One window remained. The only window un-shattered. Our last window to freedom.
“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” I asked, as skepticism settled.
“We’re almost there,” Marie answered – too confidently for someone without a map.
“I think we’re lost,” I stated.
Marie tapped on her compass, signalling we were still heading north. North was what we were told to follow – go north and you’ll find the castle. But after three hours of trekking the Hallerbos, my doubts could no longer be silence. What was I thinking? Could we be walking into a German trap? Should we turn back? I hesitated to suggest.
Marie hissed. “Believe, Camille. We cannot lose hope now.”
Hope – hope started this mad venture. It had us believing the whispers of a butcher, whose family had successfully fled to the United Kingdom. He claimed that they escaped through a magical window of an ancient castle, nestled within the Halle Forest. But as fictitious as it sounded, many believed him. And to add truth to his fairy-tale, those who left for Hallerbos never returned.
The skeptics theorised that the Germans had caught those who attempted escape. But the believers clutched at the promise of freedom. As Marie and I hoped to flee the war, we believed the story too. So, we packed our bags and traveled from Brussels to Hallerbos.
To some of the older Belgian folks, Hallerbos was known as a mystical forest. During a specific time of the year, bluebell flowers would carpet the terrain. In such great numbers, the deep blue and purple flora was said to be magical – it could bring forth or shadow what lay on the forest ground. But before the seasonal bluebells could lead us to the castle, it brought us the soldiers.
“Down,” I whispered, tugging Marie to her knees.
I couldn’t see the armed men in their field-grey uniforms, but I could hear them. Their foreign chatter traveled between the tall, scrawny trees. And as their voices rose in decibels, my heart pounded deafeningly in competition.
“Where are they?” Marie mouthed.
In reply to her question, I snapped my head in all cardinal directions. But in hope of glimpsing the enemy first, I saw no one – not even a silhouette. With the disembodied voices and the trudging of footsteps growing louder every second, I froze in fear. And then, as though they had heard my racing heart, the soldiers halted their conversations.
Instantly, I lay flat on my stomach. I cupped my hands over my mouth and lowered my head. I prayed to be unseen. I wished for peaceful silence. Unfortunately, the crunching of dry leaves and broken twigs persisted. They drew nearer until eventually, I could sense the enemy’s presence. I could feel their movement. And I knew, they would soon find me. But like a child, I believed that if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me too. What a naive notion it was, until the encircling bluebells rustled.
The flowers shifted, as though someone was moving through them. Stiff as a log, the bluebells brushed against my body. At that moment, I expected a painful jab from the end of a rifle. But as I waited, nothing happened. Did they not see me? With courageous curiosity, I turned my head to peek. And to my surprise, there was no soldier hovering above me. Cautiously pushing myself into a seated position, while I scanned the dense timberland, I heard no voice and saw no man.
Still, something odd was occurring. The bluebells continued to rustle with the sound of heavy footsteps. The flora parted, creating multiple trails that slithered away from where I sat. Then, after what felt like an eternity of the strange phenomenon, silence cloaked the Hallerbos.
“Marie,” I whispered.
Marie remained on her stomach, stifling what sounded like sobs.
Marie,” I repeated.
As I moved in to comfort her, a peculiar shadow caught my eye. It had emerged up ahead, veiled by a ghostly fog. It didn’t outline a castle, but was large enough to be what we were looking for.
“Marie,” I said. “I think… we found it.”
Marie peered up – cheeks wet with tears. As I pointed toward the silhouette, she turned her head and gasped.
“We… we found it,” Marie chimed. “Let’s go – the window is on the first floor.”
Without hesitation, Marie rushed ahead. Staying on her tail, I kept the silhouette in sight. As the fog around the structure began to thin, I squinted my eyes in search of the window. How it could take us to safety was no longer a question. All I hoped for, was the sight of the window itself. For if I saw it – the only un-shattered window – I would learn that the story is true… and that my faith had finally saved me.
Learn, window, and Brussels were words given by iamvickiroberts. I chose to build this story around the location, because I don’t think I’ve done something like this before. I guess… it didn’t turn out so bad. And, I discovered the existence of Hallerbos – yes, it’s real, I didn’t make it up.
Now, it’s your turn. You have until the end of January to write a story of your own with the three words given. Oh, and if you’d like me to write a tale set in your country, leave 3 words (one of which being your country) in the comment section below!
*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.
3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)