The Dark Part of the Forest #14


Amelia DesMarais, Author, 8th grade

↵Chapter 14: The Calm Before the Storm↵

As days, weeks, and months passed, the school and the surrounding forest seemed to settle into a calm. Or, as Tily called it, a false calm.

“It’s making me all jittery! All the rumors have dissipated, the teachers are back to their normal selves, and even Ximen is acting normal! I can’t stand it!”

Erin nonchalantly flipped a page in the book she was reading. It was only the millionth time Tily had told her this in the past few weeks. “I feel it, too, but you really need to calm down.”

Tily jumped up from where she had been lying on her bed to pace the floor. “But we need to prepare! How do you expect to ever stop any plot Ximen has if all you do is sit there?”

“Tily, you’ve said this before. I get it. It’s weird. But how can we prepare for something we don’t know anything about? How can we prepare for a hypothetical situation?” She had asked these questions a million times, to Tily, to herself, over and over. She knew Tily was right, at least to an extent, but there was nothing she could do about it. Soon the still waters would be disturbed, and who knew what the ripples would do?

Tily flopped back onto her bed with a heaving sigh, shaking Erin from her thoughts. She glanced up from her book. “What is it now?”

“I wish I could read minds. Then I could figure out what Ximen was thinking.”

Back at her book, Erin laughed lightly. “I’m sure he has defenses. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point, he had acquired mind reading, and if he hasn’t, he surely will someday.”

Tily sighed again, staring at the ceiling. “Y’know, it’s really unfair that we just get a power. Like, how are you supposed to be nice when your power is literally stealing? And what about poor Leanna? She gets a useless power and is stuck with it for the rest of her life.”

“I think we should be happy that we get anything at all. Your magic doesn’t have to define who you are. Magic isn’t all you’re worth. It’s just another aspect of your life.”

Tily propped herself up on her elbows. “You’re far too wise for your age.”

“Yeah, that’s because I’ve been lying to you all along and in reality, I’m an extremely wise and powerful goddess sent to guide you along on your path life in the form of young Erin Zelity.”

There was a slight pause of silence, in which Tily stared at Erin as if she had never seen anything quite as strange as her. Then Erin started laughing. Tily shook her head but laughed despite herself.

“You’re too strange,” said Tily.

“I’m nothing compared to you,” Erin replied. Tily stood up again, going over to her desk to sit down. She picked up a worksheet, stared at it for a moment, then put it down again.

“Wouldn’t it be cozier if light rain were falling?” she asked, getting up to walk to the window.

“You’re just looking for an excuse to show off, but go ahead. Just don’t make it last too long. Some people like a clear dusk.”

Tily placed her hand on the windowsill, staring at the sky. Her face uncharacteristically serious, her hands tensed with the effort of moving clouds and creating rain. In a moment, raindrops plunged towards the ground.

“There you go,” said Tily with satisfaction. “I wonder how long this one’ll last.”

She got her answer when, in a few minutes, the shower subsided.

“I’ve seen you do better.”

Tily shrugged at Erin’s comment. “I’m not in top form.” She grinned at Erin. “Your turn.”

Erin’s book slowly lifted from her hands, hovering inches above them. Then it zoomed twice around the room to land perfectly on the shelf. Tily applauded.

“Well done, Erin, but I’ve seen you do better.” A moment later, Erin’s desk, books and all, was hovering halfway to the ceiling. Erin’s eyes stared, unseeing, at it, her face set with concentration, as it slowly revolved in the air before carefully lowering back to the floor, falling the last inch to land with a thump. A smile cleared Erin’s face.

“How was that?”

“Impressive. I would show off some more if I didn’t have homework to do.”

“You only have so much work because you procrastinated the past three months!”

“And I plan to do so for the next seven,” replied Tily. Then she picked up a pencil and started work. Erin got up, picking up her camera and laptop with plans to download the pictures she had been taking over the autumn. Each girl was deep in her work when a knock at the window startled them. Looking up, they saw Peter at the open window.

“Mind if I come in?” he asked. Erin got up to help him in.

“How’s life?” asked Tily.

“Surprisingly boring,” he replied, sitting down in the only available chair, which happened to be the one at Erin’s desk.

“You should’ve been here ten minutes ago when that desk was revolving in the air,” chuckled Tily. “It was quite a sight to see.”

Peter glanced at Erin, a question in his eyes. “It’s not like Tily can make things float,” was her answer.

“It’s been too calm lately,” started Tily. “Unsettlingly calm.”

“Don’t get distracted from your work,” said Erin, cutting her off. “Mrs. Miller expects that essay by tomorrow.”

“She’s one teacher I will not miss next year,” muttered Tily, returning to her essay.

“I do agree it’s unsettling, like the calm before the storm,” said Peter. “Even if you hadn’t told me it was a thousand times.” Tily turned to him, teasing annoyance on her face. “I was only joking!” said Peter.

The three sat in silence, Tily toiling over her essay, Erin organizing pictures, Peter staring into space.

“There’s nothing to it but to wait until something happens,” said Peter.

And wait they did. The rest of November (for that was the month now) flew by, bringing with it the last fleeting colors of autumn. Winter set in, chilling the castle. Soon the first snow of the season covered the school.

“What’s the point of snow if you go to a boarding school that doesn’t have snow days?” complained Tily between classes. Afterschool, various snowball fights were being waged on the lawn. Snowmen flanked the doors, keeping watch over the school. Their pebble eyes were the only ones that watched as, late at night, two figures crept from the school towards the forest. They were the only ones that saw them return hours later as the snow was tinted slightly pink by the early morning sun. But soon others noticed something was off.

Unable to sleep, Tily stood at the window, trying to coax out a snow cloud. Something over the forest caught her eye. What at first appeared to be a small, black cloud hovering over the forest turned out to be a small gathering of crows. Quickly, she shook Erin awake.

“What is it?” muttered Erin, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“Look! Out the window! The forest, crows, it happened! I told you so!” Thoroughly confused, Erin looked to where Tily pointed. She gasped. Running to her desk, she grabbed a piece of paper, scribbling a note on it. At the window once more, a rock flew into her palm. Wrapping and taping the paper to it, she sent it floating out the window, across the wall and out of sight. Eyes closed she concentrated with all her might. In a moment she felt her contact with the note taken away.

Many hallways down, Marcus was awoken by a knocking on the window. Looking out, he saw a crumpled piece of paper knocking of its’ own accord. He opened the window and grabbed it. Unfolding the note, he set aside the rock it was wrapped around to read it.

Look out the window! Crows gathering over the forest! -Erin

Glancing out, he found the crows.

“What are you looking at?” Marcus heard Peter’s voice from behind him. Not taking his eyes away, he thrust the note at him. In a second Peter was also staring out the window.

“Looks like Ximen’s been to the forest,” he said. Squinting to the ground, he shook his head. “There should be footsteps down there, but it’s too far to tell.”

“Just great,” sighed Marcus.

An hour later, Leanna woke up. She opened the only window in her dorm, which faced the forest. She, too, spotted the gathering of crows over the forest, circling and diving, calling and crying, flying to and fro.

“Just great,” she muttered.