood there and took six pictures and did not see any changes, yet in this last one there are empty spots where the gem stones had been.
She got out her magnifying glass and studied each photo carefully. Each one was definitely different and in the last one she saw something that startled her so much she jumped. There was a tiny face peering at her from the photo. It had a frightened look. It looks like a faerie! Oh! This can’t be … I am imagining things. She turned off the lamp, crawled back in bed and covered her head with the sheet. She was asleep in a few minutes.
Morning came too soon for Josie, but she got up quickly, showered and studied her photos again. They were indeed as she saw them during the night. The little face was still there in the last photo. She called down to the kitchen and asked for her dad, she knew he would be there eating his breakfast before heading over to the gift shop. “Dad, can you come up to my room? I want you to look at some of my photos that are quite strange.”
“Well, honey … they are nice photos. But, I don’t see anything strange about them, except that we do not get bowerbirds around here,” Alex scratched his head and yawned. “Here, Dad,” Josie handed him the magnifier. “Take a close look and note where the gem stones are, starting with the first photo,” she watched him carefully for any sign of surprise. “Did you take all these on the same day?”
“Dad, I took them all within minutes. What do you see there?” Alex was perplexed. “Well, I think you are playing a joke on me, honey. The stones are in different positions in each photo and gone in the last one,” he looked at them again. “You rascal. You’re tricking your ol’ Dad,” he pinched her cheek.
“No, Dad. I did not go close enough to even touch anything there. They moved without my help. And..” she picked up the last photo. “Look closely at this one and tell me what you see.” Alex studied each part of the photo then gave a startled, “Oh my gosh! There is a tiny face there! A faerie?”
“Exactly! Then I am not crazy!” Alex looked at her. “Not unless we both are,” he frowned. He scratched his head again. “Look, Josie, don’t say anything about this to your mother. You know how she hates any mention of faeries and stuff like this. It reminds her of her mother who believed in mystical creatures and it always scared your mom.”
“I won’t say anything. Just keep it between you and me, Dad. I am going out there after my chores to see what I can find out.” She started packing her backpack. “I wish you could wait till I can go with you after I close the shop.” Josie hesitated. “No, thanks Dad. I’ll be fine and there is really nothing to worry about. Besides, it will start getting dark when you close the shop.” Alex kissed her forehead. “Come on down and eat some breakfast first. And … this seems funny … but, I can remember your grandmother saying to never step inside a faerie ring or they may trap you in their world,” he chuckled.
Josie did not come back home later that day, or the next. The missing person’s detective could find no trace of her. Yet, Alex knew where she was and could not say anything. Every night he lay in bed and listened to the night songs of the forest, every day he visited the circle for one year and called to her. The last time he went Josie was sitting outside the circle with her backpack and looking quite confused. Alex helped her up and they walked back home. His only concern now was what to tell Josie’s mother and the detective.
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns