Gran is calling my name from inside and I race in, panting heavily.
“Gran, I’m here!” I call out to her and look around for Grandad. “Where’s Grandad?”
“He went to a friend’s house to catch up on ‘old times’.” She told me.
“Where have you been Katie?” she asked.
“Um, I… went on a walk.” I made up.
“Really,” she looks at me suspiciously, “A walk to the witches’ tree maybe.” It must not have been hard to figure that out.
“Yeah… A walk to the witches’ tree. Exactly!”
“You went to see them, didn’t you?” She said bluntly.
“They told me to meet them today and after hearing your story, I wanted to go see if it was true. And I think I do believe you Gran. They went into a tree and then didn’t come back out the side! How is that even possible! It’s not possible!” I complain.
“They went back,” she said, “back to the fairy realm.” She said mostly to herself.
“That tree is a portal into the fairy realm.” She told me.
“But how come when Rosemary and I ran our hands over it we didn’t go into it?”
“In order to go through you have to run at it and not be afraid. If you are afraid you will just run into the tree like normal. It is like that to avoid random people just going inside. So touching it and running your hands on it will do nothing.” I stare at her. “Now,” she said briskly, “Go upstairs and put that rucksack away and come down and help me back some cookies as a treat.” She said as if she hadn’t said anything else before that. I look at her some more and she shakes a bag full of ingredients at me. “Go on!” I go upstairs and put the rucksack under my bed; but I don’t unpack it. In my head, I’m forming a probably foolish plan to go through the portal. For some reason, there is a need in me. A need to see the other world. To go there, touch it, feel it. It grows the more I think about. I sigh. It probably wont work; and there probably wont be a chance to try; but the need urges me to at least see if I can. I pull me covers down lower to the floor to hide the rucksack from sight and go downstairs to my Gran. “Katie, there you are. I was beginning to wonder if you were actually going to help me. Did you unpack it?”
“Yeah.” I lied guiltily. She handed me me a bag of chocolate chips.
“Pour some of these into a cup for me would you.” She turns away from me and starts measuring out some flour. I look at her back. If my plan works, I might not see her again. I could get trapped there! But surely if there’s a portal in, then there’s a portal out. It has to go both ways; I reassure my self. A voice in the back of my head goes ‘right’, nut I ignore it. Getting out a measuring cup and measuring in some chips.
That night a lay in bed staring at the ceiling. My Gran came in and sat on the edge of the bed. You’re not going to try and go through, are?” She asks me, concerned.
“No.” I lie again.
“Ok. She looks at me sadly. I feel like she can read my thoughts and that she knows that I’m going to try.
“What’s it like there.” I ask, giving into my need. She began to speak and I listened.
“There are flowers more beautiful then you have ever seen. And pools that shimmered when you looked at them. You’d see fire elves nests clinging to trees but unless you looked closely you would just think they were bees’ nests. Blue fairies that buzzed around, though they were became quite a nuisance constantly trying to steal your hair to put in their nests. You’d see evidence of brownies hanging around; little objects that they carved and left for you on your doorstep if they liked you. You could leave out glasses of milk for them and in the morning the milk would be gone, but very rarely did you actually see them. They are very evasive creatures, and they are also great healers; using nature to heal. Tiny glass men wandered around on errands for there owners and you had to watch where you stepped in case you crushed their miniature, fragile bodies. The trees always grew strong and tall with trunks wider then you would ever see here. Tiny Gnats would dance across the water though you mustn’t annoy them as they sting. Nymphs would peer at you from the water with large eyes and disappear when they saw you watching them.” She paused, and then continued, “But it was not always good. The wolves and bears where quiet as mice and would sneak up on you with out a sound. And the massive wildcats, dappled like tree trunks with sunlight shining on them; and the snakes as green as the foliage where they liked to hide. They let themselves down from the branches with as much sound as it takes leaves to fall from trees. Fortunately, the giants staying high up in their mountains, only rarely coming down in the winter. But there were other creatures too. Creature less gentle than the nymphs and which can not be lulled by humming like with the fire elves. But they were normally invisible, hidden among the leaves and wood; but they were no less dangerous for that. Tree – men, Trows, Black – Bogles, Night – Mares … some of which even venture as far as the charcoal – burners huts. And the dragons which dwelled deep in caves hidden in the bases of mountains. You have to be careful. You don’t want that day to be your last. And there’s this one stream, which runs through the whole kingdom. If you follow it to the north it will lead you to Relf, the capital city, but if you follow it the south it will lead you to the wall of the dark master. It runs through the timeless forest too. Once you reach the charcoal burners huts you know your almost out of the forest though. Many times, did I rely on it to find my way. Just follow the stream that springs from the nymphs’ pools and it will lead you straight to safety. You’ll see the castle rising high above the rest of the city on a hill. It’s like a grey wasps nest, and the city is all around it, with a market place where you can breathe fire right up into the sky and the tight rope walkers walk along high up in the clouds.” She stopped talking and stared off in to the distance dreaming of another world. I tried to imagine it. “Anyway.” She said, jolting out of it. “Bedtime. Goodnight Katie.” She stood up and went to the door.
“Goodnight Gran.” I called to her. She closed the door behind her and Katie waited impatiently till she heard her Grans snores. She quietly got up and changed into some suitable clothing. Picking up her rucksack, she slung it onto her back and tip – toed to the door. She listened. Hearing only snores she opened the door and closed it behind her so that it looked like she was still asleep in her room. She went downstairs and then outside. She looked up at the house and was overwhelmed with sadness and a little bit of fear. “Good bye.” She whispered. Then she turned and walked away.
She reached the witches tree and stood there alone. She gathered herself up and then she ran at the trunk of it; in her thinking over and over, ‘I am not afraid’. Her heart pounded in her chest as she leapt at the tree.
A fresh fragrance rose to her nostrils, the scent of thousand and thousands of leaves mixed with perfume from flowers she’d never seen before. And everything disappeared; the grass, the dark sky, the town in the distance.