The heavy air of a spring morning hung down with a sigh. Today was the day all the villagers celebrated spring at the Spring Festival in the park.
I sighed along with the wind, and danced with the flowers. It was all very nice in the woods, but others thought a witch lived there. But they were wrong. Someone did live in the woods, but they were far from a witch. In fact, she had saved my mother from a deadly fever that was going around, and since then, we were friends, and so were our parents.
The old pine trees that had lived in the forest for hundreds of years were big, and mighty, covering the land in thickets, like long, spindly hands.
Anyone that came, would find two girls swaying in the breeze, like fairies or nymphs of the forest.
After a moment, we both sat down on the moist, thick grass.
Eva let her silky black hair fall around her shoulders, and leaned against a tree that was in the middle of the clearing.
"That was delicious!", Eva said, delighted.
"I know!", I said back, just as excitedly.
I let my auburn hair out from the tight bun my schoolmaster had made me put it in, and felt the breeze pull it back.
I guess we had been still, or blended in, but two men burst into the barely lit part of the clearing.
"No! Get away! Now!", one screamed, his voice becoming dry.
The other man folded his robes together, and grumbled a few words.
The other man tripped over a root, and fell backwards.
"STOP!", the bald man screamed at the man in the robes.
Eva and I wisely didn't move, and took shallow breaths.
After much pleading and backing away, the bald man stopped. He whimpered, but stopped screaming.
That was when the man in the robes struck. He pulled out a long dagger, and stabbed the bald man.
The bald man tried letting out a screech, but the other man held his hand over his mouth, and placed a clever blow to the head.
The man was dead.
We had watched him kill someone.
This was too much for Eva and I, but I held her mouth shut, and pleaded with my eyes for her to not make a sound.
After a long pause, Eva nodded, and the man in the robes walked-no, floated- back into the thicker part of the woods, draggin the body beside him.
When we were sure he was gone, Eva and I ran as fast as we could to the most crowded place we could think of.
The Spring Festival was crowded, and lively voices and songs filled the air.
Eva shouldered her way to her mother's food stand, and I followed, knowing my mother would be near.
I ran to my mother, and Eva, hers.
We told the story together, and the adults listened, but at the end, to our horror, laughed.
"Did you drink too much tea?", Eva's mother asked, her black hair whistling in the wind.
"Maybe they heard a story", my mother turned, speaking to Eva's, her green eyes hiding clever in them, as a man came to buy some apples.
Suddenly, my mother looked into the crowds, and grabbed Eva and I, pulling us into a back cobblestone alley, near the Festival.
"I know who you speak of. Do not think of him. Do not speak of him. That is how he finds you. He feeds on that. Do not. Do you understand?", she said in a strained, but hushed voice.
We both nodded, too shocked to see one of our role models so alarmed to speak.
She nodded curtly, like we just had a lecturing, turned to the Festival, but stopped.
She cocked her head into the farther part of the alleyway.
Eva and I did also, mimicking her, but all we heard was the dripping of a broken pipe.
And then my mother's face went pale, as if she had heard something other than this, and she herded us to the Festival as fast as she could go without seeming out of place.
She looked at Eva's mother, and nodded grimly.
Then she went back to normal, smiling at people walking by, and offering samples of the apples she was selling.
Eva and I wondered off after a while, our bodies wanting something to do.
We walked to the small 'Park', where there was a fountain, and some stones around it, and a lake not too far away.
The crowds of people were still there, but they kept in small groups, and talked less, too entranced in the lake or fountain.
I looked at Eva.
She looked at me.
Then, we sat down, a little far away from the people.
Eva spoke first.
"No. We saw him. It."
"Yeah, I guess."
Then she scrunched up her face, and asked the question that was hanging and drifting in the air.
"Will he come after us too?"
"I don't know."
"We shouldn't worry."
"We shouldn't talk about it."
"We shouldn't think about it."
We tried hard to think of other things, like how the man behind us was talking about how they got a monkey, or about the fountain, but it was hard.
Once our brains had found the mystery, it held on, not letting go. It was a puzzle wanting to be solved. Waiting to be solved.
I picked up a small pebble, and threw it into the lake.
Eva smiled at this game, and threw it farther.
This game went on for a while, but we still couldn't help thinking of what my mother had said. The look she shared with Eva's.
The robed man.
Finally, we gave up avoiding the subject.
I looked at Eva's walnut eyes, and she looked back at me.
"We need to figure this out. We need to do something.", we together, in grim determination.
-- - - - -- -
(To be continued?)