It was one of those summers I had spent countlessly before in this old house in the woods but this one was different. Never had mom and I needed to leave the city, we always came because we wanted to. But not this time. A quick look over to the calendar on the wall revealed that we already were here for a month. A month away from home. A month spent with mom and your great-uncle Lewis. One month spent in fear of what would happen next.
Admittingly one must say that great-uncle was a rather peculiar person, but his house in the woods had always had something magical about it. Leaning my head on the window I started to remember all the adventures I had in these woods, all the magical creatures I met and all the battles I fought against invisible enemies. Never had I dreamed that this fantasy world would conquer the real world, never had I dreamed that one day a real war would tear the country, the world apart.
Since the war had started mom has grown more worried every day. Dad had fallen in the early days and she never has been the same since. The decision to move to the country, to this shack, has been a quite spontaneous one. My mom seemed more relieved here, but also troubled in another way than back home in the city. I slightly shifted because I could feel my legs slowly going numb, but… this view. I could not pull away from the view out of the window. The sun had not risen over the trees yet but it looked like a golden light came from within the forest and the dew that still hung in the covert glittered. And while my eyes got all teary from staring so hard and not blinking I swear I saw it. The trees… they moved! They. Moved. And suddenly a passage got visible. It was like the trees invited me to come and discover. And as a tear ran down my cheek and I needed to blink, suddenly it was all gone.
This moment felt strangely familiar. As I’d been little, playing in the woods and fighting with dwarfs about food was my normal summer game whenever we stayed with uncle Lewis. It suddenly all came back to me. I now remember having seen a passage like this before. How old was I back then? Maybe seven? Playing near the woods in the break of sunset, mom and dad had been sitting in garden chairs while your great-uncle was in the house, fetching drinks for everyone. Yes, of course… I played with my toys, sitting in the grass as something caught my attention. The chatting of my parents, their voices, the noises the animals made in this warm summer evening, all that stepped into the background of my perception because, to be honest, I don’t remember any of it. The only thing I remember was a golden glow, coming from the trees, and I swear, I saw them shifting into a passage, just a like second ago. It also seemed like I heard voices coming from in there, a silent, soft voice, singing your name. “Joyce!”, they called me. “Joyce…” How could they know my name?
“Joyce”, suddenly I snapped back to reality and realised it was my mother’s voice I were hearing just now. “Coming”, I answered and got up, swung my blonde curls back and hurried downstairs. The house was smaller now. I remember it being bigger, but maybe it’s really small and maybe it’s just me that has grown, so since I can remember I slept in the attic.
“Is everything all right? I called for you three times…” Mom looked worried. “It’s fine, mom. I just was lost in a book.”, I lied quickly and she looked a bit less worried. “I know, it’s early, but would you mind going and get some firewood for the stove? I can’t find your uncle anywhere and I need to prepare breakfast.”, she asked and her hazel eyes scanned you. She was always good at detecting when I was lying, it has always been like that, but I did my best and held my smile, nodded, and grabbed the basket that stood next to the door.
“Of course… Maybe I’ll find uncle Lewis somewhere.”, I said jokingly, but she didn’t smile. While talking to my mother the sun had finally risen and shone softly into the forest while the birds where singing and other insects were buzzing around. Surrounded by all this beauty I should have been distracted, but I couldn’t get the memory of the passage out of my head, the golden light I saw and the whispers I heard. While being in the city this had never occurred to me. But being in the city I also have never waisted a thought on these woods. They seemed so real now, so old, big and full of wonder. How could I have forgotten about them? It seemed rude and arrogant of me and I felt ashamed. Softly I touched the bark of one of the trees, as to apologize for all these years and suddenly I could hear it again. “Joyce…” A soft whisper. Someone just whispered my name... In the middle of nowhere. In a forest. With furrowed eyebrows, I walked on, picking up some sticks on the way, convinced someone was doing mischief with me, trying to be funny.
“Joyce, we know you hear us.” Several voices whispered, softly, and at the same time and a shiver ran down my back.
