“Look at the pretty flowers!” Dahlia exclaimed as she ran into her father’s arms.
The spirit of spring could be found in every nook and cranny throughout the meadow. Silas smiled at his daughter as she stared in awe at the large bouquet of flowers that she had just picked.
“Mommy’s going to be so surprised, darling,” Silas whispered as he lightly traced his finger down the ridge of Dahlia’s nose.
Gently opening his hand, he revealed a purple butterfly and placed it onto Dahlia’s bouquet. “See, darling, nature is beautiful if you are respectful and kind.”
Dahlia let out a giggle and reached out to touch the butterfly. Before she could make contact, a slight gust of wind blew her hair into her face, scaring her and causing her to cry.
“It’s alright, Dahlia. Come here,” Silas cooed as he hugged her. “Let’s go bring these home now, okay?”
Hand in hand, the two walked down the rocky path that led to their little bungalow.
“For the last time, Dahlia, I told you not to bring this nonsense into my house!”
After hearing her mother’s shout, Dahlia crept up the stairs and reluctantly stepped into her bedroom. Her room was in shambles; clothes were thrown all over the floor, books lay open and lifeless on the ground, and her bed had been moved across the room. After taking in the ruins that were once her bedroom, she balled up her fists and turned to face her mom, Dysnomia.
“Why are you going through my room? I can’t have anything in this house because of you.” Dahlia quickly pushed past her mother and lifted up her mattress. “Where is it?” she demanded, her eyes burning with the fire of her soul.
Dysnomia cocked her head to the side and began to laugh at her daughter. “Are you serious? You don’t need to keep fantasizing about the past. It’s time for you to grow up and move on with your life.”
Holding back tears, Dahlia ran out of her room and down the stairs. She quickly unlocked the front door and breathed in the fresh air. She was startled by a clicking noise coming from behind her.
“I’m tired of this, Dahlia. If it wasn’t for Silas and his deception, I wouldn’t even have had you,” Dysnomia called from the window. “I’ll unlock this door once you learn how to be grateful and apologize.”
Silence. Dahlia could not even get a word out to yell back at her mother. All she could think about was the dried flower that was hidden under her mattress. She couldn’t believe that her mother would have taken something so precious away from her. Silas had given it to her before… The accident. Wiping away a final tear, Dahlia summoned the courage to walk. Walks always helped clear her mind.
As Dahlia’s heartbeat returned to normal and her breathing slowed, she walked away from her house, towards the river.
Silas headed home with a stack of firewood and a huge grin on his face. He replayed his moments with her over and over again in his head, smiling a bit more each time.
“I love you so much,” he whispered under his breath.
Silas heard a twig snap in the distance. He got onto his knees and began to hum, attempting to lure the rabbit or squirrel over to him. For a while, he heard nothing more from the small creature, and right as he was about to give up, the leaves on the bushes rustled right beside him.
“I found you,” he whispered, slowly inching towards the bushes.
“Silas, watch out!”
Silas’ scream echoed through the forest. Right as he stood to look around for the voice, a large tree came crashing down onto him, killing him instantly.
Dahlia stared at the river, taking in the beauty of the bright blues and greens that appeared where the sun hit the water. She walked alongside the river and eventually sat down on a large rock and began to cry. She missed her father dearly and felt as though she had failed to protect that last piece of him that she had. A bird flew above her head and she started to panic, swatting the bird away. It was at this moment that Dahlia began to fear that her mother had been right about her warnings all along.
Dahlia ran around a tree stump, laughing and singing happily while looking up at the sky. After a few laps around, she became dizzy and fell onto the ground. The clouds above her seemed to form different forest animals and she smiled widely once she spotted a cloud that resembled a fox.
“Fox…,” she said to herself quietly.
She had just learned the word for the animal after spotting one from her window. Dahlia had never seen such a vibrant orange colour and she immediately fell in love with the creature. Her father told her a story from his youth where he had a fox as a pet. They played together in his room every day until the fox escaped through the kitchen door after his mother had left it open to air out the house.
Dahlia stared at the sky until she could no longer keep her eyes open and she drifted into sleep on the grass.
Hours later, Dahlia was woken up by someone tugging her by her hair. She started to cry and peered up to see her mother angrily pulling on her hair.
“How many times do I have to tell you, Dahlia? The forest is not a safe place for children. What would have happened if you were taken by the monster?” Dysnomia asked while pulling her up by the neck of her shirt. “Head on home and go straight to bed. I don’t want to see you right now.”
The young girl could not sleep, she was too shaken up by her mother’s lack of empathy and wanted to be embraced by her father. She quietly pushed open her door and snuck down the stairs. She heard her mother and father speaking; it seemed as though they were having an argument.
