Unlike other schools, our school didn’t have a backdoor. Everyone and everything entered and exited through the front door. Parking lot? It was next to the main building. There was a locked fence built around it, but the fence was not made for keeping people out. It was made for keeping wild animals out—bears, for instance. It was for the same reason that the school didn’t have a backdoor. Not far behind the school was a forest. To ensure safety, everyone was to use the front, so that students would not be pouring into the forest whenever school ended.
Why was the school built there in the first place? I’d thought of this question numerous times, each time a student was reported missing or each time somebody let curiosity get the better of them and enter that forest. Whoever went in, would either never return, or return all black and blue. There was no myth about what was in the forest—forests, after all, were wild places, and it would be certainly dangerous to go in alone, or even with a group of friends. Why was the school built there in the first place? There were rumors, but rumors stayed as rumors.
Legend, he went into the forest every day after school—every single day. But each day, he would come to school all fine and unscathed, as if he were anyone else who hadn’t decided to take that risk. I was sure he went into the forest, because I watched him disappear into the trees, but every day, when he came to school, there was not a single visible wound on him.
That would make anyone suspicious, right?
One day, I decided to follow him—against my better judgment.
To stay out of sight, I wore darker clothes that day, and brought with me a black cloak that I’d once used as my Halloween costume. When the bell rang, I began tailing him, following everybody out of the school first, and then throwing the cloak on as soon as I stepped into the forest. My footsteps matched his, and I was a bit of a distance behind him, so he must not have noticed me. I’d never gone to the forest before, and I’d assumed it would have twigs poking out everywhere, with bugs and some wild animals. Judging from how people—except Legend, that is—always returned with some sort of wound, I’d thought it would be dangerous.
But the forest was surprisingly peaceful. No beasts, nothing stabbing at my feet, nothing malicious in general. Legend was walking a dozen steps ahead, the path that his feet treaded on seemed well-paved, further confirming my previous observations of him having gone there every day after school. Roads are created from people’s footsteps. Had it been a foreign path, it wouldn’t be clear of grass and other plants as if it were a built road.
I wasn’t sure how long I’d followed him, but at some point, maybe half an hour or so later, he arrived at a clearing. There, someone was waiting for him. The person wore a mask, which kept his face covered save for his pitch black eyes. He was wearing a hat too, so that I couldn’t catch a glimpse of his hair. He wore a suit, and black gloves. In fact, all that I could see of him was his eyes. They were like two black holes, black covering the spaces where the whites of his eyes should have been.
The man—I supposed he was a man—bowed to Legend, without speaking.
“Have you confirmed it?” Legend asked him, without a greeting.
The man nodded once, solemnly. He recited something.
“Met under the sparkling tree,
Eyes that remind one of tears,
Name that one cannot speak,
Hair with a rebellious streak.”
“That was the prophecy, sir,” the man explained. “As you have heard a thousand times. The crystal ball led us to this world, in this spot, at this time. Have you located your prey, sir?”
Legend lowered his head for a brief moment. When he raised it again, he said, “Jessibellanice Ashmck.”