The heavy steel doors of Lemark High swung open with a loud creak, allowing a massive wave of students to pour out onto the vast, grassy playing field in front of the towering institution. The blaring noise of the final bell accompanied the endless crowds of kids, signaling that classes were over for the day. Actually Spring Break had just begun. No classes for two weeks! Excitement and relief filled the air, joining the refreshing weather.
Kirk Mendoza felt the cool breezes brush gently against his face while he stepped outside, the faint scent of lavender seeped into his nostrils from the violet plants growing along the thin branches of trees across from him, next to the bike racks. The sun was still out. Its blinding light was somewhat too much, due to the abrupt migraine that struck him out of nowhere during fifth period. He spent twenty minutes in the nurse’s office, listening to some girl cry for help. However, that wouldn’t stop him now.
Kirk shielded his eyes then surveyed his surroundings, grabbing the straps of his backpack and smiled before almost collapsing to the concrete as one group of bubbly freshman girls—most of them from his division—accidentally bumped into him during their rush. They didn’t even notice him or apologize for that matter; they were too busy giggling amongst themselves. Kirk didn’t hold it against them; his mood was too bright to be dampened by such trivial things.
Upon entering the building, knowing today was the last day of classes, all he kept looking forward to was hearing the last bell, then riding his bike over to Arturo’s, a little shop near his house that sold various trading cards, TV Shows and Anime, games, comic books and Manga.
With the small store in mind, he said goodbye to some of his friends, unchained his bike and sped off of school grounds. The wind whipped through his messy dark hair causing a few of his bangs to get into his eyes. Pumping his pedals as fast as his legs could, in five minutes he had already flown down the sidewalk belonging to the serene neighborhood surrounding Lemark High then turned onto a main street and crossed a busy intersection. His red jacket fluttered wildly behind him during his attempt to swerve between random walking citizens.
He heard a girl’s voice. His eyes widened. It sounded similar to what he had heard her earlier, back in the sick wing at school...
He ignored her and continued onward. He had to get to Arturo’s!
The piercing scream of the same female flooded his ears, sending a flash of colors surging in his vision, foreign thoughts bolted through his mind and his temples throbbed violently while his headache returned full force. He hollered out in agony, clutching his noggin, losing balance and smashing into a pole beside a restaurant. The impact flung him off his seat and had the boy rolling down the sidewalk. Several residents immediately yelped, rushing to his aid.
“Estas bien?” One man asked, helping him to his feet.
Kirk thanked the strangers for their concern. By some miracle his bike was in one piece so he picked it up, got back on. His side ached, but he’d worry about that later. Before he started to pedal off though, he scanned the area. He spotted one woman sporting braids and a dress staring at him across the road.
Was it her?
Numerous streetlights and intersections went by like a blur. Kirk drifted between his thoughts and reality. Why was he hearing the voice of this girl? Did he have a stalker after him? He looked over his shoulder, beginning to become paranoid. On the road next to him, traffic zoomed by. He approached a fork in the sidewalk. One way led through Magenta Park. He decided to cut through there, take a shortcut to Arturo’s.
Lush fields and thick shrubs encircled him. Enormous trees blocked majority of the sun’s rays, casting faint shadows on the trail he rode on, which winded and twisted around many bends. The park seemed closer to a forest; the blaring city noises sounded so far away. Faint bird chirps alongside whistling winds and rattling leaves replaced furious obscenities from citizens and stroke-inducing car horns. He the felt as if the park itself was taking him to a different corner of the globe, one that remained untouched by man…
Kirk slammed on his breaks, near a lonely bench on the path.
There it was again.
“S-somebody…” The girl’s voice trembled.
“Hello?” Kirk yelled out.
“Help you with what?” He asked, craning his head to the sky. “ANSWER ME!!!”
A flurry of spring gusts ruffled his clothes. He felt stupid. Kirk figured he had to be going crazy, screaming at the freaking air. He reached a new level of crazy. He was just as bad as the homeless. He’d die of embarrassment if friends saw him… But all day long he’d been hearing someone; however he found no face to match the frantic calls. Now her voice bothered him. He wanted to address this nonsense. Tightening the grip on his rubber handlebars, he exhaled loudly, staring at his sneakers.
“Just leave me alone…” He mumbled.
At those words a blinding white light appeared ahead of him; a glowing sphere, floating several feet off the ground, no bigger than a baseball. He glanced around him, then froze. What the heck was that?
“I don’t want to die…” The girl whimpered. It was coming from the light!
His eyes widened. “Die? What’s wrong?”
He lifted the kickstand on his bicycle, taking three cautious steps toward the shining orb. Its brightness sure wasn’t helping his headache. Each step he took caused the radiant ball to become bigger. He was aware of this, and halted in his tracks, nervous. Was this even real? Did he fall asleep in Literature class again?
