Yonder Woods

The children were excited to be in their new home. They moved in just after Christmas and couldn’t wait to explore the woodland across the street. Jayden was the oldest, but not by much. She and her brother, Micah, were “Irish twins.” Their folks weren’t Catholic. Dad was a pastor and they hoped to fill a quiver with strong arrows. So far they were fulfilling their mission with four children under the age of eight years old. The older kids were able to enjoy a walk through the forest with dad after the boxes were unpacked and the family was settled in. On their first adventure, their younger brother, Elian, who was prone to wander, found a fort made from fallen branches. The kids were thrilled to see a shelter had already been built in their new wooded wonderland!

By summer, Mom had given birth to their next baby brother. Judah displaced Isaiah from his “baby of the family” rank but that didn’t shake him. Isaiah was known as “Isaiah the Brave” because he was fearless—always trying to keep pace with his older siblings. A new babe in the house meant it was time for Isaiah to be potty trained. He embraced the opportunity to be a big boy and quickly appreciated the freedom of toddlerhood, hoping to join his siblings on their adventures.

Jayden, Micah, and Elian told stories of the woods. Isaiah listened with intent, wondering when he could tag along. Jayden loved the songs the trees played as the wind whistled through the barren tree branches. Micah liked to balance on the fallen trees, pretending to be a gymnast competing for a gold medal. Elian simply enjoyed running. He would chase squirrels and rabbits until he was out of breath. Dad enjoyed the peaceful setting where he could work on his message for Sunday morning while the kids played nearby. Mom was happy to have quiet time with the littlest ones. Although Isaiah liked mom time without his older siblings, he wanted to be with them too.

One day Dad took the older kids to check on a new location for Sunday services. They had moved to town to start a new church and it was growing quickly. Mom stayed home to rest with Judah and Isaiah.

Isaiah was growing into a big boy but still needed an afternoon nap. He begged his mother, “Can I play with puzzles in my room? I’m not tired at all!” Judah started crying from the nursery. “Oh my–” Mom sighed. “Someone is awake and hungry.” She reluctantly agreed to let Isaiah play in his room rather than read a storybook until he nodded off.

Delighted to gain a little independence, Isaiah quickly crawled onto his bed with his favorite puzzles. Content for a short while; soon he was bored. Isaiah grabbed a book and thought he might read to himself. He didn’t know how to read but flipped through the pages, trying to remember the words of the story. Isaiah flopped back on his pillow, still bored and wide-awake. As he stared at the ceiling, something flew by the window. It was much larger than a songbird. Isaiah jumped out of bed and ran to the window. He spotted an owl with deep orange feathers and a purple tail, perched on their swing set. The owl winked at Isaiah then flew over the house toward the woods. Isaiah gasped and darted across the hall to the nursery. He peered out the window, trying to find the colorful bird. At the edge of the forest, the owl rested at the top of a barren tree. As soon as Isaiah spotted him, the owl winked and flew into the woods.

“Mom, Mom! Did you see that?” Isaiah exclaimed. His mother was sitting in the rocker but her head rested on the back of the chair and her eyes were closed. Isaiah whispered, “Mom, are you sleeping?” She didn’t flinch.

Isaiah the Brave was ready for his next step of independence. He tiptoed out of the nursery, down the stairs, and snuck out the back door. As soon as he was outside, he zoomed across the street into the forest. Isaiah was excited to find the owl. He darted through the brush as quick as a deer! He was looking up at the trees, searching for the beautiful, enchanted bird and didn’t see the fallen tree in his path. Isaiah tripped over the log, scuffed his shin, and stumbled to the ground.

The fall broke his trance. He sat on the forest floor and looked for the owl. It was quiet– very quiet. Isaiah’s heart was beating hard. He could feel it pounding all the way to his ears! His breath kept pace with his heart as he realized he was alone. A squirrel darted through the leaves nearby, startling Isaiah. It scampered away from him to the safety of a tall tree. Isaiah watched the squirrel intently, wondering if it was enchanted as well. The two stared at one another, neither moving—not even a blink an eye. Isaiah realized he was an ordinary squirrel. He sighed with disappointment, hopped to his feet, and brushed the dirt off his denim overalls. As Isaiah picked twigs from his hair, he noticed a fort in the distance. This must be the place his siblings had talked about!

He made his way to the shelter and beamed with excitement. It was just like Jayden, Micah, and Elian had described! Isaiah noticed seven logs sitting in a circle, each with their names carved into the wood. He was glad to know they anticipated his visit.

Isaiah perched himself on the log bearing his name. He caught his breath and started looking at the treetops again, hoping to see the bright colored owl. Soon Isaiah realized what it was like to be alone—all alone. There wasn’t a sibling in sight to pester or taunt him. He lay down on a mossy patch in the fort to relish his newfound freedom.

Suddenly, the ground let loose and Isaiah dropped into a pit. He looked around to see if there was a way out. It was a shallow hole but deep enough that he could not reach the ground above. The opening was only as big as Isaiah so it was dark. He wasn’t frightened but he wasn’t feeling courageous either. Isaiah felt his way around the burrow. Maybe there was a ladder or something he could climb onto. There seemed to be small tunnels leading to other places underground. The passages were too tiny for Isaiah to fit through, if he were brave enough to try.

