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  1. Zachariah’s Orchard

    By Tanner Dessert
    “In those moments of which we sleep, spirits of the mind we all do keep, breaking forth from the bonds of their nestled tier, create a reality of which we only know fear..”

    Chapter 1
    Trips thought long by others were of my normal routine during the fall weather months as my master often sent me to far away places. I was to be arriving at the house of Montgomery Theophilus just beyond the northern border of New England on the morn of September 2nd. The young stepper of which I was mounted couldn’t have been more suited for someone of better skill than I and often sidestepped, threatening to force me to the ground. Being of tired mind and body, I was not in the mood to be bucked off in the woods not long after the sun had left the sky.

    In contrast to the normality of New England nights this one seemed rather quiet; the only sound to be heard was the quiet rustling of the leaves as the wind ran through them. It was startling to me then to hear the distant chime of a church bell, as I was not aware of any towns on my route for another 50 miles or so. Brushing this thought aside I continued on assuming that the sound was being carried by the winds from Dixville Notch, just twelve miles to the East. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I wasn’t aware of the animal cutting across the path spooking the horse. I couldn’t control him any longer. My mount broke as the great beast threw itself towards the sky with fearsome strength. I was no longer on his back but rather on the ground facing the heavens. The serenity of the stars captivated me for a moment allowing me time to gather myself.

    Standing up, I brushed the dirt from my vestments and attempted to get my bearings. From what I could make out in the dark I was surrounded by maple, birch and hemlocks. They almost seemed to bear down on me with an ominous presence about them causing great disconcert. Starting to walk down the road I let my mind wander to ward off the uneasiness that had settled in my stomach. Had it not been for the animal I was riding would I have feared this place all along? Or would I take stride to my heightened heartbeat and tromp down the path with dignity?

    My thoughts were interrupted after some time by a touch to my shoulder. I spun around with the intention of fighting a highwayman but alas it was nothing. Drawing in another breath I began to turn back around when something seemed to take hold of my wrist with a painfully tight grip. It would not let go no matter how much I struggled and pulled. Even though I could not see whatever it was I assumed it was a man of about my age attempting to rob me blind. Something struck me in the back of the head and the same stars that had been in my view hours ago seemed to appear right before my eyes once more.

    Chapter 2

    I had heard stories from my grandmother before she had passed about human-like creatures called trolls that attack and steal from you when you’re the most vulnerable. I never believed any of it until I awoke somewhere in the woods being pulled by my feet. My head hit a rock and I yelped. The sound startled my assailants causing them to take off into the woods leaving me to fend for myself while the back of my head was in great pain and throbbed violently. Touching the spot with my fingertips I confirmed that I wasn’t bleeding and grabbing at a low hanging branch I pulled myself to my feet.

    The preceding events left me with unease and a sickness in my gut and on the back of my head. Not knowing whether my assailants had fled the expanse of woods surrounding me I decided not to remain and discover their location. That's not to say I wasn't the least bit inspired to unearth them from the guise under which they hid but I was not in health of body or mind to do so. That would be a matter for another day or possibly even never. So being that I was partly delirious I stumbled through the woods in a fog slowly losing consciousness along the way. I tripped over something in the dark and fell head first, sliding down a hill side for what felt like an eternity and eventually came to rest in a ditch of sorts. I felt a pain course through my very veins and decided I'd best stay where I was for the night in repose.

    My slow descent into a nocturnal peace of mind gave me enough duration to contemplate the reality I faced. The forest that was currently beholding me was that of generous size and vivacity, stifling only during the biting winter season yet still bubbling with different tiers of life. A ditch as it seemed was my cradle; a bed of which I could call my own. A temporal tomb of which I could only know what stood directly before mine own eyes but not what lie beyond the hideous yet winsome demon called the dark. This bed as it were, offered protection from the wind pulsing overhead and gave a comfort normally felt when a babe is held by it's mother but never one given by a fault in the earth. A strange sense of derision overcame me as I bore witness to an angelic shadow up above me. Slowly it descended down to my hollow grave with a nefarious countenance about it's form and came to rest upon my body. It's gentle and sleek lips came to rest upon my own with the delicate grace of nobility beyond anyone I could entrap myself and brought forth a diversity of emotions which would inevitably pull me under a spell. Gracefully and impertinently the shadow figure left on the same route that it had arrived, ascending into the black above me and once more leaving me to view the beautiful sea of stars and empty space.

    I was awoken abruptly by the toll of a town bell in the vicinity of where I had laid to rest the night prior. Feeling like I had been in a drunken stupor, I sat up groggily and scanned my surroundings. The soft sunlight peering through the trees gave me a feeling of renewed strength and vigor regardless of any pain I felt and the sound of a nearby bell gave me a sense of safety. My legs were sore but I hurriedly got to my feet and sprinted through the forest without stumbling too much. Twigs and small branches scratched at my face and hands but I didn't pay mind to them, I

    only wanted to get to town and relay that of the horrible events and my goods that were stolen. Maybe even secure a group to scour the woods for the bandits or beasts who committed these crimes. A thought occurs. What if I were to come across a village of bandits, the very creatures that may have attacked me?

    I slowed my pace as the chimes became clearer and louder. One wonders why this bell would be rung for such a seemingly long time but a man desperate for the help of others pays no mind to these trifling thoughts. I pushed through the trees and slipped once more down a bank but this time it didn't knock me off my feet. Instead it pulled me a yard down onto a small dirt road that was being taken back by the forest. The mist that clung so heavily to the earth was breathtaking in it's beauty. Who knew that a mist so thick in nature could bring about thoughts of peace, fear, love and desolation. These thoughts crowded my mind but left in a hurry. I was taken aback by the spell I had been under and decided to press on towards the ringing bell I sought after.

    The track brought me not more than a half mile through the trees to a stone wall parted only by a cast iron gate. I was dispirited but not deterred from finding the bell of which I now craved with an odd desire. This gate was the only obstacle I had to currently overcome but not so much on a physical level rather a mental fault that dug deep into my core. Rusted beyond use, the latch wouldn't budge so I had to scale the stone precipice that was not much more than the height of two grown men. It took some doing but I managed to jump the wall and slowly climb down the other side with only minor cuts to the hands. Standing on the other side I looked down to reveal that something had in fact torn a hole in my coat. The bell had gone silent some moments ago and from this side of the barrier I knew this wasn't some town I had been in search of, but of something much grander and spectacular. Something that would change the look of the world and the very human race itself beyond anything any one person could imagine. I was to be part of some fantastical journey that I have yet to discern myself.