Sometimes the strangest things happen on an ordinary day. My name is Christine and here’s what happened.

It started out as a normal Saturday. My parents were away for the day so I had the house and the day to myself. We own a grand piano and I decided I would practice to get my day started after finishing breakfast. I played through some of my favorite pieces like Fantasie Impromptu and Debussy’s First Arabesque. There was a specific piece by Liszt that I wanted to work on but could not find it anywhere downstairs. I assumed that my mother had stashed it with the rest of my music in the attic so I went up there to look for it.

There were so many boxes and cobwebs that I had to sift through in order to find what I was looking for. I was glad to have brought a broom with me to kill any spiders that dare attack me. After about ten minutes of shuffling boxes and coughing through the dust, I found the box my sheet music was stored in near the back of the attic far from the window. I sifted through piece after piece and finally found Liszt’s Libestraum. I angled myself so the light coming through the attic window shone on the pages for me to see it better. That’s when I noticed something I’ve never noticed before.

Where the box of music had been, was a small door in the wall. I think it was about three feet high with a tiny door knob. I had been in this attic so many times as a kid and have never noticed this before. At first I was curious, but I was starting to get the heebie jeebies from staying up there too long. I turned to leave, but my curiosity was getting the best of me. I got the broom and swept all the cobwebs and dust away then I bent down to the door and grabbed the knob.

The door opened to a small hallway or more like a crawlway since it was the same height of the door. Strangely enough, it wasn’t dusty or full of cobwebs like I had expected. It was even lit by a single small light bulb at the end of the crawlway right above another door that looked identical to the one I was looking from. “This keeps getting weirder.” My voice seemed to echo down the small hall, but I decided I would find out what’s on the other side of that door. The crawl wasn’t very long and it took me less than a minute to get to the other side. In that short time, my claustrophobia was kicking in and I immediately opened the other door without hesitation. What I saw after I had opened it, sent chills down my spine and shook me to my very core.

“How the heck did I get here…” I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Or where I was looking at. The door opened to a lush forest with flowers and plants I’ve never seen before. There were mushrooms much larger than myself and trees that stood towering up to the sky. I was curious to find out where I am and how I got here.

I took a moment to gather myself before fully coming out of the doorway because I still couldn’t believe it. “I’m probably dreaming." I convinced myself it had to be a dream and so I went along with it. I pulled myself from the doorway and fell onto the forest floor making sure to brush myself off once I stood up. I looked behind me for the door then I closed it.

I made a mistake. As soon as I closed the door, which I realized was part of a very large tree, the door vanished! My heart started racing as I realized I could be trapped here for good. “Crap, crap, crap. CRAP.” I had to force myself to calm my heart rate so I could figure out what to do next. I decided I would look for a road or any sign of where I could be and maybe get some help out of there before it got too dark. 

I decided I would look for a road but leave a trail I could follow back to the tree so I wouldn’t lose track of where I was. I grabbed a handful of leaves off a bush to leave on the ground to leave as a trail and started on my search. I started walking in the direction of the setting sun so I knew I was headed West. Every few feet I would drop a leaf in my path hoping that I would be able to recognize the leaves I dropped from the ones already on the forest floor. Everything was so strange here. Giant mushrooms, strange flowers, and glowing lights? At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. It was getting a little dark so I assumed they were reflections of the setting sun or something… A few yards in away from me I watched a trail of lights swing back and forth moving towards something. The lights seemed to be changing direction and were now heading towards me. A fear I had never known before suddenly seized me and I was unable to do anything but stand there and watch as they came closer. So many thoughts raced through my head. My imagination? Synchronized fireflies? Maybe ALIENS? I could feel every hair on my body stand upright as adrenaline rushed into my system. When they were a few feet away from me, they stopped. I forced myself to calm down and assess the situation. They weren’t just lights, they were lanterns. That’s why they were swaying. However, lanterns don’t just float in the air.. 

