The Wandering Forest
Feet sloshed in the muddy forest floor. The sound was muffled amongst the ancient trees that grew all around. A girl was searching, the water soaked through her once blue dress. Carina disregarded the rain falling around her though. All she cared about was Aden. She would find him...no matter what.
“Where are you? Come on back!” Glancing around the clearing she was in, the young girl called out again. “Coal! Come back here! I’m gonna leave without you.”
She continued to look around her, worried that he could not hear. The trees grew thick in this forest and every sound seemed to be drowned in on itself as if unable to escape the canopy of leaves. A rustling from behind made Kate turn around. She smiled as a Growlithe came running up to her. Coal skidded to a stop at her feet and shook leaves from his thick, orange and black coat. The pup seemed very proud of himself as he looked up at his trainer panting, tongue out the side of his mouth. Kate shook her head and a dark ponytail waved in rhythm behind her, but her green eyes sparkled.
“There you are. You always have to check out every smell, don’t you?”
Coal yipped in response and Kate laughed. She bent down to pet her Pokemon friend and he proceeded to lick her face clean. A boy started to laugh nearby making her look up. He had the same green eyes and dark hair cut into a short wave on top of his head.
“You know, he wouldn’t be able to run off if he was in his pokeball.”
Kate stood up crossing her arms. “Oh be quiet, Cam,” she retorted. “You always leave Embra out of her pokeball.”
“True,” Cameron shrugged. He looked down at the black Houndour standing by his heel. “But she doesn’t run off into the woods without me. Right, Embra?” The answer came back as a soft yip. “See?”
This made his sister roll her eyes. “Anyway, haven’t you finished putting that tent away yet
It was Cameron’s turn to roll his eyes. “I will never, in a million years, be able to do this right.”
Again, Kate laughed and walked over to help. Once camp was finally broken, they started on their way through the woods. It was really a beautiful forest and the morning air was just warm enough to be comfortable. Though the ancient trees grew close together, their wide branches still allowed some sunlight between the leaves. Combee, Butterfree, and Beautifly could be seen making the most of flowers that grew in these sunlit patches. Pidgey and Taillow flew between the trees while Rattata and Zigzagoon ran around the undergrowth. This was a forest full of life which was not lost upon the two trainers who had been walking through the trees for some time now. Even so, something was still bothering them.
“So, is there any chance of knowing where we are now?” Cam asked hopefully.
Kate looked at her wrist and shook her head. “I’ve got an idea of our direction, but there’s no way of knowing how much further it is back to the road.”
“Basically, that’s a no,” Cameron sighed.
“Sorry, but since my Poketch stopped working, we’ve been walking blind as a Zubat...so to speak.” She glanced around and sighed. “It’s so weird. I didn’t think the battery was near ready to die.”
Both kids stopped in their tracks, looked around them, and heaved another huge sigh. They had left the road two days before looking for Pokemon in the lush forest. But, the trees were nearly identical and there were no landmarks in sight to gauge any distance. Coal and Embra noticed their trainers had stopped and looked around at them. The Houndour walked back, pawed at Cameron’s pant leg and whined softly. He looked down at her worried expression and smiled.
”It’s alright. We’re not lost. Just...taking a little longer to get there.”
“Yeah,” Kate agreed dryly. “Long enough to finish off our supplies.”
Cameron looked surprised. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope. Not one bit.” Kate shook her backpack. “You were out last night and mine was almost gone with breakfast this morning. I don’t have much left. Not enough for lunch anyway. We either have to find our back to Route 123, or else a town soon.”
Completely sobered by this revelation the pair once again weighed options. Neither had a flying Pokemon that could search over the treetops. There were no clear paths in this forest to follow either. They could keep going in the direction they were and hope that the road was nearby, or take a guess on another direction. While the kids were talking, Coal suddenly spun around as if he had heard a sharp noise.
Kate crouched down beside him. “What’s wrong, Coal?”
