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Lost in the Wood

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Alicia had a family once. She married long before her little got together with that buffoon, Jack Fenton. Alicia used to have a son too, Flynn, a small, spry boy with her ginger locks but her husband’s hazel eyes. He was also gifted with her husband’s temperament, level-headed until something set him off. It made tantrums a rare, but catastrophic event. Spittoon, Arkansas wasn’t as desolate or lonely back then nor was she as bitter. She had loved her husband, she truly had, but pinning the blame on her was way out of bounds.

They always went camping on Flynn’s birthday, just a routine trip they did as the weather cooled off and the trees showed their autumn colors. Her husband used the trips to teach Flynn some basic survival skills, like which berries were safe to eat and which ones were not, how to start a fire, and how to build a lean-to. Alicia taught Flynn about wild animals, teaching him how to deal with a bear, or how to snag a rabbit. He hadn’t liked that lesson very much and had insisted they let the poor creature go. Alicia had also told some of her favorite campfire stories on those trips, the same stories her little sister still pursued back up in Amity Park. That trip held some of her most precious.

Then on Flynn’s 12th birthday, the ever-curious boy, had wandered off into the wood and hadn’t come back out. Together, they had searched for days, but Alicia had searched those woods for weeks until she had memorized the entire piece of wilderness. The search parties went from searching for the boy to searching for his body. The missing person posters eventually stopped drifting around and his face no longer appeared on milk cartons. That had been about a year after Flynn went missing. Sometimes she still went back and trekked through the woods, searching for something she knew she wouldn’t find.

On that anniversary, after Flynn was gone for two years, Alicia and her husband’s relationship had grown so taunt they had decided to break it off. They had argued before that trip, but it was playful banter compared to the full-blown fights they had after. He blamed her for Flynn’s disappearance, claiming she should’ve been the one watching him, that it was her job. He never hit her though, because he knew she would hit back, just like her father taught her and her sister. 

It had been 14 years since then, and time had turned her into a “bitter old hag”, as Jack liked to call her when he thought she wasn’t listening. Which was fair, Alicia had been trying to make Maddie see sense ever since she married that fool, but she couldn’t help but be jealous too. Alicia had never seen a couple so in love, even after over two decades of being together. Daniel, Maddie and Jack’s son, had turned 16 recently, and whenever Maddie called her to talk, she would sometimes complain about the trouble Danny had been getting into since he had started high school. Jazz was off to college, just around 20 if Alicia recalled correctly, a brilliant girl just like her mother. Alicia loved Maddie, she did, but whenever her sister talked about her children or husband, Melancholy shot an arrow straight through her. Flynn would’ve been 26 today.

Alicia spent her son’s birthday as she had for the past 13 years, alone in the woods. How could she have known that the day she brought that little rascal into the world would end up being the day he left it? Her husband, a spiteful man hidden under a soft demeanor, had no right to blame her, but she still felt guilty. Hadn’t they been fighting when Flynn had run off? Was that really the last memory of them they had given her poor boy? Was their petty bickering the reason he had run off? She would never know.

Alicia turned to gaze to the smattering of colors across the sky, where stars peeked through the clouds, mixing with the blushes of sunset. Her tent was already set up for the night, but she doubted she would venture into it tonight, she never did.  The small fire crackled, sputtering out ashes into the night, white smoke warding off insects. A can of baked beans sat near it, warming the tin, her dinner for tonight. Alicia spent her time poking the fire, eventually breaking open the warm can of baked beans, listening to the rustling of the fire and the sound of night and the world blanketed her in darkness.

It was sometime around when the moon reached its peak, that there was a large shuffling in the brush at the end of camp. Damn bears, but it could also be a coyote. Either way, a shotgun worked on just about anything. The rustling continued for a moment longer, and she pointed the barrel at the potentially dangerous animal. Alicia faltered when a young man stumbled out of the bushes, only to be staring down the barrel of a gun pointed at his face.

His long, russet hair was tied back, and wide, honey-gold eyes stared back at her. His clothes weren’t something from this century, a tattered green cloak, white tunic, and brown pants. There was a necklace of crimson roses around his neck and a large, peculiar spear across his back. His feet were bare, and scars smattered his visible skin. He seemed almost more shocked than she.

“Uh… hi?”