Kirk hesitated. The light twitched. He barely had any time to react; it convulsed again before exploding open, bringing with it violent winds and a storm of loose leaves that knocked him off his feet, engulfing him. Scrambling back to his feet, he screamed and swung wildly, trying to get back to his bike but the vegetation obstructed his footsteps. He tripped over himself and rolled over. No matter what move he made the leaves enclosed around him, attacking like a swarm of angry bees. They stuck to his skin, even his clothes.
He did his best to rip them off; they only circled around him and stuck somewhere else. They piled onto him until he lay on his back on the dirt, unable to move, until he resembled a giant cross-shaped bush. His limbs were too heavy to move. He opened his mouth to call for help; that endeavor instantly backfired when a few plants glued themselves to his lips. The leaves covered his nose next, cutting off his oxygen. Panicking, he continued to fight; the huge bush constricting his body began to rock back and forth. He was going to die. Separated from his father and his friends, without a girlfriend… The last thing he saw prior to the leaves taking his vision was bits of the cloudless sky past the swaying tree top.
A dull noise reverberated in his ears, close the sound of someone popping a balloon. As fast as the assault started, it was over, the leaves abruptly went lifeless and crumpled to the ground. Coughing, sputtering, gasping for fresh air, Kirk sat up swiftly, clutching his chest. A sweet scent hung in the air…
He looked down at the leaves, then yelped and crawled out of the pile surrounding him. They didn’t react this time, they seemed to be normal. And dead. What the heck was that all about? That was it for him. He needed to go home. He could always go to Arturo’s another day; he was on break after all. His eyes traveled upward, at last focusing on his environment.
It was completely different.
The trail was completely gone. Kirk now sat on soft, slightly muddy soil. In fact the boy was sitting on an enormous hill of dirt. Towering mounds at least twelve feet were everywhere, as far as he could see. Sprouting out of them was a multitude of plants, thousands. All much bigger than him. They stretched over his head and were some of the strangest flowers he’d ever seen. The huge petals ranged from bright polka-dot colors to monochrome stripes. Enormous insects zigzagged between them, resting inside momentarily to collect pollen.
As they flew off, they scattered hundreds of white, furry puffs, into the air. They sported translucent tentacles, gliding on the faint breezes. Next to them stood the trees; they were even larger, colossal! The trunks were wider than an entire traditional boat frame. Bulky vines coiled around them flashing a dim tint, illuminating the woods a bit. Some type of light purple color… The top of the forest wasn’t even visible. An ominous blanket of blackness floated high above him. He wasn’t sure if night had arrived…
A spotted yellow and green millipede the size of a semi-truck suddenly darted past him, causing him to scream and fall flat on his butt. Kirk felt like an ant. Where was he? What happened to the park?!!
The girl had heard his frightened cry. Relief filled her throat. “Hello? Who’s down there? Please, answer me!”
He blinked, lifting his head, spotting her at last. Her limbs were sprawled out on a giant spider web created amidst two trees. Kirk arched an eyebrow. She wasn’t human at all! Well, the top half of her was… Fair skin, freckles covered her face and neck. Small curved horns protruded from her forehead. Curly brown hair fell to her shoulders. She wore no clothes, save for the crumpled emerald material wrapped around her chest.
The lower section of her frame resembled the hind legs half of a sheep or goat. She had hooves and they were covered in shaggy fur that matched her locks. Now that he paid her proper attention, she also had the same ears of the animal. What on Earth…
“Wha… What are you?” He yelled up at her.
The girl frowned and mumbled to herself. “Not even a ‘Hello! I’ve come to rescue you!’ Hmph, how rude…”
She went on. “What are you?!”
Kirk scoffed. “I’m a human. Duh.”
“Never heard of that,” She blew a raspberry, adding “Duh.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Are you the one calling for help?”
“Well I’m damn sure not having a picnic up here!” She spat.
If Kirk wasn’t lost himself, he would have definitely left her where she was. She seemed just as immature as him.
“Can you help me or not? I dropped my blade somewhere down there. Without it, I’m nothing but spider-food! I need you to get it and cut me loose!”
Kirk did a full spin, taking in the forest once more. “Everything’s so big here… What is this place?”
Veins throbbed in her head. She was losing patience. Her life was danger! “CAN YOU JUST—” She rapidly sighed, closing her eyes.
“Look. If you help me, I’ll return the favor. I’ll tell you anything you want. Whatever you’re looking for, consider it found. Deal?”
Kirk grinned. Got her. Now she was speaking his language. “Deal.”
He carefully hurried down the hill, then started to climb another one, coming across something glimmering within the soil.
“I think I found your thingy!” He said, beginning to dig.
“It’s NOT a th… A Thi…” She shook her head, growling. “Halberd! It’s a HALBERD!”
Unbeknownst to them both, a large and heavy figure lurked in the darkness above sneaking down the tree trunk toward her trapped victim, watching silently. Close to crimson daggers, her eyes shined in the shadows…
As Kirk pulled the long weapon out the mud, awe filled his eyes. “Whoa…” He beamed, standing to his feet.
