Alice opened her eyes. It was so bright she had to close them again. She was lying on her back, the ground felt soft and she was warm. She could smell flowers and grass, like she was in a garden. She cracked her eyes open a little and let herself adjust to the bright light. When she could see through the glare she opened her eyes fully.
Spring had exploded around her. She was lying under a huge old tree, its base as wide as she was long. It went up and up twisted and cracked but still formidable in its size. The branches flung out in every direction spewing green leaves and bright pink flowers. As Alice lay there marvelling at the beauty, stray petals floated down around her. Sunshine streamed through the gaps in the leaves warming her.
She pushed herself into a sitting position, petals falling from her. She looked down at her dress, the top part appeared to be made from large leaves wrapped snugly around her, sleeveless and to her waist where it exploded out, covered in pink petals and whole blossoms, down to her knees. She tried to brush the petals away but no matter how many she brushed off there were always more under her fingers. It as if her dress was made of them and they grew back as fast as she could push them off.
She stood up and in a wonderfully giddy moment she forgot herself and spun, smiling as the sun suddenly brightened and the warmth caressed her face as petals flew from her. She felt like a nymph; beautiful, ethereal and magical. Her auburn hair fell in her face as she spun. She pulled it all over to one side, petals from the tree caught between strands and watched it fall over her dress, contrasted against the green.
She’d never been much of a girly-girl, preferring jeans and boots to dresses, but she couldn’t deny the freedom she felt as she revelled in the splendour of her dress.
Suddenly she stopped spinning, the elated feeling leaving her as she all at once remembered the rising water and feeling of hopelessness from the street before. Part of her felt ashamed of her weakness and part of her disappointed that she made it through. The sun disappeared behind a cloud and she shivered in the sudden breeze. She felt incredibly confused.
She snapped out of her thoughts however when she looked around her. Her first thought she’d had when she opened her eyes that spring had exploded was truer than she ever thought possible. It was as if a flower shop and a paint factory had been blended together and been strewn about with reckless abandon. There were bursts of flowers everywhere in more colours than she could comprehend. There were daffodils the size of trees and daises that grew waist high. A small pond sat a few meters way covered with lily pads every colour of the rainbow. Alice walked further into this eruption of spring, following a streak of purple tulips that shot through the chaos like a path. The hill on her right was covered in lush green grass that swayed in the slight breeze and had a river of bluebells cascading down the side. Off in the distance to her left she spied a formidable forest.
Three white rabbits bounded past Alice and she stared to see if any of them were her rabbit. But they were all too small. As she stared at a rosebush with a combination of red and white roses growing on it, she saw a pair of eyes peeking out from between the leaves.
She took a hesitant step closer and reached out to move the leaves. The eyes suddenly disappeared, and out of the back of the bush a small child, with a shaved head darted off into the daises, hiding in there like in a field of corn.
Alice walked towards the swaying daisies and called out “Hey there, you don’t need to be scared.”
The sun blazed down on the field of giant daises, flinging swaying shadows out like spears. Through the gap in the stems a face appeared, scrunched up with nervousness. Alice, not wanting to make the child anymore afraid, plopped herself on the grass and sat cross legged. “You can come out, my name is Alice. Do you know where we are?”
The child hesitantly stepped out from between the daisy stems. Alice saw that it was a young girl, pretty in an innocent way. Her hair was shaved, just a fuzz of perhaps brown hair, and big hazel eyes that sparkled with curiosity.
“Do you know the rabbit?” the girl asked.
“You mean the white rabbit? I think it’s been following me, or maybe I’m following it. I’m pretty confused.” Alice paused and rubbed her eyes, “Wait, do you know the rabbit?” Alice asked.
“She’s called bunny, she’s been waiting.” The little girl said as she came over and sat in front of Alice.
“Waiting for what?” She asked.
“Oh I don’t know, but she’s going to help. That’s what she says.” The little girl said staring at her hands as she picked at the grass and twisted it between her fingers.
“Who needs help?”
“You asks lots of questions Alice. Don’t think about the bad questions, just look at the pretty flowers.” Suddenly the girl jumped up and started spinning round, she then skipped over to the flowerbeds and started dancing and jumping about. As she laughed a warm breeze blew around her, throwing up petals. As the girl danced in a whirlwind of colour, the sun lighting her face, the hill on her right suddenly blazed purple light, ghostly ribbons every colour of the rainbow exploded from the top like a volcano and snaked down the hill weaving through the plants and flowers. Everything stirred in the wind and the garden came alive with smells and colour. The sun cast a warm glow over everything and even as Alice watched new flowers were blooming around the girl. It was magical.
It was as if her laughter and her joy was feeding the garden, flowers blooming from her happiness.
The girl threw herself down into a patch of electric blue flowers and lay on her back, as the wind died down. Alice walked over to her and watched as the last of the ribbons of light brightened her face and disappeared. The girl sat up and looked at Alice, staring at her with those large curious eyes. “Why did you bring a tree with you?” She asked.