“Who are you?” a voice came out of nowhere. It didn’t sound like aliens, although I’m not sure what aliens sound like. The voice sounded like an elderly male voice and it didn't sound hostile.

“M-my name is Christine. I’m lost and I need help out of here. Where are you?” I forced my voice to stay as calm and unwavering as possible.

“Oh, pardon us.” said the voice and suddenly five figures appeared out of the air and were now holding the lanterns. I let out a gasp of shock at what I was looking at. The figures were about two feet tall with long white beards and tall conical hats that added height to their diminutive stature. They were gnomes?

“Excuse us. Sorry for our rudeness. I am Garmel, and these are my fellow gnomes- Adren, Mornar, Nermen, and Gurn. Now what brings you, a human, to the Mossbrook forest?” The gnome at the front of the line appeared to be doing all the speaking while the other four seemed to be observing me.

“Well, like I said earlier I got lost.. Um, there was this door in my house that I found in the attic and it opened up into this forest somehow. I’m not sure how..” I stood there awkwardly, not knowing if they would believe me or not. I hardly believed the words that I was saying myself.

“Hmm. Well, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard a story like this.” The other gnomes muttered in agreement with him.

“Really? So, you believe me? Wait, this isn’t the first time this has happened?” I began to wonder who the other person or persons were that ended up here. And if they ever got out of here. A chill went through my body and I tried to push that thought out of my mind.

“Yes.. Indeed. First, we need to get you inside before nightfall. You never know what sort of creatures will be lurking at night.” When the head gnome said this, there was a look exchanged between the other gnomes. I had no idea what this could mean.

They led me in the direction they were previously going. I noticed that they chose to stay visible for my sake so I could follow them easier. The path we were following was barely distinguishable from the rest of the forest floor. It was worn out from use and covered with leaves and needles from the trees. However I did notice that every few yards, there would be a flat stone of a different color embedded on the path to mark where they should go. I hoped that wherever they were taking me, I would be able to return to the tree that contained the door that took me here. We stopped in front of a large tree. Once again it was another large tree and I was already sick of the forest.

“Here we are.” The head gnome set down his lantern and stuck his arm into the tangle of vines that cascaded down the tree. He must've done something to cause a door to open. The inside was dark but I could see a staircase that descended into who knows what. “The rest of you, go ahead. I’d like to talk to Christine privately for a bit.” The other gnomes went inside and left us alone. This made my nerves come back. Why would he need to talk to me privately? What did he have to say that he couldn’t say in front of the others?

“Christine,” Garmel had a concerned look on his face and I prepared myself for whatever he was about to say. “What you are about to see is our home. We realize that humans are not used to the way of living that us gnomes are accustomed to.. I just wanted to let you know, we are still strangers to you. And as much as we want to help you, we still do not fully trust you. In the past we’ve taken in strangers who have stolen from us.” Garmel looked down at the ground, apologized for his suspicious tone and led me down the dark staircase.

We ended up going through a somewhat cramped tunnel that once again made my claustrophobia kick in. I tried my hardest to breathe deeply to calm myself. Garmel seemed unaffected by the small space. The tunnel started broadening until we reached a large wood door with strange symbols carved into it. He pressed a series of symbols and then the door opened up to reveal a massive room. Suddenly my claustrophobia was gone and I began to understand what the conversation outside was about. This room had gems, objects of gold and silver, jewels, and so many other valuable items everywhere that I looked. It seemed more like a vast underground cavern than a “home.”

“Welcome to our home. Come. We must talk about what happened.” Garmel took me by the arm to snap me out of my shocked state and led me to a table where we sat and talked about what happened. He recounted the story of a boy who he had once taken in and had claimed he came from a tree. This was the gnomes’ first encounter with a human and welcomed him in until they could send him home. After spending a few days with the gnomes, the boy had stolen one of their rare gems and had traded it with one of the forest goblins who claimed he knew a way to send the boy home. The goblin had tricked him into a trap, and had eaten the boy. It was a grim story that resulted in the death of the boy and the loss of a precious gem. After the story, I was shown a room to stay in and encouraged not to explore their home too much in case I got lost. In the morning, Garmel promised they would figure out a solution.