The Growlithe was stock still, only his ears twitching as he tried to locate the sound. With a short bark, he took off into the trees, off the track they had been following.
“Coal, stop!” Yelling, the siblings had no choice but to follow him.
The rain had slowed to a slight drizzle. Carina was still searching the woods for her missing friend. She stopped against a tree for a moment to catch her breath. A look around brought the realization that she was lost. Normally, Carina knew this forest inside and out, but it seemed as if the trees were working against her. After walking through the rain for so long, she no longer knew where the village was. Pushing herself upright, she decided to continue her search.
“Aden! Aden where are you?”
“Coal! Coal, stop!” Kate called after the Growlithe. “Where are you going?”
Sliding to a stop in another clearing, Coal looked around in confusion. He did not know what happened to the sound he heard. Kate and Cam caught up panting from the run. The Growlithe turned to face his trainer, ears drooping apologetically. Kate crouched down to rub his scruff.
“Well, it looks like you lost whatever it was you were following,” she huffed.
Embra gave a whine and backed up behind her trainer, making him look up. “Hey, look at that.”
Sitting on the other side of the clearing was another Growlithe. He looked exactly like Coal except for the shockingly blue eyes that watched them calmly. Kate asked her Pokemon if he had been following the other Growlithe, but Coal only had his head tilted curiously. This Pokemon was new to him. Cameron took a step toward him, causing the Houndour at his heel to whine again.
“It’s alright, Embra.” He looked at the blue-eyed Growlithe. “He doesn’t seem wild. I wonder if he has a trainer.”
Kate shrugged. “Right now, I’d settle to know if he knew a way out of here.”
As if in answer, the strange Growlithe gave a sharp bark and took off. Coal barked happily and started to follow. After a moment’s hesitation, Embra gave chase as well. Once again, Kate and Cameron had no choice but to follow their Pokemon before they were out of sight. They ran for some distance, but it did not take long before they came to a halt at the edge of a small creek that gurgled lightly.
“Where did that other Growlithe go?”
Cameron shook his head. “I’m not sure. Definitely weird though.”
“Hey!” They both turned at hearing a shout. An older man was walking toward them with a basket that hung from a strap over his shoulder. It was full of watercress and mint that he had been gathering along the creekbed. “What’re you doin’ out here?”
“Um, we’re kind of lost,” Cameron explained.
A strange look of understanding crossed the man’s face. “Huh, that figures...” he muttered crossly, turning the other direction. Before the kids could say anything, he glanced back at them. “Well, are ya comin or not?”
He sounded irritated, but the trainers were glad for any help they could get. Following the water, they were rewarded with the sight of a small village ahead. They crossed a foot bridge that seemed too big for the narrow creek and the old man pointed them to a building a little further down the path. Without a word, he turned to enter a nearby house. Kate called a ‘thanks’ after him but he made no acknowledgement of hearing. The trainers looked at the building they were directed to and were surprised to see that it was a Pokemon Center. The structure was simple, but the red roof and symbol on the front were easily recognized.
Kate stopped and turned to see that Coal was staring at the woods. “Hey, let’s go.”
His ears straightened up and he snapped around at her call. Tongue lolling in a grin, he caught up to her. Kate looked at her Pokemon in concern, but he only yipped and bounded after Cameron. Letting the odd feeling go, she followed as well. The Pokemon Center was quiet. Of course, they were not really surprised by the fact that this area was not busy.
“Hello.” A Nurse Joy walked out from another room. “Welcome to Creekden Village. How may I help you? Oh! You look so much alike. Are you twins?”
Kate nodded. “Yup. We’ve been lost for a while and could really...use...” She trailed off as she noticed Joy looking at her Pokemon oddly. “Is something wrong?”
Nurse Joy straightened up somewhat embarrassed. “Oh, I’m sorry. I just noticed that you had a Growlithe with you. And you said that you were lost. I guess you had some trouble getting here.” The siblings nodded. “I’m very sorry. I guess I should explain. You see, many trainers have found themselves lost in the forest outside the village over the years. Especially when they have a Growlithe.”
