By Darian Beahan (Sun Valley High School, Aston, PA)
“How long has he been gone now?” Arra-Bella knew the answer, but hearing it again might remind her of how desperately they need to find him before it was too late.
“Almost a week,” Jebel said. “And we don’t have much time. The clock is ticking, and legend has it that if people go missing around here, they’re gone for good.” Jebel squeezed her hand.
“Are you sure Jonah went this way yesterday?”
“I’m positive.” Jebel stared down the path that the woods created. Even someone as smart as Jonah could have easily gotten lost here. The path was a dark abyss. It was October 25th, 1061. The wind chill was piercing, and the howl it made when it thrust through the trees was loud and shrill. The trees were so tall that the siblings could scarcely see the night sky above. Eleven-year-old Arra-Bella had always felt protected around her seventeen-year-old brother, but now, not even Jebel could calm her.
They linked hands and took off down the path. Jebel felt weak, as he had resorted to seeking comfort from his eleven-year-old sister’s presence. The woods spelled out nothing but danger, and fear crept up through their bodies like a spider would slowly crawl up ones spine.
“What is that?” Arra-Bella pointed at a nearby field of grass. There were about five wooden, larger-than-life sized figures. They were in the shape of donkeys.
“I don’t know, just disregard it. It’s not important. I want to find Jonah.” And they walked on. About each mile that they walked, there seemed to be more and more of these figures popping up along the path, getting larger as they walked. In one field, there were so many of these figures that the siblings stopped to look around. The eerie atmosphere filled the air like fog, and the siblings couldn’t help but feel as if they were being watched. Arra-Bella turned and crept behind a tree.
“Uhh… Jebel,” Arra-Bella stammered. “Jebel, you might want to have a look at this.”
Jebel, torch in hand, spun around with a sigh of annoyance. “What, Bella. What is it now?”
Arra-Bella pushed back a few over-grown tree roots and fallen leaves. It unmasked a wooden door, stained with dirt and mud.
“What the…” Jebel couldn’t believe his eyes. “What is this? Huh? What is this?” he grabbed her shoulders and began shaking her in frustration and fear.
“I know just as much as you do!” She held up her hands in front of her face. “Please don’t hurt me! I just found it! I don’t know if it will help!”
He immediately felt guilty for letting go of his equilibrium in front of her. The entire trip, Jebel’s goal was to keep calm as possible. He could not fall into panic in front of her.
“Should I open it?” Arra-Bella whispered.
“Stay put.” Jebel ordered. “I’ll have a look inside. But don’t move.”
“But… what… you’re not just gonna leave me…”
“Stay put!” Jebel demanded. Arra-Bella shut her mouth as her brother slowly pushed the door open.
Jebel stepped inside of the door, torch in hand, and felt as though he had stumbled into a torture chamber during the Spanish Inquisition. Pictures of the wooden donkey figures they had seen in the woods were nailed to each wall. There were weapons strung up on the walls, decaying bodies and piles of skeletons burying the rugs. On each dead body, a piece of skin was cut out in the shape of a donkey. Fear electrified his body. He had to hold his feet up to keep from falling to the ground in a shaking panic. A faint shrill which progressed into a loud shriek stung his ears, and he instantly recognized it as the scream of his sister. He dropped the torch to the ground and ran, sprinting towards the door. He was nearly at the door when it slammed shut. Not gradually, but all at once, creating a loud bang. He could no longer hear the scream of his sister or the howl of the wind. The room was silent. His torch extinguished as soon as he dropped it to the floor, and the room was completely dark. He was blinded.
“Arra-Bella!” He heard no reply.
Jebel and Arra-Bella were tied, strung up 20 feet high in the trees, on each side of Jonah’s rotting body. A piece of skin in the shape of a donkey was carved out of Jonah’s cheek. The elves stood on the ground, chanting, pitchforks and torches in hand, thirsty for their blood. There were so many of them, at least a thousand. They were small, no more than two feet high. They had dark blue skin, solid black eyes, and yellow, penetrating pupils. They formed an ocean below Arra-Bella and Jebel. An elf, much taller than the others of the mob, emerged from the crowd. The elves parted to create a path for the tall elf, almost as if parting the red seas. He stared up and Jebel and Arra-Bella, and smirked. “Who has captured the humans?”
“My King, Isaac and I have captured the humans,” two of the elves presented themselves to the king and bowed down to his feet, glowing with pride. A loud applause came from the crowd. The king took out a long sword from his black robe, and tapped each of them on the head twice.
“Sir Issac and Sir Jeremiah. Shall the two of you do the honor of the disposal?”
Jebel and Arra-Bella had given up all hope of rescue as they stared into the eyes of their dead brother. Arra-Bella quietly weeped. Jebel turned to her.
“I love you,” Jebel crept up out of his throat. “Be brave, for me and for Jonah.”
Arra-Bella choked back her tears. “I’ll be brave for you two if you be brave for me.”
Jeremiah and Issac had dreamed of this moment ever since The King was crowned. His inauguration speech still echoed in their heads.
Anyone of The Clan of the Donkey who captures a human shall be knighted and rewarded with lifelong respect, wealth, and fame.
“Are we ready?” The king shouted, and handed his sword to Jeremiah.
Isaac smirked at Jeremiah, ready to make their lifelong dream a reality. Jeremiah took a deep breath, and proudly raised his sword.