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Into the Woods

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Diana Grantham was never cut out to be a mother, wife, or anything other than that mysterious but fabulous aunt that brought you extravagant gifts from her equally extravagant life when she popped by every few years. She was going to be a star, and she was well on her way. With her elegant curls, striking green eyes and a voice like warm honey she was charming her way to the top of the Indie film business and was even breaking into the the B-Movie scene.


 

That all changed when she met Maxwell Howell. He was big, tall and strong from carrying around special effects equipment all day and he had eyes that froze her in her tracks. Naturally, as twenty year old starlets are wont to do, she fell madly, passionately in love. Their romance burned bright and hot like petrol on a fire and burned out just as quickly. They parted ways with a devastating row and shouted promises that they’d never speak again.

A month later however,  Maxwell opened his door to see a weeping Diana flanked by scowling Granthams raving about how no grandchild of theirs would be a bastard. That very afternoon Diana and Maxwell were standing in front of a preacher, hands clasped together with their parents behind them; Howells and Granthams glaring and blaming the others for their child’s misfortunes.

And so Diana Howell - oh how she wept at the loss of her elegant surname - took a break from the movie scene to have little Daniel and when she returned she found there was no place for a tired mother no one had heard from in over a year. She got a job as a drama teacher, Maxwell picked up a second job at the radio station and they settled in for their lives as a nuclear family.

Daniel learned from an early age to take care of himself. With a mother who constantly gazed out the window mourning lost dreams and a father who was too busy working a job he never wanted to support the family he never wanted Dan quickly taught himself the basics of self-care. By the age of two he was putting himself to bed, three he was well acquainted with fashion and how to dress himself, four he was preparing all his own meals, and five he had learned to read by furiously studying magazines and textbooks his mother left lying around.

But like all five year olds, Dan needed more than clothes, food and shelter; he constantly craved the love and attention he saw bestowed to the children on TV. Maybe that’s why he didn’t hesitate to take the hand of the man with the dark hair full of twigs and flowers and sharp blue eyes with pointed ears to match. Maybe that’s why he followed him deep into the woods, his childish giggle mixing with the man’s bell-like laughter. Maybe that’s why he ignored it when the man’s teeth turned to needles and gossamer wings the color of rainbows sprouted from his back. Maybe that’s why he did nothing but gasp in wonderment when they came to the stream that trickled behind his house where frogs who seemed as large as cars sleepily croaked their resonating lullabies.

Whatever the reason, Dan danced and laughed and ate with the entire town of adults who seemed to have no greater interest than showering him with affection and stuffing him full. He ate nuts and berries sweeter than any candy he’d ever had and cherries redder than anything he could imagine. The entire time he sat with The Blue Eyed Man who was always smiling at him like he was the most important thing in the world and tickling his sides when he felt it’d been too long since Dan’s last laugh.

“Why did you bring me here?” Dan had asked, blinking big brown eyes full of all the adoration only a child could muster.

The Blue Eyed Man looked down and smiled a rueful smile. “You don’t belong in that world, Dan,” he explained, and he sounded so sad that Dan crawled into his lap to wrap tiny arms around his neck. He pulled Dan in for a tight hug. “You’re such a bright light and I never want that light to go out. Dan, the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” He buried his face in Dan’s hair and let out a deep shuddery breath. “Oh, Dan, if only you could see what they would do to you. You’re so sad in that future and I can’t let that happen to you.”

“Can’t I just stay here with you?” Dan asked innocently. “I don’t want to go home. I like it here. I don’t like being lonely.”

“That’s the plan,” the Blue Eyed Man chuckled, coaxing out a few more giggles by prodding Dan’s sides. “You’ll never be lonely ever again.” The pair laughed together for a moment before Dan scrunched his eyes closed and yawned widely, playfully snapping at the Blue Eyed Man’s fingers when he poked his tongue. Then he snuggled down into the arms surrounding him and prepared himself for a long night’s sleep.

But good things can only last so long and suddenly Dan was startled awake by thunderous shouts and violent earthquakes. All around the adults who had only moments ago been dancing and laughing were darting about with panicked shouts to one another, as they one by one blinked out of existence. Dan looked up at the Blue Eyed Man to see him looking at Dan with just as much fear as all the others. He stood up and gently placed Dan on the ground, holding tight to his left hand. “I’ll come back for you,” he promised, crystal eyes shimmering with unshed tears. “Try not to be too sad, okay?” When Dan nodded he quickly bent forward and bit the back of the young boy’s hand.

Dan yelped and pulled his hand to his chest before investigating the slightly bleeding mark. “What’d you do that fo-” he trailed off for when he looked up there was nobody there. The tiny village was gone. The happy frogs were gone. All the people and the food were gone. But most importantly the Blue Eyed Man was gone. Dan brought his knees to his chest and wept at the loss of his first and only friend. He was alone again.

The rescue team - for that’s what had caused the earthquakes from earlier - found him within the hour, cold and alone and crying his eyes out. According to them he’d been missing for three days and his mother was worried sick. (She was, at first, but after a few days of watching Dan’s every move she figured he was safe again and resumed her window gazing, and a few years after that she figured her family no longer needed her and left.)

Every day Dan sat out in the back garden where he’d first met the Blue Eyed Man, looking out over the woods and he waited for his friend to come back for him. After a week his faith began to waiver. After a month he realized nobody was coming. After a year he figured it had all been a dream he’d come up with due to hunger. After three years he’d completely forgotten about it, save for the naggingly familiar blue eyes that haunted him in his sleep.