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Part One: The Beast of the Forest
Everyone is terrified of the so-called Beast of the Forest, except for Jimmy...
Everyone in town had heard stories about the Beast of the Forest. Some said he was ten feet tall with purple skin. Apparently, if you were within fifty yards of him, his tongue could shoot out of his mouth like a frog's tongue and snatch you up. The tongue would then promptly retract back into his mouth so that he could swallow you whole. Or at least that was what all of the town parents would tell their kids...
See, Jimmy didn't believe in make-believe monsters like the Beast of the Forest. He believed only in what he could see and touch for himself. When other kids would exchange scary stories about the Beast, Jimmy thought they were all just being scaredy-cats.
One day, a bunch of the local kids were hanging out in the town square and talking about the Beast.
"I heard the Beast can hear every sound in the forest," said Frank. "That means that if you are in the forest and you so much as step on a single twig, he'll hear it."
"The Beast is nothing but a fairytale to try and keep us kids from going into the woods alone," said Jimmy. "It's all just hocus pocus."
"The Beast is real!" said Frank. "My uncle saw him in the flesh. The Beast nearly bit his head off."
"Your uncle is playing you for a fool."
Frank looked furious. All of the other kids watched on, half-expecting Frank to take a swing at Jimmy.
Frank didn't budge, though. He took a moment and settled himself.
"Alright, tough guy," he said. "If the Beast is just a fairytale, Jimmy, then why don't you go into the forest to the Red Tree and bring back one of its leaves."
The Red Tree was a special tree deep in the forest -- the only tree with red leaves in all the land. The Beast supposedly lived by the Red Tree and it was believed that the leaves of the tree were red from the blood of the Beast's victims.
After Frank's challenge, all eyes turned to Jimmy.
Jimmy felt his face getting hotter. His conviction briefly softened. He felt the pressure of everyone looking at him, waiting for his response.
His response snuck up on him.
"Fine," he said.
Everyone cheered and jumped around, except for Frank, who just looked at Jimmy with a smile and shook his head, almost as if to say, "You're going to regret that."
Once it was dark, the kids each went home for the night. Jimmy ate his dinner in silence and when his mum asked him if something was wrong he just shook his head.
He couldn't fall asleep for hours. Every time he closed his eyes he saw the Beast.
Eventually, Jimmy woke up, not even realising he had fallen asleep. Then it was time to get ready. He wrapped up his blanket and stuffed it into his satchel. He then went to the kitchen and grabbed some bread and some fruit to take with him.
When he stepped out of his house he was greeted by everyone who had been at the town square when the challenge was set, including Frank who just stared at him with an evil smirk.
Jimmy started the walk to the edge of the forest and everyone else followed behind him.
The group chanted, "Off goes Jimmy to see the Beast. He himself the Beast's next feast!"
Jimmy tried his best to ignore them and to appear composed.
They finally got to the edge of the forest and when Jimmy stopped everyone stopped. No one was chanting now. They all just stared into the dark forest.
"Go on then," said Frank finally. "Are you scared or something? Why?"
Jimmy didn't even looked at him. He took a big breath and then he started walking into the forest, never looking back.
They started chanting again: "Off goes Jimmy to see the Beast. He himself the Beast's next feast!"
Jimmy kept walking and the chant got fainter and fainter until eventually he couldn't hear them at all. He couldn't hear anything, in fact, except for his own footsteps. The forest was silent. The trees hid the sun. It was dark and Jimmy was scared. And yet his feet kept him moving, one step after another. Deeper and deeper into the forest he went.
As he was walking he suddenly heard movement somewhere nearby. The sound of a footstep. He stopped immediately. He didn’t dare turn his head to look. He felt his heart pounding in his rib cage. Finally, he slowly looked over towards the source of the sound...
He let out a massive sigh of relief. It was just a deer, standing peacefully on its own. If that deer was brave enough to wander this forest on its own then maybe he had a chance to do the same.
Jimmy continued on. It wouldn't be much further until he reached the stream. Once he was at the stream, all he had to do was simply follow it until it opened up to the lake. That was where he would find the Red Tree. Or at least that was what all of the town rumours had led him to believe.
He could hear the tender trickle of the stream in the distance. Getting closer, the trickling got louder and he could smell the crisp fresh water. He got there and the stream was a beautiful silver colour. He dipped his hand for a sip of water and it was icy cold.
He stuck close to the water as he followed the shore downstream. It felt good to have some sunlight on him again and for a while he was enjoying himself. It was like he was just out for a nice walk.
After an hour or so, the sun was right above him. He sat on a rock at the edge of the stream and ate some bread and fruit. Once he was finished eating, he closed his satchel and had a quick sip of water from the stream. As he was crouched down, though, he heard a noise. A noise that was very different to the deer he had heard earlier. This noise was like a rumble of thunder. It came from the forest on the other side of the water. Jimmy quickly ran back behind the trees and hid. Everything was quiet again.
Jimmy felt the seriousness of his journey return to him. His own doubts began to squirm in his belly like a stomach ache.
"Stop it," he told himself. "The Beast isn't real. Don't be a baby."
He took a few breaths and tried to put on a courageous face. He then carried on following the stream, still staying among the trees.
Another hour or so passed. Finally, he saw an opening ahead. The lake...
He quickened to a jog and then stopped at the very edge of the treeline. The lake was deep blue. He looked across at the other side of it for any sign of the Red Tree. And then he saw it! The Red Tree! An enormous oak tree covered with beautiful red leaves.
Jimmy felt his muscles relax. All he needed to do now was grab a leaf and go home.
That was when the Beast appeared...
Check out Part Two right here:
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