His shoe kicked a small something as he shuffled in the darkness. Isaiah bent down to feel for the trinket with his hands. He touched something spongy and soft. He picked it up and squeezed it. It felt familiar— oblong with pointed ends like a football. Isaiah brought it close to his face and could faintly see it was yellow. Elian had been missing his Nerf football and blamed Micah for losing it. However, this ball wasn’t the thing Isaiah had kicked. He stayed on his hands and knees, feeling around in the dirt for another treasure. He was feeling less anxious now as his mind was occupied with wonder rather than contemplating fear.

Isaiah’s hands touched something cold and hollow. It was long and narrow with a small round attachment on one side. This was also something familiar that he hadn’t seen for a long time. Isaiah put it up to his lips and hummed, “Dah, dah, dah, daaaaaah!” Sure enough, it was Jayden’s kazoo!

Before he could talk, Isaiah could sing. Jayden was happy to have a little brother to accompany her latest composition. Isaiah tucked the kazoo in the front pocket of his overalls and continued to search. Surely, if Jayden and Elian had forgotten treasures here, Micah had probably left something behind too! Isaiah’s small hands sifted through the loose dirt looking for another bauble. He was so captivated with the search; he forgot to find an escape.

Isaiah’s concentration was broken when he heard rustling in one of the tunnels. The sound was getting louder. He held his breath. Again, Isaiah felt his heart beating in his chest. A tear fell from his cheek as he realized his siblings weren’t around to defend him. He froze, sitting on the burrow floor with his arms wrapped tight around his knees. Isaiah watched in the direction of the tunnel to see if something would emerge. He stared into the dark. His eyes were open as far as they could, struggling to capture any light. Isaiah still could not move—not even to blink or breathe.

The darkness enveloped his vision. The air felt damp and cold. Another tear formed in Isaiah’s eye but he still could not move. The rustling was closer and louder. His heart was beating wildly in his chest. The rustling stopped. The smell of dirt was overtaken by an odor of fowl. The warmth of something near Isaiah’s side cut through the cool, damp air. He tried to turn his head but could only shift his eyes to one side. Wide eyes were staring at him. Isaiah jerked his head to the opposite side and tried to tuck his head between his shoulders. He pursed his lips together and squeezed his eyes tight, bracing for the worst.

A soft, deep voice cooed, “Whoooo…”

The muscles in Isaiah’s body suddenly went limp. His arms fell to his sides and he was able to look toward the voice. He was still frightened but more curious than scared.

“Whoooo are youuuuu?” the soft voice cooed.

Isaiah whimpered a soft reply, “Isaiah, the br-br…” He sighed then quietly whispered, “Just Isaiah.”

The creature came closer. Isaiah flinched and closed his eyes again. He cried, “Are you going to hurt me?” as he put his head between his knees.

The feathered being cooed, “Noooo… lessss goooo hoooommme.”

In a flash, the creature grabbed Isaiah by the back of his overalls with its talons. They flew through the hole in the ground, into the daylight. Isaiah opened his eyes, looked over his shoulder, and saw the beautiful owl carrying him. He looked down and could see the top of the trees and his neighborhood just beyond the edge of the forest. Suddenly, Isaiah felt brave again. “Weeeeeeee!” he squealed as they soared through the neighborhood. Isaiah saw his neighbor, Mr. DeWitt, mowing lawn. He noticed several neighbors had swimming pools and many swing sets dotted the neighborhood. There must be lots of kids nearby to play with!

In no time at all, they were in his back yard. Isaiah gently opened the back door, snuck back to his room, and crawled under the covers. How on earth would he explain this adventure to his brothers and sister? He soon succumbed to his overdue nap and fell into a deep sleep. He started to dream and found himself lying on the mossy floor of the woodland fort. All of a sudden, he fell through a hole in the ground with tunnels leading to various burrows. “Here we go again!” he said. This time he wasn’t frightened. Isaiah was ready to ride.

He felt a paw on his shoulder and a voice said, “Hey little buddy, it’s time to wake up.” Isaiah the Brave turned to look over his shoulder. His mom was standing over his bed, gently rubbing his shoulder. “You must have been exhausted—you almost slept through dinner.” Isaiah rolled from his bed; disappointed to realize his wild adventure was only a dream. He shuffled downstairs and saw his family waiting for him at the table.

Isaiah slipped into his usual seat next to Micah. He sulked in his chair, disappointed the dream ended so abruptly. He rested his head on his elbow and noticed broccoli casserole on his plate. Could this get any worse?

“What’s the matter, kiddo?” Dad said as he tousled Isaiah’s hair with his hand, “Are you still sleepy?” Isaiah sat up in his chair knowing his father would be praying a blessing over the meal. As he bowed his head, he noticed something on his plate next to the broccoli casserole—an orange feather!

Isaiah didn’t hear a single word of his father’s prayer. He wondered if his dream really happened or maybe he was still dreaming. Dad concluded the prayer. As soon as he said, “Amen!” Jayden looked at Isaiah from across the table and exclaimed, “Hey, where did you find my kazoo?”

 

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