Prompt: “When was the last time you got lost?”
“Louise! Louise, where are you?” Louise’s father, Martin, yelled from the back entryway of the garden.
“I bet she ran into the woods again,” Melody said inspecting her white gloves.
“Louise!” Martin yelled.
“It’s no use darling. Just have Mr. Mason go into the woods and find her,” Melody said with a sigh.
Martin turned to his wife, “You know that Mr. Mason is busy setting up for the garden party as long with the rest of the staff.”
“Well we can’t have the party without Louise,” Melody said. “What’s the whole point of a 8th Birthday party if the birthday girl doesn’t show her face?”
“Don’t worry, I will go get here,” Martin said.
“Make sure she isn’t filthy,” Melody said. “I need to go check on the horderves and the flower arrangements.”
Melody stood and made her way towards the large glass doors of the estate. Housekeepers and maids ran back and forth carrying platters of food and finishing up the table centerpieces. Banners and streams filled the garden and a group of live musicians were warming up. Now all that was missing was the waves of important guests that would be showing up any minute now and the birthday girl.
Louise had a habit of roaming the grounds of the estate and frequenting the woods on the Northern edge of the land the Penweathers owned. This was supposed to be a day of celebration and jubilation, but it quickly turned into a manhunt for Louise.
Beverley, Louise’s mentor, stood by Martin Penweather, not saying anything.
Finally she spoke up, “I’m….I’m sorry… she was right here and then she ran off… and…”
Martin raised his hand. “It’s ok Beverley, I know she can be a handful.”
“Yes sir,” Beverley hung her head. Tears welled up at the edges of her eyes.
“Don’t worry, I am not my wife. I understand mistakes happen,” Martin said trying to reassure her. “Now if you can, fetch my horse and have it brought to me. I have to go find her.”
“Yes sir,” Beverley said before hurrying off.
Louise had planted herself on a mossy rock. Her dress was stained with mud and dirt and she had little twigs stuck in her dress, her socks, and her hair. She had spent the last few minutes stomping through mud and crawling over a large tree that had fallen in the woods. She presumed that this happened during the last large storm that had swept across the countryside.
After all this crawling around and adventuring in the woods, she had stumbled what looked like a large, moss covered rock. However she noticed that this rock seemed to be breathing.
“Hello?” Louise asked again.
The rock seemed to move a bit and raised its head. It resembled some kind of mammal similar to the Polar Bears Louise’s father had shown her in books.
It looked around for a second before its eyes focused on Louise.
It gave her a puzzled look and then spoke to her. Its voice reached Louise’s ears but it didn’t seem to originate from its mouth. It was almost a sourceless sound that Louise assumed came from the creature.
“Are you talking to me?” It asked.
“Well who else would I be talking to?” Louise asked it.
It made a face that Louise couldn’t really interpret, but she was sure this was some kind of bear or maybe a tree.
“Who are you?” The disembodied voice asked.
“My name is Louise Penweather. Today is my 8th birthday. Mom made we wear this dumb dress for some dumb party. But here I am in the woods.”
The creature stirred a little more and stretched out its front paws. Little moths flew off of the beast’s back.
“8 years old?” The creature asked.
“Yeah,” Louise said with a sigh. She started to pluck petals off a nearby flower.
“Please stop that. The flower doesn’t care for that at all.”
Louise stopped and looked up at the creature which was now all all four of its paws.
“Oh sorry. I didn’t realize that the flower could…feel it,” Louise said.
“Of course it can. So can the rock you are sitting on.”
Louise jumped up on her feet. Her size was tiny compared to the large creature.
The beast sat back on its butt with its hind legs extended. It sat there and shook it fur for a second which released a few more moths from its fur.
At this angle Louise was able to see the creature better. It looked almost exactly like the Polar Bear she had seen in the book but it looked to be twice or even three times as large. Its fur was dark brown that was just a little lighter than black. It had several small bushes, moss, and toadstools growing on its back and its entire body seemed covered or wrapped in some kind of greenery. It eyes were blue like the clear sky.
“Most people don’t pay me mind. They just see a boulder or a small hill and pass on by,” The bear spoke without moving its mouth.
“Sounds pretty lonely,” Louise said. “But sometimes I wish that my Mom couldn’t see me.”
The bear reached up with its front claws and scratched itself behind its ear.
“Your problems bore me. Tell me who have you the ability to see me,” The bear said.
“What?” Louise asked it.
“Did some kind of spirit give you the power or maybe your heritage is full of magic users,” The bear said.
“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Louise took a step back.
The bear then shifted and move onto his four paws.
“Where are you going child?” The bear took a step forward.
“I need to go,” Louise said.
She turned and began running out of the woods. The ground was wet and spongy and her flats did not have a ton of traction, but she ran as fast as she could. As she ran small twigs and thorns caught her dress, but she kept on running as the fabric tore.
She heard the voice. “Come back here, child. I must know your secret.”
Louise did not stop running. She ran and ran until the bear was far behind her. She glanced back as she ran, but she did not see anything pursuing her.
Finally she burst from the woods into the sunny field. She stopped to catch her breath a few feet out from the woods.
Louise turned to see her father approaching on horseback.
“Father! Father!” Louise called out.
She ran through the field in the direction of her father and he brought his horse to a stop.
“Louise, we were calling for you. And just look at your dress. Your mother is going to be furious,” Martin said getting off his horse.
Louise ran up and threw her arms around her father.
Through her short, rapid breaths, Martin could not understand what his daughter was saying.
“Hold on, calm down Louise. What happened?” Martin asked.
Louise pulled back from her father. Tears were streaming down her face.
“There’s a bear. Like the one in the book. But big and covered in moss. And I thought it was a rock. And it asked me if I could see it. And then it asked if I had magic,” Louise said.
Martin Penweather looked down at his distraught daughter. He didn’t really understand what she was saying, but the look of desperation and fear was enough for him. He looked out into the woods, but he didn’t see anything suspicious.
“Come on, Louise. Let’s get you back to the house so you can change and get ready for your party,” Martin said.
Louise sniffled and wiped her eyes. She gave a nod.
Martin lifted Louise up onto the horse’s saddle and then he hopped on after her. Louise looked out into the woods and two sky blue eyes were staring back.
Louise clung to her father’s arm around her as they rode back towards Penweather Manor. Those eyes and that voice were burned into her brain.