The crumbling building by the woods was covered in graffiti, names and dates, and crudely carved hearts spanning the surface like the heavily gathered clouds in the sky above. My eyes found the red sharpie that was scrawled over a painted patch, back from when this place still belonged to a summer camp. It was my old initials, EFH. I hadn’t wanted to write my full name, but I hadn’t yet wanted to use my chosen one in public. Even now, I had a hard time introducing myself as Chance, as though my parents were hovering over my shoulder shaking their heads in disapproval. I tripped over a loose chunk of concrete, caught in my worries. The last thing I wanted to do was injure myself after I had gotten this far, so I took a moment to ground myself and rounded the building to the entrance.
I had come here for closure. What had happened all those years ago still haunted me, still kept me awake at night. I had driven hours from my home and climbed over the chain-link fences that surrounded this property. I wanted to see if what I saw back then was true.
I stepped over the threshold into the old wood cabin. The camp had abandoned this place a couple of years before I attended because the roof had collapsed. They cleared away all the rubble, so it was just made up of white concrete walls that barely stood up and entwined tree branches that formed a natural ceiling. I stood in the middle of the structure, waiting for I didn’t know what.
The last time I was here was long before the camp had shut down. My parents had wanted to get rid of me for a week and a half, and this was the cheapest camp they could find in the area. My cabin group had come down to the campfire clearing to make some lanyards since we were kicked out of the art cabin at lunchtime by the instructor and told to go outside. I was pretty sure that, like me, my counselor was being forced to be here. The camp had a strict “no electronics” rule, but Steven had brought a small portable Tetris machine, presumably the only electronic he could manage to smuggle in, that he played whenever he got the chance. Thus, the lanyard-making. He had grabbed a bin full of shiny cords from the art cabin and told us to braid them together while he hunched over the small device and played his game.
I had no idea how to make one of the lanyards, so with a glance at Counselor Steven, I had headed into the woods to explore. I went deeper into the trees, ignoring the pain in my ankles from the overgrown thorns that covered the forest floor. I found the structure, and walked around it for a bit, examining the graffiti that other campers had left. I later found out that it used to be a small building, used primarily for storing wood for the fire and other odds and ends that were used in games like capture the flag. I wrote my initials on the wall with a sharpie that I had in my pocket. I liked to doodle on my arms, and so I almost always carried some writing utensil with me back then.
At first, when I had stepped inside of the place, nothing had happened. I looked around then walked back out. It was then that I had noticed the cut on my ankle that was bleeding pretty bad, so I grabbed a leaf from a tree and stepped back into the building to find a place to sit down and try to put pressure on the wound.
And then I was gone.
I scarcely now remember the place I had gone. It was like these woods but different, a darker time of day. The trees were different, as well. The leaves were gigantic, and the actual trees towered several feet above the ones back at the camp. I had seen something else, too. A winged fairy. That was the only way I could think to describe it. It had pale green skin that was shadowed by the woods around it, and it had vibrant olive wings that fluttered as it hovered a foot off the ground. I barely had time to take in all of that before I was back in the forest at the camp. I heard stomping and rustling to my left, and Steven emerged.
“Found her!” He yelled, then turned to me. “Don’t wander off, okay?” He was out of breath and panting.
For the rest of my time at that camp, Steven was sullen towards me. When I had gone exploring, he didn’t notice I was gone until dinner, where he had to tell people what he was doing by the campfire in order to help search for me. He had gotten his Tetris device taken away.
As for me, I was so preoccupied with the fairy and the other woods that I didn’t notice much else. As the years went by, it faded to the point where I wasn’t even sure that I hadn’t imagined it. I had decided to find out for myself and planned the trip down here.
Right now, all the evidence was pointing to a strange hallucination, not the other world that I was so certain I had been transported to. I stood in the significantly more run-down structure, waiting for something to happen.
A bird crowed, startling me, but still, I was in the same forest. I decided to sit down on the old bench. Why not wait a little longer?
I winced as I sat. I had cut my palm climbing over the fence. I grabbed a bandage from my backpack and wound it around my hand. I was hungry, so I also pulled out a sandwich and some chips.
After half an hour, when I was done with my lunch, I got up to leave. I packed the trash from my food slowly, feeling disappointed.
I took my bandage off, since the bleeding had stopped, and made to pack it in with my other trash, but it fell out of my backpack and hit the ground.
In a flash, everything changed.