“Uncle Lewis?”, I called out, starting to feel uneasy. Silent laughter was the answer. The giggles got louder and my hand clenched around the basket. Without even knowing how it happened my footsteps got faster, fists clenching, and I made my way running to where I thought the laughter was coming from.
To be honest, I never avoided a confrontation and I wouldn’t now. Whoever was doing this would have to explain themselves. Mom always said it got me more in trouble than was good for me, but father mostly smiled softly and said: “Let her be. She’ll find her way.” And that was what I’ve always done until now. But this situation got to me. Unconsciously I started to run as I suddenly heard a voice on my left. “Joyce”, it said again, but this time the voice was male and sounded like my father’s, so naturally I looked left. I missed him so much and hearing his voice again made my heart stop. It got harder to remember his voice, his smell, as time flew by I started to forget… A golden glow appeared where I was heading and my feet got caught up in something. I stumbled over a branch and closed my eyes, expecting to fall on the ground, hitting my head on a branch and get leaves in my hair but… it didn’t happen.
I fell, but landed in water. A second I thought I might have fallen into a puddle or a pond, but the water tasted salty and was rushing all over me. This must be a joke. I rolled over and sat straight up, realising I wasn’t in the forest anymore. I might not even be in England anymore.
Looking around I realised I was sitting by the sea. Or rather… in the sea. A beautiful beach stretched out in front of my green eyes, backed by heavy cliffs raising behind it, scarcely covered in trees that clung onto the rock, trying not to lose grip. On top, there was a large castle, with columns and huge glass windows. My mouth was still hanging open, the sea still washed over my body again and again and nothing made sense anymore. “What the hell?”, I mumbled to myself and looked around, still trying to figure out what happened, as suddenly a loud noise arose somewhere on my left. Around the bay two horses suddenly appeared and galloped their way directly to where I was sitting, still in the ocean. On top of the horses sat two young men, though of different age. The first one sat on a white horse, his long, blonde hair whipped up and down as he got his horse to stop. A beard grew over his cheeks and blurred his features, leaving me guessing how he looked beneath it and how old he really was, because right now he must be at least ten years older than me. At least that was my guess back then. What facial hair can do!
The other man was younger than the first and sat on a brown horse, patting its neck as the horse stopped. He had dark, messy hair and looked down on me more curious than the other one, who seemed rather cautious. “Who are you and what are you doing here? How did you get here?”, the first boy asked in English and I was astounded, but a bit overwhelmed by the amount of questions. “Why are you sitting in the sea?”, the second boy asked, a cheeky grin on his lips. That was a question I could deal with.
“I… I don’t know.”, was my answer. Very witty. “But I do know what my name is.”, I answered after a second thought. “I’m Joyce.” “Well Joyce, what are you doing here? How did you get here?”, the one with the beard asked again and finally I got up. My skirt was soaking wet, and not only that. My tights and underwear were dripping from sea water and as I looked down at my feet, I could hear my mother shouting at me for going in the water, still fully dressed. I missed the next question. “Sorry, what?”, I said and looked up to the blonde man again. “Would you consider”, he said, badly hiding his annoyance, “your way of talking to the High King of Narnia?” What? I let out a curse and my hand rushed back up, covering my mouth. My mother would have killed me for swearing in front of any member of the royal family. “Oh god I’m so sorry”, I said and stumbled back a few steps, further into the sea. “I am from Bracknell, England and I have no idea how I got here. I was walking through the forest and heard voices and then I tripped and I fell into the sea and now I’m here.” The words slipped out of my mouth before I could stop them and I looked up at the two guys on horseback and added: “Your Majesty”, quickly.
A short pause arose and it made me quite nervous, but then the dark-haired boy said: “Come on, Pete. You can’t leave her here in the water.” And with that he got off the horse and approached me: “I’m Edmund. Can you ride? If yes, get on the horse, we’re going to get you to the castle and see what we can do for you.” Leaving me with no other choice than to get on that horse, of course with his gallant help, I now followed the white horse of Pete, around the bay and up through the forest that stretched out over the side away from the sea, to the castle I’d noticed earlier.