The Halberd was just about his height, covered in something firm and soft, for gripping. Armed with a sturdy steel tip, jagged and curved blades extended at the top’s sides. He gave the killing machine an ecstatic swing. COOL!
“Great! Now throw it up here, hurry!” She commanded.
He swallowed nervously. “What if I hit you with it?!”
“Do you doubt yourself that much?” She frowned. “Aim for my hand! You can do it, come on!”
The boy reluctantly obeyed, rearing his arm back preparing to throw the weapon like a spear. He inhaled. Similar to gym glass. No problem… He noticed it was heavier than he expected… He didn’t exactly excel in sports. The creature flexed her hand, giving him his target.
“Your funeral,” He muttered.
With that, he took a running start up the hill and launched the Halberd at her, putting all of his energy into his throw. He was able to get it in the air; the blade sailed forward, reaching the web and slicing several sticky strands below one of her legs, freeing her hoof, before becoming entangled in the trap. He dropped his head and moaned, disappointed. He had failed.
“Told you I sucked at this stuff…” He whined.
“LOOK OUT!! THE WIDOW IS COMING!”
Kirk couldn’t react fast enough. Something heavy abruptly slammed on top of him, pinning his limbs. A dull thud shook the Earth. Her hefty figure eclipsed his view. Her lower half consisted of the smooth and hairy body of a large spider. The upper region completely human; claws for nails, pale skin, protected by a fitting, hard husk. Scarlet hair fell to her ears, her eyes darker than coal. Kirk stared at her petrified.
She hissed at him, revealing her sharp teeth. “I’ll kill you!” She roared in a scratchy voice.
He fought to free himself but the Widow held his arms and legs tightly. Was everything here some type of half animal or bug?! She knelt down to his face, her breath smelled worse than tar. Warm saliva dripped from her mouth, splashing against his cheeks. He shuddered and grunted.
Pointing her deadly claws at his neck, she scowled. “For messing with my prey… I’ll rip off your head and feed your carcass to my children!”
A sickening crunch resounded through the air. The Widow’s body jerked forward; she went still as a statue. Dark blood rolled down her neck. The young goat-girl appeared from behind, standing on her back; she had free herself and got down in time to jam her halberd into her enemy’s skull. Upon yanking the weapon out, the widow took a ragged inhale before staggering off the mound and tumbling to the depths below. Kirk clutched his chest again, panting.
“I thought I was gonna die…” He whimpered.
“No, you were, I just saved you.” She giggled, extending a hand. “Name’s Erena. I’m a Faun, by the way.”
“Never heard of that,” He said as she helped him to his feet. “I’m Kirk.”
“Funny name,” She laughed. “Thanks for your help… The sub-floors of Magenta are scary, right? If we stick together though, we can reach safety. The tree tops!”
Kirk stepped away from her, tilting his head, puzzled. “Wait, THIS is Magenta Park?”
Erena raised an eyebrow. “What’s a… A ‘park?’”
He turned around taking one more look at the massive forest that surrounded him, gazing at the colorful flowers, the enormous glowing trees, the oddly tinted large bugs buzzing past midair. And of course beings like Erena and the spider chick… He couldn’t believe it… He was still in the park at after all… Or maybe not, judging by the Faun’s reaction… What was this place?
“Hey! I asked you a question! It’s rude to turn your back on a girl!”
He took another step; the dirt beneath him suddenly gave way, he fell in a deep hole. Erena yelled and tried to save him, however her actions were too slow. Kirk cried out, flailing madly while plunging into frigid darkness.
“Little man… Little man!”
Kirk’s eyes snapped open. He shot up from the concrete, with a yelp, causing the ebony elderly man beside him to scream as well.
“Shoot kid, I already done had two heart attacks, I don’t need no mo’ now,” The old guy laughed, rubbing a hand on his bald head. He wore a beige jacket, slacks and loafers.
“Uh, s-sorry” Kirk stuttered, glancing around.
The familiar sight of Magenta Park had returned. The skinny trail, vast fields beneath a cloudless afternoon sky, ordinary trees, lonely benches, peaceful stillness. Even his bike sat a few feet from him where originally left it. He was back… How? Why?
“You okay little man? Found you here lying on the ground… Started to call the police, but thank God…” The senior trailed off.
“I’m fine… Thanks,” Kirk began, picking himself up, making his way to his bike.
The events of his adventure replayed in his mind. Was it all a dream? He almost died… Did his headache cause all that? He sighed. He wanted to go home. Lifting the kickstand he started walking further into the park, Arturo’s would have to wait another day.
“Hold up kid!” The man called out, hesitant to go after him.
A soft gust of spring air tickled Kirk’s face. Lost in his thoughts, he couldn’t hear Erena’s mournful plea floating in the wind.
“Kirk… Come back…”