“Why? Why Growlithe?” Cam asked. “I mean, Coal was acting weird today, but we were lost before then.”
Joy pulled a book from behind the desk and opened to a bookmarked page. “This is why.”
The picture in front of them was old and faded. But they could see clearly enough the image of a young girl sitting in a chair. She had straw yellow hair and bright blue eyes. In her lap was a young Growlithe. The twins were startled to see that it had bright blue eyes just like the girl. And just like the Pokemon they met in the woods. Nurse Joy was not at all surprised to hear this.
“The truth is, nearly every trainer who has been lost in those woods has claimed that a blue-eyed Growlithe led them out. It was many years ago that the girl became lost trying to find her Pokemon during a storm.”
Carina was finding it more and more difficult to continue traveling. She felt dizzy and her feet had begun to slip on the wet leaves. At least the rain had finally stopped. With the rain no longer falling, Carina noticed how hot and heavy the air had become. She stopped once again to catch her breath, a break that was becoming more frequent. The girl shivered.
That’s strange, she thought.
I was just feeling so warm.
Carina shivered again, not recognizing the warning signs of a severe fever. Looking down, she saw that there was not a single dry spot on her clothes. Her shoes, stockings, and the bottom of her skirt were caked with mud.
I’ll definitely have a lecture when I return home, she thought. Managing to clear her head a little, she thought she could hear running water. Her eyes snapped open at the next sound she heard.
“Aden, I’m coming!” she yelled.
Reaching the bank of a creek that ran through the forest, Carina was surprised to find that the storm had caused it to swell into a broad torrent that was nearly a river. Water flowed swiftly around trees that normally hugged the bank of the creek. She heard the sound of a yelp again and looked around. It was then she saw something that made her gasp. A Growlithe was clinging to a protruding rock in the middle of the rising stream.
Carina screamed, “NO! Aden, stay there, I’m coming!”
She unlaced her shoes and pulled them off. Taking one step into the water, she hesitated a moment at the pull she could already feel. Moving up the bank, she held on to a tree to keep from being swept away. She hurried to the next tree, already waist deep in the rushing water. She continued until she reached the original bank of the creek and there were no more trees. Carina was upstream of the boulder Aden was trapped on. Taking a deep breath, she pushed out into the swirling water, allowed it to carry her downstream to the boulder. By this time, the water was up to her shoulders and the effort had her head swimming. She pulled herself up a little on the rock with the energy she had left. Aden whimpered at her.
“It will be alright,” she said scratching his scruff. “We’ll wait here until the water drops again. The others will be looking for me too. I’m just glad I found you.”
“The water in the creek took several days to lower.” Nurse Joy closed the cover on the book, replacing it behind the desk. “That’s why that foot bridge is so wide. The next morning, Carina’s family was looking for her. Unfortunately, when they found her it would not be happy. Her fever had worsened and she was swept off the boulder with Aden. When they found her, Aden was struggling to pull her from the water, but it was too late. The young Growlithe recovered shortly after, but he was never the same. He left the village and would not come back for anything.”
“I guess without his trainer, he didn’t want to stay.” Kate looked down at Coal who was now dozing by her foot.
Nurse Joy nodded. “They said that from the time they met, those two had been deeply connected. That was the theory why Aden had those blue eyes. The locals think that it is because Carina was lost in the forest that trainers become lost now. They say that Aden still wanders the woods to help those who are lost find their way, so that the same fate does not fall on another. But still, he won’t come near the village.”
Cameron and Kate rested at the Pokemon Center and filled their packs with new supplies. The next day, on direction from Nurse Joy, they followed the creek through the trees. Both were surprised when they found the road in only a couple of hours after they had wandered the forest for nearly three days. Neither talked about the story, nor did they did not see the blue-eyed Growlithe again. The siblings both felt they would not return to that place, but neither forgot the story of the girl that found her Pokemon in a storm.