The room they gave me was beautiful and well kept. I found it strange that they had an extra room that was maintained this well. I decided to sneak out and look for a good book to read before I went home. Of course that was only if I could find a book in English. But if the gnomes could understand me, they must have something in my language. I navigated my way back to the main room and wandered around until I found a large stack of books. I shuffled through them and came upon a book of recorded events of the forest. I thought that would be an interesting read so I flipped it open. I thought I could find something on the story of the boy and if there were any other stories of humans. The first event I turned to talked about a boy who had come from a tree was found and taken in by goblins who promised to help him and then they ate him. The next was of a young woman who also came through a door into the forest, rejected the offer to stay with the goblins, was hunted and eaten by them.. All of the records I found had the same theme and I was starting to fear for my life again. It was a good thing I was found by gnomes and not goblins.. The story Garmel told me and these records puzzled me. How did the gnomes know about the demise of every human who had come into the forest.. Why had he warned me about stealing? Then something clicked. What I thought were gnomes, possibly could be goblins. Garmel warning me about the boy who had stolen from him and running off could be a trick to get me to stay and trust them. Just as I closed the book I heard him.

“Ah yes. I see Nermen didn’t put the books away like I instructed him to.” Garmel now had a different look in his eye. Like a predator stalking a prey.

“I just wanted to do some reading before bed. That’s all.” I noticed the others had begun to peek from behind the stacks of treasures surrounding us. They all had the same look in their eyes. It was all making sense now. The trust talk, the invitation to their secret home, the casual reaction to finding a human in their forest. They had done this before. Every human, a victim. And I was next.

I used all my strength to overturn the table with the stack of books. The fall of books knocked down the stacks of gold and gems that the gnomes, or goblins, were standing near. This bought me just enough time to jump over the closest treasure pile and head for the door. This side of the door had the same symbols as the other side. I hoped my memory was correct and pressed the symbols in the order I remembered. I was expecting to get it wrong but luckily it opened and I ran up the stairs as fast as I could taking two at a time. Just when I was getting close to the top door, I tripped and fell a few stairs. The goblins were getting close now and I had to hurry. My leg was throbbing and bruised from the fall but I managed to push through and make it to the door. This door was a lot less complicated than the one with symbols and it opened at the pressure of throwing my body against it. 

Now the real challenge was where to go from here. I decided I would go back to the tree that brought me here and hope the door had somehow appeared again. It was now pitch black outside so I ran in whatever direction I thought we came from. I could hear the goblins shouting behind me. I was sore and tired and most importantly, lost. I passed by a tall mushroom I recognized and realized I was close to the tree. I stopped for a moment to think where I was, and I heard their voices coming even closer. Through my panic, I ran again and didn’t look back. That’s when I saw the tree!

I got to the tree and still no door. I looked back and heard the goblins but couldn't see them. It was terrifying. They must've been invisible at this point. I had to think. I remembered how Garmel had opened the other tree by some hidden switch or lever. I felt around the bark of the tree until my hand caught on a weird protrusion. I tried pressing it, then pulling it, and finally I pushed it a certain angle and it gave way. At this point the goblins were only a few yards away. I yanked open the small door and crawled as fast as I could down the small hallway. I reached the door just in time to fall through and slam it shut. I pushed my body against it to keep it shut and expected to feel something pushing back. I felt nothing. I looked behind me and the door was suddenly gone. The sun was still up and everything in the attic was as I left it like nothing had ever happened..

March 25, 2020 22:56

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Inactive User
16:23 Apr 02, 2020

The ending was powerful to me. A thing you could work on is maybe making the beginning more entertaining? Like to pull the reader into it. Otherwise, I really enjoyed your story. Keep up the good work!


H Pearcey
07:08 Apr 06, 2020

Thank you!


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