“What?” Alice looked behind her confused. There stood a massive oak tree, the one she’d woken up under but without the pink blossoms. It stood on a raised piece of grass devoid of any flowers or plants in a perfect circle around it.
“It wasn’t there before.” The girl said from behind her.
But Alice was no longer listening, the tree now looked as if it was beginning to change with autumn, the leaves turning golden and crisp. The longer she looked at it the more familiar it seemed. She took a step towards the tree when she all of a sudden felt dizzy, she knew this tree. Her legs gave out from under her and her vision went blank as she fell.
I sat under our tree, crisp leaves all shades of orange, red and brown scattered over my legs. I was busy writing ‘The Story of the Pie’ on a leaf. I was on my second leaf, detailing the many hazards that had been encountered whilst on our journey from idea to pie, when a crunch sounded from beside me and a slightly flour covered leaf dropped onto my lap. I turned it over and read ‘one cherry pie to be consumed at your own risk’. I looked up at my sister, who was holding one slightly misshapen but glorious smelling pie, and two large spoons. She had flour still in her hair and all down her clothes, we both did.
“I think it’s cooled quite enough” she said as she sat next to me and handed me a spoon. I set down my pen and handed the leaves over to Erin. She placed the pie between us and we dug in. Between mouthfuls of pie she read from the leaf. “The Pie – the harrowing account of two hero’s epic journey from idea to pie. What started off as nothing more than a girl’s basic instinctual need for pie soon took a turn for the adventurous when they realised the perils they must face to create what they needed. From flour fights to bad internet connection, can they overcome the challenges of pie? Find out on the next leaf.” She laughed out loud, “You forgot the deadly temptation of store-bought pie!”
I nearly choked on my mouthful of pie as I laughed. “I didn’t want to give away all the surprises on the first leaf!”
She smiled, “This pie is fantastic though, at least the story has a happy ending.”
“Happy endings are just cliff-hangers” I said pointing my spoon at her, “We may still get food poisoning yet.”
We sat with our backs against the tree, enjoying our hard-earned pie. This was my favourite time of year, me and my sister, relaxing under our tree, reading books and writing our own stories on the autumn leaves.
“I think Will likes you.” Erin said after a while.
I blushed, “He’s older, he probably took pity on me because I was the youngest at the party.”
“No way,” She said throwing a handful of leaves at me. “Rachel’s sister was there and she’s in the year below you.”
“He’s more likely to be interested in you, or any of those pretty girls that spend their time ogling him.”
“You know I’m not interested,” She said “And anyway, he spent the entire time either with you or ogling you from across the room. I’ve never seen him like that. I mean he’s had girlfriends and he’s nice to pretty much everyone but he’s never looked so smitten.”
“Don’t be ridiculous! He’s not smitten.” But even as I said it, I smiled at the thought of him looking at me at the party. He was such a great guy, and I did really like him.
“Look at you!” She cried, a massive grin spreading across her face. “You totally like him! You’re so smitten yourself!”
“I am not!” I said throwing leaves back at her. And it was true, I wasn’t smitten. I liked him but I just wasn’t interested in anything romantic.
She laughed and settled back against the tree, still smiling. “Smitten kitten.” She muttered.
I laughed myself and settled down next to her, pulling our blanket over our legs.
We fell asleep there, dozing as we often did on a chilly autumn evening, together with full bellies and calm hearts.
“Ally Ally Alice?” sang a sweet high pitched voice in Alice’s ear.
Alice opened her eyes to the big warm eyes of the little girl. “What happened?” She asked.
“You fell over and then you were muttering about pie. Can I call you Ally?”
Alice sat up suddenly, her head spinning. Erin. Her sister. How had she not remembered her? A pain was growing in her head. Something about her sister. There was something she needed to remember.
Alice stood up stumbling. A feeling of dread came over her, she couldn’t remember. And worse, part of her didn’t want to. Alice put a hand to her face and found she was crying. No no no, she thought. She couldn’t handle this right now. A cold breeze made Alice shiver and the suns light muted as it disappeared behind a cloud.
“The rabbit says you’re not ready!” cried the girl.
Alice looked down at her stricken face, the girl looked truly scared. Alice glanced around and saw that a huge black cloud had blotted out the sun and shadows covered the garden, it beautiful colours washed out in the darkness. The forest she’d noticed earlier off to the far left seemed closer and the shadows between the trees made her shiver.
Alice was scared, but she couldn’t shake the intense feelings of loneliness and confusion that had overcome her. She just wanted to curl up and cry and she didn’t even know why.
Suddenly the wind stopped blowing and everything was silent. Alice looked down at the little girl who was staring, frozen in horror, over at the forest. “What is it?” Alice asked, not sure she actually wanted to know the answer.
The little girl looked up at her, the fear clear in her eyes and whispered, “There are monsters in the forest.”