“And what? I should’ve just left her out there to be captured! You should be taking better care of her. I heard from the baker’s husband that her niece went missing a few days ago. They should’ve taken Dahlia instead for how much she misbehaves.”
“Do not disrespect my daughter like that. This conversation is over, Dysnomia. Goodnight.”
Dahlia quickly ran up to her room to avoid being caught by her mother and hid under her sheets. Minutes later, her door creaked open and footsteps were heard coming closer to her bed. Silas climbed into bed with his daughter and gave her a kiss on the forehead before snuggling with her and falling asleep.
As nightfall came, Dahlia began walking faster in an attempt to regain her body heat. She began feeling lightheaded and was finding it hard to continue walking. She sat down beside a tree and leaned into it, trying her best to cover up her body with her long dress.
Dahlia was wary of her surroundings, afraid that she may come into contact with the monster that her mother warned her about, and was failing to fall asleep, against her best wishes. Every rustle of leaves or snapping of a twig caused her to sit up in fear and quickly examine the area around her.
Stories of the creature in the forest flooded her mind. Other children were always sharing their ideas of what it looked like and what it was capable of doing. One boy’s story had Dahlia shaking from fear after she heard it.
“The beast has sharp teeth that can pierce through your skin with ease, and big, yellow eyes to watch you from afar. You cannot outrun it. It hears your every move and can run faster than anyone. My uncle told me that he saw it one day while he was out hunting. He said it was around 12 feet tall, but it uses the trees to hide. But never think that you can escape from it. If you are ever able to see the beast, it is only because it has allowed you to.”
A crashing noise came from Dahlia’s left and she quickly stood up and looked over. A purple blanket enclosed her and tightened around her. She screamed and kicked but nothing could get through the darkness. Dahlia closed her eyes and thought about how she should have listened to her mother. She regretted not being able to honour her father’s death. She hated herself for allowing her life to end like this.
But she was fine. Minutes had passed and she was still breathing, her heart was still pumping. She was alive.
Dahlia was still enclosed in darkness, but she reached out to touch the material encasing her. It felt scaly and rough, it reminded her of snake skin. There were always snakes around her father’s garden and she would play with them in secret until her father told her they were dangerous.
She hit the ground with a loud thud. As her eyes readjusted to her surroundings, she began to take in the darkness but could not clearly see yet.
“Welcome, Dahlia,” a female voice uttered. “I’m sorry we had to meet like this. I just didn’t want to risk being seen.”
“Who are you?” Dahlia demanded. “And where am I?”
A tall, slim lady appeared before her. In the dark, her long, white hair seemed to emit a soft glow.
“My name is Minerva,” the strange lady answered soothingly. “You’re in my home, darling.”
Dahlia shuddered at the use of that endearing term. Silas was the only one who called her darling, and the memory of her father quickly brought on a few tears.
When the young girl’s eyes fully adjusted to the darkness around her, she stood up and walked around. She kept one hand extended out from her body, to prevent her from walking into anything. Dahlia stopped abruptly at a wall. As she ran her hands down it, she noticed it was made of wood; natural and unprocessed.
“This is your home?” Asked Dahlia as she turned to face Minerva. “Where is this?”
“Oh, we are currently inside of a large oak tree. Even though it’s hollowed out, it still lives through its own natural strength and magic. Isn’t that amazing?” Minerva answered with a quiet chuckle. “I’m sure you’re quite confused right now. Sit down and I’ll tell you everything. You’re old enough to know the truth now.”
Dahlia sat down against the wall of the tree. She was quite frustrated and was having a lot of trouble understanding what Minerva had told her.
“Why would my mother kill my father? It doesn’t make sense! It’s insane!” Dahlia shouted as she stood up.
“I know it’s a lot to take in. But your father and I were in love,” Minerva explained. “Your mother wasn’t thrilled about it when she found out. Silas came to me that day to tell me that our secret had been revealed. I should’ve known that I would never see him again.”
Minerva quietly drew in a breath of air and let it out in a loud puff. She brushed her hair behind her ear with her fingers and smiled politely at Dahlia.
“Sorry… I just… It’s hard for me too, you know? That day I went down by the river to take a quick dip and I saw your mother sharpening an axe. I quickly collected my belongings and dried off. By the time I caught up with your father, I had little time to help.” Her eyes gazed into the distance with a look of sadness and regret. “ I tried to warn him, but I ended up just distracting him. He paid attention to the bushes when he should have been escaping.”
The white-haired woman wiped a tear from her eye and took a few deep breaths.
“I’ve been watching you ever since you were a child, Darling. You see, there is no beast in the woods. These rumours formed when someone found out about me. But.. they didn’t know the truth,” explained Minerva, as she burst into an array of blinding white light.
