The World of Nelson Gap

This page is devoted to short stories, sketches, and explorations of the fictional town of Nelson Gap, which is the setting for The Hidden World novel as well as other shorter paranormal adventures.

To get things started, here is the first part of a short story.

The Forest Girl

This is the first of four installments of a revised short story. It is aimed at a young audience but should be fun regardless of age.

Lisa Browning enjoyed winter more than any other season. She loved the crisp air, the brisk evenings, and fresh snow blanketing her backyard and the woods behind her house. This winter was even more enjoyable because a boy at school had asked her out and she had a new friend who lived near her. As she had done the last few Saturdays, Lisa pulled on her Uggs, put on her favorite wool Burberry coat and head wrap, grabbed her cell phone and iPod, and raced out into the snow, excited to learn more about her strange new friend, who was unlike any she had ever known, with a name like no other friend— Cerridwen. What a beautifully odd name, but Cerridwen’s family was beautifully odd too, Lisa thought. They spoke in very soft tones and had deep green eyes, and they whispered to the plants in their house as if the plants were people, saying that it helped the plants grow. Lately though, she and her close friend and neighbor, Lance, had noticed Cerridwen’s behavior becoming even stranger than normal, but the family seemed nice, and there was so much to discover about them and Cerridwen. It was a little more than a half-mile to Cerridwen’s house, but it was a beautiful walk. Lisa always took the creek path through the woods. Her backyard, as well as Lance’s and Cerridwen’s, was accessible from the path, so she decided she might stop by Lance’s after her visit with Cerridwen. He always seemed interested in her anyway.

Lance Carpenter also liked this winter more than any other, for the same reason as Lisa— Cerridwen, whose long hair and brown eyes mesmerized him. She moved in a manner different than any girl he knew; everything she did seemed effortless. She was also mysterious. She could appear without warning. Once when Lance was walking home on the footpath by the stream that runs through the woods, he was startled to see her running ahead of him, even though seconds before she had been nowhere in sight. Another odd thing is cold air didn’t bother her. Lance had never once seen Cerridwen wearing a coat. She usually wore jeans, sandals, and a long-sleeve shirt with the shirttail out and the sleeves rolled up. She had a tomboy appearance, but her eyes – those eyes – could melt a guy in his tracks. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to talk to her or call her. There was something a little bit unnatural about her. It sounded harsh, but that was what he felt. He was drawn to her, but was wary of her at the same time. Maybe it would be wise to just observe her from a distance for a while, see what others said about her, before he made a move. Nevertheless, he had some homework to catch up on, so sitting in his room by the window looking out over the woods and the stream was a good place to be for now, with his nose in his books, trying to get Cerridwen out of his head.

When Lisa arrived at Cerridwen’s house, it was her parents who greeted her. They were on the back deck looking toward the woods and stream. Lisa wasn’t certain, but it looked as if their appearance had changed since she last visited; their hair seemed stiffer and their complexion darker. They turned to Lisa when they heard her coming up the path to the back deck.
“Well hello, Lisa,” said Cerridwen’s father. “Lovely to see you here again. We were just looking for Cerri.” Her parents often called Cerrridwen, Cerri. “She’s excited about your visit. It was all she talked of last night. It seems your friendship has taken root.”

Lisa smiled and removed her earphones. “Yeah, we get along really well. She’s cool. Not like any other friend I have.”

Cerridwen’s parents looked at each other then back to Lisa. “We’re not surprised,” said the mother. “She is unique. We … think … the … world …of …her.” Cerridwen’s mother spoke in a wispy, mesmerizing tone. “Be careful, though. Don’t let Cerri take control of you. She doesn’t have many friends.” Lisa caught herself becoming hypnotized and leaning forward to hear her. Then Lisa shook her head and came back to herself.

“Yeah,” Lisa muttered. “No problem. Uhh, yes mam.”

Lisa saw the parents’ concentration was on the forest edge again. She turned to see the object of their gaze. To Lisa’s surprise, Cerridwen emerged from a row of shrubs about fifty yards away–near the section of path Lisa had just been on. She waved to her parents, who gently waved back. Cerridwen ran smiling across the backyard to the deck and up to Lisa, whom she was delighted to see. Lisa, on the other hand, noticed that Cerridwen’s complexion was changing before her eyes. Her face went from a tawny light brown to her usual creamy flesh tone with blushed cheeks. Lisa rubbed her eyes with her thumb and forefinger to make sure she was seeing clearly. Does this chic have a blood condition or something? Lisa thought to herself.

Cerridwen and her parents entered the house; Lisa trailed behind. She wasn’t expecting to have dinner with the family, but the dining table was set and a wonderful aroma filled the house.

“Hope you like mushroom soup,” said Cerridwen, as she pulled out a dining chair from the table for Lisa.

Lisa felt she didn’t have much choice, and the offer was very kind. “Uh … sure, she replied. “I love mushrooms. I have them on pizza all the time.”

Cerridwen turned to her mother. “See mother. Lisa likes pizza too, and with mushrooms. Why can’t we have that?”

Cerridwen’s father took his seat and quietly responded. “Cerri, you know there are certain foods that aren’t healthy for you.” He turned to Lisa. “No offense to you Lisa. But we prefer not to eat foods with dairy products.”

Lisa looked at everyone around the table. “Oh, no problem. My mom is lactose intolerant, too. Pizza is my thing, not hers.”

“I see,” replied Cerridwen’s father. “So, you see Cerri, dairy is not good for everyone.”

Lisa looked over at Cerridwen, who was pouting and digging her spoon into the tabletop.  Cerridwen’s mother looked reproachfully at Cerridwen. “Cerri, none of that. You have a friend here.”

Cerridwen turned to Lisa and smiled. Lisa felt painfully awkward. Wasn’t Cerridwen a bit too old to get upset about pizza? Lisa thought.

Cerridwen sipped her mushroom broth and looked repeatedly at Lisa. “Did you bring your music thing?” she said.

Lisa knew it was her iPod that Cerridwen was interested in. As she turned to take it out of her coat pocket, she glanced at the family, who were all drinking tall glasses of water without stopping. She had never seen anyone drink so much without having to stop to swallow. She leaned over to Cerridwen, who had just finished her water. “Here,” she said. “I just put new music on it today.”

Cerridwen quickly grabbed the iPod and headphones and in seconds was swaying from one side to another in her seat, completely entranced by the music. Lisa and Cerridwen excused themselves from the table and went to Cerridwen’s room.

–to be continued–