Aquila Children's Magazine The Electric Issue - Page 18

horror as they transformed into black arrowheads – flying straight for my head! I stumbled backwards and felt the rough bark at my back. And before I could move again, two arm-like branches clamped over my chest. Part 2 It’s the day of The Hunt and Libby has drawn the short straw. It’s her turn to enter the wood in the attempt to rescue Megan, the young girl who had been stolen by the Wood Demon years before. Will Libby succeed and reunite Megan with her family; or will she return, like all the others before her, empty-handed except for the nightmares that will haunt her forever more? T he old rhyme echoed in my mind. I don’t think anyone in the village knew exactly what it meant, except it spoke of a terrible thing. The Wood Demon was a half-forgotten story to scare us. “Behave yourself or the Wood Demon will get you,” Mother would say. Then one day the Wood Demon stopped being a story. Barns were flattened, roofs smashed. It was as if she was searching wildly for something. Finally she found it: Megan. Megan and I had been friends. She was brave and daring. No one knew why the Wood Demon took her. Since that day, the trees had been strangely wakened, like bark-encrusted guardians. They wouldn’t allow anyone to enter except for one day a year – Hunt Day. Then a child was allowed in to search. But no one ever found Megan. Now here I was. Walking slowly through this terrifying place with no 18 idea where I was headed. This wood was evil. Tricking my mind, deceiving my senses. The Wood Demon was playing a twisted game. I wanted to run away but the thought of Megan spurred me on. I was her only chance this year. I couldn’t let her down. A cold breeze came towards me. What was happening now? I had to be brave. The treetops leaned closer. The wood darkened. The Wood Demon’s net was closing in. My heart thumped. The breeze became stronger, colder and I shivered. I looked left but with a sudden swish, the trees lowered their branches and formed a barrier. I looked right. The trees on that side did the same. I was trapped. There was only one way to go: back. I remembered the message in the box when I entered the wood. Never look backwards for you will find Things look very different when seen from behind. The Wood Demon was playing games again. Slowly, I looked behind. A black cloud of bats appeared. I watched in I wriggled, yelled, pounded the branches but the tree’s grip tightened. The arrow- bats sped closer but I would not close my eyes. I would not give in to fear. “Do you see?” I yelled. “I will not be afraid! I will not play your game!” The arrow-bats came within inches of me…then turned to black smoke, melting into the air. I realised the grasp of the tree had frozen and I quickly wriggled out of its grip. What should I do now? I looked around. Nearby was the widest tree in the wood and it captivated me. Its smooth bark was flecked with black, as if it had been struck by lightning, but had absorbed the power rather than been weakened by it. I knew this was the centre of the Wood Demon’s world. Without knowing, I’d been walking towards the tree since I entered the wood. Now I stood beside the tree. A strange energy surrounded it, beautiful and terrible, attracting me. I circled the tree, without meaning to, my eyes fixed on the bark. The Wood Demon had drawn me here so this tree must be the final battle in