Standing before Dahlia in place of Minerva was a dragon that stood over twenty feet tall. The dragon then burst into light and turned back into the beautiful woman that Dahlia had met.
“I have the power to change my form at will. I was with you throughout your life, watching you grow and taking care of you and your father,” said Minerva as she patted down her hair and tossed it over her shoulder.
Minerva slowly reached out towards Dahlia and grabbed her hands. “Come with me, I want to show you something,” she insisted.
The two walked together through what seemed like a labyrinth to Dahlia until they finally began walking into some light.
Dahlia dropped to her knees in awe and began sobbing profusely.
“It’s… a piece of everything your father has ever gotten for me,” Minerva murmured as she gestured towards the numerous colours and shades that danced with the wind.
Dahlia could not believe her eyes. She continued to stare at the beautiful flowers and other plants that seemed to reach up towards the sky and call out her name.
“I know it’s not a lot, but…” Minerva searched through the waistband of her deep-purple dress and presented Dahlia with a folded up piece of paper.
Dahlia carefully took the paper from Minerva and began unfolding it. The first thing that caught her eye was his huge, goofy grin staring back at her. She studied the paper like a wolf tracking a rabbit. Then, the ends of her lips curled into a tiny smile.
“I love you, Dad,” she quietly whispered to the piece of paper.
The drawing looked just like Silas; besides the fact that his nose was just a bit too long and his eyes were a little rounder. But the memory of her father had slowly been erased from her mind over time and Dahlia could not tell the difference anymore.
Minerva wiped a tear from her eye and carefully took Dahlia’s hand and began tugging her towards the garden.
“Come,” she said in a motherly tone. “Let us reminisce about his life and journey in his garden.”
“But I don’t want to go to bed yet! The sun is still up, I want to play a little longer!” Cried a young girl, as she ran across the small living room.
“Don’t be like this, young lady! You know better than to disobey your father,” said the man, as he scratched his beard. “Hurry yourself up or it’ll be worse than last time!”
The little girl quietly picked up her doll and dragged it towards her bedroom. As she lay in her bed, she heard the lock on her door slide into place and the thumping of footsteps walking away from her room. She held onto her doll as the muffled screams started to come, and the banging and crashing noises that terrified her and caused her to have nightmares every time she closed her eyes.
“It’ll all be over soon, Princess Polly,” she whispered to her doll, and she urged herself to believe it as she slowly drifted off to sleep.
When the young girl arose, she quietly exited her room and crept into the living room. Her mother was on the floor with a river of red flowing from her throat. Most of the household items around her were thrown onto the floor and broken.
“Mom!” Screamed the young girl as she fell to her knees and began shaking her mother’s arm.
She could smell him before she even saw him. The strong odor of alcohol that emanated off of her father was enough to make her head hurt and cause her to feel ill.
“Get away from her, brat!” Shouted the man, as he grabbed her by her wrist and forcefully pulled her onto the ground in front of him. “Look what you did! You killed your mother! This is what happens when you don’t go to bed when I tell you to!”
The girl cried and could not get the image of her murdered mother bleeding out onto the floor out of her mind.
As the girl grew up, she became fascinated with death and murder. She began hunting small game such as squirrels and rabbits before moving on to larger animals like deer and moose.
Her father’s voice rang loud and clear in her mind as she murdered all different kinds of animals.
“It’s your fault!” It bellowed. “If only you had behaved, Dysnomia.”
The smell of smoke began to quickly fill the air around the two women and interrupted their odes to Silas. They opened their eyes and were met with a thick, grey layer of smoke surrounding them.
“What’s happening? What did you do?” Questioned Dahlia as she abruptly stood up and began to panic.
“I didn’t do anything! I was here with you the whole time!”
The oranges and yellows and reds of the flames illuminated Dahlia’s face as she realized that she was surrounded by a huge wall of flames. The branches of the huge tree had begun falling off and landing around Dahlia.
“Come with me! Quickly!” Screamed Minerva, as she pulled at a heap of vines that revealed a huge hole in the ground.
As Dahlia began to run, a large branch landed in between her shoulder blades and she became trapped under the pressure of its mass. She looked up to see Minerva fleeing without her.
Dahlia wept as she stared at the mess that her father’s garden had become. The smoke was beginning to make her feel disoriented and dizzy. As she struggled to stay awake, she focused on the huge bed of flowers and thought about Silas.
“Look at the pretty flowers!” Dahlia exclaimed as she ran into her father’s arms.
Why I Wrote This Piece
I was inspired to write this piece after entering the foster care system and realizing that there can always be a lot of secrets that you’re unaware of, even in your own family. Creating this fantasy world with Dahlia and Silas’ strong relationship also helped me to mentally deal with the missing father figure in my life. This story is somewhat based around my own life with a twist and it really helped me to deal with my own thoughts and emotions.